on the Panama Canal
Has been living
in Panama for three years. For the past year he has resided on a
60 foot sailing boat moored on the middle course of the Panama Canal.
He has researched
a variety of jobs from teaching English as a foreign language, writing
for an English language newspaper, and creating Panama's first health and
physical fitness magazine. He's ready for a change.
America Magazine has invited Jack to become a contributing writer working
on some of the more hard-to-believe, strange-but-true stories that will
give the magazine more postmodern appeal, we hope.
won't make you rich, but it does provide you with an off-the-wall experience
with pay. Swan says he'll dive into any story prospect if the water's
deep enough, no story will be dry. Cruising yachts and pleasure craft
are crossing the Isthmus of the Americas in record numbers. The Autoridad
del Canal de Panama requires four line handlers per vessel up to 80 feet
in overall length. You can be one of those line handlers, go from
one ocean to another in twelve hours, see the Panama Canal like few people
do, and make easy money doing it.
Canal opened its gates in August of 1914. Few ships since have opted to
circumnavigate South America via the Straits of Magellan or the Beagle
Passage because of time factors, weather, and ocean surface dangers. The
only cruisers that take that route are the ones that want that unusual
experience. That means that 99% of the world’s cruisers that need
to get from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, or from the Pacific
to the Atlantic, must transit the Panama Canal. When cruisers transit the
Panama Canal, they must first make arrangements with the Autoridad del
Canal de Panama, that’s Panama Canal Authority in English, or more commonly
known as the ACP. The ACP sets fees, assigns the captain’s advisor,
and schedules transit times.
have been done and the fees have been paid, the cruising captain must transit
on the day and time scheduled or pay a penalty fee. It is the captain’s
job to find line handlers.
Line Handlers Do?
handle the lines that go from the cruising vessel to the canal locks.
There are four Line Handlers on each cruising vessel – two on the bow and
two on the stern. When the vessel transits a lock, the vessel must
be kept in the center of the lock, and this is done by lines and those
that handle them – a Line Handler. Imagine a square hammock with
a rope at each corner holding the hammock steady and centered.
There are three
sets of locks along the 50-mile stretch of the Panama Canal. They
are, from Pacific to Atlantic, Miraflores,
Offshore Resources Gallery
and Gatun. The locks lift the vessel over the continental divide
and then lower it back to sea level, again. It takes about forty-five
minutes to go through a lock. It takes about twelve hours to
transit the whole Canal. That means a good nine hours of taking pictures,
swapping stories with the captain and crew, reading a book, quiet contemplation
and meditation, or whatever else your heart desires.
You Go To Become a Line Handler?
doesn’t require training. All it requires is the ability to catch
a half-inch leader line when the lock workers throw it to you (by the third
time), tying the vessel's line to the leader line to be hauled back
to the lock worker, then tying the other end of the vessel's line to the
cleat of the vessel. After that, you should stay relatively alert
during each of the three 45 minute lock passages.
three places to look for Line Handlers – the Balboa Yacht Club at the Pacific
entrance to the Panama Canal, the Pedro Miguel Boat Club next to the Pedro
Miguel Locks, and the Cristobal Yacht Club on the Atlantic side.
on the bulletin boards at these three places for notices posted by anyone
wanting to line handle.
aren’t as plentiful as you might think, and it’s not because the pay isn’t
good enough. Line Handlers get between $50 and $100 per transit,
depending on the Captain and the size of the vessel. If you were
to make a week of doing a transit a day, you’d build up a reputation as
an experienced Line Handler and a sizeable nest egg that could take you
to the next country or easily make back return air fare to your place of
prefer the company of fellow travelers, and there aren’t that many travelers
in Panama to fill the need for Line Handlers. Also, as often as not,
there are good probabilities of signing on with the vessel as a crewmember
and continuing on with the vessel to other ports.
vessels head after transiting the Panama Canal?
Vessels that transit the Panama Canal
are always headed to another port-of-call. On the Pacific side, there
is the Galapagos Islands, or Ecuador, or Chile, or even the South
Pacific. On the Atlantic side, it’s the San Blas Islands, or Cartagena,
or the islands of the Caribbean.
Flights to Panama are around $200
from Miami. Panama has a lot to offer visitors from any walk of life,
whether it be the advantage of tax havens or ecotourism. When you
get here, be sure to make it down to the Balboa Yacht Club just to later
say you’ve enjoyed the legacy of an Atlas beer at the BYC along with Errol
Flynn, John Wayne, Prince Charles of England, and President George Bush,
Sr, to name a few of the more famous (or infamous) types who’ve watched
ships pass under the Bridge of the Americas on there way through the Panama
the bulletin board and the talk down on the pier to see what vessels are
transiting the next day. Post your notice and Li
Index ~ Panama
Index ~ Overseas
Jobs Articles Index ~