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Skipper’s Tips

Man, No Plan. Panama! 

Recent news from a local sailor waiting for a chance to transit the Panama Canal shocked us—and him—with the announcement that he will have to wait at least six weeks for a slot.  Now, a delay is to be expected, but six weeks seems extraordinary, and it could mess with his plans to beat the Pacific cyclone season.

It got us thinking about some alternatives.  We particularly like the option championed by the excellent West Coast (US) magazine, Latitude 38.  In June 2005, they suggested that congestion in the Canal could be avoided by the simple act of using a KMI Sea-Lift, and as Latitude 38 had it, “(t)his little puppy can pick up sailboats to 65 feet in length, up to 60 tons displacement, and up to 9-ft draft from a launch ramp.  Then transport such boats at 5 mph.


 So the idea for the Canal is that you’d pick up small boats—it reportedly only takes less than 60 seconds—from launch ramps, move them the short distance around the locks, then drop them in Lake Gatun for the long motor across Panama.  When you reach the locks at the other end, you’d again circumvent them with the Sea-Lift 65. What could be easier, more efficient and less expensive?  Plus, it would be a perfect time to check the bottom of your boat and have the bottom power washed.”

This got us wondering why neighbouring countries don’t offer road transportation of sailing yachts.  The volume of small vessels attempting to cross from the Atlantic to the Pacific and vice versa has reached epic numbers.  It’s clear that the Canal authorities are less than happy about accommodating these vessels, allowing for some entrepreneurial activity.


Perhaps somebody already has plans for such a system. In the meantime, if any readers have had experiences with the Panama Canal they’d like to share, or if you’ve heard of alternate methods of getting from one pond to the other, please email me at [email protected]  


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