News from the Helm: December 2019
by Michael Robertson
Oh, The Cost Of Getting From One Ocean To Another
We last transited the Panama Canal in 1997, aboard our 1980 Newport 27, heading from the Pacific to the Atlantic. It was a rich and exciting experience. And it was frustratingly expensive. This was before the Canal was officially turned over to the Panamanians in 1999. Back then, our boat was boarded and measured to determine how much cargo it could carry. A guy literally came aboard our little Newport with a tape measure and a calculator. He completed lots of paperwork and we ended up with a certificate, our Certificate of Admeasurement. We were charged roughly $350 for this certificate that showed the cost of transiting the Canal with the cargo our boat could theoretically carry, was about $21. Maddening. And the effort to get the admeasurement scheduled, then pay, then obtain the certificate, and to then later show proof of the admeasurement to pay the transit fee to another office and then to pay for the bond (to cover any damage we might cause the Canal) to another office, was a whole-day affair, at minimum. Why didn’t they just have a flat transit fee for small recreational craft?
Well, after the Panamanians took over, that’s what they did, created a flat fee structure for cruising sailboats. And all was good with the world.
Until January 1, 2020.
That’s when the flat fee will skyrocket, to $1,600 for sailboats 65 feet and under.
Still cheaper than sailing around Cape Horn.
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Red, right, return. It’s one of the first bits about navigation we learn when we learn to sail. It seems so absolute, doesn’t it? Universal? It’s anything but.
Red and green buoys are used universally to mark the sides of a channel, but sail away from North America and you’re bound to encounter the opposite, as in green buoys where you’d expect red, and vice versa. In fact, only in the Americas, Philippines, Japan, and Korea is red, right, return valid. Everywhere else, red is to port. Or, as a Frenchman explained to me once, “It’s easy to remember: port wine is red.”