Originally Posted by Paul L
The toughest segment of this trip is probably the Panama eastward part. There's no easy way to exit the Canal and get to the eastern Carib. There tends to be two windows that are used. In Nov when the hurricane
threat has slowed but before the tradewinds have kicked in, aka Christmas
winds. The other is late April, early May when the trades decide to shut off, and the hurricanes haven't started. There's no real way to point at the eastern Carib from Panama and get any kind of a decent passage. You might make Jamaica
and then power most of the way east to the Virgins. Or head up the windward passage to Fla. Then decide how to exit for Europe.
Yes, getting out of Panama at the height of the re-inforced trades is no easy task. On your schedule, you are likely to get nailed crossing the Gulf of Tehuantepec, as well. But, that's less than 200 miles, and the Caribbean leg is 1000 nm plus. My San Francisco
guests invariably scoff at tales of the Christmas Winds (or re-inforced Trades, as they are technically termed), based on the peculiar SF logic that "if you sail SF, you can sail anywhere". I sailed there, too, for ten years, and yes, it really blows there, but it does so for a relatively short portion of a 24 hour day. No so, the Tradewinds. Invariably, after a few days, my SF guests ask, "doesn't it ever stop?" And the answer, that time of the year, is "very rarely". And, very rarely for any length of time. My SF reference is not offered because you live there (I realize that you don't), but because it's a great reference point for West Coast
Very big boats can have a rough time exiting Panama.
My other weather
thought is (with all due respect) that while you may have great experience in temperate areas and the Great Lakes
, more tropical sailing may have some surprises. We have touched on the Trade
Winds, great for going in their direction, not so much for the opposite. But you have dismissed the possibilities of tropical systems being much of a challenge. In a big tropical system, you will find you are in a very small boat!
While I don't question that your schedule can be done, I would invoke the same Boy Scout motto you did, "be prepared", and allow yourself more time. You will absolutely love some of the places you are planning on dashing through, and you will allow yourself time to make the inevitable repairs
, not to mention the modifications that you will find you want to make, when you do get to the tropics.
You have had lots of good advice, probably none better than to read Jimmy Cornell's books
Good decisions to give up the gun and all that extra fuel. With regard to extra ballast, remember that your rig is designed with a projected angle of heel for a given wind
. The stiffer the boat, the more loaded your rig becomes. Great, if it's designed for it, no so great if it isn't. Check how heavy a cruising cat's sails
are; that's because they don't heel and spill wind. They are very stiff.
Give yourself time and have a wonderful trip.