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Old 03-04-2014, 16:56   #1
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Carribean or Gulf of Mexico

I would be interested in thoughts, pro and con, on whether to take a Caribbean option (December passage to Tortola and then on to other points) or along the Mexican and Central American coastlines (jumping off from Fla. Keys circa December to Isla Mujeres and then Belize, Costa Rica, etc.) is the better option.

Considerations: the relative comfort of the passages involved, the quality of the sightseeing and the expense of Caribbean vs. Central America.

Assume, for argument sake, the need to arrive Colon for a Canal transit in the March/April timeframe.
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Old 03-04-2014, 17:17   #2
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Just remember that when sailing the western Carib you'll be blown into Guatemala. Leaving there for anywhere is a beat.
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Old 03-04-2014, 18:44   #3
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Re: Carribean or Gulf of Mexico

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Just remember that when sailing the western Carib you'll be blown into Guatemala. Leaving there for anywhere is a beat.
True, but then the idea would be to spend the first part of a longer passage in either region. not both.
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Old 03-04-2014, 19:45   #4
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Re: Carribean or Gulf of Mexico

Well you can't do both but you could do the western route in one cruise. Don't check into Belize, go to Roatan then motorsail to the Vivarillos then sail on. The one year/season schedule you have is a little rushed.
Not much in Costa Rica on this side except a few pirates.
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Old 04-04-2014, 04:43   #5
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Re: Carribean or Gulf of Mexico

Why not Belize?
Roatan has had a few security issues of late, no?
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Old 04-04-2014, 07:47   #6
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Re: Carribean or Gulf of Mexico

also wonder about the confluence of the Gulf Stream and the Yucatan current. I realize it's a pretty short passage, 3 days or so, but sounds like if a norther sets in it could be a bit dicey.
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Old 04-04-2014, 07:56   #7
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Re: Carribean or Gulf of Mexico

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True, but then the idea would be to spend the first part of a longer passage in either region. not both.
errrrrmmm......What I meant was that if you explore the Mexican and Belizian coasts, the next logical and very worthwhile stop is Guatemala. The problem is that when leaving Guatemala, you either need to head well north on a starboard tack, or motorsail to Roatan. Then head on a northerly tack to clear Honduras.

Heading to the eastern side assures you a beam reach for most of the trip to Panama.
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Old 04-04-2014, 07:58   #8
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Re: Carribean or Gulf of Mexico

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also wonder about the confluence of the Gulf Stream and the Yucatan current. I realize it's a pretty short passage, 3 days or so, but sounds like if a norther sets in it could be a bit dicey.
I've managed to avoid the stream and north wind, but have burnt quite a lot of diesel just to break even in light air. Once you've gotten to the Mexican coastline though the daysails between anchorages allows you to stay out of the current in 50-60 feet of water.
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Old 04-04-2014, 08:46   #9
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Re: Carribean or Gulf of Mexico

Good points. It sounds like you have experience with one or both options. Which would you prefer?
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Old 04-04-2014, 08:53   #10
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Re: Carribean or Gulf of Mexico

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Why not Belize?
Roatan has had a few security issues of late, no?
They're friendly but if you are headed for Panama you would be better off heading for the Bay Islands not Belize. Then there is the $250 to check in.
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Old 04-04-2014, 09:18   #11
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Re: Carribean or Gulf of Mexico

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Good points. It sounds like you have experience with one or both options. Which would you prefer?
Two different worlds. Much of the western carib is undeveloped. Meaning you have a lot of alone time with few to no services. I like it.

The EC is beautiful, the sailing is far less technical navigation wise and it's eaiser to make your way to panama.

We've never done the EC on our own boat, but have chartered several times there. The WC we've done, the coastal lee shore sailing is great once you get the hang of it. From Isla Mujeres to Guatemala only takes one overnighter the rest are day hops. For me, the biggest drawback to doing this route with the intent of hitting the canal is that big chunk of Honduras that is hostile and hard to get around with the prevailing winds on the nose for 600+ miles.
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Old 04-04-2014, 09:52   #12
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Re: Carribean or Gulf of Mexico

December to March is very short and rough to do the E Caribe route. The enhanced tradewinds will make your sailing exciting then and you have the top of Colombia to negotiate. If you go W Caribe and are concerned about getting stuck in the Guatemala corner, you can just skip over Guatemala and don't go that far West. There is only the Rio Dulce in Guatemala, and it is not really a cruising ground.

You seem to have skipped consideration of the middle grounds of Cuba, Caymans, Jamaica and reef/island systems in between.

If it was me with only 4 months, I would go to Cuba, then the Caymans or Jamaica, drop down into the Swan/Hobbies reefs (weather permitting), and then go through the Providencia/San Andres, Albuquerque Cays, Corn Islands and Bocas del Torro before getting to Colon just in time to make your canal date.

This will all be off the wind sailing except for possibly the last few miles from Bocas to Colon. You won't have much in the way of restaurants and bars except for San Andreas and Bocas, but you will have some great fishing and a lot of exploring of less-travelled routes.

Mark
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Old 04-04-2014, 10:11   #13
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Re: Carribean or Gulf of Mexico

What Mark said......sounds like the best option.
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Old 04-04-2014, 10:39   #14
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Re: Carribean or Gulf of Mexico

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December to March is very short and rough to do the E Caribe route. The enhanced tradewinds will make your sailing exciting then and you have the top of Colombia to negotiate. If you go W Caribe and are concerned about getting stuck in the Guatemala corner, you can just skip over Guatemala and don't go that far West. There is only the Rio Dulce in Guatemala, and it is not really a cruising ground.

You seem to have skipped consideration of the middle grounds of Cuba, Caymans, Jamaica and reef/island systems in between.

If it was me with only 4 months, I would go to Cuba, then the Caymans or Jamaica, drop down into the Swan/Hobbies reefs (weather permitting), and then go through the Providencia/San Andres, Albuquerque Cays, Corn Islands and Bocas del Torro before getting to Colon just in time to make your canal date.

This will all be off the wind sailing except for possibly the last few miles from Bocas to Colon. You won't have much in the way of restaurants and bars except for San Andreas and Bocas, but you will have some great fishing and a lot of exploring of less-travelled routes.

Mark
I'll have to lay out the charts and look at that. But it certainly sounds intriguing. Thanks.
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Old 04-04-2014, 14:06   #15
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Re: Carribean or Gulf of Mexico

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Originally Posted by colemj View Post
December to March is very short and rough to do the E Caribe route. The enhanced tradewinds will make your sailing exciting then and you have the top of Colombia to negotiate. If you go W Caribe and are concerned about getting stuck in the Guatemala corner, you can just skip over Guatemala and don't go that far West. There is only the Rio Dulce in Guatemala, and it is not really a cruising ground.

You seem to have skipped consideration of the middle grounds of Cuba, Caymans, Jamaica and reef/island systems in between.

If it was me with only 4 months, I would go to Cuba, then the Caymans or Jamaica, drop down into the Swan/Hobbies reefs (weather permitting), and then go through the Providencia/San Andres, Albuquerque Cays, Corn Islands and Bocas del Torro before getting to Colon just in time to make your canal date.

This will all be off the wind sailing except for possibly the last few miles from Bocas to Colon. You won't have much in the way of restaurants and bars except for San Andreas and Bocas, but you will have some great fishing and a lot of exploring of less-travelled routes.

Mark
Via the Windward Passage or from Florida?
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