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Old 13-12-2015, 13:15   #1
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San Diego to Panama Canal: Advice Please!

Hi, Everyone! In our quest for warmer climes, we have completed the voyage from Washington State to San Diego and are now plotting our course to the Caribbean via the Panama Canal. From browsing the forums, I've noticed that quite a few people choose to go straight from Mexico to Costa Rica and bypass Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. Is this a recommended course of action and if so, why? Is it due to safety concerns, lack of marinas and/or anchorages, or is it more because it's three less countries to go through customs/immigration/et al.?

I guess I'm looking for the pros & cons of visiting these countries. Any advice would be much appreciated! Thank you!
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Old 13-12-2015, 14:31   #2
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Re: San Diego to Panama Canal: Advice Please!

I cant say much about El Salvador or Guatemala but I just returned from a year in Nicaragua.
Nica is safe , cheap and warm. San Juan del Sur had 10 - 12 cruising boats last time I was there. There is a marina just north of Corinto that can help with check in. The local food is pretty bland although shopping is good in Rivas. Busses and taxis are cheap. The local beers are Tona and Victoria neither are anything to write home about. Rum was running about $5/L for mediocre and $12/L for good stuff.
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Old 13-12-2015, 16:37   #3
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Re: San Diego to Panama Canal: Advice Please!

Checkout the El Salvador rally website or Facebook page. If you are cruising -- not on a delivery -- then it is silly to bypass all these countries. Most cruisers skip pacific side Guatemala due to the entry costs and lack of good anchorages. We really enjoyed El Salvador. Skipped Nicagarua due to time. Costa Rica was OK with lots of places to stop. Go online to the Sarana site and buy their two guides for the area. They are the most up todate.
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Old 13-12-2015, 17:11   #4
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Re: San Diego to Panama Canal: Advice Please!

You need to check out some of these places. There is a place in southern MX where you can safely swim with crocodiles (San Blas). The boat ride up and down the river to where the crocs are was even more alarming. If you're a speed junky, tell the driver to go fast.
You could go on and on about all the cool places along that coast. If you're after adventure, follow the coast line, pretty much. There is a bar near zeehag that has margaritas that will make you unconscious, Costa Rica, the islands along Panama.. There is more neat stuff on that side than the other, maybe.
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Old 14-12-2015, 08:51   #5
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Re: San Diego to Panama Canal: Advice Please!

Hi
We are trying to put together our trip from Seattle to San Diego. Since you have done this already I would love to know from you how it was and what you can pass along to us. We have a 50 ft sailboat, and have not done this journey yet. Would love to keep going as your doing. My husband and I are new to longer cruises so any advice is great.

Thanks
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Old 14-12-2015, 09:03   #6
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Re: San Diego to Panama Canal: Advice Please!

Unless you're in a huge hurry, which doesn't bode well for a cruising lifestyle, I'd recommend you plan to spend time in the Sea of Cortez on your way south. You'll find the weather agreeable, the water azure blue and clear and the possibilities for exploration endless. La Paz is a peaceful working town with a wonderfully long Malecon and friendly people. It provides a great spot to do re-provisioning and any needed repairs during your forays to the islands and anchorages just off the coast or for trips further up to the many bays and anchorages further to the north. The cruising is laid back and the crowds are minimal to non-existent. Fishing and snorkeling are great and one could spend several years exploring without ever seeing it all.

As you travel south from Mexico, if you have an opportunity to do a bus trip into the highlands of Guatemala, you might enjoy the beauty of the country side and the the charm of the indigenous Mayan people. Each area in the highlands is unique when it comes to the dress of the inhabitants and the dialects of Quiche spoken. It is easiest to travel to Guatemala City by tourist bus and then take the local buses to the towns and villages. While Antigua is close by and should not be missed, I'd also recommend seeing Totonicapan, Huehuetenango, Solola, Nebaj and Santa Cruz del Quiche. If you have time for exploration of Mayan ruins, you should see about trips to Coban and Tikal, just as teasers. Supplementing cruising with overland travels is a great way to get to know an area you are traveling through.

