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Old 23-08-2007, 22:52   #1
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Cruising Guides for East Coast and Panama

I am going crew for a friend on a boat that is being delivered, this fall, from the East Coast of Canada to the West via the Panama Canal.
I did a search of past posts for Cruising Guides and the most pertainent was dated 2004.

Are the Rains Guides - "Mexico boating Gide" and "Cruising Ports the central American routes", the recommended publications for the Gulf and Panama area? (I read on a post somewhere that the second ed of Mexico Boating Guide does not have up to date info on the Gulf Coast.)

For the East Coast will Skipper Bob's guides "Anchorages Along the ICW" and "Marinas Along the ICW" adequate local info sources? I have also ordered "Managing the Waterway" by Mark and Diana Doyle and have my fingers crossed it will get here through customs before I leave in about a month.

We also have a full redundent sets of the NOAA electronic charts is my presumtion that these will be adequate for the ICW true?
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Old 24-08-2007, 01:56   #2
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The Panama Guide ~ by Nancy Schwalbe Zydler & Tom Zydler
A Cruising Guide to the Isthmus of Panama
GOTO: The Panama Cruising Guide - 3rd Ed.

Cruising Ports: the Central American Route ~ by Captain Pat M. Rains
Formerly Cruising Ports: Florida to California via the Panama Canal
GOTO: Cruising Ports: the Central American Route
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Old 24-08-2007, 07:43   #3
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Thanks Gord - are there any publications I should consider for north of the ICW?
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Old 24-08-2007, 12:04   #4
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Steve Pavlidis is supposed to be out with a new cruising guide to C. America. It should be out soon.
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Old 05-09-2007, 17:34   #5
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Cruising Guides

I just finished the trip the other way.

I suppose you have to read Rain's book but most of the information is out of date and sometimes just downright wrong--and the typos are ridiculous for a book costing that much. I think he quit actually sailing the area and delivers mega yachts now so he has lost touch with the local information. He does give the general directions folks go, so the overview is OK--I would not rely on it for any detail.

If you do the ICW, get Skipper Bob books on marinas and anchorages. It is well done and mostly accurate. You should also get the little chartbook of the ICW if you do it--much easier to follow than sifting through charts.

You will want to get Eric Bauhaus' book "The Panama Cruising Guide" as it has everything you will want to know about that country and the Canal. You will want the various editions of Charlie's Charts for the Pacific run North as there is not much else for finding harbors on the Pacific side of Mexico. Rains is very badly out of date on Mexico; but things change quickly there.

I have books, paper and electronic charts that I would be willing to sell cheap if you want them. I am never going to do this trip again.
Ray Durkee
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Old 11-09-2007, 11:23   #6
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are you "never doing this trip again" because it wasn't a good trip, or because it is not on your itinerary? Have been reading Liz Clark's account over on and it certainly has piqued my curiosity. She seemed to have decent luck in Mexico, Costa Rica, and Panama. How did you get back across the Carib and up the Atlantic?--Steve
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Old 11-09-2007, 18:25   #7
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Not Going Again

Steve-- I went from San Blas Islands, to San Andres Island, to Providencia, then to Guanaja, Honduras, then to Isla Mujeres. Folks going from Panama to Florida mostly follow some variation of this route. You would do something very different coming the other way.

Responding to why I am "not doing this again". Well, I did it once, but it goes beyond that. There is a lot of glamorizing of the cruising life in books and magazines and people do not really talk that much about the downside--the magazines will print articles about disasters, but they are not really going to print stuff about the drudgery that cruising can be--it is not good for the cruising equipment advertisers. I have a had done several yacht deliveries on the West Coast (Mexico and California) and had probably sailed 30K miles of Coastal and Bay sailing before this trip, so I was not a neophyte sailor who got in over his head.

Latitude 38 would not print anything I sent to them because it was not rah rah on the experience--and I made some frank assessments of their advertisers' equipment that simply did not work. There is an enormous amount of boat maintenance to keep the boat moving when you are really using it 24/7---I left with a very well-maintained boat and there was never a time when some system was not in need of significant attention--I probably spent 50% of my non sailing time fixing something or other. Most other cruisers I met were doing as much maintenance as me. My trips back from the US always included suitcase full of repair parts. It is very very hot in Central America (some do not like it THAT hot)--and most of us do not have air conditioned boats. Try working in the bilge of your boat in 95 degree temps with 85% humidity for a few days. The route (California to Maine) has very little tradewind sailing---so you end up having to motor a lot more than you might imagine if you do not want to bob for days on end up partying with the Pardeys. And the weather forecasting is a crapshoot over the route--I signed up for a weather router for part of it and they were no better than Buoy Weather in giving me an idea of what to expect.

A lot of the sailing was really really boring. Some of it was terrifying (30+ Knots of wind for three days really tires you out and can make you think things are worse than they are). I had hoped for more skidding across the ocean rather than alternatingly bobbing in flat seas or slamming for 30 hours at a time into 9 foot square seas.

Unless your boat is really really big, it is a tiny little space to be cooped up in for a lot of days. Sure it is nice to visit your boat on weekends and it might seem like an escape when you are at home, but when it IS your home--its different.

I met a lot of interesting local folks on the trip--mostly when I took a chicken bus away from the coastal towns (which is where most cruisers seem to stay to talk with other cruisers--why not just stay at the dock and talk amps and diesel mechanics?). Invest in an intensive Spanish course if you take this route--it will enrich the experience and make your life a lot more comfortable.

I am glad I did the trip because it was something I always wanted to do. Would I do it again, knowing what I know now? Nope.

I still like cruising. Just shorter trips in more temperate climes.

I am sure I will draw fire for this post, but it is my experience.
Ray Durkee
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Castine, Maine
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Old 26-09-2007, 18:02   #8
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Thanks Ray. I applaud your candor asI fully understand the issues. I have made 11 trips from the Chesapeake to the Virgin Is. (Starting point) Every time I did it I swore it was the last. There are lots of great cruising grounds that do not include being hotter than the gates of hell and getting ripped off by locals. I am looking forward to heading north this summer.

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cruising guides, east coast, Panama, Panama Canal

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