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Old 02-11-2013, 15:19   #1
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Best Plan for moving through the Caribbean to Panama?

We taking a year in Caribbean and be in Panama by March, 2015. We are on schedule to be in the Bahamas by December after spending most of 2013 exploring the Great Lakes and US East Coast.

Is there a favored schedule and route for potential Pacific puddle jumpers starting in the Bahamas in January and then moving though the Caribbean to be in Panama the next March?

Thanks for your thoughts!
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Old 02-11-2013, 15:28   #2
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Re: Best Plan for moving through the Caribbean to Panama?

Leewards and Windwards until June, then Grenada, Trinidad and perhaps the outer Venezuelan Islands, Los Roches and Aves and then on to the ABC's until the end of hurricane season.

We went from the Windwards directly to Bonaire for hurricane season because if you scuba dive Bonaire is a great place to spend 3 months.

Then Columbia, Santa Marta or Cartagena then the San Blas and on to the Canal for February and March.
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Old 02-11-2013, 15:42   #3
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Re: Best Plan for moving through the Caribbean to Panama?

Might try Latitude 38 - The West's Leading Sailing and Marine Magazine to see if they have any info.
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Old 02-11-2013, 15:46   #4
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Re: Best Plan for moving through the Caribbean to Panama?

Depends if by "Caribbean" you mean Eastern or Western. Moondancer gave you Eastern. Western would have you going the other way through Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and down through the islands including the Hobbies, Vivirillos, San Andreas and Provedencia, Corn Islands and Panama - including Bocas and San Blas. From the San Blas, Cartagena Colombia is an overnight trip before heading back to the canal zone.

Alternately, you can leave the Bahamas through the Windward Passage and visit Cuba, Jamaica, Caymans and then Mexico, etc (as above), or angle a bit down and start at the Hobbies/Vivorillos and South.

It depends on what type of experience and cultures you are looking for.

Eastern will get you the busier vacation experience with a lot of charter trade, along with the wonderful French islands and the natural beauty of Dominica. Half of the trip from the Bahamas down the Eastern chain will likely be on the wind. Across to the ABC's will be a run. Down to Colombia will be a reach, but the conditions can be very rough. The rest of the way around Colombia to Panama is easy.

Western will get you better fishing and diving/snorkeling, along with more diverse and "real" cultural experiences. You may be more isolated and out of close reach of shopping, etc for longer periods - similar to much of the Bahamas. The sailing will all be off the wind unless a front comes through (rare after April or so) to Guatemala, where you will then need to go windward for a couple of hundred miles until you turn down again. If you skip Guatemala, the sailing will mostly be off the wind or close reach at times.

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Old 02-11-2013, 16:19   #5
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Re: Best Plan for moving through the Caribbean to Panama?

Thanks for your replies so far. We were thinking about the Eastern Caribbean, mainly because we are worried about security in Honduras and Nicaragua. For my work I also rely in at least occasional Internet access.

We have both traveled extensively, I've spent a month each in India and Ethiopia, for example, so dysfunction doesn't bother us as long as security is OK. Wifey loves Costa Rica. I don't like the BVI scene but haven't been south of the BVI in that neighborhood. However, I also spent ten years in Papua New Guinea, enough time to know what seems OK on the surface to visitors can actually be a quite dangerous.

Is our trepidation about the Western route justified? Does the crossing to Columbia from the West make the Western route just as risky as cruising through Honduras and Nicaragua? Is there Internet access here and there? Is there a year of cruising along that route? We have all the chartbooks and guidebooks for the Eastern Caribbean but we can still change our mind.

What do you think?
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Old 02-11-2013, 16:54   #6
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Re: Best Plan for moving through the Caribbean to Panama?

I think if you're "worried" about security , then you ought to find a gated community.

Just kidding.

Internet connectivity is easy if you have $$ and/or the gear.

It sure seems that it makes absolutely NO difference what we think, 'cuz, really ---

It is what YOU and your wife want to do

(regardless of where you've been before - I spent three years in Iran during the mid-70s, my daughter was born there, but what the heck does this have to do with whether I turn left or right when I head out?).

