Sailing away from panama

Leavin Ain’t Easy – Sailing Outta Panama

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:  and poke around on her Instagram account here:  and while you are there, give us a follow if you haven’t already:

Sailing Report

To see our full map with interactive pins, click here:

boat life in panama city

  • Dates: 01/02 – 12/2018
  • Anchorage: La Playita, Panama City, can be found on Active Captain:  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!

Thank you for joining us! Sharing our lives, and what we learn along the way is possible because of viewers like you. With a super-special thanks to our virtual crew on Patreon. If you like what you see, check out our Say Thanks page to learn about different ways you can help keep these videos and posts flowing. You’ll notice most ways don’t cost you a penny but make a big difference to us. So, once again, Thank You!

Hello there! I honestly don’t know what to say, so I am going to tell you a bunch of random facts instead. I'm a fish eating vegetarian who hates spiders and loves snakes. I almost never took vacations growing up. I wanted to be Pippi Longstocking (still do). I misspell about every other word I write and still struggle with grammar. I love splurging on a good high tea (which is really hard to find these days). And whatever you do, don’t tell me I can’t do something, because then I'll HAVE to do it!

Comments (41)

  • Patrick John Lynch

    I am guessing you folks are getting a Windelo for your next boat. This is one of three boats that I have on my list, including Privilege and Antares because these are the only boats that I am aware of with a shaft drive. I am still a bit skeptical about the electric motors. I totally buy into electric motors over ICEs, there is just no way an ICE can compete for efficiency. Maybe my Lithium and Tesla stock will be worth enough to pick up one of these in the future. They just started building these. How long do you have to delivery? What are you going to do between letting Curiosity go and getting the new boat? If I am correct and this is the boat you are getting, I hope you can get a factory tour and get a better description of how the volcanic rock is used to build the hull.
    Wishing you the best. The Fetching Mrs. Lynch and I are both fans. And yea, National Geographic should give you a gig as a contract writer.

  • SV Salt Crush

    Vaccinations – hey guys, been watching from the start of the boat life for the last few months, and recently became patrons! Really appreciate all your hard work and the lessons we are collecting. Our new Helia gets delivered to the BVIs in a week, so hoping to put some of your lessons learned to work for us.
    In an effort to give back, wanted to let folks know that Costco has the yellow fever vaccine in stock regularly. We got ours bf we sailed in Grenada and it cost less than $30 (don’t remember exactly) for the shot. Our doc was the one who told us where to go, rather than get from his office. You will need a Dr order, but at least if your Costco has it, it can save you quite a bit.

    Cheers and will do our best to contribute when appropriate!
    Jamie and Brandi
    SV Salt Crush

  • Kristi granger

    So the winds are taking you to Equador and kitty cats are well. ( I had fallen away from internet for a while…) So good to hear you two are doing fine and the adventure continues— you two have grown a lot in knowledge of which is appearant from my last videos i’d seen— and living a rich life of beautiful scenery and sunsets and language- best wishes ! ❤️

  • Roger B

    WOW! You have the patience of both of your cats combined navigating the exit from Panama. I’ve never heard of an exit visa until your video.

  • Dale

    I look forward each Sunday for your next video. As always, your videos are excellent and exciting. When you get to Ecuador see if you can find someone that plays a panflute. See if they can play Hallelujah. You will be amazed! Stay safe!

  • mr majestyk

    Hi, have watched all your sailing videos and eagerly follow your adventures and look for next vid. I follow many of the top Sailing videoblogs, and yours easily is in the top 3-5. You both are great at making smart choices, you obviously try to do things in a manner that isn’t scratching-by to stay afloat. While your income from making videos is clear, you don’t come across as e-beggers that sadly too many give that impression. Content, content, content, you two deliver fun, informative content, with a sense of taste, style, flair, and humor, WELL DONE!
    You mentioned getting ready to make the Galapagos a destination, not sure if you follow “Sailing Zatara” YT. channel, they made the trip and were very candid with remarks about how things are run there. Skype is free, might be worth making the connection.
    Fair Winds…

  • T C Spencer

    So, when in Quito a visit to the equator line is one of the things to do! Take a taxi/tour guide which is a must in Ecuador and went on an adventure to the middle of the Earth! The equator line is located in Ciudad Mitad del Mundo – Middle of the World City, in San Antonio, 26 km from Quito.

