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Old 18-12-2009, 18:40   #1
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Belize to BVIs - Which Route?

We are planning to attend the FP Owners Rendezvous April 30 in the BVI's (see thread http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/...tml#post369353 for announcement)
and need to know the easiest way to get there from Belize where we will be until early February. I have been told that the conventional route is to go north to Cancun/Isla Mujares, wait for a weather window, then run to Key West, then to Miami, then to the Bahamas.

Has anyone taken the direct route from Belize to BVI's, possibly stopping in Cayman Islands on the way?

What problems are associated with either option other than heading directly into trade winds by going directly?
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Old 18-12-2009, 20:25   #2
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Forget about the direct route, unless you're a commercial ship or a submarine. In a catamaran? NO WAY.

Sailing against the prevailing tradewinds, seas, and current would take a purpose-built monohull (like British Steel), a hearty crew, and a nearly infinite degree of bravado and masochism.

The route to Florida and Bahamas is long but doable if you pick a good weather window. Getting from the Bahamas to Tortola, though, can be a real bear. That's the famed "Thorny Path" and, especially in a cat, you better be prepared for a long trip, with generous stays to await favorable weather windows to jump off for the next stopping place.

Sorry, but the truth is, there's NO easy way to get from Belize to the Virgin Islands in a sailboat. Except, maybe, to put it on a ship headed that way :-)

Here's the pilot chart of the area for February.

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Old 18-12-2009, 20:55   #3
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Ouch! That's a deep hole with a bunch of weather work through lumps with a short period. Maybe stage exit left and keep going round the rock till you get back there?
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Old 19-12-2009, 04:07   #4
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DY:

Your proposed southern route isn't so unreasonable as your timing and compressed schedule. As one example, we spent time with a French couple on a Moody 31 - a Bill Dixon design that's fairly squat in hull form, obviously short and was not very weatherly. That couple had made 5 full Caribbean Circles (from the E chain to Central America, and back) in each of the 5 years before we met them in Boca Chica, DR. And they had no fancy electronics, so even their weather watching capabilities were fairly limited. However, they were in no rush and did each of their eastern runs in the spring/summer months when the Trades were most benign.

Lots of multis leave the E USA and sail down to the E Caribbean along the Thorny Path that Bill describes. And like everyone else, they watch weather and choose between riding fronts (so they don't have to punch into the weather) and waiting for the Trades to shift a bit in direction and lighten a bit. This is all explained, in detail, by Bruce VanSant in his Passages South guide, which is excellent. Ask around the anchorage (you'll find lots of boats with this book aboard), borrow a copy and have a look. (No reason to stop in Miami. I'd leave Key West or Marathon's Boot Key Harbor for Gun Cay, riding the stream, and then cross the Banks to the Berry's).

Making the rendezvous in April is certainly do-able for you via the 'over the top' route if you adios'd now. However, IMO you aren't describing a typical, pleasurable or realistic trip if shooting for a 60-day window.

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Old 19-12-2009, 22:14   #5
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btrayfors, you confirmed what I already knew in my heart.

I agree with Euro Cruiser that we will be a bit rushed. Hence my initial reluctance to do so. I would like to take our time to be able to see some of the sights along the way but was overruled by wife and two sons who really want to make the FP party in the BVI's.
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Old 26-12-2009, 10:45   #6
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You know what they say about sailing on a schedule, especially on a run like that where you'll be needing to wait for some weather windows! Good luck, that sounds like a very ambitious schedule.
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Old 01-01-2010, 09:30   #7
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An acquaintance we recently met at Texan Bay in Guatemala is planning to go from Belize to Puerto Aventuras, MX, then cross the Yucatan Channel to ride the counter current along the south coast of Cuba. He expects to be protected from northeastern trades by Cuba. Has anyone out there taken that route?
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Old 01-01-2010, 12:19   #8
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I sailed my 38' Leopard Catamaran from Placencia, Belize to Tortola in September of 06 taking the "direct route" as you call it.

In fact, phased-out charter cats routinely make this trip every year in the off season.

