FAQ

These are the more frequently asked questions we get about sailing and cruising on our boats in Panama, especially the San Blas Archipelago. This section is dynamic! We change it regularly!

The answer is as little as possible. You are coming to a warm climate for good reason. Temperatures in San Blas are seldom below 25centigrade. It is usually humid too. There are no restaurants and nightlife. You are aiming at a shoulder bag or small 'daypack' knapsack or satchel. You will probably bring more liquor and electronic equipment than clothing.

We recommend the following:
  • Your Passport (must have with you to come to the islands)
  • Extra cash (no cash machines available on islands)
  • 2 to 3 swimsuits
  • Shorts
  • T shirts.
  • Lightweight, waterproof jacket with hood
  • Caps or hats
  • Sunglasses
  • Rubber or plastic sandals or crocs type shoes only
  • Towel
  • Water Bottle
  • Toiletries and specific medicines of course.
All saves space. You will have much more space in your cabin and avoid hoisting large baggage in and out of transfer vehicles and 'lancha' boats, or the plane.  We can discuss making arrangements for leaving your main luggage in Panama City.
Although we are in the tropics the trips are of course far enough offshore amongst the smaller islands. Generally it is insect free. Occasionally if we are near one of the few larger island groups, for example the eastern Hollandes, one may find sandflies or other flying insects. This however only occurs during certain times of the year, and day, and for short period, and near certain beaches . We sometimes burn ground coffee in a tin, which chases them away quite readily, if we ever need to. However if this is a concern for you then please bring something like Tabard gel or one of these Sun lotions with insect repellant combined. NOTE: spray all the outside of your luggage with Baygon or other strong insect spray a couple of days before your trip.  Reason: the eggs of various insects can adhere to your bags. This is especially true in storerooms of backpacker hostels. Of course we don't want them on the boat, and these eggs can even be carried back to your home, where you are centrally heated, after your holiday. This works well, a simple yet effective precaution.
It is HOT! The sun here nearer the equator is much more powerful than the summer sun in temperate climates. Please do not underestimate it. Apply suitable sun screen before you leave the city for your wilderness adventure.
Strictly speaking this is not a yacht charter. We are able to offer the best of the island yachting experience for half the price, due to the way we structure the booking. A yacht charter is typically a commitment by one group or person to 'buy' the whole boat and crew on full service basis, usually for a week. This is much more costly and difficult to arrange amongst your friends. The Latina formula allows you to secure a place for yourself, as a couple, or as a family or larger group. We can operate a trip as long as we have a minimum of six persons (or by special arrangement). So we offer shorter 'bite-size' trips suitable for those who are not so sure about a full 7 days out of their overall holiday. It is a fun packed full island experience, however! This system is called by a variety of names worldwide, it may be 'blue cruise', 'group sail', or even 'cabin charter'. Whatever you want to call it - you are assured of a great time.  The trips are scheduled well in advance. You can do as much as you like as regards sail and line handling, and helping on the yacht, or you can simply keep that tan going. Mealtimes are a wonderful team event and a high point of the day.
Trips are unique and the itinerary varies on several factors. These include wind & weather conditions, anchorages available, snorkeling conditions & availability of fish but of course it depends on you and your group too! We make the effort to provide a great cruising experience, coupled with seeing the best of the islands and Kuna life, but balanced in favor of your preferences. Depending on your mode of journey to the San Blas and where you enter (it may be El Porvenir, Carti or Nargana (Corazon)) will determine your pick up point and transfer method.

After a short welcome and introduction to the boat and crew we are on our way to the first night, hopefully with an island to ourselves! Your arrival in the islands is usually sometime in the morning before midday, with an aim to being at anchor by nightfall. On the day of departure you will leave the islands at a time which varies greatly on specific arrangements, but again generally the aim is to be back in the city before the evening.

