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Old 19-11-2011, 19:00   #1
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Miami to Bocas del Toro, Panama

We're likely to be wanting to get our boat down to Panama from Canada and were thinking of trucking to Miami and sailing to Bocas del Toro from there. Would February be a good time to set out? Approximately how long should I plan on (realizing that there could be considerable variability given weather etc).

Any experiences to share? Any feedback would be most welcomed. And, if you have strong saiiling / navigational experience and this sounds like a trip you'd like join in on, please let me know that too!

Thanks all.

John

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Old 19-11-2011, 19:28   #2
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Re: Miami to Bocas del Toro

A couple of options on routes. I went to Key West and left from there, rounded the west end of Cuba, sailed down to Swan Island and then Providencia, and then on to Bocas del Toro. Broke the trip up a bit. It was six days for us down to Swan, and then another overnighter to Providencia, wind on the nose most of the way in late May. Swan has a lousy anchorage with a swell rolling in from around the island, but I couldn't resist visiting such a lonely outpost. When we were there only 6 Honduran Navy folks were on the island. From Providencia it is one overnighter down to Bocas. We spent several days in Providencia enjoying everything--one of the nicest places down in the southwest Caribbean, though being part of Colombia some people don't go there.

Being from Canada, you may very well want to visit Cuba on the way.
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Old 19-11-2011, 19:52   #3
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Re: Miami to Bocas del Toro

John, when you get to Miami please stop in to my store and say hello. We're located on the Miami River very near the airport.
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Old 20-11-2011, 11:46   #4
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Re: Miami to Bocas del Toro, Panama

I think this trip will be much easier in May-June than in February; start of hurricane season.

From Miami I wouldn't stop in Cuba as it's too close... you want to get to Providencia (San Andres is there too and, as most of Colombia for cruisers, it's safe there) quick.

ciao!
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Old 20-11-2011, 19:23   #5
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Re: Miami to Bocas del Toro, Panama

Nick, I'm confused. Are you suggesting that it is easier to make the trip in hurricane season rather than before it starts?
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Old 21-11-2011, 07:56   #6
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Re: Miami to Bocas del Toro, Panama

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Nick, I'm confused. Are you suggesting that it is easier to make the trip in hurricane season rather than before it starts?
Indeed. The only bad thing about hurricane season are the hurricanes. But the trade winds are gone too, so when you want to make easting in the Caribbean, doing this on the turn of the seasons is the best option.

I do not recommend to do it on the end of hurricane season (like it is now) because this is when hurricanes can form in the West Caribbean, which would severely spoil the fun of trips in that area. At the start of the season, the hurricanes all form over the Atlantic so that you get ample warning and also they go North and almost never hit the area (it's Bermuda where you are in high risk of these).

Of course there's always possible freak storms so never take these patterns as certain facts.

I have seen 130' megayachts sail from Panama East like to Jamaica or ABC's only to see them return with a lot of damage and tail between the legs a couple of days later. Reinforced trades and the waves (think 20') are hard to beat when on the nose. On the other hand, boats have been reaching from Panama to ABCs in nice South winds or even downwind during summer months. Panama to ABCs is actually pretty safe during all of hurricane season.

Always remember that the only place around the Caribbean Sea that is safe from hurricanes is Panama. All the rest is a risk. We have been hit hard in Grenada and were lucky in Aruba and have been under hurricane watch seeking cover in mangroves or fleeing like a bat out of hell many times all over the Caribbean. Be sure to respect these storms but don't dismiss summer for trips in the Caribbean either.

ciao!
Nick.
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Old 21-11-2011, 08:38   #7
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Re: Miami to Bocas del Toro, Panama

The shortest route is not always the easiest and beating into the trades is very hard on boat and crew.

I would seriously consider getting your easting in the Bahamas, going south thro' the Windward Passage, east of Cuba and then reaching south to Bocas.


For me the length of the trip and lack of safe bailouts would preclude a hurricane season trip.

Trip could be done in 2 weeks but you could happily spend a couple of months doing the trip
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Old 21-11-2011, 10:36   #8
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Re: Miami to Bocas del Toro, Panama

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The shortest route is not always the easiest and beating into the trades is very hard on boat and crew.

I would seriously consider getting your easting in the Bahamas, going south thro' the Windward Passage, east of Cuba and then reaching south to Bocas.


For me the length of the trip and lack of safe bailouts would preclude a hurricane season trip.

Trip could be done in 2 weeks but you could happily spend a couple of months doing the trip
I would surely do the Bahamas-Exuma route because we like it, but this can't be safely done during hurricane season as it takes too long. There are a bunch of safe hide outs on the direct route:

1. Havana yacht club. Hurricanes go there but I'm told not a single yacht ever got damaged here. The marina is formed with canals between concrete and you can completely secure your boat there.

2. Rio Dulce, Guatemala. Go up the rio and you'll be okay. The entry over the sand bar is the tricky part there but there's ample help around. I would worry with a draft of 6.5' or more but 7 footers get in and out too.

3. Panama, from Bocas del Toro south.

The distance between these points is not a problem because of the ample warning time for early season hurricanes. Don't forget that you get fast sailing without headwinds on these legs of the trip, which is nothing like beating upwind in 20' seas in reinforced trades.

ciao!
Nick.
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Old 21-11-2011, 11:08   #9
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Re: Miami to Bocas del Toro, Panama

Thanks for the explaination Nick. What you say makes a lot of sense.
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Old 21-11-2011, 12:31   #10
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Re: Miami to Bocas del Toro, Panama

Thanks Nick, Phil, and Kettlewell. Thanks for sharing your views and experiences. When our plans start to firm up about the move, I'll be back to the post and perhaps discuss it a bit further.
Thanks again.
John
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