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Old 03-11-2013, 06:21   #16
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None, Jimbo. Australia is our goal but we reserve the right to buy plane tickets if we feel the boat or crew are not up to the Pacific crossing when that time comes. With wifey's Australian visa settled and better than expected liveaboard income (thanks Internet) we have unexpectedly found we have at least another year to play in the Caribbean before we have to make that decision. Will start thinking about it again in December, 2014. We are six months into our cruise. First goal was "get to NYC by September". Looks like we are on track to meet our second goal - "get to the Bahamas by Christmas". Time to figure out our next goal. Starting to look like it will be "get to Panama by June via western route". Thanks CruisersForum.
Make sure to have an Ubiquity Nanostation loco M2 aboard (amazon.com) to have Internet as good as possible. I will be getting the wifi in Colon back up to standards when we return in December
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Old 03-11-2013, 08:37   #17
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Must be my Cruz from Brizzy.
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Old 03-11-2013, 11:42   #18
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Make sure to have an Ubiquity Nanostation loco M2 aboard (amazon.com) to have Internet as good as possible. I will be getting the wifi in Colon back up to standards when we return in December
Jedi, we have a Bullet setup from Island Time PC with a 12V router. Are we going to need to make a modification to it?
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Old 03-11-2013, 12:38   #19
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Re: Best Plan for moving through the Caribbean to Panama?

Can anyone suggest a strategy for getting from Key West or the Bahamas to Cancun? Does anyone have a map or a blog of their trip? Anyone got map or blog of their trip from Florida to Panama via the Western Caribbean?
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Old 03-11-2013, 13:13   #20
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Re: Best Plan for moving through the Caribbean to Panama?

You think like us. Having done the Eastern Carib, there is no way we would do it again. Definitely not our style. We have spent the past 3 years in the Western Carib because it suits us far better.

You will be relying much less on wifi in the Western Carib and much more on cell connections. No problem - anywhere you go that has a different provider, you buy a $12 dongle and data plans run about $20-30 for 10GB. Right now, we are paying $35 for 20GB in Guatemala. If you get an unlocked mifi router that takes a SIM card, then you have wireless on the boat and don't need the dongles. Or get an unlocked dongle and save the money from buying different dongles in each country. The SIM cards are essentially free - they cost $5, but there is $5 of credit on them.

This is the same with phones also. Either bring an unlocked phone or simply buy a $10 one when you change providers.

Many of the countries have the same providers.

Above, I gave several different strategies to get from the Bahamas to Panama. There are many choices with pros and cons of each. Going across the bottom of FL to Cancun puts you against the gulf stream. Through the windward passage puts you a bit south for Cancun, but you can backtrack. Going all the way into Guatemala and Belize means you need to beat East again for a couple hundred miles. If you want to visit Cuba, you have several options that can determine where/how you proceed from there.

Etc. Spend some time with a chart of the carib and you will see many options for going west and south. Cancun and Isla Mujeres doesn't have a lot going for it in terms of cruising, so you might rethink making that a point. This is mostly a short stopping area for boats traversing in/out of the Western Carib. We haven't been there, so maybe others could comment on that. The Pacific side of Mexico has more favorable options. You would probably be better off simply heading for Belize instead of Mexico if you wanted to cruise up in that area.

The mainlands of Honduras and Nicaragua are not safe, but the islands off the coast are. These include the Bay Islands of Guanaja, Roatan and Utila, the isolated Hobbies and Vivorillos (and related islands), the Corn Islands, the Colombian owned islands of San Andreas and Providencia, along with isolated places like the Albuquerque Cays, Swan Islands and others. All of Costa Rica is skipped - there is only one harbor at Limon and it is not safe.

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Old 03-11-2013, 14:39   #21
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Re: Best Plan for moving through the Caribbean to Panama?

Mark, you have a great blog. Thanks! The cell based Internet access also very good news.