Notice bookings refer to per night not per day, so for a three night booking you could largely have four days amongst the islands.  With 366 islands to choose from we are always seeking that 'undiscovered' spot.
Several options, but easier than you think. By Car: Panama City to Carti/Barsukun via van or SUV service from Panama City. NB: To be prior arranged through the Kuna Yala Congresso HQ in Panama City. There are several traveling throughout each day from Panama City for an adventurous 2-3 hour drive from the city via the Interamericana highway to a road that has now been completed. Cost roughly $30 each way plus about $6-8 road tax and usually a $3 'port' tax at Barsukun, finally about $8 to $18 per person for the lancha ride to the yacht. These small costs can vary and are not under our control. Depend on where you come from and how many of you in the lancha. By Plane: Currently there is one flight on Air Panama every morning from Albrook Airport in Panama City (the national airport Not Tocumen) to El Porvenir. (and every second day into Corazon de Jesus) Flights leave very early in the morning, approximately 5:30-6 AM, so be prepared to be in Panama City at least the night before heading to San Blas. Flight time is approx 30 minutes.  Costs for flights are around $75 per person, each way. Be aware that if you fly, that you may need to wait near the airport before the trip starts. There’s a little hotel and nice beach on the island of El Porvenir. By Boat: Panama City to Miramar (east of Portobelo) and then lancha through the surf and 1 to 2 hours offshore to reach El Porvenir. Costs range from $55 by road and lancha via Miramar (Approximately 4.5 hours travel time) each way. Please take these costs into account, as they are separate from the cost of the yacht trip, and we have no control over them. We can assist in the arrangements to get you in and out of San Blas, but bear in mind that this portion of the trip is the guests responsibility. We will always try to get flights booked first. It is much better for the all boats guests to travel together in terms of timing. (note that this method is least recommended)
We advise not to pack your schedule too tight. You are traveling to a wilderness area, which is still largely undeveloped. However do not expect 'first world' organization options available such as just make a quick call to change reservation. Transport can be less reliable. It is best to leave at least a day 'fat' at the end of the yacht trip before the next stage of your Latin American holiday. ie: don't make any special arrangements the night straight after being in San Blas. (you may even want to stay longer in the islands!) Bring some cash with you for island goods, extra seafood (crab, lobster, squid depending on season and availability and for contingency.
Our sailing trips and cruises are intended for a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 10 guests (plus you have a  captain and a crewperson) However nearly every group and trip are tailored to suit request where possible. What this means is a single or couple fits easily into our mix and match booking system. Just talk to us! Its fun! That way we are also able to provide a captained yacht at most affordable rates. If you would like a family or private booking (of say two couples) please ask. We may need to apply a fair 'lock out' fee but don't worry, all negotiable.

The above also means that non sailors can enjoy a sailing taster and a true paradise island holiday. What about young children? Our experience has been that young teens who have an interest in sailing or snorkeling enjoy these trips, immensely. Remember though that there is little cellphone coverage!

Younger children as part of a dedicated family group are okay but the onus really is on the parents for safety and controlling them. (although the captain Does have this experience!). Children are welcome but they can get bored since the adults like to chat and swim and drink and eat. The other side of the coin are the experienced sailors  who want to have crack at operating the yacht in one of warmest most unspoiled parts of the world! Welcome!
Yes. All food, snacks and non-alcoholic beverages (which includes water, juices, coffee, tea, soda, and fruit drinks) are included.

We always do our best to have a good stock of food, snacks, fruits and vegetables before every trip. We are usually able to get fresh fish and/or lobster for dinners. All you need to do is provide the liquor, wine, and/or beer you wish to consume during the trip. The best bet is to buy your booze and 'special' items while you are in Panama City or on the way if you are going to come by 4x4. As a 'missing items' stop there is a large supermarket on the way out of Panama City or in La Margarita/Chepo, which is about an hour or so away from San Blas. We know what foodstuffs work best on the boat and for trips of this length, but you can call us and discuss any particular food likes or allergies. Remember the food will be roughly 3 large cardboard boxes which need to accompany you to the yacht.
Formal is the wrong word of course! This is a holiday! Breakfast and lunch can be either organized or by your self simply depending on the group and taste differences, etc. Dinners are a coordinated effort by everyone, crew and guests. Various duties will be shared in preparing, cooking, and of course dishes and cleaning of the galley afterward. Understand with up to 10 people onboard, it’s very easy to split up duties. So...cooking and eating great meals onboard is a huge part of the fabric of these trips. Especially when you are dealing with fresh seafood, and cold beer and wine! We always strive to have a good stock of fresh fruits, vegetables, bread, eggs, deli meats, and a good selection of snacks. We fish off the boat during the trip, so whatever we catch usually ends up being dinner. Another aspect of the San Blas is buying fresh lobster, fish (many species), octopus and crab direct and live, from the Kuna canoes (cayucos). (This is however dependent on what is available).
As we have said bring the alcohol that you need for your group. We can load quite a lot, it’s just a matter of lugging it all to the boat! We make the best efforts to have cold drinks as far as possible. It is all part of these particular adventures. Many evenings are fabulous relaxing moonlight dinners. All we ask is be aware that you may be with other folk and a boat is not as big as a hotel. So just think about who you may or may not be affecting, while you are having fun. Again the captain is experienced in all these matters so will guide the group. Narcotics can not be tolerated on our yachts, for several reasons, some which relate to regional security, but mainly for the above reason - that you are in close proximity to our other guests. Please do not bring any aboard. Tobacco smoking on board is possible, of course, however please never inside the vessel and only 'downwind' when on the deck. This means near the side where the wind blows the ash directly to the sea. Boats are flammable! The very stern or 'swimming deck' are the best areas for a group smoke.

