I did this trip a few years back in our 40 footer. A little ahead of your schedule, we left LA in early November, got down to the Canal at Christmas
. Stops in Cabo, southern Mexico
, and a fair amount of time in Costa Rica
- love CR. Also spent some time in the islands on the Pacific coast of Panama
(around Coiba). Would highly recommend.
Coming out of Panama
at the beginning of the new year is not a good time, and February/March is not much better. The trades will be strong and in your face. Not that it can't be done (I'm living proof), but probably not the most pleasant sailing you will experience. I would recommend getting as much easting as possible out of Colon. If you stay on the port tack and head
over toward Colombia
you can get some relief crossing the gulf. You can also spend a little time in the San Blas if that interests you. Whether you stop in Colombia
is a personal decision.
Once near the Colombian side (again, how near is a personal decision) tack over toward Jamaica
. I would recommend a stop, I loved Jamaica
. If you can lay the east end I would round the end then stop in Port Antonio on the north coast. If you can't lay the east end then Kingston/Port Royal is OK, but you'll have to pick the right weather
window to get around the east end. Going around the west end from Kingston works (I have done that as well), but you lose a lot of your windward distance.
If you can get to Port Antonio you can wait for the trades to take a more easterly component. It may be a week wait, but it is worth it (and Port Antonio is not a bad place to wait). When the weather looks to be giving you a little more east in the breeze head
northeast out of Jamaica to just clear the Haitian coast. Keep as much easting as you can. Hence the waiting for the right weather. If you get it right you should be able to just make it without tacking. If not, you have a couple of days of on-the-nose stuff.
Once you pass between Haiti
it becomes all fun and games. We stopped in the Turks and Caicos
before making our way slowly up through the Bahamas
and then over to Florida. Arrived in Florida in June to hole up for the season (and earn some $). We had a lot of time in the islands (and actually went down to the Caymans and back), so I think if you allowed January to June you would have a decent passage
. It is still a lot of sailing, not a laid-back cruising vacation
, but well worth it to me.
For the trip from Colon up past Cuba
I don't think we ever took the second reef out of the main, and only flew the staysail up front. Still, made good time. Your extra 10 feet should take a couple of days out of the journey. If you're not used to going to weather or being close-hauled for a week at a go in 20K+ breeze then you might want to reconsider, but then again it could be a good bit of experience. The trades really do blow, and get concentrated, down at that end of the Caribbean
If I were to do it again (and hopefully I will), that's how I'd do it, your mileage may vary. You could always elect to turn right at Panama and head out through the Galapagos