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Old 09-11-2020, 15:49   #1
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Planning a route around the Caribbean

We hope to arrive in the Caribbean late next year. For planning purposes we are considering Barbados as first landfall, but that will obviously be subject to change.

We'd like to see as much of the Caribbean as possible in the first six months of arriving, which I guess means an easy downwind sail to the north and then slow island hopping back again so that we can ride out hurricane season in Grenada.

How far north can we realistically expect to reach, and safely make it back in time? Our boat is a good passage maker but not particularly close winded, and we wouldn't enjoy day upon day of bashing to windward.

Are there any other routes that might work? We don't know at this stage whether we will be heading home in 2023 or whether we will push on to the Pacific. How would a route to the west of the Caribbean look?

There's a lot of information out there but it's a bit overwhelming, and it would be good to hear from people who have actually done it.
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Old 10-11-2020, 08:32   #2
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Re: Planning a route around the Caribbean

Try to make landfall as far north as possible, say Antigua, then north to St Barts, St Maarten and Anguilla before heading south through the more western islands, Saba, St Kitts.


You don't need to see every island, enjoying the place for a week is far better than moving every day.



Grenada is not hurricane free, if you are heading to the Pacific (highly recommended) then ABC's Columbia and Panama for the hurricane season will enable you to keep cruising.
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Old 10-11-2020, 09:16   #3
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Re: Planning a route around the Caribbean

I presume you're coming from Europe?

Honestly, passage-making in the Caribbean is not hard. Personally in your position and with your goals I'd start in Barbados then hop to Martinique and up the chain (reaching all the way). Around May/June wait for a NE'ly and sail straight to the Grenadines (or St. Lucia, but personally I'd skip it). From there you're in safe, easy range to go South if anything nasty pops up.

Bear in mind that if you want to go to the Pacific you'll want to leave the Caribbean around January/February to take advantage of the SP cruising season. So it's either Caribbean or West to the SP but not both in a single season.
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Old 11-11-2020, 07:53   #4
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Re: Planning a route around the Caribbean

Thanks.
Yes we're coming across from the UK, via the Canaries.
A northern landfall and then slowly working south makes sense.
It seems as though going any further north than about Anguilla will be difficult.

In terms of timing, I guess we're looking at arriving in the Carib December next year, making our way to Grenada by June, and then a slow trip westwards ready to start the Pacific crossing early 2023.

I'm curious about options around the north/west carib, perhaps stopping in at the famous Rio Dulce, but perhaps that would be fighting against the prevailing winds and too much to attempt.
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Old 11-11-2020, 11:24   #5
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Re: Planning a route around the Caribbean

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I'm curious about options around the north/west carib, perhaps stopping in at the famous Rio Dulce, but perhaps that would be fighting against the prevailing winds and too much to attempt.

YES. The western Carib is a whole extra season taking in DR, Cuba, Belize, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.


People get stuck in the Carib, we're too old, the boat is too old etc etc. Go to the Pacific you will never regret it and the Carib will still be there when you come back around.
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Old 11-11-2020, 14:23   #6
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Re: Planning a route around the Caribbean

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YES. The western Carib is a whole extra season taking in DR, Cuba, Belize, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.


People get stuck in the Carib, we're too old, the boat is too old etc etc. Go to the Pacific you will never regret it and the Carib will still be there when you come back around.
Haha that's exactly what everyone says about the Med. We will only end up in the Med if it's not going according to plan, we get humped crossing Biscay and get cold feet for the Atlantic.
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Old 14-11-2020, 14:44   #7
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Re: Planning a route around the Caribbean

So I've been giving this a bit more thought, and using the very useful DeepZoom Global Ocean Winds to see what the wind can be expected to do.

It looks as though you can carry favourable winds in a circuit of the Caribbean sea, heading to Florida, Yucatan, then south to Guatemala. At that point you face a 300nm upwind leg along the north coast of Honduras, but the Bay Islands offer places to stop and break up that leg. Then you go around the corner and back to favourable winds, on the way to the canal.

From what I've ascertained, mostly on Noonsite, the main argument against this route would be security. Honduras and Nicaragua in particular do not sound great (highest homicide rate in the world?). But clearly people do cruise here- there are marinas and other facilities. And it's not as though going the other way, past Venezuela and Colombia, would be a holiday either.

Anybody on here have experience of cruising this part of the world?
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Old 15-11-2020, 02:17   #8
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Re: Planning a route around the Caribbean

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So I've been giving this a bit more thought, and using the very useful DeepZoom Global Ocean Winds to see what the wind can be expected to do.

