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Old 15-07-2011, 10:23   #1
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Sailing Sept. 1 from BVI (Tortola) to Panama - Advice, Please

My friend has just purchased a 2005 Beneteau 473, ex-charter boat and he is requesting me as a mate to sail with him to Panama and maybe on to New Zealand.

He is very experienced in the New Zealand area in many types of weather. He races, charters and recently moved a Cat from BVI to Tonga.

I am a little in experienced in this route this time of year. Any advice would be appreciated.

He has no radar, no SSB, no genset. He has Honda generator, Navigation and backup GPS, Computer maps and SAT phone which he is very experienced with mapping and weather linkups. Engine hours 4500, autopilot yes, spare sails no. Of course he has safety equipment Epirb, life raft, dinghy and small outboard.

He wants to make a straight shot to Panama. I am a little nervous as I just finished the book EYEWALL a great hurricane book adventure. jajaja Also I am obviously nervous this time of the year. Not sure if I am going to get a 2 week sleepless beating or what.

I would like advice on routing etc. I suggested we go to the ABC's and then cut across. He is worried about the Colombia lows. He has 2 weeks experience in the Caribbean total. I have 12 months but during the cruising season. The last time he sailed the route was a couple of years ago. His brother was with him on that trip and had planned to go all the way to Tonga but got off in Panama and went home for various reasons along with his wife.

Any advice you can give me to help me insure success on this trip regarding weather or other would be much appreciated.

My friend is no fool, 53 years old and has a wife and 10 year old kid. He was thinking of doing it with the wife and kid (instead of me) and I discouraged him with that idea.

I want to sail with him but I really need some advice from this group first. Thanks
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Old 15-07-2011, 11:10   #2
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Re: Sailing Sept. 1 from BVI (Tortola) to Panama - Advice, Please

I would be hesitant about going offshore with no radar and no liferaft, but that's just me. Everyone needs to make their own decisions about such things.
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Old 15-07-2011, 11:11   #3
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Re: Sailing Sept. 1 from BVI (Tortola) to Panama - Advice, Please

CORRECTION My friend has spare sails, extra epirbs. He is very safety conscious and am sure he will do it correctly. His weather comes daily from a weather service via the SAT phone..
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Old 15-07-2011, 11:12   #4
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Re: Sailing Sept. 1 from BVI (Tortola) to Panama - Advice, Please

HE HAS A LIFERAFT IN FIRST CLASS CONDITION
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Old 15-07-2011, 11:31   #5
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Re: Sailing Sept. 1 from BVI (Tortola) to Panama - Advice, Please

How many more times do we have to remind people that September is the middle of the Hurricane season in the Caribbean Sea?
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Old 15-07-2011, 11:54   #6
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Re: Sailing Sept. 1 from BVI (Tortola) to Panama - Advice, Please

Yeah I know and he knows. He thinks with good weather information he can beat it. I am a little afraid to tell the truth. I would like to go South and then West. He would like to straight shot it. Typhoon season starts in December in the South Pacific so he has a time frame... get to New Zealand before the start of the typhoon season.
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Old 15-07-2011, 12:40   #7
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There was a book written about a wrongway hurricane several years ago. When I remember the name I'll post it. A bunch of people died using good logic to get out of it's path. I crewed on a boat that got slammed in a tropical low in November heading for st Lucia. Our departure time followed good logic still happened. I don't know if it was a named storm. But we saw winds at 80 knots. Weather forecasting is better now. Could be okay.
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Old 15-07-2011, 12:57   #8
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Re: Sailing Sept. 1 from BVI (Tortola) to Panama - Advice, Please

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There was a book written about a wrongway hurricane several years ago. When I remember the name I'll post it. A bunch of people died using good logic to get out of it's path. I crewed on a boat that got slammed in a tropical low in November heading for st Lucia. Our departure time followed good logic still happened. I don't know if it was a named storm. But we saw winds at 80 knots. Weather forecasting is better now. Could be okay.
Hurricane Lenny - 1999

With all due respect sir, having returned to Trinidad for 9 hurricane seasons and travelling to every island in the Caribbean Sea during those nine years.
I wish you luck as you put your life at risk.
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Old 15-07-2011, 14:20   #9
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Re: Sailing Sept. 1 from BVI (Tortola) to Panama - Advice, Please

Its a 3 day sail from BVI to ABC's. If you pick a good weather window your odds of getting through without even having to dodge a storm are pretty good. The Colombian low makes the coast off Columbia pretty rough during the strong trade wind winter months, but trades are lighter in the summer. The boat is capable of sailing downwind off that coast even in the Christmas winds.

The real question is what are you going to do when you get to Panama? Hang around till March or dodge cyclones in the South Pacific?? If you are going to wait there, you might as well leave the boat in safe storage in the BVI until November.
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Old 15-07-2011, 15:47   #10
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Re: Sailing Sept. 1 from BVI (Tortola) to Panama - Advice, Please

The plan is to get to the canal by mid-Sept and then on to Galapagos and then to Mariianas, Tahiti and then NZ before the big ones blow in the Southern Hemi.

Best laid plans.. The 473 had some hurricane damage last year so he does not want to take any chances this year. I think leaving it in the Rio would be good or in Colon. Then head out in March.

He is the Captain though and I would be his only companion. I am a little nervous about the trip though at that late date Sept 1.

Thanks for the reply
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Old 15-07-2011, 20:46   #11
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Re: Sailing Sept. 1 from BVI (Tortola) to Panama - Advice, Please

From Road Town leave Peter Island and Norman Island to Port and St. John to Starboard (avoiding Dead Chest of course). Head for a way-point a tad southeast of the mid-point between Cieba and Saint Croix and then steer southwesterly to a point just west of Isla Grande and north of Colon. You're looking at about 1,100 miles which on a well trimmed 473 is about 6 daze sailing. The question then becomes--Can I find/figure-out a 6 day weather window in the Central Carribean in September (Have I used 5 bullets or 6, I dopn't know, doyou feel lucky?). While the course is straight forward, I think the time of year really puts you on the edge old son.
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Old 16-07-2011, 10:42   #12
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Re: Sailing Sept. 1 from BVI (Tortola) to Panama - Advice, Please

I have decided against going. My friend might be looking for crew. Just got married and I think it is above my ability. My wife needs me.
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Old 17-07-2011, 11:00   #13
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Re: Sailing Sept. 1 from BVI (Tortola) to Panama - Advice, Please

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Originally Posted by Panamajames View Post
CORRECTION My friend has spare sails, extra epirbs. He is very safety conscious and am sure he will do it correctly. His weather comes daily from a weather service via the SAT phone..
Let's see - no radar and no SSB and "he is very safety conscious. . ." I think not. You cannot get adequate weather information in both the western Caribbean and the Pacific without SSB unless you have the very high priced Satellite data communications setups where you can actually download weather charts and see satellite weather maps. Relying on a 3rd party to analyse the weather for you is mighty risky as they are sitting in a concrete type building on land while you are bobbing around in the ocean in a plastic "bottle."
- - Radar is pretty essential, if you are "safety conscious" as the charting is very unreliable and only radar will actually show you that there is something out there that might rip a hole out of your boat even when the chart shows nothing.
- - Your decision to no go along on the trip is most wise and prudent - unless you have mega-millions of life insurance and a wife who would like to spend it.
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