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Old 17-08-2008, 02:40   #1
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Panama to UK

Hi, Does anyone have experience of this route? I guess the wind would be on the nose most of the time from Panama to Florida... I am just trying to evaluate the job of getting a 40' trimaran from Pacific Mexico to the UK. A long time ago I read about Tristan Jones taking his tri from the Panama to the UK, and he was bashing against the trades in the southern Caribbean for 2-3 weeks till he turned north ( as I remember it - I no longer have the book ). But Mr Jones was always perfectly happy to embellish his tales, so he isn't much of a cruising guide. Can anyone do better than him?
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Old 17-08-2008, 03:13   #2
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No personal experience of the route. Looking at Cornell's World Cruising Routes (latest edition), he suggests the best time for Panama to Florida is mid-April to the end of June "when there is a reasonable chance of winds with a southerly component".
He also comments that it's possible to make the trip from late October to early December, but obviously there is an increased risk of late hurricanes.
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Old 17-08-2008, 06:39   #3
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That sounds convenient to me. Thanks. I used to have 'Ocean Passages of the World', but I stored it along with my sextant and a few sailing items in a bin liner in a friend's attic. I guess they had a clear out one day...
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Old 17-08-2008, 07:17   #4
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This is a particularly interesting thread to me as this is the same passage that I will be attempting next March(ish) and then May from Carrib to UK.
I understand that May to mid June is the best time to cross the atlantic on that route. My boat is currently in puerto Vallarta (pending purchase completion).
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Old 20-08-2008, 10:29   #5
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Hi Ricky,
I can only quote Cornell on this, but yes. He (Cornell) is very cautious with his routing recommendations, but personally I like that. If you don't have his World Routes book I strongly recommend it.
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Old 21-08-2008, 12:27   #6
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I find Visual Passage Planner 2 to be a very useful program.

In general terms the Caribbean trades are NE around Christmas and slowly swing to SE by Easter. The windiest time is Feb - March.

The roughest area in the Caribbean is between Cartagena and the ABC islands. Before Christmas there are many lightning storms in Panama and Costa Rica.

If you are in a hurry and are only looking to deliver the boat then I'd suggest leaving Mexico in November so that you can get across the Caribbean Sea before it starts to get really windy. Then leave the Caribbean for the UK in say April, going via Bermuda and Azores?? Thus missing the worst weather.

If you plan to cruise home I strongly recommend visiting the San Blas in Panama and Cartagena. I would strongly advise you to give Venezuela a wide berth. So if cruising I'd still leave Mexico in late November, miss out Costa Rica and the Pacific Panama, get through the Canal as fast as you can. Then spend time in the San Blas, Cartagena area until say April. Then head north (in the now SE trades and avoiding the ABC islands) to say Antigua and set off home from there in May.

But to be honest it would have to be a really good buy for me to buy a boat in Mexico if I was based in the UK

Richard Spindler from Latitude 38 magazine made a Mexico-St Barts trip a few years ago. Worth reading his website to see what he had to say about it.

Hope this helps

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Old 21-08-2008, 13:55   #7
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'it would have to be a really good buy for me to buy a boat in Mexico if I was based in the UK' I haven't set myself on one particular boat, but I keep seeing some interesting boats advertised there. I don't mind a bit of sailing to get it home! And avoiding a UK winter... I am surprised you recommend Cartagena ( I don't know it at all, but the reputation of Columbia isn't great ) - and what so terrible about Venezuala?
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Old 21-08-2008, 17:26   #8
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I agree that there are lots of multihull bargains for sale in the US, especially for Europeans. I even bought such a bargain boat myself!

If you read PBO (and I think you do) you'll have seen a short feature I wrote on Caratgena. It is a "safe" place to visit. Allegedly the drug baron families live there and so they ensure the city is quiet and peaceful. I have been there twice, once by boat, once by land. It is the best preserved Spanish Colonial city in S America. The cruisers marina is run by a very friendly and helpful ex cruising sailor from Lymington

see my Piracy article in an upcoming PBO written after we were robbed at knifepoint in a busy street in Venezuela in daylight....

