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Old 29-06-2015, 23:19   #1
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Panama To Florida - Anyone Did It? Experiences? Advice?

Hi,
I have a 38' cruising sloop and I would like to cruise from the East end of the Panama Canal to the West side of Florida around November - January of this year. My goal is to accomplish a cruise and relocate from So. California to Port Charlotte, FL. I realize this is not an ideal route but I am curious if anyone on the forum has done this? If so what experiences have you had, and what advice as to routes, timing, routing etc.

I realize some will say "truck the boat across the U.S." but that's not cruising to me

Thank you for any information, advice, or experiences you may have.
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Old 29-06-2015, 23:55   #2
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Re: Panama To Florida - Anyone Did It? Experiences? Advice?

Hello, we made the trip last April from the San Blas to Ft. Lauderdale non-stop. We had a fine, fast trip. One thing that you might consider is hopping your way east from the canal to the San Blas to get a more favorable angle on the wind for the trip up to the Yucatan channel. We were about 60 degrees off the wind for the bulk of the passage up, and leaving from further west will result in a harder point of sail. I certainly don't think that this is a difficult passage, particularly if you make some easting in the beginning as I mentioned.

Remember that in January, you will be subject to cold fronts at the north end of the trip, some of which can be a bit violent, so you will want a means to check weather on that end. Isla Mujeres is a good stop to wait for weather on the last leg if needed.

Enjoy!

TJ
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Old 30-06-2015, 00:13   #3
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Re: Panama To Florida - Anyone Did It? Experiences? Advice?

Quote:
Originally Posted by TJ D View Post
Hello, we made the trip last April from the San Blas to Ft. Lauderdale non-stop. We had a fine, fast trip. One thing that you might consider is hopping your way east from the canal to the San Blas to get a more favorable angle on the wind for the trip up to the Yucatan channel. We were about 60 degrees off the wind for the bulk of the passage up, and leaving from further west will result in a harder point of sail. I certainly don't think that this is a difficult passage, particularly if you make some easting in the beginning as I mentioned.

Remember that in January, you will be subject to cold fronts at the north end of the trip, some of which can be a bit violent, so you will want a means to check weather on that end. Isla Mujeres is a good stop to wait for weather on the last leg if needed.

Enjoy!



TJ
Thanks TJ. I appreciate your Info. and feedback. Before posting on Cruisersforum I had only one reply to go on from a Baja Cruiser saying "it can't be done". What month/months (April?) would you suggest one would start from the East end of the Canal to Florida? I am not concerned with transit times nor which months to travel.
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Old 30-06-2015, 00:45   #4
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Re: Panama To Florida - Anyone Did It? Experiences? Advice?

It can't be done? Nonsense! Lots and lots of people sail this route. We left San Francisco in October, and were in Florida in April. Basically, you have 7 months outside of hurricane season to make the trip, and a fine trip it is! Ideally, assuming you're currently in California, you would leave there sometime between the end of October and the end of the year, enjoy a little time in Mexico, then you can either head right down to Panama or stop in between.

The gulf of Tehuantepec can be dangerous. It's easily crossed, but you would want to hole up in Huatulco until it drops off, and then get your butt across. After that, stops are fewer and farther between, but there are places to duck in. I've only ever stopped in Golfito in Costa Rica south of Mexico, but there are other options.

Pat and John Rains have published a book called 'Cruising ports: Florida to California'. It's a bit older but a great resource for your trip.

Don't listen to the naysayers. As long as you and your boat are up to it, you'll be following the lead of many, many others.

I would recommend waiting until mid-march or so before heading into the Gulf of Mexico if you really want to avoid the potential for bad weather, but it's not that far from the Yucatan up there, so it's certainly doable to leave earlier in the year if you watch the weather.

Let me know if I can help further.

Good sailing, TJ
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Old 30-06-2015, 00:56   #5
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Re: Panama To Florida - Anyone Did It? Experiences? Advice?

Thank you TJ, your experience have offset the naysayers.

Hal
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Old 30-06-2015, 06:24   #6
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Re: Panama To Florida - Anyone Did It? Experiences? Advice?

We just sailed from Panama to the East Coast of FL last month. You basically have two routes - straight NNE through the Windward Passage, or up Central America through the Yucatan Passage. It would be easier if Cuba moved out of the way, but they seem to insist on staying there.

