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Old 07-02-2008, 19:50   #1
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Travelling routes in the Caribbean

If I had a 34 ft (Catalina) based in Cartagena and wanted to do 1 or 2 months long trips around the Southern Caribbean, what are the smoother sailing directions? )for example. Cartagena -ABC's or US Virgins. and return to Cartagena?

My sailing experience is the Florida coast and the Keys

Thank you for your time
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Old 07-02-2008, 20:05   #2
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Think clockwise.
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Old 07-02-2008, 20:11   #3
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If clockwise is the case, and I leave from Cartagena, could I go up to the Virgin Islands , then down to say St. Lucia , ABC's , and return to Cartagena?

Is it impossibe to go from Cartagena to the ABC's direct in any season?

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Old 08-02-2008, 04:36   #4
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Nothing is impossible. Wind patterns tend to be one way but not everyday. Sailing the Caribbean counterclockwise is the harder way and not the smooth way. Small point to point trips require you to wait for different weather. People clearly do it that way. Cartagena to the Virgin Islands is about a 6 day passage as a straight shot under best conditions. I would not do that in a Catalina 34 even if others might. If you throw away the itinerary and do what you can with 1 to 2 day windows you might get a long way and back in 2 months.
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Old 08-02-2008, 07:40   #5
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So basically keeping it in Cartagena is a bad idea, if I wanted to sail to the Eastern Caribbean? What are the "calmest " months in the Southern Caribbean?

Thank you
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Old 08-02-2008, 09:48   #6
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So basically keeping it in Cartagena is a bad idea, if I wanted to sail to the Eastern Caribbean?
If by Eastern Caribbean, you mean the Leeward/Windward chain and you only have one or two months, then the answer is Yes. You can work your way through the ABCs and Venezuelan islands to the Windwards, but you will be close hauled and/or motoring most of the way and you will spend considerable time waiting for weather - light winds and sea state. There's nothing wrong with that. In fact it could be wonderful provided time was not an issue.

If you're already in the Caribbean, you're already in paradise. The whole point of cruising is to go slowly and leisurely. If the boat or the weather isn't quite right, there is no good reason to move unless you need to seek better shelter. If you want to keep a boat in the southern Caribbean and spend one or two months sailing the Leeward/Windward chain, then your best choices would be Trinidad, Grenada, or Venezuela. Much of your sailing would then be north/south and the east winds would work to your advantage.

Basically, there is good sailing year round in the southern Caribbean, but many cruisers sort of hole up for late summer/early fall hurricane season. The prevailing winds are from the east; they will vary in strength; but these are trade winds and they are usually somewhere between moderate to fairly strong. In the summer and fall you get tropical waves, ocean swells build more and can have more of a northerly or southerly component, and there is more rain.
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Old 08-02-2008, 10:23   #7
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Devilfishlane,

Is their a reason that you want to base in Cartagena? There are some pretty good bases in the Lesser Antilles that would allow you to do some really nice cruising. If you only have one or two months, you probably don't want to waste a couple of weeks of it bashing east against wind and waves.
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Old 08-02-2008, 12:56   #8
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Thanks for your responses. I live in Colombia, so putting the boat in dry storage(near Cartagena) is cheap and safe. I plan to do trips once a month to Islands near by and a couple 1 and 2 month cruises to places like the ABC's and such.

I, an American ,actually live in Medellin. 40min. plane ride to Cartagena for the past 4 yrs. Colombia is alot safer than before and there are lot of beautiful areas to see around the country. Tourism is definitely picking up in every part.

So you don't think my idea of sailing to the D.R. or Puerto Rico, then around clockwise, is wise in a Catalina 34 or a similar boat?

Couldn't I just stay close to the coast, sail and motor it to Aruba. There are a few small shelters to hide along the Colombian coast from Cartegana around the boot of Colombia, and into Venez.

Obviously I don't have alot of sailing experience,except Miami and the Keys in small boats (18-22ft). But you got to start somewhere on this dream of mine.

Thank you
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Old 08-02-2008, 14:17   #9
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If your interested in doing more Eastern Carib sailing of several months each... why not consider steps? Go ahead and punch the wind or motor to a location of your choice for a few days... a week possibly then hang in that area... leave the boat and return for your next 2 month sail with another few days of windward sailing and hang in that location and keep moving up the chain?

Think you could schedule each jump to place you in excellent locations for day sails to many interesting locations for weeks. Personally I think I could spend many months in about a dozen or more locations and not get tired of any place.

Guess it all depends on if your intent is the sail hard or cruise... I prefer to cruise and sail when it fits my conditions and not attempt to keep to some schedule like a delivery boat captain... that would not be much fun and is not cruising.

