You are only seeing one set of routes to the E Caribbean because the only other options when departing from the Panhandle are via the Yucatan Channel, after which you get to slog all the way across the Caribbean against wind, wave & current OR you pass by Key West and do the same obnoxious run along the Old Bahama Channel while trying to a) dodge shipping and b) staying 12 NM off Cuba.
Assuming neither of those appeal (and they shouldn''t...) and you pass thru the Seven Mile Bridge cut near Vaca Cay, you can conceptually choose one of two options: island hop as you started doing last time, or try for an extended offshore run from the Eastern Bahamas to the Virgins or PR
using a frontal passage. This occasionally works - it depends on the front being somewhat benign and also stalling - but most boats end up sliding south after the front''s N winds clock back to the SE and you begin painfully slugging into it.
VanSant''s book is excellent IMO and his advice on prevailing conditions and watching weather can be read multiple times with value coming from each reread.
One last thought: don''t be too quick to dismiss Puerto Rico. It''s a gem as a cruising destination all on its own, it offers numerous logistical benefits (USPS service, 800#s, etc.) and perhaps most important, it will help any American to become more knowledgeable about one of our Commonwealths that has been poorly treated for perhaps 500 years and also needs some help in growing up and escaping its indulged, dysfunctional life style. But aside from its value as a Civics Lesson, each of the four PR
coasts offers a unique and worthwhile experience. And Steve Pavlidis'' new guide (with which we did a trial run before it was finalized for publication) was a great companion; the chartlets are outstanding.