May to June, November June to November BA: 4012 US: 120
Cruising guides: Cruising Guide to the Caribbean, Panama Canal Pilot's Handbook.
Intermediate Landfall Destination Distance (M)
Rtiule AM47A AN1471 Brenton 41'24'N. 71'16'W
AN1474 Salvador 24'10'N, 74'35'W AN1475 Mira-Por-Vos 22'08'N, 74°25'W AN1476 Maisi N 20'23'N, 74'05'W
AN1477 Navassa AN1478 Panama 18'25'N, 75'16'W 9'26.25'N, 79'55'W
AN 1472 Chesapeake AN1475 Mira-Por-Vos
Route AM47C AN 1473 off Beaufort 34'40'N, 76'40'W
AN1476 MaisiN AN1477 Navassa
AN 1478 Panama
Cristobal 9'21'N, 79'55'W
AN1475 Mira-Por-Vos AN1476 MaisiN
AN1477 Navassa AN1478 Panama
As the direct route from ports in North America to Panama has to pass through the Bahamas, few boats do it without stopping there. The best times are at the change of seasons and the recommended routes are described in AN146. The difficult part of a nonstop passage is the crossing of the Bahamas, where shallow banks, extensive reefs, and unpredictable currents call for accurate navigation. As suggested in AN146, it is best to sail directly to the Southern Bahamas (AN147A) and make landfall on San Salvador at WP AN1474. The route from there crosses the Southern Bahamas through the Crooked Passage, passing west of Acklins Island and through the Mira-Por-Vos Passage and WP AN1475. The route reaches the Windward Passage at WP AN1476, off Cuba's Cape Maisi. An alternative landfall in the Bahamas is at
Mayaguana, but as its main settlement Abrams Town is not a port of entry, San Salvador is preferable.
The trade winds are usually lost in the lee of Hispaniola and winds are often light in the Windward Passage but they are picked up again as one moves south. The remaining waypoints mark the route across the Caribbean Sea, which stays east of Jamaica and the reefs south of that island. Landfall in Panama is made at WP AN1478, at the entrance into the Panama Canal. Boats approaching the breakwaters at the entrance into Cristobal should call Traffic Control on VHF channel 12. Traffic lights regulate the passage between the breakwaters, but small boats may pass if they keep close to the side, both when passing through the breakwaters and in the shipping channels. Further details about the Panama Canal are given on page 489.
The best months for the passage south are May-June and November, when favourable winds can be expected for most of the way and both the danger of hurricanes and winter northers is acceptably low. The second half of May and the first half of November are considered the best times for a nonstop passage to Panama. If leaving from one of the ports in North Carolina (AN147C), a favourable forecast is essential for the first leg across the Gulf Stream, after which winds should be E or SE for most of the way to the Bahamas. For the passage through the Caribbean, favourable winds will also be found in winter, from December to April, although the strong trade winds can make sailing in the Western Caribbean uncomfortable. The route south of the Bahamas is described in detail in AN114 (page 129).
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