  • James Dillon

    Excellent job folks! The fruit and mango’s looked awesome! How long does a mango last on the boat? I know they are very temperamental. You have the right attitude for a third world country as their ways are far different than the North American standard. Smile, show up and be patient, that is a universal language. I spent 5 years in Iraq, you should consider yourself lucky, it is a chore to get to a bathroom , let alone a visa! LOL Keep up the great work and travel safe! A very loyal Patreon. Greetings from Canada- Jamie

  • Helen Russo

    Ha ha Tev B.. .so true, when I was a child the bananas that came from Panama had spiders, my dad would catch them in jar and we would cluster around for a close look before he carried it off, presumably to set if free…

  • Alan Solomon

    Awesome video as always. Lots of smiles as always.
    I see that Jason is wearing a pretty cool blue shirt in this video.
    I am not sure where to look for this. How can I obtain a similar shirt, por favor?

  • David H

    Good for yourselves that the positives continue to outweigh navigating such self-serving bureaucracies as you cross such sacred lines in the sand/water that once were not there and will someday not be again. Delight in your happiness level amongst it all. You both ever leave such a good wake, may your journey and destinations be more the quality of yourselves. Wishing for safe passage onward!

  • Ron

    Another excellent video – Thanks! Always look forward to hearing/seeing your adventures. The drone views from up above are wonderful icing on the cake.

    Quick question from the uneducated/unwise: what happens to those who don’t go through all the paperwork / nasty money drainage to leave Panama?

    • Curious Minion

      If you don’t properly check out of a country you can be denied entry at the next place you arrive. It would totally suck to sail all the way to Ecuador and then have to sail back to Panama to check out!

  • markat tracy

    wow i had taken the panama cannal off my list – i may just reconsider that. we are still in hawaii for a few more weeks we found a 26 foot towable mcgreggor so will spens some time in the rv in NewEngland area sailing. still working on closing that aluminum cat we found in Tarpon Springs. thanks for the inspiration.

  • Terry Doudican

    You guys look like you are having an endless adventure. Love living through your videos. Keep up the awesome lifestyle!

  • Alex Todd

    You two tend to work with checklists (pre-sail, post-sail, new crew orientation, etc.) I’m wondering if you have one for route planning to help make sure you get all the basic information as well as anything specific to your interests (pet travel, local coffee options, etc.)

  • Solarsail

    Jason and Nikki – I watch your wonderful and interesting movies on a 4K TV screen (Samsung 65″ smart TV 65KS85 curved wired to the internet) and not on a crummy 1040 line laptop. Not only it gives me a much better screen and audio in a comfortable place, but in fact it is easier and faster to play your movie from YouTube TV than from a web browser on a PC. Problem is that then I don’t have access to the map or description on the web page, as the YouTube TV channel does not give me the web page, and so I have no idea where the excursion is or where the passage is. That is why I was wondering if it is possible to start the movie with a quick map (like the other folks on SLV do). It will also help a lot to someone who is new to the Wynns and happens to run into one of your productions, and they will come to view the next episode or want to see where in the world you were coming from. Also, it will help a lot if the title starts with the episode number. SLV puts their episode number at the end of the title, and YouTube TV cuts the end of the title off. BTW I really love it when you two talk in synchrony. Two minds in one. That is only possible because you practice and plan before hand? Otherwise impossible. Right?

  • Nancy Fernandez

    Wow that seemed rough getting out of Panama. Always enjoy the videos. Nice market of fruit and veggies. Stay safe until next time. 🙂

  • Jan

    That was fun to watch! I’m sure it felt burdensome to you living the exodus – I enjoyed it! Looking forward to more adventure with you.

  • Susan Free

    I am retired always loved the water and living in a ryan,Tx after coastal living, not dodging storms in senior years. Hubby & I now so enjoy “traveling with The Wynn’s”. So look forward receiving your videos. Excited for next Country & love the 2 cats. Peace & prayers???

    • Susan Free

      Living in Bryan, Tx. Totally support your adventures.

  • Tev B

    Wow what a market! However, I couldn’t help but think there must be SPIDERS in all that produce. Big, hairy tarantulas just waiting to jump on an unsuspecting person. Did you find any?

    • Marsha

      Oooh, I thought the same thing about those bananas. You two are so positive & easy going all the time. I love Sundays. Safe sailing to your new adventure!

  • Joanne Barnhart

    I love your videos. I too have the same question as Valerie, Nikki where do you buy your tops? They are so cute.
    Safe travels to both of you.

