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Old 05-08-2014, 18:35   #1
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Alaska to Florida

I am ready to buy a Valiant 40' in Alaska and am considering sailing it down the west coast, through the canal and back to Florida. It will soon be September and the west coast generally has a high pressurre system that time of year. And, going down the coast is generally down wind and down current. What I'm concerned about is sailing from the canal to Florida. Does anyone have advice for me?
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Old 05-08-2014, 18:37   #2
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Re: Alaska to Florida

Hurricane season will be factor.
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Old 05-08-2014, 19:16   #3
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Re: Alaska to Florida

Of course a detailed answer will depend on how quickly you plan to get to Panama. Is this a direct, hurry up trip or stop and smell the roses which will determine your ETA to the Canal.

In general, from PC to Florida the two options would be a little east of north to the Windward Passage or NW along the coast to the Yucatan.

Destination east or west coast of FL would be a factor in choosing which way.

Winter crossing the Caribbean to the WP can be big winds and waves and a beat to weather but once you pass Cuba it's a downwind run to FL. To the Yucatan the trip north will be easier and you can tourist on the way but after passing the west side of Cuba you will have a beat unless you are going to Tampa area where you might have a reach.
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Old 05-08-2014, 20:08   #4
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Re: Alaska to Florida

I'm not going to hurry so much that I don't mind the weather. However, I don't want to spend too much time smellling the roses on this trip: only enough to get some rest now and then. If I can get to Cabo by October, I won't be too concerned about hurricanes, although they can still happen. After the canal, I would choose to skirt the coast and head for Cancun and then catch the Gulf Stream and shear off to St. Pete.
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Old 05-08-2014, 20:25   #5
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Re: Alaska to Florida

Getting from AK to Panama is the hard part. From the canal to FL is a piece of cake. You can almost use the current the whole way. Getting in a hurry is the problem. Smelling the roses and spending 18 months is maybe the way to go. Once you get to about 12 deg., almost all urgency about the wx disappears.
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Old 05-08-2014, 20:59   #6
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Re: Alaska to Florida

Guy, you're the only person who has ever told me that. Personally, I know the currents run south and generallly the wind is on the beam in September. After the canal is where my concern lies: With the easterlies and north easterlies, I would think I would be beating or on a close reach up the coast of Central America.
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Old 05-08-2014, 21:05   #7
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Re: Alaska to Florida

Getting from Colon to Fla can be a tough haul. The Carib trade winds blow hard and the seas pile up with the long open Carib Sea fetch. The weather windows to head north tend to be in Nov after hurricanes have slowed and before the trades have kicked in solidly. The other window is when the trades lay down some time between mid-April and mid-May. We had a nice light air sail early May to the Caymans.
The run down the west coast is pretty straight forward after San Fran to the Canal.
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Old 05-08-2014, 21:50   #8
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Re: Alaska to Florida

I can see that others have different opinions. Getting from AK to SFO could be kinda hard. The wind from Cabo to Panama is flukey so you might motor a lot. From Panama to about Honduras it's also flukey but after that things are good up along Central America and MX all the way to Florida. The wind seems to clock around every week, you just pick your days. Anchorages are everywhere and the current is really great.
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Old 06-08-2014, 14:39   #9
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Re: Alaska to Florida

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Originally Posted by Guy View Post
I can see that others have different opinions. Getting from AK to SFO could be kinda hard. The wind from Cabo to Panama is flukey so you might motor a lot. From Panama to about Honduras it's also flukey but after that things are good up along Central America and MX all the way to Florida. The wind seems to clock around every week, you just pick your days. Anchorages are everywhere and the current is really great.
I don't have access to the Pilot Charts right now. But if you look at the wind direction in the SW Carib after the trade winds set in, like in Jan and Feb, the overwhelming wind direction is E and ENE with the trades blowing strong. It is a tough slog N out of the Canal during tradewind season.
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Old 06-08-2014, 15:38   #10
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Re: Alaska to Florida

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I don't have access to the Pilot Charts right now. But if you look at the wind direction in the SW Carib after the trade winds set in, like in Jan and Feb, the overwhelming wind direction is E and ENE with the trades blowing strong. It is a tough slog N out of the Canal during tradewind season.
You have to choose your schedule but getting to Bocas is not a big deal and there always seems to be a good day every week or so. Especially in the ITCZ.
This is partly why smelling the roses along the way is better.
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Old 06-08-2014, 16:01   #11
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Re: Alaska to Florida

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I don't have access to the Pilot Charts right now. But if you look at the wind direction in the SW Carib after the trade winds set in, like in Jan and Feb, the overwhelming wind direction is E and ENE with the trades blowing strong. It is a tough slog N out of the Canal during tradewind season.
This is certainly my experience, especially winter the winds and seas in the SW Caribbean can be very strong. Maybe spring/summer it might be fluky along the Central American coast but then you are getting into hurricane season.
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