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Old 05-02-2015, 13:58   #1
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Tortola to Panama in 6 weeks

My new boat arrives in Tortola by freighter mid April. I'd like to be in Panama by the end of May, then thru and up the coast to Ensenada, and home in SoCal in August. Other than one BVI crewed charter, I have not sailed in the Caribbean. I have purchased all the cruising guides.

The Caribbean side has an awful lot of options of where to pause, and for how long. I'm thinking 6 (?) pauses ending in Aruba. I could use some suggestions of the best places to visit along the way, as well as any other sage advice.
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Old 05-02-2015, 15:34   #2
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Re: Tortola to Panama in 6 weeks

If you end in Aruba, you won't make it to Panama.

Tortola to Panama is all downhill. You won't have any problems making it in 6 weeks.

Personally, I would use any available free time to soak in Cartagena Colombia and the San Blas Islands. Maybe stop in Santa Marta Colombia too - especially if you want to hike up to the Lost City there. If you really enjoy diving, maybe a few days in Bonaire.

I would skip everything else in between.

Mark
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Old 05-02-2015, 15:44   #3
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Re: Tortola to Panama in 6 weeks

I meant, ending island hopping in Aruba before a leg to Panama.

I think you were pointing out my poor English, not suggesting I can't get to Panama from Aruba.

I'm hoping to have a fair amount of spare time to invest in non-transiting activities. Thanks for the comments.
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Old 06-02-2015, 08:07   #4
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Re: Tortola to Panama in 6 weeks

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Originally Posted by Bill Gibbs View Post
I meant, ending island hopping in Aruba before a leg to Panama.

I think you were pointing out my poor English, not suggesting I can't get to Panama from Aruba.

I'm hoping to have a fair amount of spare time to invest in non-transiting activities. Thanks for the comments.
No, I wasn't pointing out poor English - I was confused. But now I think I understand, and it is even different than my original assumption.

Is this correct? You wish to leave Tortola, island hop through the EASTERN CARIBE and arrive in Panama in 6 weeks?

I originally thought you wanted to leave Tortola heading straight to Panama from there and wanted to know what was valuable to see/do in between those two.

If you now want to spend time in the EC to Aruba, and then straight to Panama, keep in mind that the Aruba-Colombia stretch can be very rough and you may prefer a weather window to avoid this. For example, that stretch is perfect right now, but for the past 4-5 weeks has been blowing 40kt+ with huge seas. This alone may take a few weeks to occur - although you will have a better chance of it in May than earlier.

So to keep your schedule, you may only have 2-3 weeks in the EC before needing to be in Aruba.

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Old 06-02-2015, 14:15   #5
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Re: Tortola to Panama in 6 weeks

New boat? You are taking on a big adventure so some time to shake down the vessel is probably a prudent thing to do. Hence starting slowly with stops in places with good ship stores and yacht yards would make a lot of sense.
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Old 06-02-2015, 15:40   #6
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Re: Tortola to Panama in 6 weeks

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New boat? You are taking on a big adventure so some time to shake down the vessel is probably a prudent thing to do. Hence starting slowly with stops in places with good ship stores and yacht yards would make a lot of sense.
Ditto that.

Hi Bill - Brand new? Right out of the factory?

Before even considering the challenges a new boat may present, here's a really useful suggestion you can implement right now: Subscribe to Chris Parker: https://www.mwxc.com/index.php

Start listening tomorrow to his web broadcasts in the comfort of home to accumulate whatever he says about the weather along your intended route. Just listen and absorb. The Columbian coast is notorious for strong winds. Start learning the Caribbean weather. It's easier than most, especially in the spring.

Will your new boat have an SSB transceiver? If not, plan on getting one in Tortola or figure out how you will receive weather info. There are other options. $atellite phone? Assuming you select another option, figure out how you will interact with your source of weather info to seek specific advice unless you can already interpret gribs and other widely available weather info that you can get on your own. You can hire weather routers and get info via satellite phone. See Commanders' Weather

Once on your boat, I suggest you get some real cruiser experience like anchoring. There are plenty of places in the BVIs and USVI and Spanish Virgins to practice anchoring - without the temptation of just picking up a mooring ball and going ashore to the bar.

Have you researched the Canal? I haven't traversed the canal, but it's easy to conclude that you don't just show up and pay the toll....

