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Panama to Windward Islands

By doina — last modified May 15, 2009 07:42 AM

Published: 2009-05-15 07:42:58
Topics: Caribbean Sea
Countries: Jamaica , Panama

14 May 2008

I have been trying to get some information on the least aggravating route to get from Panama to say Jamaica or better (maybe the BVIs). It looks like a good time to go would be about mid-November 2008, hopefully after the end of the hurricane season. Just wondering if anyone had some experience of this passage.

Generally the winds in the Caribbean are NE at the start of winter and veer to E and then ESE as winter progresses, so by February they are often from E and by April may blow from ESE or even SE. So, a passage from Panama to Jamaica or even BVI has a better chance of favourable winds late in the season, rather than early (November).

Reply from a cruiser: May 15 2009

Boat: "Alba" (Hallberg-Rassy 42)
Crew: Sergio Mauri and crew Frank Costella (from Jamaica to PR)

Time: Departure Shelter Bay Marina, Colon, Panama, 14th March 2009. Arrival Chaguaramas, Trinidad, 20th April.

Legs: Panama to Port Antonio, Jamaica. Jamaica to Boca Chica, Dominican Republic. DR to Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico to Rodney Bay, St. Lucia. St. Lucia to Bequia, Grenada and Trinidad.

Total time under way: about 15 days.

Distance: about 1850 miles.

With almost constant strong northeastelies at fist it looked like leaving Colon would have to wait until April or May. But GribUS gave a good 5-day weather window starting on 14th March which proved correct. Still, the first three days were hard work: beating into NE15 to 20 knots, plus a current from the same direction, and working hard to gain some easting under engine when set too close to the Nicaragua side and its sandbanks.

It took six days to reach Port Antonio. After that we were lucky as the trades were rarely more than 10-15 knots so going to windward under engine was acceptable if not comfortable. In my case it was a trip only possible with a lot of engine hours (300!).

A good plan is to tuck close near the South coast of Hispaniola and Puerto Rico and then either continue on to St.Croix before heading towards the Windwards or strike southheast towards Martinique or St. Lucia, like I did, depending on conditions.

Sergio Mauri