AN Panama to the Gulf of Mexico and Florida






Distance (M)

Route AVCA AN920 Panama 9U26'N, 79'55'W

AN921 Roncador 13'30'N, 79'40'W AN922 Serrana 14°25'N, 79'47'W AN923 Cayman 19°23'N, 81527'W

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19'18'N, 81 °23'W

AN920 Panama

AN920 Panama

AN924 Sueno 14520'N, 80'45'W AN923 Cayman 19°23'N, 81'27'W AN924 Sueno

AN925 Swan 17'25'N, 85'50'W AN926 Sur 21t10'N, 86'42'W AN927 Yucatan 2r50'N, 85'10'W


Isla Mujeres 21'15'N, 86'45.5'W Galveston 29'18'N,.94*48'W

881 1599

As the direct route from Panama to the Gulf of Mexico passes close to a number of attractive cruising grounds, the voyage can be interrupted in any of these Central American destinations, as described in AN91. Northbound passages to the Yucatan Channel can be made either nonstop, albeit through an area encumbered by dangers, or can be interrupted at either Grand Cayman or Swan Island.

As in the case oi all Caribbean passages, the timing for this route is crucial. Apart from the risk of being caught by a hurricane, especially from July to October, many boats have got into difficulty when hit by a strong norther in the Gulf of Mexico. The whole area is affected by northers from November until the beginning of April and their effect can be felt as far south as Panama, although their strength is greatly diminished by the time the winds reach those latitudes. The violent conditions produced by the northerly wind blowing against the strong currents in the Gulf have caused boats to capsize or even founder. The best time to make this passage is from the middle of April to the end of June, when there is a reasonable chance of winds with a southerly component. Northbound passages can also be made from late October to early December, but the weather must be watched more carefully. Both periods avoid the worst of the win ter northers and fall outside the months with a high frequency of hurricanes. If the passage is made in winter, it is recommended to wait until immediately after a norther, when light conditions may be expected for a few days.

In the summer the prevailing winds are from the SE and the weather is rainy with heavy squalls and calm periods. From April to July land and sea breezes alternate along the south coast of the USA. The Gulf is one of the areas most affected by hurricanes between June and November, being threatened both by tropical storms that form in the Gulf itself and those travelling from other areas of the Caribbean. From September to November hurricanes spawned in the Western Caribbean are most likely to pass through the Yucatan Channel and then curve around north and east towards Cuba and Florida. Tornadoes, waterspouts, and arched squalls are also a feature of the hurricane season.

The prevailing winds in the Western Caribbean are NE to E, with a southern component making itself felt north of Yucatan. The currents along this route set in a NW direction attaining their strongest rate in the Yucatan Channel. The sets in the Gulf of Mexico are complex and difficult to predict, particularly in the area of the Dry Tortugas where extreme caution should be exercised.

Northbound boats have a choice of two routes, one which stays well offshore of all dangers and is more attractive to those intending to stop at Grand Cayman (AN92A), and a slightly shorter route taking a more direct course to the Yucatan Channel (AN92B). From WP AN920, north of the Panama Canal entrance, route AN92A goes due north to WP AN921, 20 miles east of Roncador Bank. The northerly course will be maintained to the next WP AN922 east of Serrana Bank. From there, a course is set for WP AN923 off Grand Cayman. On arrival off Georgetown contact Port Security on VHF channel 16, which is monitored permanently.

Boats taking route AN92B, from WP AN920 should set a course for WP AN924, halfway between Sueno and Serrana Banks, both of which have lights. From there, boats that have decided to stop at Grand Cayman should alter course almost due north over a shallow bank to WP AN923, off the NW extremity of Grand Cayman. From there, the course turns east to reach the capital Georgetown. Rather than stop in Grand

Cayman, another convenient stop on the way to the Yucatan Channel is at Swan Island. If such a stop is considered, from WP AN924 the course is altered to pass over Gorda Bank to WP AN925 off Swan Island's eastern point. Going north from Swan Island, one can either head straight for the Yucatan Channel or make another stop at Isla Mujeres, which is a favourite place at which to wait for favourable conditions to cross the Gulf of Mexico. To call at IsLliviujeres, set a course for WP AN926, SE of Punta Sur, at the island's SE extremity. Isla Mujeres is an official port of entry into Mexico. If no stops are intended anywhere en route, from WP AN924, a course should be set for WP AN927 off Cuba's Cape San Antonio, which marks the eastern side of the Yucatan Channel.

Whether sailing nonstop or planning to visit some places on the way, this route has many attractions for boats bound for US ports in the Gulf of Mexico as well as on both coasts of Florida. Other routes, such as AN93, should be considered for more northern destinations on the east coast of the USA.

Best time: Tropical storms: Charts:


Cruising guides: Waypoints:

April to June, Novem!: June to November

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Cruising Guide to the Caribbean, Coastal Cruising Guide to the Atlantic Coast, Yachtsman's Guide to the Bahamas.



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AN930 Panama 9'26'N, 79*55'W

AN931 Plumb 17°45'N, 76'50'W

Kingston 544 17*58% 76'48'W


AN93Q Panama

AN932 Morant I7C15'N, 75'32lW AN933 Navassa 18'25'N, 75=16'W

AN934 Maisi 20°00'N, 73t55'W

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