Typically the plan is to hug the Honduras coast to take advantage of nightly offshore breezes, then at the north east corner point at Jamaica. Once there, again hug the assorted coast lines for those offshore evening breezes. The trip in a catamaran can take as little as 12 days.

We weren't quite so lucky. It took us 21 days including sail repairs in the Caymans, An "Ernesto" weekend in the Mangroves near Montego Bay, and a week of 20 knots on-the-nose the entire length of Hispaniola at times making roughly 60 miles to the good per day.

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Old 03-01-2010, 07:38   #9
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21 days is rather quick, but there are blogs and posts of boats that have had good luck running the south coast of Cuba then Hispanoila and Puerto Rico. Use the very early morning hours to make there eastward progress before the winds and waves fill in. The advantage of that route is the much lower currents and shorter mileage compared to going around the north side where cold fronts and other Atlantic systems can pin you down for weeks.
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Old 08-01-2010, 16:13   #10
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Yesterday as we were climbing into the dinghy at Paradise Vacation Resort in Placencia, the wife asked if I would be upset is she expressed second thoughts about going to the BVI's as discussed in my original post. Of course that comment came one week after we arranged to take a friend with us from Belize City to Cancun on the first leg of the trip. We discussed the issue a bit over lunch today but obviously the jury is still out.
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Old 02-02-2010, 15:49   #11
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We are now in Key West after a rather unpleasant bash from Cancun. One of the other cruisers we met yesterday has the Van Sandt book so I'll borrow it and study the route.

Stay tuned.
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Old 02-02-2010, 15:59   #12
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Sailing on a schedule is not fun!

Good Luck!
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Old 02-02-2010, 18:22   #13
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Originally Posted by Dreaming Yachtsman View Post
We are now in Key West after a rather unpleasant bash from Cancun. One of the other cruisers we met yesterday has the Van Sandt book so I'll borrow it and study the route.

Stay tuned.
John,

Congratulations! That sounds like a good start, if an uncomfortable one.

The rhumb line distance from Key West to the BVI is about 1,100 nautical miles...if you could sail that way, i.e., close along the northern shores of Cuba, Hispaniola, and the Dominican Republic. You probably won't wanna do this, though, so the total distance to sail will be more.

However, you've got almost 3 months to do it before the end of April. If your total sailing distance is more like 1,300nm, then in 86 days you'd only need to average about 15nm per day. That should be totally doable, provided you bide your time and watch the weather like a hawk.

Good luck to you.

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Old 04-04-2010, 17:49   #14
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Update on our progress

We are now in Palma Del Mar Yacht Club on the southeast coast of Puerto Rico, which is a fabulous marina. So far since Belize have had only three days of really nasty weather and a few days of not fun but not horrible either. We made one significant mistake leaving Georgetown, Bahamas, BEFORE a cold front, thinking we could sail far enough east to catch "I-65". Not only did we get hammered with 25-30 knots/10 foot seas the first few days out, we then got caught in doldrums and had to motor for two days. It took us 6 days to make the trip but we finally reached Puerto Rico on March 17. We are now back on the Thornless Path, hoping to visit Vieques Island then pull into Roosevelt Roads for a week before heading to the BVI's.

It's been a long emotionally taxing trip because it seemed like we were always rushing to reach the next spot. Hopefully a week of resting up/small maintenance projects in RR will allow me to relax enough to enjoy the FP Owner's Rendezvous that prompted us to undertake this daunting trip in the first place.

Even though we got caught in some weather that was worse than forecast, I can honestly say that we did not intentionally leave any place without what looked to be a favorable weather window. In other words, we didn't take any extraordinary chances. However, we did not have much time to enjoy the scenery along the way, not to mention that the weather in Florida and the Bahamas was so cold, we needed space heathers and blankets.
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Old 05-04-2010, 06:29   #15
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For some mystical reason - Mother Nature seems to put cruisers heading for the eastern Caribbean to the "test" before She lets them proceed down the islands of "paradise." Both the "I-65" route and the "Thornless Path" through the Bahamas contain enough "white-knuckle" passages to make you think that you really "earned" your way to the eastern Caribbean. - Or maybe, after some crashing and bashing on your way to the "Virgins" everything else thereafter seems rather benign.
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