AN Panama to Central America

voyage can be continued to the Lesser Antilles. If the Canal is transited in late October or early November and the trade winds are already too strong to attempt a direct passage, it may be worth approaching the Lesser Antilles from the north, by sailing first to the Virgin Islands via Puerto Rico. This latter course of action will depend greatly on the windward performance of tKe boat, as most of the passage will be hard on the wind. An easier option would be to reach the Eastern Caribbean in shorter stages, either by following the north coast of South America via the San Bias Islands, Colombia, the ABC Islands, and Venezuela, or to take a northern sweep via the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Whichever alternative is chosen, the onward passage from Panama should be carefully planned to avoid being immobilised in Panama while waiting for the trade winds to subside.

Best time;

November. mid-April to June

Tropical storms:

June to November

Charts:

BA: 4402

US: 402

Pilots:

BA: 7A, 69A

US: 148

Cruisinc guides:

Cruising Guide to the Northwest Caribbean, Cruising Guide to Belize and

Mexico's Caribbean Coast, Cruising Guide to the Caribbean.

Way points:

ipWttijlft Departure

intermediate Landfall

Destination

Distance (M)

Rnuto \VMA

AN910 Panama

AN911 Roncador

9'26'N, 79'55'W

13D30'N, 79C40'W

AN912 Serrana

illilllllllillillllillip

14e25,N,79'47,W

vKSlPptffiis

AN913

15'35'N. 81'30'W

AN914 Gorda

ii||il8i|l(iii§Pjpi!

16i00,N,82305,W

AN915 Hobbies

Guanaja

735

16'10'N, 83°10'W

16'28'N, 85'54'W

Coxen Hole

773

16'18'N, 86'35'W

Livingston

900

15'49'N, 88'45'W

Belize City

875

17"30'N, 88'10'W

WAVI'OINTS:

Departure

Intermediate

1 I'.fldlnll

Destination

PMihiiv f.MJ

Route A Vil H AN910 Panamn

12'01'N. 83'44'W

188 273

On leaving the Panama Canal area there are two alternatives, either a direct offshore route to the north of Honduras (AN91 A), or an indirect route for those who intend to cruise on their way through Honduras, Belize, or other parts of Central America (AN91B).

The more direct offshore route requires careful navigation, especially at the beginning, because of the numerous banks and cays that lie off the coast of Central America, From WP AN910, off the entrance into the Panama Canal, the course goes due north to WP AN911, 20 miles east of Roncador Bank. A northerly course will be maintained to the next WP AN912 to pass at a safe distance east of Serrana Bank. From there, a NW course for WP AN913 follows a relatively deeper channel. Boats bound for the Bay Islands of Honduras or beyond, from WP AN913 should set a course for WP AN914, 20 miles ENE of Gorda Cay. As this course leads over some shallow spots it should only be taken if the weather is not too rough, otherwise the seas breaking over the banks can make conditions hazardous. The course from Gorda Cay passes north of Hobbies Cays through WP AN915, from where a clear course leads to the islands of Guanaja or Roatan (Coxen Hole), both of which have ports where entry formalities into Honduras can be completed.

Boats bound for Guatemala's Rio Dulce can clear into that country at Livingston. From the Bay Islands, the route continues into the Gulf of Honduras. A shallow bar at the river entrance has to be negotiated to reach Livingston, and this is best done at high tide.

The extensive cruising grounds of Belize are easily reached from the Bay Islands. Boats normally clear into Belize at Belize City.

The alternative inshore route (AN91B) follows the Mosquito Coast of Nicaragua and Honduras. On leaving the Panama Canal, a first stop can be made in Costa Rica's Puerto Limon. If continuing along the coast to Nicaragua, the official port of entry there is El Bluff.

Those who take the offshore route on leaving Panama can stop at either San Andres or Providencia, two islands just north of Panama which belong to Colombia. The GPS coordinates of the landfall buoy off Puerto Isabel, on Providencia, have been reported as 13°24'N, 81°21.6'W. However, if conditions are unfavourable or visibility poor, it is strongly recommended to take the offshore route described earlier and stay well clear of all dangers.

The cruising grounds of Honduras, Guatemala, and Belize can be explored before rejoining the offshore route which continues to the Gulf of Mexico as described in AN92.

Best time:

November, mid-April to June

Tropical storms:

June to November

Charts:

Pilots:

BA: 7A, 69A, 70

US: 147, 148

Cruising guides:

Cruising Guide to the Northwest Caribbean, Cruising Guide to Belize and

Mexico's Caribbean Coast, Cruising Guide to the Florida Keys.

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