First, I think Jan run to the Caribbean
is perfectly safe. As long as you watch the weather
and are prepared for the cold fronts and the wind
that can occasionally follow you should be fine. Plus you will be past hurricane
season which at the end of the day is a good thing.
Perhaps we should back up slightly to confirm your basic preferences for the trip. Do you want to get to PR asap to start the Caribbean loop or do you want to take it easy and see the Bahamas on the way (my preference assuming there is enough time in the schedule)? Are you comfortable with longer, offshore
legs or do you want to break up the trip into shorter hops with access to more places to layover and catch your breath?
Some issues, upsides and downsides to various options.
- You will be in the easterly trade
winds so will be more or less close hauled the whole trip (another reason for my preference to island hop).
- If you catch a cold front or "Norther" just right you could get some days of winds from N, NW to SW which could give you a great kick in the pants on your trip. But some of these fronts can pack a pretty good punch so make sure you are ready for a blow. 15-25 knots is quite possible for a strong front.
- If you want to sail direct you might go outside the Bahamas or down the Old Bahamas Channel along the north coast of Cuba
. Either of these routes will include a leg that puts you a long way from a stopover point.
- Straight from Key West
the shortest distance would be down the OB Channel if you want to go direct but you will be dead against the wind
- From Miami
you can go through the Providence Channel and outside the Bahamas. Depending on the trades if there is a SE component you can take a long tack east and then turn south to PR. But you will have to take what the weather brings since you will be a long way offshore
- Predicting fronts is very unpredictable. I planned a short trip from FL to Bahamas one year in early Oct and saw an early norther that canceled our trip. I only had two weeks and it was blowing 25-35 kts for the whole time with seas 12-15 in the Gulf Stream
. I have seen years when Jan-Feb was totally tranquil. So earlier departures are no guarantee of calmer weather.
- Bahamas, especially as you get further south have few navigation
aids and plenty of reefs
plus strong currents in places. But plenty of places to stop, good anchorages
and a number of charts
and cruising guides
that will help a lot.
I think I am getting a bit long winded and this probably covered the main issues. If you would like to talk about it in greater depth
send me a PM and I will give you a call.