We will be transiting to the Pacific in first 2 weeks of May in Beneteau 50. i have some questions please.
1. where to stay on the Caribbean side that is safe but not too expensive?
2. Is it worth employing an agent? what is the going rate? any recommendations?
3. What is the current wait?
4. Where is a good place to provision for the Pacific Crossing?
Thanks for your help.
We transitted last year. If you are a member of the SSCA, I did a letter for the Bulletin that has many of the details you are looking for (can't remember which month is was published.
A few comments about your questions:
1. Basically there is no good spot to stay. The marina is safe, but a bit pricey and really inconvenient to get to Colon. We were advised that it is not safe to stay in the Flats, smallboat anchorage. You can anchor next to Club Nautique which is near the cruise ship dock. The club (it is not really a club) charges $5 a day to use their dinghy dock. The anchorage there is not very big and can be crowded. Holding is good in some spots and not others. Colon is reasonably safe if you are very careful. Take cabs (for a couple it is $1 for anywhere in town) and don't (repeat don't be out) at night.
2. We did all the arrangements ourselves (see Bulletin article) and it is not hard and cost us about $4 for cab fares. You do need to have access to a local cell phone. We bought a SIM card and time for about $10 from a shop on the main street (a safe and interesting spot during daylight).
3. Can't comment on the wait. One suggestion if there is a wait would be to go Colon and make the arrangements and then go somewhere else (there are places to east and west) to wait. We went to Isla Linton and had Christmas dinner at a restaurant run by a French couple - incredible food. There is no need to stay in Colon and little attraction.
4. On the Pacific side there are two outlets for a store like the US Costco (in fact it may be run by them). Excellent prices on just about everything and better than you will find in the Pacific. You need to buy a membership ($25?) but you can go with someone who has one or buy one between a couple of boats.
I suspect you will not be able to measure under 50 feet which is the length where the transit fee goes up a lot. Try measuring ahead of time and see if removing an anchor, etc might get you under. They measure LOA including everything.