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Old 22-09-2009, 10:16   #1
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Jamaica to Panama in January

We want to sail from Jamaica to Panama in January.
Stay in the San Blas Islands and sail to Carthagena, Columbia for the next Hurricane season .
Anything we showed know or any advice. or

Peter
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Old 22-09-2009, 11:22   #2
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Well Jimmy Cornell says don't do it at that time of the year but sometimes you just need to go. We went during the first week of February, took 74 hours from Port Antonio to San Blas. Very nice sail with the wind just aft the beam. Just keep an eye on the gribs when you see the wind is going to be under 35 off the Columbian coast for a couple days it's time to go. Even though a short passage, that area at that time of year should be taken seriously. Spent 10 days in the San Blas, never saw the sun. If you plan on staying until hurricane season you will have a better chance of good weather.
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Old 22-09-2009, 14:23   #3
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We left from Zapzurro and rock hopped the little islands off the Colombian Coast - no problem, only overnight leg was the first (I think?). Wait till a big norther off Miami and the trades will swing a long way north, and maybe ease a little, we had 24 hrs beam reaching in 15-20.
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Old 22-09-2009, 14:25   #4
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Sorry, I was just thinking the last bit being the upwind leg, Jamaica to San Blas should be a doddle. Just be very careful of making landfall on a poorly marked/charted lee shore.
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Old 22-09-2009, 17:02   #5
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Sounds like an exciting trip -- enjoy it.
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Old 23-09-2009, 15:35   #6
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Thanks so much for all your input.
We will enjoy our trip and the San Blas Islands.
Fair winds
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Old 25-09-2009, 08:17   #7
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I would second the "watch the gribs" (and any other offshore weather forecasts you prefer) advice. Make sure you get a good, solid looking window. That time of year isn't really the best to be making that trip, but with careful planning it obviously can be done just fine. I've made the trip that time of year, and when you're "supposed" to. Noticeably different. But with a good weather eye, you'll be good. Good luck, and enjoy Panama.

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Old 25-09-2009, 08:33   #8
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January-March can be boisterous, as the semi-permanent Columbian low will reinforce the tradewinds. I remember one boat waiting 28 days for Herb to tell them they had a weather window.
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Old 25-09-2009, 08:39   #9
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I haven't Cornwell's book out of storage yet. Would it be better to go sooner, or later, possibly both?.......i2f
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Old 25-09-2009, 10:01   #10
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ugh. Yeah, watch the weather is right... we caught 20' swells in January around San Blas. That was not so much fun...
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Old 26-09-2009, 10:12   #11
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Check your rigging (incl. spreaders) and steering before leaving as these are the top-source of trouble we see with yachts arriving in Panama.

Also, check the weather charts and try to somewhat "sail around" the Colombian low, keeping it south and east of you.

We have been in the 20' seas mentioned but I don't think it should cause any trouble if the boat is sound and the crew experienced. We actually enjoyed it.

cheers,
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Old 26-09-2009, 17:20   #12
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Thanks so much for all your input and advice.
I also checked with Jimmy Cornell and it looks like that I will leave in March or so.
I am not in a hurry and I do not want to fight 20' seas if I don't have to.
I can wait.
Thanks again
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Old 27-09-2009, 08:46   #13
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But you don't really have to fight them as they are not on the nose.

Don't wait for a certain period of the year, wait for a good weather window. There are good weather windows all year round and bad ones are there all year round too!

The attached weather chart shows that even in July you can get rough weather. The days following this chart, a gale developed and 15' waves are forecast in the same area. These wave heights are averaged so 20 footers are there.

You can get easy rides too, especially when a ridge forms north of the Caribbean or just behind a passing tropical wave etc.

The chart shows the typical area of high seas and winds and also how one can sail around it from Jamaica to, let's say San Andreas island or Providencia island (Colombian possessions) off the Nicaragua coast and to Panama from there.

cheers,
Nick.
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Old 28-09-2009, 06:14   #14
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We actually DID have the 20's on our nose once...but we were heading North. That pretty much sucked. If you look at my pics, you'll see one of the only pics I've ever taken that somewhat reflects wave heights. For some reason, whenever you try to take pics of big waves, they don't even look like they're there! Anyway, this was from the lower helm of a 70' powerboat boat I was delivering from Balboa, Panama to FL. This leg was between Bocas del Toro Panama and San Andres Colombia. It was taken on January 3rd. (Owner needed the boat back...I needed a paycheck, and apparently this front needed to move faster than the forecast. We had a small window, but it shut tightly about a day and a half out of Bocas) You can see we're climbing the face of this swell. There were very steep actually, with a number of breakers, and we took a lot of green water all the way back up and over my helm 30' aft of the bow. When we got to San Andres...Med-mooring at Nene's in 35-40kt cross winds? That's another story....

Anyway, Generally April-ish is a good time for this stretch. But as mentioned, that doesn't mean you can't get caught then, too. Just a lot less likely. Good luck, and have a great ride.
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Old 28-09-2009, 06:17   #15
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Guess I could try to just post the pic...hope this works...

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