AN Bahamas to Panama and Central America

Best time:

April to May, November to December

Trovical storms:

June to November


BA: 4400



BA: 7A, 70

US: 147, 148

Cruising guides:

Cruising Guide to the Caribbean, Cruising Guide to the Northwest


Way r oi nts:



Landfall Destination Distance (M)

Roule WI14

AN1140 Matthew Town AN1141 Maisi N

20"56'N, 73'42'W

20'23'N, 74'05'W

AN1142 Navassa

18'25'N, 75'16'W

AN1143 Morant

AN1144 Panama Cristobal 786

}7i15'N, 75'32'W

9°26.25'N, 79'55'W 9'21'N, 79'55'W

to avoid the numerous fish traps. Regardless of the Bahamian port of departure, all variations of this route converge on the Windward Passage. Matthew Town, the main settlement on Great Inagua Island, is a good place to stop before negotiating the Windward Passage and is used as a hypothetical departure point. A course for WP AN1141, eight miles NE of Cuba's Cape Maisi, takes one into the southbound lane of the traffic separation zone which operates off that cape. Having negotiated the Windward Passage, the route to Panama can pass on either side of Navassa Island, but its western side is to be preferred in strong winds as seas break on the shallows off the SW extremity of Hispaniola. A course should be set for WP AN1142,10 miles west of Navassa Island. If a stop in Jamaica is not intended, the course leads to WP AN1143 about 20 miles SE of Morant Cays. From there, the course should be altered for WP AN1144, the seabuoy off the Panama Canal entrance. The recommended route across the Caribbean Sea stays clear of the various banks and shallows. Allowance should be made for leeway if passing close to Pedro and New Banks as the current sets towards them.

The winds are favourable along this route throughout the year, although both the hurricane season and the strong trade winds of winter should be avoided. In the latter case boisterous sailing conditions can be predicted with certainty from January to March when the trades are at their strongest. The extent of the hurricane season is less precisely defined and the actual months when there is no danger of hurricanes are the same winter months from January to April. The intermediate months have a much lower frequency of tropical storms, but hurricanes have been recorded even as late as December, making passages through the Caribbean more dangerous at the end than at the beginning of the season. This is the reason why southbound passages should be planned for late winter or early spring.

For boats bound for Central American destinations, whether in Belize, Guatemala, or Honduras, the westbound route from the Windward Passage runs between Cuba and Jamaica, with possible stops in either of those countries as well as Grand Cayman, which is also close to the direct route. Details for the route westward of Jamaica are given in route AN108 (page 124). Boats bound for the south coast of Cuba can clear in at Santiago de Cuba (19'59'N, 75°53'W).

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