You’d think something as seemingly simple as leaving a country would be, well, simple.  But, as we’re learning, nothing about sailing is simple.  We’re down to our last few tasks and we’re ready to leave Panama.  But Panama just doesn’t want to let us go.

As a sailor, there’s a long list of considerations and tasks to be done before casting off to sea.  And as any good travel story goes, nothing ever goes as expected.

Woooo hooo!  Raising our sails and getting underway felt like the final bell on the last day of school. We’re freeeeee!  Libre!

sailing around the world

No hard feelings Panama, after the few epic months we’ve spent together, we wouldn’t want to let go either. You bore your soul to us. From your cacao and coffee roots, to the highest peak and the vast expanses below, you held nothing back.  You were our first canal, and that’s not something a sailor forgets.  We’ll always treasure the moments we had, the beautiful people you hold and the dark depths of your core.

But seriously, you need to work on letting go.

sailing through panama

More on the “Yatista” Visa

Traveling into and out of a country by sailboat is a very different experience from the ones we have traveling by plane or car. There’s more than a passport needed. But on top of the required paperwork, there’s a much larger heap of bureaucracy that can be encountered. First world countries with lots of infrastructure have clear cut requirements and fees that are often listed on an official website. In this case, rules give us a much better idea of what to expect.  Other countries are well, to quote Forest Gump, “like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.”

I had read about the “Yatista” Visa on noonsite back when I was doing my research on our arrival into Panama.

Feedback from a number of land-based and cruiser sources in Panama, indicates that a backward step in Immigration Regulations was initiated by the Colon Branch of Immigration in September.  Back in November 2016 we reported that the Panama Immigration Authorities had given verbal notification that crew and passengers of private non-commercial vessels which arrive in Panama by boat, would now be issued with a regular tourist visa at no charge on arrival. And for a while, in most ports of entry, this did indeed happen. However – it appears that the original policy change made about one year ago fell short of changing the Law.

Consequently there are reports from Porvenir of yacht crew having to once again buy the expensive “Yatista” visa on clearing into the country. This costs US$105 – a lot of outlay if you are only planning a short visit.

Affected parties are trying to change this (again) through the Chamber of Commerce, however presently the situation is very unclear. Cruisers planning on visiting Panama need to be aware that rules and regulations can change overnight, or simply at the whim of the authorities in that particular port, so do as much research before arrival on the best port to clear-in.

We had come to the conclusion that Bocas Del Toro was a good place to check in and cruisers were not being charged the fee…and upon our arrival we weren’t. So, we thought we were in the clear. Apparently not. We attempted to check out at the Flamenco office and that is where we ran into the issue. The Zarpe came without issue, but the immigration officer would not stamp us out. She said we needed to clear up our Visa with the main office in Panama City (Albrook Office Center west of the Airport).  Our suggestion for fellow cruisers checking out in Panama City: try the Balboa office and see if you have better luck avoiding the extra fees and hassle.

While it was an unexpected PITA, we’re just getting started with this whole international sailboat checkout process. I am sure we’ll look back at this minor inconvenience in a few years and think, “pshhh, that was nothing compared to the experience we had in (insert far flung location here)“. It’s all part of the adventure and only adds to our list of fireside tales of travel to share.  Hasta Luego, Panama.

salty sailors provisioning up

panama farmers market

fresh pressed sugar cane

panama city farmers market

sailing through panama

sailing life in panama city

sailing through panama

Want to know more about how we plan our passages? 

We shared a quick glimpse at what is involved with planning a passage but we didn’t dive into any details.  Granted, we’re not experts by any stretch but we’re happy to share what we’ve learned so far.  If you want to know more, let us know what questions you have.  Drop a comment below and if there is enough interest, we’ll make a video and answer your questions.

Curious About Kate

Kate is a salty sailor hailing from South Africa.  She is in a time of transition.  She, and her even saltier half (Rufus), cast off from South Africa several years back to circumnavigate the globe.  Like many young, non-retired sailors, they take breaks away from their boat (S/Y Melody) to re-fill the cruising kitty (AKA bank account).  They’ve been Captain and Chef/Stew on a 58ft Leopard Catamaran for the past two years.  But, they’re ready to continue their own adventures.  So, while Rufus trains the new crew that will be taking over their positions, Kate is joining us for some adventures.  Yep, a South African crew member sailing on our South African cat, and that’s totally lekker!

Other Episodes with Kate and Rufus

You can snoop around on Kate’s blog here: abrandnewlife.co.za/  and poke around on her Instagram account here:  instagram.com/a.brand.new.life/  and while you are there, give us a follow if you haven’t already: instagram.com/the_wynns/

Sailing Report

To see our full map with interactive pins, click here: gonewiththewynns.com/map

boat life in panama city

  • Dates: 01/02 – 12/2018
  • Anchorage: La Playita, Panama City, can be found on Active Captain: http://bit.ly/2oHvPkg  While the dinghy dock has a daily fee, we feel its a much safer place to park the dink for a full day of provisioning, picking up crew or a night in the city.
  • Cell & WiFi: Excellent reception here.

Gear Used In This Video

Thank You!

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