Steve-- I went from San Blas Islands, to San Andres Island, to Providencia, then to Guanaja, Honduras
, then to Isla Mujeres. Folks going from Panama to Florida
mostly follow some variation of this route
. You would do something very different coming the other way.
Responding to why I am "not doing this again". Well, I did it once, but it goes beyond that. There is a lot of glamorizing of the cruising life in books and magazines and people do not really talk that much about the downside--the magazines will print articles about disasters, but they are not really going to print stuff about the drudgery that cruising can be--it is not good for the cruising equipment
advertisers. I have a had done several yacht deliveries on the West Coast
(Mexico and California) and had probably sailed 30K miles of Coastal and Bay sailing before this trip, so I was not a neophyte sailor who got in over his head
Latitude 38 would not print anything I sent to them because it was not rah rah on the experience--and I made some frank assessments of their advertisers' equipment
that simply did not work. There is an enormous amount of boat maintenance
to keep the boat moving when you are really using it 24/7---I left with a very well-maintained boat and there was never a time when some system was not in need of significant attention--I probably spent 50% of my non sailing time fixing something or other. Most other cruisers I met were doing as much maintenance
as me. My trips back from the US always included suitcase full of repair parts
. It is very very hot in Central America
(some do not like it THAT hot)--and most of us do not have air conditioned boats. Try working in the bilge
of your boat in 95 degree temps with 85% humidity for a few days. The route (California to Maine) has very little tradewind sailing---so you end up having to motor
a lot more than you might imagine if you do not want to bob for days on end up partying with the Pardeys. And the weather
forecasting is a crapshoot over the route--I signed up for a weather
router for part of it and they were no better than Buoy Weather in giving me an idea of what to expect.
A lot of the sailing was really really boring. Some of it was terrifying (30+ Knots of wind
for three days really tires you out and can make you think things are worse than they are). I had hoped for more skidding across the ocean rather than alternatingly bobbing in flat seas or slamming for 30 hours at a time into 9 foot square seas.
Unless your boat is really really big, it is a tiny little space to be cooped up in for a lot of days. Sure it is nice to visit your boat on weekends and it might seem like an escape when you are at home, but when it IS your home--its different.
I met a lot of interesting local folks on the trip--mostly when I took a chicken bus away from the coastal towns (which is where most cruisers seem to stay to talk with other cruisers--why not just stay at the dock
and talk amps and diesel
mechanics?). Invest in an intensive Spanish course if you take this route--it will enrich the experience and make your life a lot more comfortable.
I am glad I did the trip because it was something I always wanted to do. Would I do it again, knowing what I know now? Nope.
I still like cruising. Just shorter trips in more temperate climes.
I am sure I will draw fire for this post, but it is my experience.