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Old 22-08-2008, 00:27   #9
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Thanks for this Richard. I am not a subscriber to PBO - I see it in my doctor's waiting room, but I have been too well recently. I'll keep an eye out for your article though.

I just noticed James Baldwin of 'Atom' fame is now in Cartagena. I knew him a long time ago from Hong Kong, but that's a long story.
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Old 08-12-2008, 04:36   #10
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We just did Panama to Florida to Cherbourg, France. We weren't in a hurry and sail a monohull, so we're slower than you would be. Here's approximately how long it took us:

Shelter Bay Marina, Panama, to Isla Providencia: 2 days. Pick your window so that the wind isn't on your nose.

Isla Providencia to Grand Cayman: 58 hours but we had estimated 70 at 5 kts. We had great wind and fell in love with the trades on this leg.

Grand Cayman to Isla Mujeres, Mexico: 2.5 days. Lots of current on this leg. Don't do it in northerlies.

Isla Mujeres to Key West: 4 days sailing to wind. The steepest waves we'd seen since Cape Mendocino.

Ft. Lauderdale to Flores, Azores: 24 days, 19 hrs. We love Herb and Southbound II.

Horta, Azores, to Cherbourg: 14 days. UK is a day or two closer.

You can do the math. We're cruisers, so I've omitted the time we spent at our various stops, but we loved them all. You can read about the trip on our blog (svsolstice.blogspot.com). Just go back in the archives to March 2008.

For this voyage we used Visual Passage Planner and MapTech. I found this thread because I'm wondering about using RayTech Planner (free) to plan our future trips using the Navionics charts that we'll be buying anyway.

Have fun and fair winds,
Shirlee
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Old 08-12-2008, 06:13   #11
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I will be making a similar trip in the near future. Panama to Freeport, Grand Bahamas. Why not buy the boat in Mexico if it is a good price. It is, after all, a sailboat, and one assumes that it is being bought because you enjoy sailing. There are some very nice sailing areas in your prospective path.

First, Panama and the San Blas Islands are great. It will also be a good area to outfit your boat before an ocean crossing. Labor is cheap and plentiful and shipping of items from the USA is very good.

Cartegena is great and should not be missed. However, it can be very windy and you might have to sail back to Panama to make a safe passage and clear the winds around northern Colombia.

Then it appears there are 2 viable routes. The fastest probably will be Panama through the Windward Passage. You can then lay up in the Turks and Caicos which will be another good place to work on the boat. Then off to Bermuda. I would think anything east of the Windward Passage would be a very challenging route in a multihull.

The other route is pretty much like Solistice used. Some good stops along the way --Belize and Cuba before hitting the Bahamas.
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Old 08-12-2008, 14:49   #12
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Thanks all

Thanks for the advice in this thread.
I have completed the purchase of the boat. It is a 50 foot Ketch built in Nova Scotia in 1964. I have spent the last 5 weeks working on her including repairing the hull (totally stripped back to bare wood), epoxy resin along the keel and deadwood and garboard, painting and antifouling. No leaks now even though it was out of the water for 13 days.
I still have engige problems - self proclaimed experts out there that really do not have the experience - oh well, you live and learn.

I will be returning to puerto Vallarta in early January to finally prepare the boat and sea trial her.

The courses suggested by all of you sound good and I have not seen anything yet to dissuade me from doing the voyage.
I guess I will probably go for the Panama - Cuba - Bermuda - UK route.
Some island hopping in between and waiting for weather windows etc. shold see me returning to UK late June or early July and departing Mexico at the end of Feb or early March.

Over the next week or two I will be posting other emails in various areas asking for advice on Nav, stores, safety, electronics, spares etc.
I would much rather ask a daft question than just assume that I know the answer!

I have learnt a lot about buying and owning a boat in Mexico over the last couple of months and I will put that knowledge into writing sometime this month - hopefully it will help others. There are real bargains to be had but there are also MANY pitfalls.

Thanks all!!!
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