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Old 16-04-2019, 14:18   #1
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Pacific - Gulf of Panama - Currents and Routing

Hello!
I'm looking for a simple explanation of the currents in the Gulf of Panama.



We experienced extremely strong currents running against us when we sailed from Punta Mala, heading NE toward the Pearl Islands. We rounded the point on a flood tide, hoping for some relief from the current, but the tidal flow did nothing for us.



We'll soon be traveling East from the Pearl Islands to the Vista Mar Marina and we're trying to determine the best route given the currents.



My understanding is that the current in the Gulf runs in a generally counterclockwise motion, north from Ecuador to Panama City area, then turning to the southeast toward Punta Mala. Am I completely crazy?



We would greatly appreciate any information about planning a route between the Pearl Islands and Vista Mar Marina (about 35 miles southwest of Panama City).


Thanks!
Sue
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Old 16-04-2019, 14:58   #2
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Re: Pacific - Gulf of Panama - Currents and Routing

There’s usually a N setting current flowing past the Perlas. When it gets close to the north shore, it turns to the W, flows past Panama City, then turns S until it reaches Punta Mala. Hence Punta Mala almost always has a S setting current regardless of the tide. If you leave the Perlas, you’ll almost always have a N to W setting current until you get almost to Panama City. From the city to Vista Mar the currents will be lighter and variable, but with perhaps more of a S component.

When I come back from the Perlas to the city, I just lay a direct course, winds permitting. For Vista Mar, I’d perhaps leave the Perlas heading a little N of the rhumb line to allow for the more S’ly set on the W side of the Bay.

The Bay of Panama shoreline from the city to Vista Mar has lots of shallow spots, so if you want to follow the shoreline, stay well off. Be careful about the state of the tide. A 15’ tide range makes knowing the real depth important.
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Old 17-04-2019, 06:54   #3
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Re: Pacific - Gulf of Panama - Currents and Routing

Thanks so much!! This is just the info I was looking for...
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Old 17-04-2019, 09:30   #4
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Re: Pacific - Gulf of Panama - Currents and Routing

“On the seasonal circulation within the Panama Bight derived from satellite observations of wind, altimetry and sea surface temperature” ~ by Efraı ́n Rodrı ́guez-Rubio and Wolfgang Schneider

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/e79...71ba2966b4.pdf

“Circulation in the Panama Bight” ~ by Merritt Stevenson
https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley....C075i003p00659

“Lagrangian study of the Panama Bight and surrounding regions” ~ by Alexis Chaigneau et al.
https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley....9/2006JC003530

“VARIATION IN THE SURFACE CURRENTS IN THE PANAMA BIGHT DURING EL NIÑO AND LA NIÑA EVENTS FROM 1993 TO 2007" ~ by Alexis Chaigneau et al.
VARIATION IN THE SURFACE CURRENTS IN THE PANAMA BIGHT DURING EL NIÑO AND LA NIÑA EVENTS FROM 1993 TO 2007


This seems to be a topic of some scientific interest.
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Old 20-04-2019, 09:04   #5
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Re: Pacific - Gulf of Panama - Currents and Routing

There's a reason it is named Punta Mala. Well deserved.



I don't know anyone (8-10 friends) who has not had a less than fun crossing from there to the Las Perlas. Next time I will hug the coast around the point until I am well up towards the canal before heading to the islands.
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Old 20-04-2019, 09:32   #6
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Re: Pacific - Gulf of Panama - Currents and Routing

Quote:
Originally Posted by sail2bluesue View Post
Hello!
I'm looking for a simple explanation of the currents in the Gulf of Panama.



We experienced extremely strong currents running against us when we sailed from Punta Mala, heading NE toward the Pearl Islands. We rounded the point on a flood tide, hoping for some relief from the current, but the tidal flow did nothing for us.



We'll soon be traveling East from the Pearl Islands to the Vista Mar Marina and we're trying to determine the best route given the currents.



My understanding is that the current in the Gulf runs in a generally counterclockwise motion, north from Ecuador to Panama City area, then turning to the southeast toward Punta Mala. Am I completely crazy?



We would greatly appreciate any information about planning a route between the Pearl Islands and Vista Mar Marina (about 35 miles southwest of Panama City).


Thanks!
Sue
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