It looks as though you can carry favourable winds in a circuit of the Caribbean sea, heading to Florida, Yucatan, then south to Guatemala. At that point you face a 300nm upwind leg along the north coast of Honduras, but the Bay Islands offer places to stop and break up that leg. Then you go around the corner and back to favourable winds, on the way to the canal.

From what I've ascertained, mostly on Noonsite, the main argument against this route would be security. Honduras and Nicaragua in particular do not sound great (highest homicide rate in the world?). But clearly people do cruise here- there are marinas and other facilities. And it's not as though going the other way, past Venezuela and Colombia, would be a holiday either.

Anybody on here have experience of cruising this part of the world?

What you are suggesting is doable but would be a punishing trip to accomplish in one season because of the hurricanes June through November. There is also the Yucatan current to contend with not just wind. You need to be either north or south at the end of the sailing season June. To be sure that means either USA or Trinidad, F.Guyana, ABC's and Columbia. Venezuela used to be OK but alas no more so should be avoided.



Sailing from the southern end of the Caribbean islands to the ABC's and Columbia is an easy down wind sail. Columbia is now one of the safer south American countries.
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Old 15-11-2020, 05:10   #9
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Re: Planning a route around the Caribbean

We made landfall in Barbados and from there to Grenada and then slowly north to Antigua. We then avoided the hurricane season by going to the ABCs and from there to Colombia. Colombia is great and you could spend a lot of time there. After that, we went to San Blas and tHrough to the pacific. The South Pacific is soooo much better than the Caribbean. I wouldn’t consider going anywhere near Venezuela at the moment, although a very small number of people do.
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Old 15-11-2020, 11:23   #10
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Re: Planning a route around the Caribbean

Not a ton of planning needed here.
Once you're in the windward everything is pretty close to north/south, which means the trades are in your favor.

You can easily/safely spend as much time as you want hopping all the way north to antigua/barbuda and then either hop back south or make a 3 or so day run directly to grenada.
This is exactly what we did before this hurricane season, though we would have preferred hopping slowly south again... but, er, covid happened instead.
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Old 15-11-2020, 20:25   #11
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Re: Planning a route around the Caribbean

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Originally Posted by SY Kelpie View Post
So I've been giving this a bit more thought, and using the very useful DeepZoom Global Ocean Winds to see what the wind can be expected to do.

It looks as though you can carry favourable winds in a circuit of the Caribbean sea, heading to Florida, Yucatan, then south to Guatemala. At that point you face a 300nm upwind leg along the north coast of Honduras, but the Bay Islands offer places to stop and break up that leg. Then you go around the corner and back to favourable winds, on the way to the canal.

From what I've ascertained, mostly on Noonsite, the main argument against this route would be security. Honduras and Nicaragua in particular do not sound great (highest homicide rate in the world?). But clearly people do cruise here- there are marinas and other facilities. And it's not as though going the other way, past Venezuela and Colombia, would be a holiday either.

Anybody on here have experience of cruising this part of the world?
Not the sections you mention, but I've sailed west from the Caribbean to Panama twice and know a lot of people who have done it in reverse. Going East is not impossible especially if you have time. Some people hug the coast of Colombia and Venezuela, travelling mostly by day. Others go straight for Cuba, DR etc. Sometimes you can make it further east, either the Leewards with a breeze from the SE or the Windwards when the trades shift N'ly, which happens every now and again.
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Old 16-11-2020, 15:43   #12
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Re: Planning a route around the Caribbean

OK I think I'm convinced. I really wanted to see the Bahamas and the Pacific without some crazy windward slog back down through the islands. But they'll still be there for another day.
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Old 16-11-2020, 16:02   #13
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Re: Planning a route around the Caribbean

Don't forget there's a pandemic going on!
Many of the Caribbean has opened up but........you definitely want to to stay current on country requirements and this could ultimately decide which way to sail.
Here in the States, COVID has spiked over the last few weeks and will likely require governments to shut things down again.
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Old 17-11-2020, 01:54   #14
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Re: Planning a route around the Caribbean

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OK I think I'm convinced. I really wanted to see the Bahamas and the Pacific without some crazy windward slog back down through the islands. But they'll still be there for another day.

Go to the pacific while you are young.
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Old 17-11-2020, 02:13   #15
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Re: Planning a route around the Caribbean

ride out hurricane season in Grenada.


Grenada was hit by Hurricane Ivan and yachts were damaged. We know two who had insurance with Pataenius, the surveyor arrived on the the first plane in and the insurance was paid in one weeek. The only safe place is Trindad it has mountains along the north coast so the hurricanes bounce off it.
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