    • Solarsail

      It’s not the tops — it is Nikki who is cute! haha

  • Gerri Lilly

    Great watching your videos. You are young enough to adapt easily to challenges. We will follow your adventures from the comfort of our motorhome. Have fun.


    You guys handled the visa problem with good humour and smiles. Better than we would have.

    Of course I wonder if, when Jason got back and told everyone the problem, you took a moment off-camera to say what you were really feeling and THEN turned on the cameras?

  • Great video as always. My husband and I are considering buying a catamaran when we retire next year to sail around the world, and your videos help make the idea seem much more approachable. So thanks for all of the great content!

    One question comes to mind, how do you find crew? I’ve heard that if you have a boat with space it’s not hard to find people willing to trade crewing for passage. Is it difficult to arrange finding a volunteer crew? Would love to hear more about your experience with that aspect of sailing. We’re planning on getting a larger boat not just for when friends and family visit, but also so we can have more crew for the longer passages and end up with shorter shifts.

    • Curious Minion

      Hi Ericson. The Wynns have done a public crew call (that’s how Justin & Dale came aboard) and then they offered their Patrons an opportunity to come for a sail (Dan’s time onboard). Kate is actually “hitchhiking” back to her own boat so that she & Rufus can continue their circumnavigation. A quick Google search for “find crew for sailboat” pulled up a bunch of networks that are dedicated to matching up crew & boats. I’d be careful to fully check references & such. Good luck with the search!

  • Helen

    Great video! Safe travels
    Looking forward ~✌

  • Captain bILLY

    See how usefull universal heath care is in Canada……..Freebe to see el Doctoro and and vaccination.
    You poor Americans with your Obama bullshit healthcare and every other program going. … Just sayin

    And yes I am an expert in these matters.

    • Solarsail

      Ahem — yes it is free, but you get what you pay for. And I am a Canadian. Like when you need to do a procedure at the hospital and you have to wait 120 days, and then they tell you they will not administer local anesthesia, and you get one more thing for free — you get free pain! I am sure you are an expert on these matters, but are you also an expert as a patient? A specialist in the US, I reckon, takes home about US$ 200,000. In Canada with a higher cost of living, they take home US$ 88,000 – a third. Well guess which of these two would be more attached to their jobs and put more time and energy into it?
      This said, I am generally happy — but am actively looking into US health insurance, so I can benefit from the latest technologies, procedures, and medicines.

      • Paul

        Solarsail – This is not the right place to start an argument on health care, but it is very well known that the US has the most expensive healthcare in the developed world (based on per capita basis) while at the same time having a much lower life expectancy and higher rates of infant mortality.
        When I say well known, I mean known by people outside of the US. The people in the US that believe they have they best health care system have typically never lived or even traveled overseas – once they do they generally cannot believe how cheap and good health care can be in other countries. Most people (at least those outside the US) go into medicine because they want to help people, not because they want to get rich off the misery of others, and health care is treated as a basic human right, not as a source of profit for shareholders in pharmaceutical companies.
        You don’t have to believe me, there are dozens of examples all over Youtube posted by American travelers who had incidents and suddenly had their eyes opened to how scandalous the US system is..
        I hope Nikki & Jason never need to find out about health services as they continue their travels, but one thing they do not need to fear about is the cost – at least relatively speaking.

  • Valerie Mortensen

    We love watching your videos. We followed you while in the MH as my hubby an I were full time for several years. When you bought a SB we though you two crazy. But you two are tough. We enjoy following your adventures. I feel like you are family and worry about your safety from time to time— it’s the mother in me. ?.
    I do have one question Nikki. Where do you buy all your tops. They just flow so nicely. Strange question, I know. Lol.

  • Steve Edison

    two thumbs up!! smooth sailing to equador and beyond.

  • Bob & Kathie Schram

    You guys are the best. Safe travels.

  • Tom Fitch

    Nikki, I’m always impressed with your cooking prowess. Any plans to write a cookbook on really easy to prepare vegetarian food for people on the fly? I would buy that!

  • Brenda F

    Love your videos! Are you planning to go to New Zealand, or Australia, and if so how are you handling the pet quarantine, and all the pre- requirements needed? Thanks

  • Chris Zegel

    I have been watching your videos since you bought your first RV and can’t wait for the next one

  • Jayme costa

    Great video I like too much
    Good winds


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