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Old 30-06-2011, 19:31   #1
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East Coast to Belize, San Blas, Etc. What are the best routes, times, stops, etc?
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Old 30-06-2011, 19:42   #2
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Re: Options

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Old 30-06-2011, 20:11   #3
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Re: Options

In a nutshell, outside of hurricane season, which rules out June through October, and probably November. You need to get below 10 degrees for the hurricane season, which is just a bit south of Providencia Island. We went from the Keys around the west end of Cuba and then down to Providencia Island in late May, and it was a bit too late in the season for my taste. It was a hot, humid slog to windward most of the way. Big thunderstorms every night with lightning bolts (more like columns of lightning going straight down into the sea) hitting down all around that looked like they would vaporize the boat if one hit you. While in Providencia the first tropical wave of the year went over us and immediately turned into a tropical storm that hit Belize and Guatemala. I would recommend the route from Key West to Isla Mujeres in Mexico, and then work your way down the Mexican coast to Belize, and then Guatemala. From there it can be a tough slug into the wind to get around the cape between Honduras and Nicaragua, so it is worthwhile to work your way along gradually hitting the various islands. Then definitely go to Providencia (part of Colombia), which is a very nice place. Then from there take a straight shot down to Bocas del Toro in Panama, and begin to work your way east along the coast to Colon and eventually to the San Blas. Just east of Colon is Portobello, with its claim to being the wettest place in North America. True to its reputation it rained most of the time we were there, and in nearby harbors--sometimes for days at a time with no let up. The San Blas is not to everyone's taste in the summer as there are a lot of thunderstorms with tremendous lightning. Many boats have been hit there. In between, it is hot and sticky. We spent both a summer there and later some time in January, February, and March, and that is definitely a much nicer season in the San Blas. A bit cooler and much dryer, with fewer bugs and lightning.
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Old 03-07-2011, 13:21   #4
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Re: Options

Alan & Pat- Fandango here- we are heading the same way this fall. At this point I think we are going thru the Bahamas past Cuba and head west via Jamaica. Pick-up Belize and Rotan on the way back.

Maybe we shall see you there.

Mark
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Old 03-07-2011, 13:30   #5
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Re: Options

Hi Alan and Pat,

If you mean to get to Columbia or Panama, don't go through the NW Caribe (Mexico, Honduras, etc) to get there. Do like Marleetet says - Jumentos (can't miss them!), through the Windward Passage, to Jamaica (if you want to stop) or keep going to Columbia or Panama. It is all off-wind that way. Best time would be before the trades kick up. Your insurance probably won't let you be in that area until Nov. 1, but I would hightail it down immediately after that. Shortly after, the winds and seas will build and last through the winter.

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Old 03-07-2011, 13:43   #6
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They said they wanted to go to Belize--seems to imply they want to see the Northwest Caribbean first. But, I agree that a great option is to do the Bahamas, then down to Jamaica, and then on to the ABCs, then Colombia, then on to the San Blas and Panama, maybe hitting Honduras, Guatemal, Belize, and Mexico on the way back. A nice way to circle that part of the Caribbean, but it is a much longer way to go to get to Panama.
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Old 03-07-2011, 15:26   #7
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Re: Options

Marleetet and I know them and their plans personally, so we made a couple of assumptions when describing a route that bypassed Belize and the NW Caribe on the way down.

If the goal is to get to Panama, Bahamas-Panama through Jamaica is ~600nm shorter than going there through the NW Caribe.

From Jamaica, the ABC's would be backtracking.

If you do decide to go through the NW Caribe, you won't be spending much time in those countries if you want to get to Panama by March, if going through the canal, or even by June, if only for insurance reasons.

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Old 03-07-2011, 17:05   #8
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Re: Options

FYI, though it is a bit of a slog to windward, it took us about six days, battling wind and current to get from Key West direct to Providencia, via the Yucatan Channel, and one stop in Swan Island for a night. From there it is an overnighter down to Bocas del Toro. Our boat is not a windward demon, but it sails well and we could motor when the wind was too light. In the winter you should be able to take advantage of some north winds to speed things up at least part of the way. Not saying it is the best route, but it isn't a bad one.
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Old 19-12-2011, 10:58   #9
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Re: Options

Sorry to revive an old thread, but I am wrestling with the same decision. What weather factors would you look for in predictions in order to choose a window to go from key west to W Carib? Did you hug the coast of Cuba after crossing the gulf stream from key west or dry tortugas? Or did you go straight west then south along the Yucatan coast?
I've been planning the Bahamas to Jamaica to Providencia route so far, but I won't be leaving S FL until next week some time.
Thanks for any advice.
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Originally Posted by Kettlewell View Post
FYI, though it is a bit of a slog to windward, it took us about six days, battling wind and current to get from Key West direct to Providencia, via the Yucatan Channel, and one stop in Swan Island for a night. From there it is an overnighter down to Bocas del Toro. Our boat is not a windward demon, but it sails well and we could motor when the wind was too light. In the winter you should be able to take advantage of some north winds to speed things up at least part of the way. Not saying it is the best route, but it isn't a bad one.
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Old 19-12-2011, 16:01   #10
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Re: Options

We left Key West with a light norther in late May so we had a bit of rough weather getting across to the Cuban side. Then we stayed just south of the current and rounded the west end of Cuba in close so that we didn't have to fight the Yucatan current much. Crossing the Yucatan can be one of the nastiest pieces of water anywhere. From the west end of Cuba we beat our way down to Swan Island, then Providencia, then Bocas del Toro in Panama. I didn't originally plan on stopping at Swan, but it is out there in the middle of nowhere and right on the route. The harbor had a constant nasty roll, but compared to beating offshore it felt pretty good. Not sure what the current political situation there is like--when we were there it was confused, but Honduras had several navy folks there guarding the island, and even though they at first didn't seem too welcoming I think they enjoyed having the company and something to do other than watch the surf crashing on the reefs.
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