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Old 03-06-2011, 01:48   #16
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Re: Panama to the BVI's

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Originally Posted by rimaya View Post
been sailing since '69.
[...]but early november is the departure date.
In Nov you're in the change of seasons which is the right time for this trip. There are two worries:

1. in this period you can still see a tropical depression develop in the area between Panama and the Yucatan ... where you'll be sailing.

2. if there's trades you would be the first person I know that makes it to Jamaica from Colon in 1 tack. This is why many go via Colombia to win easting.

Make sure you can get weather forecasts while underway (I prefer wx fax from New Orleans or the winlink/airmail/saildocs versions) and you'll be good.

Tacking to reach Jamaica is okay. I did similar and got there although it was slower than expected. I've not done your planned trip but think you're best tacking north of Jamaica. Watch the Colombia low on wx fax and keep your distance.

Check out possible places to go fast (your lee side) to avoid weather systems or in case technical problem occurs. The Colombian islands off the coast of Nicaragua first and Honduras later (has haul-out) come to mind.

ciao!
Nick.
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Old 03-06-2011, 06:49   #17
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Re: Panama to the BVI's

one of the forecasting tools i use is fnmoc (usnavy meterological) and i find that their suface wind speed/direction charts extremely helpful. i've seen that around that time of the year i can leave colon on port tack and after a couple of days, as the wind clocks tack over to starboard and head to the south coast of jamaica. in addition i will definitely use the services of a weather router for this requires good shore backup. thank you kindly for the advice, it will all be used...
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Old 03-06-2011, 07:26   #18
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Re: Panama to the BVI's

One of the first places to go to for planning your route is the "Pilot Charts" - in this case for the N.Atlantic, November, page 3 (Caribbean/Gulf of Mexico).
- - The historical trend is for predominant NE Winds during this period of time. From Colon planning to head NNW towards St Andres and Providencia should give you a hard beat but doable when motor-sailing. You will also be getting assistance from the current (green arrows) until you are WSW of Jamaica. Depending upon the real life wind conditions you might be able to pinch some and gain some easting. If not falling off a hair still gets you north.
- - Then the tough part (magenta line) is turning east to pass below Jamaica - as the shortest route - and motor-sailing to the south coast of the D.R. and on to Puerto Rico. The basic idea is to stay away from the "red circle" region between Jamaica and Columbia.
- - Plan "B" (black line) would be to continue NNW toward the Caymans and then turn ESE to run the north coast of Jamaica and onto the D.R. and P.R. Some like this route as there are places to stop and also to try to take advantage of any "Lee-effect" that Jamaica might offer.
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Old 03-06-2011, 08:22   #19
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Re: Panama to the BVI's

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Originally Posted by osirissail View Post
- - Plan "B" (black line) would be to continue NNW toward the Caymans and then turn ESE to run the north coast of Jamaica and onto the D.R. and P.R. Some like this route as there are places to stop and also to try to take advantage of any "Lee-effect" that Jamaica might offer.
The black line also allows a stop in Port Antonio at the NE point of Jamaica. I think the OP planned that already.

ciao!
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Old 03-06-2011, 09:15   #20
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Re: Panama to the BVI's

Looking at that pilot chart, Panama is downwind from everywhere.
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Old 03-06-2011, 11:38   #21
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Re: Panama to the BVI's

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Looking at that pilot chart, Panama is downwind from everywhere.
Jedi mentioned the Colmbian high and I detailed why the winds blow that way.
Going east or north is uphill! And the difference in the pressure between the Atlantic high and this low will determine how steep the hill will be.
Always remember that a weather prediction or forcast longer than four days is a guess at best. Pilot charts are nothing more than an average taken over several years.

The best weather report I ever heard was "what you see is what you get".
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Old 03-06-2011, 12:16   #22
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Re: Panama to the BVI's

this is really good stuff! i have never seen a better discussion on route planning in an area that is often traveled but rarely discussed. beautiful. but bottom line, it's a very difficult passage and knowledge is priceless...
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Old 03-06-2011, 20:12   #23
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Re: Panama to the BVI's

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Looking at that pilot chart, Panama is downwind from everywhere.
I have written a Windows program to download weather fax when you have an Internet (Wifi etc.) link. It is available for download absolutely free at my blog: s/v Jedi
(the link is right below the page banner)

It works from anywhere in the world but will download the New Orleans weather fax that covers this area really good.

ciao!
Nick.
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Old 05-06-2011, 01:30   #24
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Re: Panama to the BVI's

I agonized for a week over the trip from San Blas to USVI last November and finally did it the easy way...

5 days to Grand Cayman
3 days to Cancun
4 days to Miami
9 days out due east to 66W and then south to USVI.

