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Old 04-03-2016, 10:48   #1
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South Carolina to Panama--Best time?

Hello all,

My girlfriend and I are planning a trip south this coming November, leaving from Little River, South Carolina. We have a Pacific Seacraft 25 I purchased 2 years ago, and have given her an extensive refit. Lots of upgrades, but also simplifications. I've glassed over the hull-to-deck, reinforced mast step, rebedded all hardware (epoxy filled oversized holes), the list goes on. Our initial plan was to go to the Caribbean, but for various reasons, we are now leaning toward exploring the western Caribbean. I will stop working at the end of August, and we were planning on spending September and October at a little marina, taking multi-day offshore and coastal cruises. As close to November 1st as weather permits, we'd like to head South. I understand I can either go through the Yucatan, or the windward passage, and am currently leaning toward the Yucatan, and making a stop in Grand Cayman. From there, we are thinking of heading toward Providencia and Corn island... I'm sure we will find plenty to explore in the area. We would like to keep the cruise to about 6 months longs, and that would have us heading back north around February/March... Is that a reasonable time to be making the trip back toward SC via key west? Any advice you could provide would be much appreciated. The boat is sound, just working on some final improvements from a livability perspective, and we'd like to start nailing down logistics. Thanks in advance!

-Eric
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Old 06-03-2016, 23:10   #2
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Re: South Carolina to Panama--Best time?

I have no experience to help you, but best of luck. It's a sturdy boat you have there.


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Old 07-03-2016, 04:50   #3
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Re: South Carolina to Panama--Best time?

I would recommend to keep a 6-month cruise limited to the Bahamas, but that can be extended with the Turks & Caicos. It took us 5 years full time to get to Panama from Florida and we skipped half.
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Old 07-03-2016, 10:01   #4
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Re: South Carolina to Panama--Best time?

we did that sail and it is ok -- we left Miami headed to Mexico down the coast to Belize to Guatemala down to the Bay Islands and then around the corner to San Andres to Bocas then on down to the San Blas - but in a 25' boat it is a long trip. You really have to wait on weather windows for at times you can sail and getting from the Bay Isl around the corner you want no wind as rarely have the winds to sail. Getting back is a bit better as you have some current going with you. Oh yea on the way down you get fight a bit of current at times. But to do it and see anything is impossible


I agree with the above if this is your first time out go to the Bahamas as if you head to Panama you better have a lot of parts ect on board as there is nothing along the way. And in the Bahamas it is possible to get some stuff.


By the way how do you plan on getting weather information?
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Old 07-03-2016, 17:46   #5
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Re: South Carolina to Panama--Best time?

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Originally Posted by s/v Jedi View Post
I would recommend to keep a 6-month cruise limited to the Bahamas, but that can be extended with the Turks & Caicos. It took us 5 years full time to get to Panama from Florida and we skipped half.
Ha, took me almost 10 years to get to Panama from Florida...with extended detours in Belize & Guatemala.

We came down the Windward Passage route to Jamaica-Bay Islands-Belize-Guatemala...then years later the bash "around the corner" and down to Panama. Actually, caught a favorable window so not much of a bash to windward for us.

OP: Caymans puts you further west than ideal for Providencia (great place), but still doable. If you opt out of most of the NW Carib then you can get a better wind angle from Jamaica...though there are significant currents to contend with.
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Old 07-03-2016, 18:37   #6
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Re: South Carolina to Panama--Best time?

It's no fun pushing it that hard. You would have 0 time to enjoy yourself and your girlfriend will never want to go for a boat ride again. But would have a great time in the Bahama's.
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Old 07-03-2016, 19:44   #7
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Re: South Carolina to Panama--Best time?

As long as you have a good motor to motor part of the way it's doable. You won't be comfortable for a lot of it but it's possible as long as you can motor through currents for a 50 miles a pop . We did this journey fast. Keywest ,cuba, cayman, Guanaja,roatan,providencia cartegena,panama and then back again in less than 4 months and we wernt rushing

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Old 07-03-2016, 20:18   #8
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Re: South Carolina to Panama--Best time?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ericiralevi View Post
Hello all,

My girlfriend and I are planning a trip south this coming November, leaving from Little River, South Carolina. We have a Pacific Seacraft 25 I purchased 2 years ago, and have given her an extensive refit. Lots of upgrades, but also simplifications. I've glassed over the hull-to-deck, reinforced mast step, rebedded all hardware (epoxy filled oversized holes), the list goes on. Our initial plan was to go to the Caribbean, but for various reasons, we are now leaning toward exploring the western Caribbean. I will stop working at the end of August, and we were planning on spending September and October at a little marina, taking multi-day offshore and coastal cruises. As close to November 1st as weather permits, we'd like to head South. I understand I can either go through the Yucatan, or the windward passage, and am currently leaning toward the Yucatan, and making a stop in Grand Cayman. From there, we are thinking of heading toward Providencia and Corn island... I'm sure we will find plenty to explore in the area. We would like to keep the cruise to about 6 months longs, and that would have us heading back north around February/March... Is that a reasonable time to be making the trip back toward SC via key west? Any advice you could provide would be much appreciated. The boat is sound, just working on some final improvements from a livability perspective, and we'd like to start nailing down logistics. Thanks in advance!

-Eric
===

My advice would be to leave the Carolinas by early October and start working your way south via the ICW. In November the weather is already turning cool. By leaving earlier you can take a nice leisurely run south when it is still fairly warm and you'll be able to shake down the gear on your boat while there are still plenty of supplies and services available. Eventually you'll end up in Key West which is a good jumping off spot for Isla Mujeres in Mexico. By December the easterly trade winds will be well established but make sure you don't set off for Mexico into a cold front. From Isla Mujeres just keep working your way south through Central America taking short leisurely hops as weather permits.
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Old 08-03-2016, 05:06   #9
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Re: South Carolina to Panama--Best time?

