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Old 18-06-2011, 08:21   #1
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US East Coast to Panama Canal

We want to sail from Annapolis, MD to the Panama canal to get our new boat back home to the Pacific. We have experience in the Pacific, very little on the East Coast. Offshore is fine but we need to finish fitting her out and we should be ready to go by October. We should probably do some coastal sailing to get some experience on this boat, incase there is something we need to change before we leave the U.S.

I'm thinking down the ICW to Beaufort, NC and then offshore hops down to Florida, cross over to the Bahamas, down to the Turks and Caicos through the Windward Passge to Jamaica and then Jamaica to the Panama canal.

The boat drafts 6' 3", we do not mind offshore, we hate crunchy bits. Any advice will be welcome, other routes will be considered. Thanks!
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Old 18-06-2011, 08:34   #2
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Re: US East Coast to Panama Canal

why not cut from dry tortugas to isla mujeres then go down via belize and central america?
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Old 18-06-2011, 09:19   #3
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Re: US East Coast to Panama Canal

Planning a similar trip myself. I was told by a friend with recent experience that there is a lot of pirating etc south of the Yucatan and best to stay far outside and go straight to Panama after rounding Cuba. I need to stop at Isla Mujeres to pick up crew and this is of concern to me.
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Old 18-06-2011, 10:00   #4
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Re: US East Coast to Panama Canal

I'll be sailing from Mobile, AL to the canal some time next spring, and I have the same concerns. I'm planning on Mobile to St.Pete as a shake-down, then on to the Dry Tortugas and then Isla Mujeres.

It's the part from Isla Mujeres south that has me concerned. I'd love to coastal sail down the coast and see Belize and the Rio Dulce area, but safety is a concern, as is the long beat into the trades after you leave Rio Dulce and Roatan to get around the cape to head south.

Is it possible to time it so that I do that section at the end of the dry season but before hurricane season starts? Or is it not a concern?
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Old 18-06-2011, 10:20   #5
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Re: US East Coast to Panama Canal

Rod,

Once hurricane season ends your route from Annapolis is valid providing 6-3 floats in the ICW.

However, the trip is generally easier done off-shore east of the Bahamas and south from through the Windward passage.
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Old 18-06-2011, 11:08   #6
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Re: US East Coast to Panama Canal

Agreed, east of the Bahamas, stay west of the Turks and Caicos, then thru the windward paasage. Straight to Panama would be no problem. Going to Isla Mujeres makes the trip twice the distance and I think some difficulty getting out of there and back to a safe route to Panama via open sea. If the stop at Isla Mujeres weren't necessary, I wouldn't consider it. Hopefully this thread won't deteriorate into all the things that it could and will stay to the solid navigational information needed by those of us preparing to do this.
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Old 18-06-2011, 13:40   #7
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Re: US East Coast to Panama Canal

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Originally Posted by s/v Moondancer View Post
Rod,

Once hurricane season ends your route from Annapolis is valid providing 6-3 floats in the ICW.

However, the trip is generally easier done off-shore east of the Bahamas and south from through the Windward passage.
Yeah, That's an optimistic 6-3 too. I measured 6 feet 8.5 inches while it was on the stands, if the boat is loaded to the waterline. The factory specs say 6-3. I may consider jumping from the Chesapeake Bay to the Virgin Islands in one hop.

I considered the east coast of MX/ Central America but that would only be delaying the windward work as well as putting me on a lee shore for many miles. I met some folks who just came back that way and they had no trouble with piracy. They skipped Belize because of reports of getting gouged by the government on check out but it seems to me if you just follow the rules of the country it's no problem. There is a new article up on noonsite.com about cruising Belize.

So, if I go east of the Bahamas and west of the Caicos I cut through in the Mayaguana Passage?
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Old 18-06-2011, 15:09   #8
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Re: US East Coast to Panama Canal

Looks like, and then pass thru east of Great Inagua. (?)
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Old 18-06-2011, 15:21   #9
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Re: US East Coast to Panama Canal

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why not cut from dry tortugas to isla mujeres then go down via belize and central america?
Hi Zeehag, I've given that a lot of thought. I'd wind up with a lot of windward work to do at the west end of the Carribean. I only have one chart right now but it seems to me there are a lot of crunchy bits too. I'm keeping an open mind though, I'd love to see Chitzen Itza, Tulum and Tikal. I'm going to be way over budget on the refit so I may have to skip that stuff and just spend some time at Kuna Yala (San Blas ).

I'm giving serious thought to skipping the ICW and the Bahamas too and heading straight for the Virgin Islands. I'd like to stop in Jamaica though. My main goal is to get back where I sold my boat, American Samoa, and continue my cruising from there. We have yet to see Samoa, Tonga and Fiji. Plus we get to do French Polynesia again. We really liked the Marquesas Islands.

How is Mazatlan? We loved the year we spent there.
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Old 18-06-2011, 15:40   #10
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Re: US East Coast to Panama Canal

6.3-7.0 is no problem except for Beaufort,NC->Cape Fear River, south of Beaufort,SC->St. Johns River. So jumping off at Beaufort,NC is a good plan, only part of ICW that's touchy that I remember in first 200 miles is @MM45 around R116. Some anchorages will be off limits.
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Old 18-06-2011, 15:43   #11
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Re: US East Coast to Panama Canal

Just went the Key West-Isla Mujeres-Roatan-Providencia-Panama route in the last 6 months, and would do it again. Had nice weather to sail on every passage, but picked my weather windows instead of going on a specific date, and each sail was less than 3 days. Motored less than 12 hours the whole trip. We really liked cruising the Roatan-Guanaja area, and checkin/out was only $6.
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Old 18-06-2011, 16:55   #12
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Re: US East Coast to Panama Canal

Cruise down the Exuma islands chain, ending in Mayaguana (enjoy Abrahams Bay snorkeling there). Then it's south between Cuba and Haiti. You have a very nice possible stop at Port Antonio on the NE side of Jamaica. Here you decide to get to the canal in a hurry or enjoy your cruise... hurry means direct sail from Jamaica to Colon, Panama. Enjoying the cruise, I would enter Colombia in Santa Marta and then cruise further down the Colombian and Panama coasts, incl. the San Blas Islands.

ciao!
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Old 18-06-2011, 17:04   #13
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Re: US East Coast to Panama Canal

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Originally Posted by donradcliffe View Post
Just went the Key West-Isla Mujeres-Roatan-Providencia-Panama route in the last 6 months, and would do it again. Had nice weather to sail on every passage, but picked my weather windows instead of going on a specific date, and each sail was less than 3 days. Motored less than 12 hours the whole trip. We really liked cruising the Roatan-Guanaja area, and checkin/out was only $6.
Did that route a few years ago and I heartily agree. Guanaja is great and better than the other Bay Islands for clean and safe. Providencia is great. St. Andreas also. Might skip Rio Dulce because of the bar and and the recent problems up the river. But mostly stops safe and beautiful. I think the ICW is a problem (not to mention boring) if you want to get anywhere in any time because you can't really travel at night and bridges and stuff limit you to 50 or so miles a day--would go outside again.
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Old 21-10-2012, 16:50   #14
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Re: US East Coast to Panama Canal

Golly, There are so many experienced sailors out there. I hope to leave the dock in January and head toward Panama. This input is helpful. Stay safe and any advice you can give a novice cruiser is welcome. Places to anchor and provision along the way would be helpful. Thanks,
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