We visited lovely places, made a dozen great scuba dives, met great people, only had 2 days when the winds were over 30 knots and we broke a total of $8 of equipment.

Compared to bashing east against the trades and current, which I have done twice north of Cuba, it was a lovely cruise for my wife and I. The key is: weather windows, patience and avoiding northers in the Yucatan Channel.
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Old 05-06-2011, 05:37   #25
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Re: Panama to the BVI's

Rimaya, Firstly remember that Hurricane season last year had more than one active storm straight through the path you are looking at taking.....so maybe think a little about when you will be looking at going .... National Hurricane Center

Hurricane season lasts officially until the end of November and sometimes we still get hurricanes through December.

We get a lot of boats coming to the Caribbean from Florida. They wait for the correct weather window... follow a cold front out of Florida and go as far East as they can .. like out towards Bermuda...... However in the winter the trade winds are weaker than normal and it would be unusual to encounter strong trades in your face the entire month of November......you will be bucking a pretty solid current right on your nose if you go direct Panama to the islands.... It is not an easy route but it is for certain able to be done. You just need to time your weather windows and you can have a pleasant sail.... The further North you get the easier your eastward traveling will become.... follow the weather patterns coming across your planned route starting in August and you will see that the cold fronts coming out of the US will be your opportunities to go East. One of my good friends just came to St. Martin from Panama in his boat... I'll ask him how it was and how he went. Not too sure that I would recommend the DR or Haiti... and the passage between PR and Dr is notorious as shitty and nasty!
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Old 07-06-2011, 14:18   #26
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Re: Panama to the BVI's

just remember we are going to do it in early november before the christmas winds set in. also we sill use a weather router to plan the legs. but bottom line is that we are very conservative and there is no way i would want to go any where near a hurricane. i'm a little concerned about the strange weather and wonder how it will affect the hurricane season. will it extend hurricane season and if that is the case will the christmas winds be effected too (such as starting a little later than normal). here on the west coast (california, mexico and central america) the weather has been unusually more severe than normal. and the papagayos blew every day heading down costa rica. it was pretty wild. so i wonder if the climate is a little abnormal and of course how it will effect our passage on what is known as one of the worst passages one can make to a nice place.
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Old 07-06-2011, 16:43   #27
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Re: Panama to the BVI's

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. . . So I wonder if the climate is a little abnormal and of course how it will effect our passage on what is known as one of the worst passages one can make to a nice place.
Mother Nature does as Mother Nature wants to do. That's why she is called "Mother" and not "Father". You can view all the past storms and tracks using Unisys at: Unisys Weather
and some other similar websites.
- - All you will learn is that there is little, if any, pattern from year to year. On a 15 year average historically Atlantic storms have alternated between targeting the northern Caribbean Islands and alternatively the Southern Caribbean Islands. But even that trend has been variable these last several years.
- - Therefore it all boils down to planning a "window" of when you want to move and then picking the best real time weather you can get within that window. The bigger the window the more chance you will find acceptable weather.
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Old 07-06-2011, 18:58   #28
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Re: Panama to the BVI's

A weather router doesn't work for this trip. You will sail on a starboard tack hoping to go north instead of west. Then, when you see Cubans waving at you, you tack and now you try to make a COG which is east of south. If that doesn't work you can try to motor-sail E-SE. You do not want to sail south of Jamaica because that's where it's bad.

IMO, the important thing is to have time. You write you will do this early November; but what if you don't get a weather window within 2 weeks? Do you have time to wait it out?

The Christmas winds; forget them, last year they came whenever they saw fit (yes, multiple times with calms in between). We even had enormous floods in Panama, so bad that the canal was closed for a day... in December ! The Christmas winds are just reinforced trades and have nothing to do with the features you experienced on your way to Panama (papagayos are a coastal feature (caused by Lake Nicaragua) and you don't get these on the Caribbean side.

You can get Northers but not in November I think.

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Old 07-06-2011, 19:23   #29
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Re: Panama to the BVI's

The winds in the Bay of Papagayos are caused by a depression in the hills that form the spine of Central America(Continantal Divide). Winds blowing East to West in the Westren Caribbean are funnaled thru this gap and interact with the easterly flow of the Pacific swells.
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Old 07-06-2011, 19:46   #30
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Re: Panama to the BVI's

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The winds in the Bay of Papagayos are caused by a depression in the hills that form the spine of Central America(Continantal Divide). Winds blowing East to West in the Westren Caribbean are funnaled thru this gap and interact with the easterly flow of the Pacific swells.
Correct. That depression in the hills/spine is Lake Nicaragua

ciao!
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