I've seen many of these "What should I do or What's the Best" threads and I submit to you that with your experience, YOU are the best, actually the ONLY person who can make that choice.

We could take turns as respondents: Mark could say "Go South," I could keep saying "Go North." Whaddya gonna do with those answers???

Good luck, fair winds.

BTW, very nice boat you have.
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Old 02-11-2013, 17:28   #7
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Um... Stu.. thanks... but I posted the topic because I really care what CFers think and their comments will influence our decisions.

Iran, Ethiopia, India and PNG are relevant because they signal we have a high tolerance for uncertainty and dysfunction. Most of the other cruisers we meet are heading for the Bahamas.

I am especially interested in the timing. But Mark's reponse was useful because we had not really thought about the Western option.

Thanks for the comment about our boat. We like it too.
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Old 02-11-2013, 21:26   #8
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I am with Marc and would propose the West Caribbean. Just don't go to Honduras and Nicaragua main land. Off Honduras you have the Bay Islands and off Nicaragua you have the lovely Colombian islands like Marc mentioned (San Andres and Providencia).

Internet access is as easy, if not easier in the West Carieb. No French charterboats hitting you at anchor!
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Old 03-11-2013, 03:23   #9
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Thanks Jedi.

The West sounds more appealing to me as well. I bet the locals are less fatigued by outsiders. Might also be more opportunities for our 4yo to hang with the local hooligans.

We have electronic charts for the whole region that we can convert and print full scale. Are there any good cruising guides and/or chartbooks we should look for?

Is there a preferred route and timing? Where would we need to be before next hurricane season?
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Old 03-11-2013, 04:13   #10
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Originally Posted by shanedennis View Post
Thanks Jedi. The West sounds more appealing to me as well. I bet the locals are less fatigued by outsiders. Might also be more opportunities for our 4yo to hang with the local hooligans. We have electronic charts for the whole region that we can convert and print full scale. Are there any good cruising guides and/or chartbooks we should look for? Is there a preferred route and timing? Where would we need to be before next hurricane season?
For hurricanes, you are safe in Panama and points South of Panama in Colombia. I would have called the ABCs safe too except we were hit by a hurricane there once; same for other places.

The East Caribbean cruising experience can be had in Belize or so I'm told. I have not been in those parts yet.

For Panama, the San Blas islands are as good for cruising as anything in the world. You can spend a lifetime here. Colombia is great too. Get the Panama Cruising guide from Eric Bauhaus. We use Shelter Bay Marina (and boatyard) in Colon as our base in Panama.

For timing, it is difficult to say what is safe and what not because nothing is certain with the weather. That said, early hurricanes tend to no hit the west Caribbean so much if at all. The later in the season, the more risk here (opposite of Bermuda where the first ones tend to go). Taking Honduras Bay Islands as an example, I would be more comfortable there in July then in October or even November. This means there is not so much pressure early in the season.

Then there is the rainy season. The monthsf June/July and also November/December (start and end of rainy season) can be very wet. In between often beautiful summer weather, often with West winds for trips east like to Colombia. The reinforced trades blow in the winter for good sailing if the boat is made for off shore work, or hiding in paradise anchorages if it isn't.
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Old 03-11-2013, 04:37   #11
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Jedi, you are the man. Talking through your post and the idea with Wifey just now. She is excited by the idea.

For some reason I couldn't quite embrace the idea of sailing down through the Eastern Caribbean. Did not register with me that the Western Caribbean was a viable alternative.

Sounds like the sailing might be as good or better than the East.
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Old 03-11-2013, 04:38   #12
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How many boats have you brought across to Oz so far, Shanedennis?
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Old 03-11-2013, 05:18   #13
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How many boats have you brought across to Oz so far, Shanedennis?
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.
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Old 03-11-2013, 05:34   #14
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Yes, when we do the Caribbean again, it will be via Central America, not the eastern chain.

I thought you came across the Pacific last year to Brissie? Or I confused you with someone else....
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Old 03-11-2013, 05:38   #15
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Shanedennis ..... Dennissail..... Brisbane connections....

I was confused!
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