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Old 29-11-2017, 12:22   #1
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Sailing from BC to Panama

We are looking to sail from Victoria BC to the Panama in a year or so and would appreciate any insight into what the best strategy is for making this trip (coastal, off shore, timing...). Also, is it interesting cruising the west coast of the Central American Countries? Thanks
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Old 29-11-2017, 12:41   #2
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Re: Sailing from BC to Panama

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Originally Posted by John on Ghillie View Post
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>what the best strategy is for making this trip (coastal, off shore, timing...)>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Hi, I did the reverse trip from SF to Vancouver Island in the summer of 2016. Reference material, in addition to large scale charts, were: Charlie's Charts (San Diego to Seattle) and the Douglass' bookExploring the Pacific Coast”. Both discuss routes, the Douglass' has three categories, and explain why. Both go Canada to San Diego. They also discuss time of year. Charlies is better than Douglass for harbors, all offshore not so useful.

Your choice about where you want to go, too. USA? Ever been to SF? Or offshore past Mexico? To go to Mexico, you need a TIP. Latitude 38 has good info on getting one, easiest at a MX consulate in San Diego.

Safe journey.
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Old 29-11-2017, 14:33   #3
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Re: Sailing from BC to Panama

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Originally Posted by John on Ghillie View Post
We are looking to sail from Victoria BC to the Panama in a year or so and would appreciate any insight into what the best strategy is for making this trip (coastal, off shore, timing...). Also, is it interesting cruising the west coast of the Central American Countries? Thanks
Yes, they are [I]interesting[I].
Grab the Sarana online guides for CA. They have the most up-to-date info. Clearing in and out can be challenging. Anchorages can be rolly and some of the river mouth entrances are exciting. Check the El Salvador rally for lots of info. There's not much clear water for diving till you get to west Panama.
Security can be an issue with petty theft. In Costa Rica the saying goes Theft is not a crime, it's an art form.
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Old 29-11-2017, 15:02   #4
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Re: Sailing from BC to Panama

It's a nice trip down, downwind or light air pretty much all the way, except reaching in potentially strong winds in Tehuantepec and Pappagallo.

First, I would suggest that you eschew Cornell's advice on staying 100 miles or more offshore on the first leg. The big squash zone that sets up off OR/CA is generally much stronger way offshore. I've done SEA-SF a few times, and staying closer to shore is a lot more moderate. Gale to storm force are common in this stretch, so I would suggest inshore. We had a day of 40-50 knots once on the offshore route, and that's not uncommon out there in the summer. (You will want to do this stretch in the summer, by the way, at least to SFO. It gets milder after that late in the year.

2. Mexico is an outstanding destination in it's own right. There's a big cruising community there, decent service, good quality of living, low prices, great weather, and a couple of good hurricane holes, too. It would be a shame to blow right through there. Easy sailing outside of hurricane season-until...

3. The gulf of Tehuantepec is on the MX-Guatemala border. This place is not to be taken lightly. It BLOWS-often and hard. You'll want to hole up in Huatulco, and wait for it to go quiet, and then dash across, close to shore. The wind hooks to the west as it goes south, so going outside the wind zone is going WAY out of your way.

4. The gulf of Papagallo (central Costa Rica) also blows quite hard, but not as strongly as GoT. It's typically a close reach across on the way south, should not be a problem for a seaworthy boat and crew.

Anyway, it's not a terribly tough trip south of Pt. Conception, with some great cruising along the way. We spent lots of time in Mexico, have only stopped at one place in Costa Rica (Golfito) a couple of times. Others can comment better on that part.

We absolutely loved the rivers and islands in SW Panama, though. It's well worth poking around there.

Have a good trip.
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Old 29-11-2017, 19:32   #5
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Re: Sailing from BC to Panama

Thank you all for your quick feedback. This is all very encouraging!!! Susan and I have spent the last 7 summers cruising Boston to Labrador but the west is all new to us. We are currently on a road trip south to San Diego and checking out the ports of call along the way. Many thanks again and we will pick up the noted publications. Cheers, John
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Old 30-11-2017, 06:24   #6
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Re: Sailing from BC to Panama

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, John.
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Old 30-11-2017, 10:45   #7
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Re: Sailing from BC to Panama

When you get the Bay of Panama, be sure to come spend a few weeks in the Pearl Islands! We live on Isla Saboga, and are in the process of putting in a marina that will hopefully be complete by then.

