Hi, Kat --
We're thinking about doing the same trip from Ft. Lauderdale, first to Isla Mujeres and then south through Belize
, eventually to the Panama Canal
and then to the Pacific side. Leaving late November/early December (depending, of course!). I've been researching the route
and using Pat Rains, "Cruising Ports
: The Central American Route" (2009 update) and Freya Rauscher, "Cruising Guide to Belize
and Mexico's Caribbean
Coast" (Third Ed, 2007). The very nice thing about Rauscher's is that she includes two charts
she personally updated for the Mexico/Belize coast, where updated "official" charts
really don't exist.
If going to Isla Mujeres, it is 335 nm from Key West
on a rhumb line. Rauscher suggests sailing 267 true for 66 nm from Key West until you are 14 miles south of the Dry Tortugas
and than sailing direct to Isla Mujeres. You're sailing along just outside of the Cuban territorial waters much of the way.
Channel may well be the most difficult part, since lots of water
is flowing south to north and if you get a norther from the US, the seas will get very high, very quickly; steep and short periods. She suggests that the best time to cross is right after a strong norther blows itself out.
Assuming a 6 knot
average speed, that's about 60 hours from Key West to Isla Mujeres. We're in a 44' cat and can usually do better than that, but I still tend to use it for planning purposes.
From my look at things, the route around the eastern side of Cuba
has its own challenges and there are several shoals on the way that can be challenging, not to mention it is simply much farther to go before you hit the cruising grounds. Of course, you would be able to see Jamaica
Hope this helps!