Fresh water and drinking water. We have several tanks aboard which we fill with tap water and so on as we can. (water is NOT available on the islands) When its gone its gone. Please be frugal with sink and shower water. Shower -wet yourself- turn off-soap yourself- rinse off. 2 minutes. All do that and all is well. You will have enough for many showers in this warm climate. We do however have a reverse osmosis water maker on board (a standard yachting solution). This water is 100% H20 so is great for drinking. We save it to a special tank for drinking. It can be redirected to cleaning water but this is a waste and involves a lot of engine running and so on to generate enough water. So we have good drinking water available, so please bring one only 500ml water bottle that you can fill up.
Assume that there are none, regardless of what else you may read. Bring what you need with you. However bring cash for contingencies and purchase of things like the local 'molas' and curios.
We accept cash, travelers’ checks (as long as they are yours and not a third party) in US Dollars. We will arrange to meet you prior to your trip to receive all final payments if you choose to pay this way. We also accept credit/debit card and E-checks via PayPal. If you need guidance please ask or make a note when you send your inquiry. NOTE: If you are new to PayPal, you may have to go through a verification process before you can submit your payment, so allow some time for that (it can sometimes be 1-2 days or more). Typically, deposits can be paid in advance using PayPal, and final balances can be paid in cash or travelers’ check. We prefer arranging to collect the remaining funds while guests are in Panama City usually the day/evening before, or the morning of the trip.
Reservations can only be confirmed with a paid deposit. With PayPal, it is quick and easy to make a deposit from almost anywhere in the world using your bank account, credit card, or debit card. We also gladly “hold” a reservation pending a deposit being received.

But please understand that if we get a reservation with a deposit for those spots before we receive yours, and there is no other space on the trip, the one with the paid deposit will get the spots. In any case, we will do our best to accommodate all requests.
Please refer to the dedicated pages and layout diagrams. We will always try and fulfill your needs or queries, but please be sure to ask us specifically before you leave to go out the boat if you have any concerns.

Many guests elect to sleep above decks on clear, starry nights. We have rollup mattresses and cushions for sleeping on deck available for your convenience. We provide fresh linens for all beds and for sleeping in the salon. You are, however, responsible for having your own towel.
Yes of course. We do private sails all the time. Just let us know what you have in mind, and how many people in your group. Give as much detail as possible.
In the very rare event that we have to cancel a trip for any reason on our part, we will notify you as soon as possible.  We will work with you to reschedule or refund your deposit. If you have to cancel on a trip, please let us know as soon as possible. If the trip is full, we usually have people who are willing to jump in on a last-minute trip if space opens up. If we get someone else to fill your spot(s) on the trip, then we will gladly reimburse your deposit. However, if you cancel within ten calendar days before your trip date, and we are unable  to get someone else to take your spot(s), your deposit is subject to forfeit.
Yes, our vessels have a good inventory of snorkeling masks, fins and gear aboard for guests to use, plus a few rods for the keen fisherman. (we  provide a refundable deposit for the more costly equipment) If you have your favorite mask, or fishing lures -please bring. If you absolutely have to bring your own rod please make sure it is a short boat rod.
At this time, the Kuna forbid scuba diving of any kind within the archipelago. This law was instituted by the tribe years ago due to excessive spear fishing and poaching being done by spear fishermen from other parts of Panama and even Colombia.
Of course! In most anchorages we go to in San Blas, guests will be able to easily swim ashore. Feel free to walk around and check out the islands! There are a few simple rules you will need to follow when ashore, but other than that, guests are welcome in almost all cases by the local Kuna.
Unlike yacht charters, tips are never expected, but they are always appreciated. We work hard to make your trip special and unique. Customary 10% tip is suggested.
You don’t  have to worry about seasickness too much. Most of where we sail is protected by an outer reef. This is what makes San Blas such a primo cruising ground. Thanks to this outer barrier reef protecting the low-lying islands, you do not have the waves and swells like you do on the open sea.

Be aware however, that at times we will be crossing channels to open sea, and there may be a bit more rolling motion during those brief periods on our sails.