2 Hulls Dave
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Old 07-02-2015, 05:47   #7
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Re: Tortola to Panama in 6 weeks

Good advice about weather and equipment. Also keep in mind that a brand new boat is likely to to need some adjustments to rigging, latches, etc. This is not the sign of an inferior boat, but the ordinary situation with anything as complex as an ocean sailing boat. New boats have ordinarily not been test sailed much in real sea conditions. Whether the mast has been stepped at the factory before being shipped or stepped on arrival, the rigging may need adjusting. The builder will have a working arrangement with the company that receives the boat to make necessary tweaks, so allow time to do your own sea trials before getting too far away.
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Old 07-02-2015, 08:53   #8
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Re: Tortola to Panama in 6 weeks

Don't forget to plan your canal transit....line-handlers, etc,. etc..
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Old 07-02-2015, 08:55   #9
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Re: Tortola to Panama in 6 weeks

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Don't forget to plan your canal transit....line-handlers, etc,. etc..
So true! Took me 4 days to get through the canal west to east, last time through.
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Old 20-04-2015, 12:35   #10
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Re: Tortola to Panama in 6 weeks

Off tonight to Tortola to meet the boat arriving in a few days. A few weeks of shakedown in Tortola then Curacao by late June, with stops St Kitts, Guadaloupe, Dominica, & Bonaire. Stay there a couple months, before proceeding to west Costa Rica, heading north late October, weather permitting.
Thanks for the comments.
Years of coastal racing have left me unskilled at many aspects of cruising. I have help in a skilled & experienced friend.
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Old 12-06-2015, 12:45   #11
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Re: Tortola to Panama in 6 weeks

Boat arrived Tortola. We spent 10 days with assembly and repairs. Then a week around BVI with friends. Then more repairs. Then off to Guadeloupe. More repairs. Came home for a couple weeks, left buddy on boat in marina. Head back tonight to prep for transit to Bonaire. Boat construction and design, are excellent. Fit out, rigging and systems installations were rushed, to say the least. Luckily we have some skills in these areas.
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Old 12-06-2015, 12:51   #12
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Re: Tortola to Panama in 6 weeks

Our itinerary has been simplified and extended. It took 6 weeks to receive the boat and get to Pointe A Pitre. We aren't rushing. I'd like to leave her in the ABCs for a couple months, July & August. We could use a haul out. This has me thinking about dry storage in Curacao. Curacao Marine? Any comments or suggestions?
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Old 12-06-2015, 18:51   #13
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Re: Tortola to Panama in 6 weeks

If you follow the S option there can be a hard blow at times just beyond ABC (looking towards Panama). Beware.

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Old 11-10-2015, 17:57   #14
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Re: Tortola to Panama in 6 weeks

The adventure continues -
Guadeloupe to Bonaire, both rudder shafts broke; one after a day, one after 2 days. The builder had "improved" the original design without any engineering knowledge. We learned to motor steer the last 80 nm until a motor overheated, and got towed in the last 9. Fun times in big seas and wind. Our Iridium GO kept us in touch with our ground crew and thru them to the local coast guard with positions and updates. The builder stood behind his warranty, we got a real engineer to review the new shaft design, and ended up with solid Ti shaft rudders delivered to Bonaire by the builder (in his luggage) in about 6 weeks, where he helped with the install and various other warranty issues.

Bonaire - Aruba - fun sail

Aruba to San Blas - another fun sail in 3 days, though we motor-sailed the last 100 or so miles in light winds. Squalls and lightning are scary.

San Blas is beautiful like they all say.
Afterwards we ended up in Shelter Bay marina, hauled out to replace saildrive hull gaskets and raise the stern waterline bottom paint. They had hard time getting bottom paint of all things. The Chandlery there has closed.

Heading to our canal passage, our port engine wouldn't rev up, but we could make required speed and maneuver so we went thru. Scary moment sharing a lock with a RORO behind you, but overall a lot of fun. We had one experienced local and a paid line handler which helped a lot with language and explanations. The pilots are great.

Wahoo is currently sitting Panama City Flamenco Marina waiting for an injector pump, as we tested every other possibility.

Costa Rica next, Papagayo, to wait out hurricane season. Then switch into "transit mode" and head for Ventura with less vacation stops.
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Old 15-12-2015, 21:19   #15
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Re: Tortola to Panama in 6 weeks

Panama to Papagayo
Papagayo to Chiapas
Chiapas to PV in a bit under 6 days
PV to Ensenada in a bit under 6 days. A great Baja Bash.

And as soon as we clear up some import issues, home to Ventura early next year.
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