Going south to the canal is pretty easy, going north can be very tough, regardless of the direction through the canal. The wind
and seas on the Caribbean side seem more consistent than on the Pacific side: there is a reason the Spaniards named the Pacific after sailing on the Atlantic and Caribbean!
So, having done this trip twice from California
to the Caribbean, I think it would be better to go from East to West. Not much of a difference.
If you have two years to do it, you can afford to wait quite a long time for good conditions, and good conditions do always occur, eventually.
Fortunately, fuel south of the USA is cheaper, sometimes DRAMATICALLY cheaper in Panama (prices can be very dynamic however).
Distances: United States Office of Coast Survey
distances from the East Coast
to Panama are 1600 from Texas
or the Gulf coast
, 1100 from Key West
, 1800 from Norfolk, 2000 from NYC
, 2200 from Boston or Maine
distances from Panama to San Diego
is 2900, LA 3000, SFO 3300, and Seattle
You will want to wander around, so add at least 20 percent to these distances. So NYC
to SFO is about (1.25 x (2000+3300)) or 6600 nautical miles.
At 2 nmpg (a displacement
trawler) thats 3300 gallons.
At 1 nmpg (a semi-displacement trawler) thats 6600 gallons.
At 0.25 nmpg (a planing sportfishing boat) thats over 25000 gallons.
Therefore, you don't want a sportfishing boat, or any planing hull
. And you really probably do not want a semi planing hull
. You probably really want a true displacement
If it goes fast, and/or has big engines (like over about 150HP), its the wrong boat for the trip you are thinking about. Might be the perfect boat for other uses.
Also, you really need about 1000 mile range to do this trip. It can be done with much less range -- like 300 -- but then you are always looking for fuel, and fuel can be a major hassle, even in seemingly major ports
Here is a Willard
40 in your price
range, that might work with additional fuel tanks
I'd look for the other kinds of Willards in this size range, but they rarely come on the market. Krogens are good, but expensive. Lots of the Bayliner trawlers out there. Also, you may do well to consider a powercat coming out of charter
. They are worn, but proven, and the charter
base will really know what goes wrong and what goes well with the boats.
If you actually do this trip, you may be surprised to discover that MOST of the boats actually out there and cruising around are pretty shoddy vessels, nothing at all like what is advertised and reviewed in the yachting press.
Oh: as one other forum member
recently discovered (he bought a Hatteras LRC in Panama and is having it refurbished up a river in El Savador), there are lots of boats that made it to Panama, and the owners have decided not to carry on. Some of these boats are far over equipped with everything ever advertised or suggested in any number of books
on voyaging. And the prices are quite low. You probably will need to do some work on the boat, and you need to actually go there to inspect and survey
-- don't trust the photos!!!! But if you are taking 2 years off to do this sort of thing, you might be the perfect person to gain a huge advantage from someone else's tarnished dreams.
Its not so painful to have work done on a boat in such places as Central America
-- in fact, lots of people take their boats TO Central America
expressly for this purpose. While its being painted, say, you can explore the jungles, meet lots of locals and cruisers, find private beaches, ... I spent a couple of months doing a refit
of an 80 foot luxury performance sailing yacht down there, it was lots of fun, high quality work, and very cheap
. A friend is currently spending a few months bringing his 40 year old production fiberglass
sailing yacht back to pristine, and he's having a great time.
Get out there and have fun!