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Panama Canal authorities close down historic yacht club
By IBI Magazine

The historic Panama Canal Yacht Club in Colon, Panama, was recently razed by authorities who arrived in the middle of the night and carried out demolition over a holiday weekend. The midnight massacre, while unexpected, was justified as part of a long-term expansion plan by the Panama Ports Company.

But, according to local yachting writers, the plan only called for the demolition of two docks in the yacht club, rather than the entire facility.

The club, which opened with the Panama Canal in the early 1900s, had apparently fallen on hard times, with lax security and a multitude of drug dealers. The Yachting Examiner reports that cruisers visiting the marina were routinely offered cocaine and prostitutes along with other more routine provisions.

According to the Caribbean Compass, the closure might be part of a larger plan to make visiting yachtsmen unwelcome. "The new policy in Panama Canal waters is apparently to run visiting yachts out, discourage them from lingering and fine them if they do," wrote David Wilson last September. "As of this writing, the Maritime Authority of Panama (AMP) has sent launches into the free anchorage area and threatened the yachts there with eviction and fines."

Wilson said that there are virtually no slip spaces for visiting yachts. "Add to that the fact that the AMP is not allowing yachts to anchor anywhere in Panama Bay, and you have a situation that makes it difficult, if not virtually impossible, for yachts heading to the Caribbean from the Pacific to stop even to make arrangements to transit the Canal, let alone reprovision, tour Panama or handle emergencies," he wrote.

Yachts berthed at the Panama Canal Yacht Club will be required to move by April 1st.

(6 March 2009) International Boat Industry News

Jim McGee

Telstar 28
992 Posts
Well, this will make transiting the canal a bit more difficult... guess more people will be rounding the horn.

1,297 Posts
It's been a couple of years since we were there, but from our experience much of the article doesn't quite ring true.

In 2006 we spent almost a month at the PCYC. At the time it was a functioning, but run-down facility on the edge of Colon, the most aptly named city I've ever visited. The "facilities" were rudimentary, no services to speak of other than garbage disposal.....

....the docks were falling apart, the bar was full of characters and was known among the floating clientelle as the "Star Wars Bar". The restaurant was very basic, but cheap. We saw no druggies or hookers, but there was occasionally a soldier armed to the teeth and in black tactical garb who hung around the place. Kuna indian women sold molas outside the get the picture.

The "club" was surrounded by barbed wire and the gate was guarded 24/7 (Colon is a dangerous place). A very large container yard was just outside the wire on three sides. Travel-lift-like cranes belched soot 12 hour / day. With the wind right you had to clean your boat every day. My haulyards still have traces of the dirt.

The rumor mill in '06 said the place was not long for the world. It was obvious to everyone there that the owners had stopped maintaining the facility. The Canal Authority has probably done the yachting community a favor in tearing it down.

On my next trip I would not have stayed there because there is a newer, much nicer, although somewhat more expensive marina across the bay where it's possible to pass your waiting time in without getting your boat covered in greasy soot. On the Pacific side the facilities were similar to the newer marina on the Caribbean side.

Yachtsmen who are used to having the welcome mat out when they arrive in a new harbor have to keep in mind that the Panama Canal is not a "cruiser friendly place". It's a serious maratime installation operated for commercial vessels. Yachts are not high on their list of valued customers. Transit fee for a 50 ft sailboat is $600, whereas the canal gets anywhere from $150,000-200,000 for a Panamax container ship. Not hard to understand where their priorities lie.

It was my experience that if you played by the rules and waited your turn you were treated courteously and professionally by the Canal Authority. I'm not sure what more one should expect.
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