I'm no Captain Cook. Charts are my friends. It is time to start studying them and putting together rough schedule. Wifey is going to start reading your blog. She is stoked.
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Old 03-11-2013, 17:09   #22
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Jedi, we have a Bullet setup from Island Time PC with a 12V router. Are we going to need to make a modification to it?
When you use it for work, you should add the Nanostation locoM2 to that setup. Then, if the Bullet has trouble (or breaks) you can pop out the Nanostation which, with it's directional antenna, can make stable connections where the Bullet can't. Cheap insurance and you may find to be usingt he Nanostation more than the Bullet
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Old 03-11-2013, 17:37   #23
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Mark, you have a great blog. Thanks! The cell based Internet access also very good news. I'm no Captain Cook. Charts are my friends. It is time to start studying them and putting together rough schedule. Wifey is going to start reading your blog. She is stoked.
I went all the way east to the Virgin Islands and it was the thorny path If I would do it today,I would go around Cuba (Windward Passage), maybe stop at Port Antonio in Jamaica and then try to make Santa Martha in Colombia. From there follow the coast to Cartagena and on to all the islands that lay off the coast towards Panama. Then, from Isla Fuerte, straight to Sapzurro which is at the border between Colombia and Panama. This skips the inoet south where drugs baddies are. From Sapzurro, you now have the whole San Blas / Kuna Yala ahead of you. Then Isla Grande, Isla Linton, Portobelo and Colon. Then Bocas del Toro and off to the colombian islands off the coast of Nicaragua. That is when you enter hurricane area again, so you have to backtrack to at least Bocas del Toro to be safe again later.

There are two alternatives to hide for hurricanes. First is the Rio Dulce in Guatemala, which is where Marc is now. The other is the Havana Yacht Club in Cuba, which can be hit but where you will be safe even when it does get hit.
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Old 03-11-2013, 17:38   #24
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Mark, you have a great blog. Thanks! The cell based Internet access also very good news. I'm no Captain Cook. Charts are my friends. It is time to start studying them and putting together rough schedule. Wifey is going to start reading your blog. She is stoked.
For cell based access, you can also buy a Cradlepoint MBR95 router, which accepts the USB cellular modems.
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Old 03-11-2013, 18:00   #25
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Re: Best Plan for moving through the Caribbean to Panama?

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Originally Posted by s/v Jedi View Post
Then, from Isla Fuerte, straight to Sapzurro which is at the border between Colombia and Panama. This skips the inoet south where drugs baddies are. From Sapzurro, you now have the whole San Blas / Kuna Yala ahead of you.
Just a small detail, but I wouldn't (and we didn't) go to Sapzurro to check in. This can be a tenuous anchorage at the time of year that you may arrive. It is also a bit arduous check in.

Instead, simply enter the San Blas Islands just a few miles north (west) of this at Isla Pinos and enjoy as long and leisurely cruise through the Eastern San Blas as you want.

Yes, you technically will not be checked into the country, but it does not matter here. These are all far isolated places that the Kuna Yala are forgiving about. When you arrive up in the Western, more populated, part of the San Blas, go straight to immigration/customs up there and check in. There will be no issues at all about this, because it is common and acceptable.

Don't put them on the spot by saying you have been in their country for X weeks all ready - they are officials, after all - just give them your Colombia Zarpe and request clearance as normal. You will have already supported the isolated communities by paying each of them $5-10 for anchoring and island rights as you visit them, and the Kuna custom/immigration officials, representing the country Panama that you are checking into, understand this.

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Old 03-11-2013, 18:15   #26
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Re: Best Plan for moving through the Caribbean to Panama?

Jedi, thanks so much.

Looking at the charts and the prevailing winds and currents, the Windward Passage seems like the way to go. Comments from other cruisers back this up.

We are an Australian registered boat so a stop in Santiago De Cuba for a visit is viable, but not too long because Internet access is problematic in Cuba. Then Jamaica, The Cayman Islands and Belize. That timeline would put us in Panama in June, 2014 and then we would have until March 2015 to explore Panama and Columbia.

Mark's blog indicates his boat is in Rio Dulce right now while he explores inland. Must be a good safe place. If we are slower than we expect getting to there we at least have somewhere to park. I don't want to be in Cuba waiting out the hurricane season because of Internet issues.

I did not know about the Nanostation locoM2. Googling it now. Need to do some more research on it. But like you say, it's very cheap insurance at $50. The Bullet has proven invaluable.