If you feel you are extra sensitive and/or feel the need to protect yourself, use seasickness medication. We recommend Meclizine or Sturgeron as a preventative or remedy, or ginger tablets in the event of mild nausea or sour stomach. The magnetic wrist bands evidently work surprisingly well for some people. (www.reliefband.com) However the captain will keep saying, on and on, and on, drink fresh water until it runs from your nose! It is so important for many reasons. Bring your bottle!
Weather conditions in San Blas vary almost all of the time. While you may see some rain and crazy weather during the trip, chances are also good that you will see plenty of sunny, clear weather as well. Bear in mind that San Blas has its own micro climate system when it comes to its weather patterns. It simply does not follow the same weather patterns that affect the rest of Panama. So even if you see a lot of rain on the mainland, it doesn't mean you will see the same thing in San Blas. Even when in the rainy season it is balmy warm and the showers are normally brief (but fierce) and followed by hot sun ...you watch your towels steaming!
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  • Deposit: A 50%, non-refundable, deposit on your total amount must be made 72 hours in advance of your cruise in order to reserve your position
  • How many people can you handle on board maximum?  We are equipped with enough Life Saving Equipment to handle 25 people on board.
  • Where do I board the ship? This depends on arrangements made at the time of booking, but generally the vessel departs from the Balboa Yacht Club on the Amador Causeway next door to the Country Inn & Suites Hotel. We also depart from Las Brisas Marina and Flamenco Marina, both of which are located at the end of the Amador Causeway. We also depart from the Taboga Island General Wharf when necessary.
  • Do you provide hotel pickups? We absolutely can, however there would be a charge for this service. We have numerous drivers that are reliable and we can contact on short notice to provide a pickup for a small group or a large group at your hotel.
  • Are tips included? Tips are not included, and passengers may tip their crew as much as they feel is deserved. We pride ourselves in taking care of our passengers and providing great service. Suggested crew tip is 10% of the total booking cost, but this is your option and is certainly not mandatory. If you wish to tip, please provide to the Captain at the end of the voyage, who will disperse to the crew evenly.
  • What about the weather? We reserve the right to cancel a cruise in the event the Captain determines the weather is unsafe. In this case, the 50% deposit will be refunded. Panama is an excellent cruising area, and bad weather resulting in cancellations is very rare in this region. However, Mother Nature can be fickle sometimes. Cruising in rain is not a problem. However, cruising in high seas, electrical storms, high winds etc is not recommended. The final Go / No-Go decision will remain at the descretion of the Captain.
  • Will I get sea sick? Highly unlikely – the seas around Panama are generally calm and flat, but as stated before, Mother Nature can be fickle! We carry pills on board for someone who may feel a but ill, and we also carry a new aromatherapy product that you inhale. This product does amazing things for people that experience motion sickness. It is all natural and can be used by children and adults.  For more information check www.soothing-scents.com  If in doubt, plan in advance and take a Dramamine pill or equivalent motion-sickness product 1 hour before departure.
  • Can we bring children? Our vessel is not child-proof, and while we do carry lifejackets and lifesaving equipment for young children, we can only accept children aboard if they are cared for and supervised by a responsible adult at all times. We do not have crew aboard to take care of children – they are your responsibilty and must be tended to at all times.
  • Is smoking permitted? Yes, but only on the outside decks. For the safety of others, absolutely no smoking is permitted on any of the inside quarters of the ship. Also, please use the cans filled with sand for your butts and do not throw them overboard. Reason #1 – your butt won’t get caught in the wind, fly back inside the boat, and start a fire. Reason #2 – your butts can be eaten by sea life and kill them. Reason #3 – your butts pollute the beaches. Thanks for your co-operation.
  • What should I bring? Towel, swim suit, suntan lotion, flip-flops, a hat, and some music. We have music on board, but you may wish to listen to something special. Our sound system accepts CDs, MP3 disks, and has an audio jack to plug in an IPod or equivalent. Don’t forget the hat and sun screen – minimum 30 SPF – as the sun can be very strong in these latitudes. The sun nearer the equator is much more powerful than the summer sun in temperate climates. Please do not underestimate it. We carry filtered fresh water on board for showers and cooking, but it is recommended that you bring bottled drinking water.
  • Is there snorkel gear aboard? Yes, we have a small selection of snorkel gear available. However, there are only a limited number of masks/snorkels and they are of various sizes. It is recommended that you bring your own to ensure it fits properly.
  • Is there electricity on board? Yes, standard North American plugs and 110-volt power is available.
  • Is there InterNet on board? No….this is a trip to RELAX, not work on your computer!!!
  • I can’t survive without my cell phone!! There is cell service between Panama and Taboga, although sometimes the signal can be weak. We request, for the comfort of other passengers, that you place your phone on Vibrate and if you must talk on the phone, move to a quiet area of the ship away from others.  There is cell service on Contadora but the signal is fairly weak or none at all between Panama and Contadora.
  • Drugs: Our vessel has a Zero Tolerance Policy with respect to drugs. We take this VERY seriously.  Any passenger found with drugs in their possesion or using drugs aboard will result in a forfeit of the cruise and full prices will be charged, regardless of how long you have been on the vessel. Quite simply, the ship will turn around and return to Port. Our vessel is too important to us to be impounded by the local authorities just to indulge in your vice. This is non-negotiable and there will be no discussion.