Having just returned today from a couple of months in the Virgin Islands.... banging into high winds and seas like the Christmas Winds (24 knots 7 foot seas) isn't something I would want to do on a extended trip but for a few hours it can be exhilarating and keeps you in shape. Not being in a rush and taking advantages of the slacker winds and seas if far more enjoyable for longer legs of a sail.
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Old 08-02-2008, 14:28   #10
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There's nothing wrong with a Catalina 34 in Good Condition for Caribbean sailing. The trouble with the Cartagena to DR idea is that you have a multi day passage with no nearby land - if the weather gets bad, you'll just have to ride it out at sea. And, when you get to DR, you still have considerable easting to do before you get to the chain.

Six or seven years ago much of the Colombian coast east of Cartagena was not considered safe and there was basically nothing for cruisers between Cartagena and Aruba. If this has now changed such that you can coastal sail eastward to Aruba, then that is not a bad idea. Once you get to Aruba, you can island hop your way to Grenada. However, this is something like a 1000 mile trip. Most cruisers could easily spend a month or two in the ABCs and Venezuelan islands without ever getting to the Windwards.
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Old 08-02-2008, 14:44   #11
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So then , its not a tough sail to Aruba from Cartagena if I stay 1 mile or 2 from the coast? How long would it take to Aruba? (more or less ,no stops)

Some of the best beaches in Colombia are along that stretch, Catagena, then Santa Marta 700,000 people(2 hrs. East by car from Cart.) , but after that its only small villages to the border of Venz. and safe .

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Old 08-02-2008, 15:04   #12
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Well, by coastal sailing I meant daysailing and anchoring at night - basically taking your time, stopping for awhile, and enjoying the places along the way.

If you want to do it nonstop, you'll want to be a little farther than 1 or 2 miles off shore- more like 5-10 or more if that's what it takes to set a fairly straight line course. With good weather, willingness to use the engine, and sufficient fuel, probably 4 or 5 days. And you will definitely want a good rest in Aruba.
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Old 11-02-2008, 04:49   #13
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Sailing the Colombian Coast

The Caribbean Compass, a monthly sailing-oriented newspaper published in Bequia, has run a series of articles by Lourae and Randy Kenoffel on cruising the Colombian coast. They're generally favorable, although the authors say,

"These 400 miles between Aruba and Cartagena are known for the worst weather conditions in the Caribbean and for being among the top five worst passages around the world. Over the years, sea captains have learned that this Colombia coast is prone to strong winds and abnormally large waves. Look at the Pilot charts for each month and you will easily see the few times when the conditions are calmer. So plan ahead and watch for calm predictions; and, always add a minimum of five knots to any forecasted weather."

Here are links to the articles:


Colombia Coast Updated

Colombia Guide - Part Two

Colombia Guide Part III

Cruising Guide for the Coast of Colombia
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Old 11-02-2008, 12:24   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hud3 View Post
The Caribbean Compass, a monthly sailing-oriented newspaper published in Bequia, has run a series of articles by Lourae and Randy Kenoffel on cruising the Colombian coast. They're generally favorable, although the authors say,

"These 400 miles between Aruba and Cartagena are known for the worst weather conditions in the Caribbean and for being among the top five worst passages around the world. Over the years, sea captains have learned that this Colombia coast is prone to strong winds and abnormally large waves. Look at the Pilot charts for each month and you will easily see the few times when the conditions are calmer. So plan ahead and watch for calm predictions; and, always add a minimum of five knots to any forecasted weather."

Here are links to the articles:


Colombia Coast Updated

Colombia Guide - Part Two

Colombia Guide Part III

Cruising Guide for the Coast of Colombia
Hud, I think you'll find they were talking about using the 'traditional' routing, staying about 100nm offshore Columbia, and going towards Panama. They suggest routing along the Columbian coast (west-going) to avoid the heavy weather offshore. Don Street, who some praise and some abhor, suggests that trying to go Eastward you consider routing inshore, at night, when the Trades are to a certain extent cancelled out by the land/sea breeze. Admittedly, he was talking about going Eastward along the Venezuelan coast but I'm guessing the same would hold true off the Columbian coast. For sure going eastward back into the Islands is going to be a bit of a slog so I guess anybody attempting it wouldn't want to be on a tight schedule.
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Old 11-02-2008, 12:40   #15
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... Admittedly, he [Street] was talking about going Eastward along the Venezuelan coast but I'm guessing the same would hold true off the Columbian coast. For sure going eastward back into the Islands is going to be a bit of a slog so I guess anybody attempting it wouldn't want to be on a tight schedule.
I've never been there, but a quick look at the map suggests that the Venezuelan coast runs West, but the Columbian coast runs South-West.
Not quite the same.
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