AN Caribbean Routes from Panama

an91 Panama to Central America 108

an92 Panama to the Gulf of Mexico and Florida 109

an93 Panama to Jamaica, Bahamas and USA 111

an94 Panama to Hispaniola 113

an95 Panama to Virgin Islands 114

an96 Panama to Lesser Antilles 115

an97 Panama to Colombia 115

an98 Panama to Venezuela and the ABC Islands 116

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AN90 Caribbean routes from Panama

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AN90 Caribbean routes from Panama

Most routes in the Caribbean Sea either start or end in Panama, and because they have many features in common it is worth considering them together. Because of the multitude of destinations, the routes are difficult to define, although there are certain considerations that have to be taken into account whichever route is contemplated. Most of these considerations are closely related to weather, and passages through the Caribbean are discouraged during the hurricane season, especially during the months of highest frequency, from August to October. Some of the late hurricanes actually form in the Caribbean and warnings are therefore shorter than when the depression has been tracked across the Atlantic. Rough weather can also be experienced in the Western Caribbean at the height of the winter trades, whereas in the Gulf of Mexico winter is associated with violent northerly storms. Another concern in the Gulf of Mexico are the strong currents whose direction is often different to that depicted on charts.

The entire area is affected by winter northers, although these winter storms gradually decrease in intensity further south and are not so strong south of Honduras. However, these northers, combined with strong NE trade winds can result in very strong winds described as intensified trades in the most southerly portion of the Caribbean Sea. From November to March the winds off the coast of Central America tend to be more northerly than the northeasterlies which prevail at other times of the year. This coast is particularly affected by land and sea breezes. The sea breeze commences from the NE in mid-morning and gradually increases, drawing around to the E between mid-afternoon and sunset. The breeze carries on moving around clockwise until in the night it blows moderately from the SE. In the more southern coastal areas this land breeze can become W and SW The summer rainy season is characterised by squally weather especially in the late afternoon. It is rarely calm and a similar pattern of land and sea breezes prevails as in the winter.

Eastbound passages from Panama can be very difficult at most times of the year, because of the prevailing direction of the winds and current. Many people are tempted to make this passage late in the year so as to arrive in the Lesser Antilles during the hurricane-free season. In such a case, the eastward passage must be made before the onset of the strong winter trades. Better and more comfortable passages have been made in late spring or early summer, although this has the disadvantage of arriving in the Lesser Antilles at the beginning of the hurricane season. In order to make this passage at the best time, and also avoid the hurricane season, there are two options. If the Panama Canal cannot be transited before winter it is better to wait until April or May and then head for Venezuela and the islands to the north of it. As this area is mostly outside the hurricane zone it is safe to cruise there until November when the

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