Re passage length.

I like longer passages because you get somewhere.

The Bahamas aee lovely but really are just coastal islands of Florida.

Getting to the Central America would be a wonderful adventure with a truly different culture. A worthwhile, life remembering adventure.


Mark
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Old 08-03-2016, 05:23   #10
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Re: South Carolina to Panama--Best time?

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Re passage length.



I like longer passages because you get somewhere.



The Bahamas aee lovely but really are just coastal islands of Florida.



Getting to the Central America would be a wonderful adventure with a truly different culture. A worthwhile, life remembering adventure.





Mark

Agreed, but to do that cultural adventure in 6 months incl. the trip there and back is sheer impossible...
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Old 08-03-2016, 09:29   #11
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Re: South Carolina to Panama--Best time?

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...

Getting to the Central America would be a wonderful adventure with a truly different culture. A worthwhile, life remembering adventure.


Mark
Yes, for me too, a big part of cruising and travel is experiencing other cultures. This is also why I like to take it slow and spend a lot of time (years in some cases) to really get to know the area and the culture.

Culturally, IMHO, Guatemala is the most amazing place in Central America (and that after having lived/traveled/cruised all over C.A. for over a decade). Thats one reason Ive based out of Guate for so many years. Traveling back soon and really looking forward to it. Guna Yala (San Blas) is the next most interesting on my list. We've spent 3 seasons cruising there and have really enjoyed it.

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Old 08-03-2016, 09:31   #12
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Re: South Carolina to Panama--Best time?

Quote:
Originally Posted by s/v Jedi View Post
Agreed, but to do that cultural adventure in 6 months incl. the trip there and back is sheer impossible...
You know the area and I haven't been there so your advice is valuable


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Old 08-03-2016, 10:59   #13
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Re: South Carolina to Panama--Best time?

Thanks for all of the thoughtful advice and opinions. I'm beginning to feel that many of you are right... a trip of this distance would feel rushed if I am to do it in 6 months. Although 6 months is not a hard timeline, at this point in my life, I feel that it is roughly what I can accommodate. I am 26 years old, and unfortunately am nowhere near retirement. Sailing a small boat long distances has been a dream that I've actively pursued now for about 7 years. I spent some time aboard a tall ship as crew at the beginning of college, and fell in love with it. To be completely transparent with finances: I bought the boat for 17K, have invested about 5K into it, and about 1600 hours. I have 30K saved, of which I am willing to spend about half during this trip. If it turns out to be more, I can only assume that it will be worth it. I'm just starting my career as a mechanical engineer, and so I don't want to leave the job market for too long. If the trip ends up being closer to a year long, that's okay, but we're leaving our dog back on land, and I suspect my girlfriend will get rather antsy to get her back (I think we may need a bigger boat in the future).

Reading over replies to this thread, we're beginning to feel that perhaps a cruise to the Bahamas and Turks is really the best plan. I really want an offshore leg, and so we will likely cross the gulf stream straight out of Northern SC. Go offshore 150 miles or so on a SE course, and then shoot south/southwest toward Nassau. From there, I suppose we'd island hop around to our hearts content, working down towards Turks.

From what I've read, we have to make entrance in the Bahamas at a designated port. Once we pay the $150 fee, are we free to go to all islands? Do we have to go through customs at each port we would like to stop at? We'd really like to anchor in secluded places as much as possible, and am curious how difficult this will be logistically.

As for auxiliary power. We have no inboard, but I have built a 15' sculling oar that we use off the stern. I fully understand the limitations of this setup, so please don't bash it as so many have already done so. I wanted a simple boat, that's easy for either my girlfriend or I to singlehand if need be. We also have a 3.5 hp Tohatsu (primarily for the dinghy, but I've built an outboard bracket on the mothership as well). Motoring long distances is not an option for us, but I can't stand the noise on such a small boat anyhow.

I'm having some trouble uploading photos of the boat, but if you're curious, I kept a refit blog at https://pacificseacraft25.wordpress.com/

There are some photos up of what the boat looked like after phase 1 refit. Many things have been added since, but this gives you an idea. Thanks again for all of the replies!

-Eric
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Old 08-03-2016, 12:07   #14
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Re: South Carolina to Panama--Best time?

Do you know anything about weather routing?? No aux power - how do you plan to get into some of the tight anchorages? Have you really ever sailed anywhere except crew on a big boat that had aux power? Or if in a tight anchorage and the wind shifts and you need to make a run down and around into a sheltered cove that has little wind how do you plan to do that? and SC to the Bahamas -- have you looked at the wind rose for that area and the sea state when you don't have south winds? Are you going to cross the gulf stream in anything with the north in it in a 25' boat!
have you really thought this thing out?
and you did not answer the question on where you plan to get weather forecasts or don't they matter to you.
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Old 08-03-2016, 12:18   #15
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Re: South Carolina to Panama--Best time?

Everyone's style is different, but for me 6 months would be very rushed (the ARC does a full circumnavigation in 15!!!). You could easily spend a pleasant 6 months getting to and cruising the Bahamas. The Bahamas is a big place with lots of different destinations, great snorkeling, fishing, amazing water colors, but most of the islands and culture are very similar across the Bahamas.

Yes, you normally clear in/out at a designated port of entry (not just in the Bahamas, but everywhere else too), except in extenuating circumstances (medical emergency for example). In the Bahamas you only clear in once and you are good to visit anywhere in the Bahamas without further ado. This is true of most countries, but not all (Cuba for example).

You could always leave the boat further south, and then complete future legs as time permits.

Take 2 skulling oars, sure would suck to lose/break the one.
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