The Windward Passage route is mostly upwind and requires more moderate winds that have moved E-SE. These rarely occur in the timeframe you are planning, although November may catch the last of these windows. For this, you simply aim directly for the Windward Passage. You have possible stopping points in Jamaica and Cuba (restrictions apply) before the WWP and the Bahamas after. Then you cross the Gulf Stream to the Northern Keys and work your way to West coast FL. The downside to this route is needing E-SE winds and not having many bailout options along the way.

The other route is to sail up Central America - either through the Bay Islands, Belize, Mexico, or straight to the Caymans. At the Caymans or Mexico, you wait for a front to go through and bring Northern winds and sail around Cuba and through the Yucatan channel to West FL. You have many possible stopping points along the way, and some of the trip can even be in more protected waters. The downside to this route is needing to wait for either light winds or a reasonable front to get around Cuba and through the Yucatan Channel.

The enhanced trade winds will occur sometime between Nov-Jan, so the earlier you get going the better. When the NE winds set in at 20-30+kts, this trip gets much rougher on the souther portion, and the cold fronts get much worse on the northern portion.

Mark
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Old 30-06-2015, 09:21   #7
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Re: Panama To Florida - Anyone Did It? Experiences? Advice?

I have also made the trip north from Panama a couple of times (many years ago) and can guarantee it's doable. Going to the west coast of FL the Yucatan Channel will be the best option.

Otherwise, as others have pointed out, as you get more into winter the southern part of the trip can be rough and as you approach FL the chance of a cold front increases. However, I've done the trip in Jan and lived to tell about but it was one of the most boisterous passages I've made.
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Old 01-07-2015, 07:48   #8
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Re: Panama To Florida - Anyone Did It? Experiences? Advice?

I did the trip solo, non stop from Bocas del Toro which is actually West of the Panama canal zone to Fort Lauderdale. Took 12 days in early November 2014 on the wind the whole time. Departed with very light winds so was able to power Northeast for 24 hours for better angle to lay course to windward leaving the enroute islands and reefs well to port. After rounding Cabo San Antonio, be sure to get yourself into the gulfstream current for a good 3 knots all the way around Florida's southern tip to east coast.
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Old 01-07-2015, 08:05   #9
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Re: Panama To Florida - Anyone Did It? Experiences? Advice?

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I have also made the trip north from Panama a couple of times (many years ago) and can guarantee it's doable. Going to the west coast of FL the Yucatan Channel will be the best option.

Otherwise, as others have pointed out, as you get more into winter the southern part of the trip can be rough and as you approach FL the chance of a cold front increases. However, I've done the trip in Jan and lived to tell about but it was one of the most boisterous passages I've made.
Thanks skipmac!
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Old 01-07-2015, 08:11   #10
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Re: Panama To Florida - Anyone Did It? Experiences? Advice?

Thanks to all. This first hand information is very helpful.

Cheers
Hal
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Old 02-07-2015, 07:16   #11
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Re: Panama To Florida - Anyone Did It? Experiences? Advice?

Calder's book- cruising guide to NW caribbean- has good routing info
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Old 03-07-2015, 23:16   #12
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Re: Panama To Florida - Anyone Did It? Experiences? Advice?

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Calder's book- cruising guide to NW caribbean- has good routing info
Thanks! I just ordered it tonight!

Hal
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Old 05-07-2015, 05:24   #13
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Re: Panama To Florida - Anyone Did It? Experiences? Advice?

If you have the time stop in providencia .nice stop nice people....

Sent from my GT-I9190 using Cruisers Sailing Forum mobile app
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Old 11-08-2015, 09:48   #14
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Re: Panama To Florida - Anyone Did It? Experiences? Advice?

Pat and John Rains have published a book called 'Cruising ports: Florida to California'. It's a bit older but a great resource for your trip.
[/QUOTE]
Thanks for that mention, but our guidebook 'Cruising Ports: Florida to California' has been out of print for years. We replaced it with two separate guidebooks "Mexico Boating Guide" and 'Cruising Ports: the Central American Route.' Second Wind wants the later guidebook, which covers the preferred route, from the San Blas Islands of Panama, up the Western Caribbean and Yucatan Channel, then up Florida to NC. If you haven't left yet, wait until just the end of hurricane season in the Caribbean, but before winter Trades set in. Good luck!
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