Anchoring in Panama

Published 15 years ago, updated 5 years ago

My husband and I just transited the Panama Canal and we want to make it clear to other cruisers that you do NOT have to use Shelter Bay Marina if you want to save some money. We anchored in the Flats in Colon and never lowered our dinghy.

We used Tito for all of our check-in and transit arrangements. You can contact Tito via VHF channel 74 or call his cell phone 64635009. He has a water taxi that picks you up at your boat and takes you to pier 16. From there, he has a taxi driver take you wherever you need to go. He even took us grocery shopping. Tito charges $75 for arranging transits through the canal which includes all of the water and land transportation to run around town for paperwork and errands, as well as the zarpe. He can arrange for line and tire fender rentals and line handlers as well, at a much lower cost than through Shelter Bay.

We had absolutely no glitches and his line handlers were excellent. We hired 3 line handlers, 4 lines, and 8 sets of double tires and our total cost, including 2 days of taxis running around Colon and all of Tito’s help for $472.00. (If you are not transiting the canal, he charges about $10 for check-in.)

Once on the Pacific side, the line handlers, tire fenders and lines are all dropped off near Balboa Yacht Club and then we anchored in the municipal anchorage, Las Brisas de Amador, near the Flamenco Yacht Club.

You do NOT need to get a slip or mooring on either side of the canal. If you are heading from Panama City to Colon, similar arrangements can be made with Frederico Ploche who runs a Cruiser’s Taxi Service and can also get line handlers, lines and fenders for you. He transmits the canal with you. Once in Colon, you dinghy him to Pier 16 where he has a ride waiting for him to return to Panama City. Then you return your dinghy to the boat and call Tito to arrange for check-in.

You do NOT want to leave your dinghy anywhere in Colon nor should you travel through Colon by yourself. Citibank now requires full cash only, no Visa, deposit so it is VERY important that you have one of Tito’s men with you as you go to pay for your transit.

The rumour is that the Flats are closed. NOT TRUE. During our transit, there were only 4 of us in the Flats and Shelter Bay was full. But the Flats are open and the price is very reasonable to get everything you need to be done.

SV Neos

Our thanks to Jeremy Shaw for sending us this report

Your information “Anchoring Panama” submitted by Jeremy Shaw well noted and I just wish to add the following:

  • Anchorage “F” (also called The Flats) is an anchorage area under the control of the Panama Canal Authority. This anchorage area especially for small crafts, commercial and pleasure. No intention to close this anchorage and still you do not pay staying at The Flats.
  • To this date, no official dinghy landing assigned for crafts anchored at The Flats to substitute the dinghy landing at the closed Panama Canal Yacht Club. Commercial launch service available but expensive and they operate from a landing within the Port of Cristobal. Unofficially you can land at an area close to the entrance to Pier 16 Cristobal Port, or use a service like Tinto mentioned in Jeremy Shaw’s report. Pier 16 is just east of The Flats and a very short run. You can land in that area but no facilities to leave your dinghy. Normally you will find Taxi Service available at the entrance to Pier 16, especially if commercial vessels alongside.

I felt you should be guided accordingly.

Regards Karsten Staffeldt

(Contact Panama for DOCA and OCCD, Denmark and OSK, Sweden)

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