You and Mark have given us a great start. I hope to see you both along the way and buy you your favorite beverage. Thanks a million.
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Old 03-11-2013, 18:20   #27
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Sapzurro is still Colombia so no check-in needed. Also very good anchoring behind the little reef at the south side of the bay. Oh my, you guys have to sail all the way back because you missed Sapzurro

I would check in to Colombia in Santa Martha, check out in Cartagena for Porlamar with intermediate stops up to and incl. Sapzurro. (the agent can list them, just list them all). I would check into Panama in Porlamar when they don't force me to do it earlier.

Our favorite stops are Sapzurro, Isla Piños, Snug Harbour, Cayos Hollandes. The other 300 are good too
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Old 03-11-2013, 18:43   #28
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Re: Best Plan for moving through the Caribbean to Panama?

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I hope to see you both along the way and buy you your favorite beverage. Thanks a million.
Unfortunately, I have not found my favorite beverage anywhere in the Caribbean. The closest I found was a grocery store in Curacao where they had a single bottle of a competitors IPA. My second favorite brand, at least. Unfortunately, it was a financial choice between buying this one bottle of beer or buying 3 gallons of bottom paint for our boat. Michele forced me to go with the bottom paint.

But I look forward to meeting with you and will certainly let you buy me a bottle of the swill they call beer down here.

I will return the favor by showing you my secret tricks for splicing octoplait - something I have purposefully kept hidden from Jedi in order to prevent him from gaining the last piece of knowledge he needs to take over the world.

Of course, he seems to have cracked the secret of the perfect cocktail, so I may selfishly trade world domination for a nice drink in a fancy glass….

Mark
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Old 03-11-2013, 18:47   #29
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Re: Best Plan for moving through the Caribbean to Panama?

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Sapzurro is still Colombia so no check-in needed. Also very good anchoring behind the little reef at the south side of the bay. Oh my, you guys have to sail all the way back because you missed Sapzurro
We were just discussing that today, actually, and making possible plans to head to Colombia from here and do it all again.

Yes, Sapzurro is Colombia, but if you widen your stance a bit on shore, one foot ends up in Panama!

I thought you were suggesting Sapzurro as a check in point because many do just that. (For shanedennis, Sapzurro area straddles Colombia and Panama and it is possible to check in there).

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Old 03-11-2013, 19:06   #30
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Re: Best Plan for moving through the Caribbean to Panama?

Quote:
Originally Posted by shanedennis View Post
Jedi, thanks so much.

Looking at the charts and the prevailing winds and currents, the Windward Passage seems like the way to go. Comments from other cruisers back this up.

We are an Australian registered boat so a stop in Santiago De Cuba for a visit is viable, but not too long because Internet access is problematic in Cuba. Then Jamaica, The Cayman Islands and Belize. That timeline would put us in Panama in June, 2014 and then we would have until March 2015 to explore Panama and Columbia.

Mark's blog indicates his boat is in Rio Dulce right now while he explores inland. Must be a good safe place. If we are slower than we expect getting to there we at least have somewhere to park. I don't want to be in Cuba waiting out the hurricane season because of Internet issues.

I did not know about the Nanostation locoM2. Googling it now. Need to do some more research on it. But like you say, it's very cheap insurance at $50. The Bullet has proven invaluable.

You and Mark have given us a great start. I hope to see you both along the way and buy you your favorite beverage. Thanks a million.
Yes, we put the boat in the Rio Dulce for the hurricane season. It is completely safe here - 25 miles up a river bordered by mountains. We would go crazy if we were only tied to a marina dock here, but luckily this place has some fantastic world heritage cultural sites all within easy access. As well as some beautiful country and fantastic people.

Visiting Cuba is a dream of ours. The Cayman's don't offer a lot beyond an easy stop and some provisioning, as well as a good pivot point to other places.

From there you have to decide if you want to stick yourself way West into Belize/Guatemala, or keep the favorable winds and angle down South more instead. From Belize Guatemala, you will have to go East into the prevailing wind for a couple hundred miles before turning South. This isn't a killer thing, but it is unpleasant. It is also possible to get calm weather or even favorable winds, depending on the time of year and possible frontal system.

Whatever you decide, there is a lot to see and do in the Western Caribe. We enjoy it so much more than the Eastern Caribe (except for the French islands - you will be missing fantastic bread and wine at prices that are almost free).

Mark
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