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Old 04-11-2010, 16:17   #1
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Panama Canal or Strait of Magellan - Would You Take the Road Less Traveled ?

As the evenings draw in my good woman and I often find ourselves sitting around the table picking at tapas and sharing a good bottle of red, the conversation always leads the same way, where to?
Both boats are nearing completion the monohull "Erasmus" and the catamaran "Il-Dana".
In the not too distant future and for the first time in my career I will spend more time sailing a boat than working on them so the charts are on the table and the posibilities are endless.
Often we talk of the great voyage from my home in the East Atlantic to her home in the West Pacific or viseversa depending on which boat we set sail in first as both are on opposite sides of the great divide. Sure the voyage eitherway is on the cards, but what route?
Well Cape Horn is out of the question, so is the Northwest Passage. That leaves the Panama Canal and the Straits of Magellan which is still up for debate.
What's your experience?
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Old 04-11-2010, 17:01   #2
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The passage around the Horn can be a tough ride going east to west as you are going to have to fight your way around agains the prevailing winds; west to east is easier as the winds are more favorable.
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Old 04-11-2010, 17:37   #3
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I'll speak from second-hand experience, as I haven't done it but I have friends that have.

I'd consider going around South America more challenging and fun. You have a number of very different countries and climates in the way, as well as all kinds of navigation environments. Also a number of places where you can leave the boat and return later to continue.

If you do it east-west, consider that you'll have to almost touch Azores/Cabo Verde on your way to Brazil from the East Coast. Or go nuts against tradewinds and a 2 kn current from Venezuela to eastern Brazil. Once you reach eastern Brazil (Recife), all is good. One thing to watch south of latitude 30S are the Pampero winds (SW). They are associated with cold fronts, and of strength and duration not too easy to predict (last night it blew 40 kn here for about 10 minutes before the rain came; no weatherman predicted that).

That's the extent of the info I have about your possible trip. I don't have info on going north along Chile, except that it is the right way. Going south is against current.

Good luck.
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Old 04-11-2010, 17:49   #4
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Magellan vs. Cabo de Hornos

It seems you are unaware of the fact that Magellan Strait can be in fact (depending on the boat, the direction and the season) way more difficult than Cape Horn.

In such a case, definitely Panama Canal.

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Old 04-11-2010, 18:03   #5
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It seems you are unaware of the fact that Magellan Strait can be in fact (depending on the boat, the direction and the season) way more difficult than Cape Horn.

In such a case, definitely Panama Canal.

b.
Really?! I thought the reason why the Straits of Magellan were such a historic find and a closely guarded secret was because it was a safe passage by comparison to the Cape.
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Old 04-11-2010, 18:19   #6
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What's your experience?
My experience is that some decisions can only be made by those that are undertaking them.

Very few here have done the straits of Magellan. I have done the Panama and enjoyed that. I have done Brazil and Argentina before. Brazil was good and I will return!! Argentina is getting cold and the weather evil tempered.
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Old 04-11-2010, 18:34   #7
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This book is a little expensive but it would answer all your questions about Tierra del Fuego. If you made the trip you'd find it invaluable as would reading everything Beth and Evans have written on their time down there.
Patagonia & Tierra del Fuego Nautical Guide by Rolfo, Mariolina & Giorgi Ardrizzi

Beth & Evans

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Old 04-11-2010, 18:43   #8
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I have done neither, but I think the choice depends on the answer to one question: Is the destination more important than the journey?
It yes, then the canal is the answer. however, I find that meeting people and tackling unfamiliar situations is the best part of traveling. In that case, the journey, and therefore the straights, is the more interesting path.
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Old 04-11-2010, 18:55   #9
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Joshua Slocum took the Strait of Magellan route to the Pacific. By his account, he did not have an easy time of it!

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Really?! I thought the reason why the Straits of Magellan were such a historic find and a closely guarded secret was because it was a safe passage by comparison to the Cape.
The Strait of Magellan was a historic find because it was the passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific discovered by Ferdinand Magellan in 1520. The route around the Horn and the Beagle Channel were not discovered yet.
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Old 04-11-2010, 18:56   #10
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I'd definitely NOT take the Magellan which can funnel winds to very high speeds. You don't need to round the Horn, take the Beagle Channel and go via Ushuaia. East to West, you could also take in the Falklands. Going up the Chilean coast you'd have the north setting current and wind behind you :-) I'm off the boat and don't have access to my charts but it could be the Drake Channel

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Old 04-11-2010, 19:03   #11
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Really?!


Really, really.
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Old 04-11-2010, 19:09   #12
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Joshua Slocum took the Strait of Magellan route to the Pacific. By his account, he did not have an easy time of it!
True, but Slocum was alone and had no GPS or weather radio. It may not be easy, but it must be easier now than 100 years ago. As far as the other nearby routs go, I think the OP was asking more about any southern alternative to the Panama Canal. If other routes (Beagle Channel?) are easier, then those are good options.
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Old 04-11-2010, 19:10   #13
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I have done neither, but I think the choice depends on the answer to one question: Is the destination more important than the journey?
No, the Panama to me although safe seems too busy and less of an adventure.
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Old 04-11-2010, 19:21   #14
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Joshua Slocum took the Strait of Magellan route to the Pacific. By his account, he did not have an easy time of it!



The Strait of Magellan was a historic find because it was the passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific discovered by Ferdinand Magellan in 1520. The route around the Horn and the Beagle Channel were not discovered yet.
Too well aware of the history, Ferdinand Magellan went on looking for the Spice Islands but found the Philippines,where he took a hundred of his men against a thousand angry natives and where he met his demise and also where my better half is from, hence the interest.
Fictionally where Blackthorne found his way to the Japans aboard the "Erasmus" in the first book I ever read "SHOGUN" hence the name of the monohull and of course St. Elmo.
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Old 04-11-2010, 19:22   #15
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No experience, but the straits of magellan lead me to think of one word..

Brrrrrrrrrr! Ok thats not really a word, but I like sunshine not cold.

At 52-53 degrees south the straits wont exactly be the warmest place on the planet.

Here is the average weather chart for Punta Arenas
BBC - Weather Centre - World Weather - Average Conditions - Punta Arenas

Here is the nice is toasty weather for Panama
Panama Climate, Temperature, Average Weather History, Rainfall/ Precipitation, Sunshine

Cheers
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