The islands are very undeveloped, but the diving, snorkeling and fishing are excellent.
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Old 30-11-2017, 11:12   #8
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Re: Sailing from BC to Panama

Thanks for the welcome Gord!

The Pearl Islands are now on the list! I can see we need to get some charts out and start marking things out. Much appreciated.
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Old 30-11-2017, 11:19   #9
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Re: Sailing from BC to Panama

John, thank u for starting this thread. It's a trip I would like to make myself. Maybe this year? I will print these replies and put them in my log. Sid, on La Traviata
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Old 30-11-2017, 11:31   #10
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Re: Sailing from BC to Panama

Maybe we can have a race.... However, we have just bought Ghillie and figure we should cruise the NA Pacific to get to know the new boat for a year. So you may win the race.

However, how is cruising in your waters in the winter?

Thanks,

John
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Old 30-11-2017, 12:37   #11
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Re: Sailing from BC to Panama

Congratulation on your purchase of the Ghillie. It's most beautiful schooner I have ever seen.

Tell us how it sails through your trip down.
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Old 30-11-2017, 12:42   #12
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Re: Sailing from BC to Panama

Hello John,
We sailed down from Vancouver to Zihuatanejo, Mexico last year. Left Vancouver September 1, stayed inshore mostly...did a few overnights plus some bar crossings. Had to wait out some weather in Coos Bay and in Newport but mostly it was an easy trip downwind. Had one extra crew along so we were 3 aboard.
We stayed a few weeks in San Diego and joined the Baja Haha there...highly recommend taking part in this Rally...we have made many friends from among that group and still stay in touch a year later....the Haha has been organized by Latitude 38 for the last 20 years or so and is well organized and provides a sense of security for first timers down the west coast of Mexico. Haha ends in Cabo San Lucas....from there an easy overnight to the mainland....Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta area and down to Zihua. Make sure that you include a stay in Zihuatanejo in mid-February to take part in Sailfest...stay until mid-March to experience GuitarFest....just do it!
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Old 30-11-2017, 12:46   #13
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Re: Sailing from BC to Panama

Well, I've made that trip, gunkholing all the way: 6 months and 45 ports Vancouver to San Diego, a year in Mexico, etc. Wonderful trip. From Cape Flattery to Point Conception is challenging. Most do Flattery to San Francisco one hop (and enevitably get hammered by at least one storm enroute) but we enjoyed the shorter hops and the towns along the way. By watching the weather and taking your time it can be a very pleasant trip. However, if you get caught out in a blow, be prepared to stay out there as most of the ports are dredged river mouths with bars, and close when it blows (big signs with flashing yellow lights saying "CLOSED". You really don't want to cross a bar with big breaking seas pushing you through. A broach and roll can ruin your whole day).

As others have said, once south of Point Conception, life becomes MUCH easier.

Mexico is wonderful, although some find the outside of the Baja challenging because of the lack of ports, facilities, and navaids. Charlie's Charts are great all the way down the Pacific coast.

Gulf of Tuhantapec and Papagayo: The winds blow offshore so stay close to the beach to minimize wind fetch. For Tuhantapec, listen to New Orleans forecasts for the Gulf of Mexico. If Northerlies are forecast, DON'T GO. They funnel across the isthmus and raise hell on the Pacific side. Same with Caribbean northerlies hitting Papagayo.

We didn't stop in Guatemala, El Salvador, or Nicaragua because of state department warnings. Big mistake! Those who did LOVED their time in those countries. Costa Rica was ok. Panama was wonderful from the Costa Rica border to the canal.

Anyway, great trip. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
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Old 30-11-2017, 12:54   #14
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Re: Sailing from BC to Panama

Join the Bluewater Cruising Association in Victoria. They have monthly meetings encouraging people to go offshore, lots of great courses, and a thousand members who have made that trip or who are planning to. Great organization and very, very helpful.
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Old 30-11-2017, 13:36   #15
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Re: Sailing from BC to Panama

Thanks for your kind words. We look forward to sailing her and learning how to handle her well. How do you know Ghillie?
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