Nicaragua and Costa Rica are both beautiful, but are becoming well developed along their coasts with a goodly amount of expat investments. Whenever possible try to visit interior areas to get a more comprehensive feel for the flavor of each locale.
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Old 14-12-2015, 11:20   #7
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Re: San Diego to Panama Canal: Advice Please!

Puesta del Sol next to the northern border in Nicaragua is a great place to stop and enjoy. Welcome to Marina Puesta del Sol | Marina Puesta del Sol

It was developed by and is owned by a geothermal engineer who retired from his geothermal engineering firm in central California and did a beautiful job with developing this marina and resort with gorgeous/spectacular views of the volcanos. He also helps the local villages and schools.
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Old 14-12-2015, 11:45   #8
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Re: San Diego to Panama Canal: Advice Please!

avoid the Mendocino bank on your trip south!!
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Old 14-12-2015, 12:34   #9
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Re: San Diego to Panama Canal: Advice Please!

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avoid the Mendocino bank on your trip south!!
Bob, are you referring to the Sacramento Reef (N29.736 W115.768) south of Geronimo Island off the Pacific Coast of Baja California? I'm unfamiliar with the Mendocino Bank.
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Old 17-12-2015, 16:07   #10
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Re: San Diego to Panama Canal: Advice Please!

MAYBE he was referring to that nasty Piece of water north of San Francisco
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Old 17-12-2015, 18:04   #11
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Re: San Diego to Panama Canal: Advice Please!

Thanks, Everyone, for the great info! We certainly want to experience as much as we can, but as this is our first foray into "foreign" waters (Canada excluded!), I'm feeling a little overwhelmed! I'll certainly check out those guide books and have ordered the Captain Rains titles as well. Thank you!
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Old 17-12-2015, 18:09   #12
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Re: San Diego to Panama Canal: Advice Please!

Marisleonardo, the OP indicated they were in San Diego Bay. I believe the area you are referring to is Fourfathom Bank and Potato Patch Shoal on the northern approach to San Francisco Bay, just west of Point Bonita. There is also Blunts Reef, west of Cape Mendocino. I'm not familiar with anything identified as Mendocino Bank south of San Diego.
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Old 17-12-2015, 18:14   #13
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Re: San Diego to Panama Canal: Advice Please!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Raven Nauticat View Post
...[We] are now plotting our course to the Caribbean via the Panama Canal...
Nauticat, first I'd like to welcome you to Cruisers Forum!

What nobody seems to have posted is that the leg from Panama to the E Caribbean is a real bear. We've done it the other way (E Caribbean to Panama) twice now, & been smacked hard both times over the top of Columbia. I'm talking sustained 40 knot winds & 20' (6m) seas. Going north might be easier, but we actually preferred the Pacific. Yes, some of the distances are long, but the cruising is magic.
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Old 17-12-2015, 18:21   #14
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Re: San Diego to Panama Canal: Advice Please!

For superb cruising guides to the Sea of Cortez and the West Coast of Mexico (two separate guides), I'd highly recommend the books published by Shawn Breeding and Heather Bansmer. We have the Pat Rains guide, the entire Gerry Cunningham Sea of Cortez Cruising guides and several others. The Breeding/Bansmer guides are unsurpassed. There's a large selection of guides found at Sea Breeze Nautical Book store on Scott street (near Shelter Island) in San Diego.
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Old 17-12-2015, 19:39   #15
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Re: San Diego to Panama Canal: Advice Please!

Hi jcord!

Everett to San Diego was my first offshore journey as well and it was everything/nothing like I thought it would be! I kept a blog of our (mis)adventures with a full account of the weather/seas we encountered, all the places we stopped, and our ongoing battle with our transmission. Suffice to say that our anticipated two to three week journey took about eight. But I wouldn't have changed it for anything (well...maybe those gales).

The blog starts with the most recent post then works its way back. Everett to San Diego was our Second Voyage. The First Voyage was a shakedown cruise from Everett to Alaska that didn't quite go as planned either!

Hopefully you'll find something helpful and/or amusing--but nothing to scare you away from undertaking the same adventure!

Here's the url: The Raven Odyssey
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