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Jonathan316 02-24-2004 07:08 PM

FL to the Caymans - which route?
Scratching chin and considering a cruise from Southern Florida to a primary goal at Cayman Brac (to see the Teignmouth Electron before she''s gone). Towards that end I would appreciate some advice.

Assuming we could leave anywhere between Miami and the Dry Tortugas and pretty much any time of year, what would be the preferable route and season for sailing around Cuba? East to the Windward Passage or west through the Yucatan Channel?

Could anyone share any real-world time estimates for sailing from the Keys to the Caymans, or the Keys through the Windward Passage to Jamaica? Or the Keys->Cancun then Cancun->Caymans?

Any advice or experiences would be sincerely appreciated.


WHOOSH 02-25-2004 12:44 AM

FL to the Caymans - which route?
Jonathan, either route can be made to work but they are quite different in terms of the time it would take and the diversity of cruising it would offer; I think your choice is more a function of what you want from the trip than about the destination. As you probably know, Passages South by VanSant would be your best reference for understanding wx patterns and monitoring wx, while Rauscher''s guide is the best for the W Carribean and Calder''s now dated guide gives a useful overview of wx systems, seasonal variations,routings, etc. I would strongly recommend against a summer/fall cruise due to the frequency (and destructive strength) of the storms that frequent the area.

If it were my choice to make, I''d definitely use the clockwise routing. IMO the advantages are:
1. the chance to cruise and enjoy the Bahamas, shake down the boat, and decent provisioning in Georgetown, Great Exuma
2. departure via the Ragged Keys or via Crooked/Acklins when leaving (I would probably not be tempted to stop at Great Inagua)
3. sail south thru the Windward Passage, expecting the perfunctory USCG boarding since that''s a choke point for drug deliveries into Haiti
4. if we were doing this in the early Spring or late Fall and prevailing conditions were moderate, I''d be eager to sail along Haiti''s S coast and revisit Ile a Vache, a wonderful experience that''s akin to walking thru the front cover of a 1930''s Nat''l Geographic and also very safe; short stays involve no officials or clearance efforts, and I''d be sure to catch Market Day at Madame Bernard, too
5. with/without Ile a Vache, I''d enjoy cruising the N coast of Jamaica; no clearance fees and a free transire make it simple/easy; John Lethbridge''s dated but still helpful guide well worth carrying
6. with a good f''cast for extended stable wx, I''d leave the anchorage at the far W end of Jamaica for Cayman Brac and be very careful about where I anchored on arrival, as the anchorage isn''t ideal and usually fairly active in prevailing conditions
7. continue on to G''town, GC (free moorings but don''t clear in on a weekend; very expensive) and take a breather by then entering North Sound and resting in the totally protected anchorages adjacent to the yacht club
8. begin heading back to FL with many cruising options open to me, and with this routing never requiring you to revisit places you''ve already seen nor needing to deal with the Cuban dilemma that, as U.S. citizens, we currently face


Jonathan316 02-26-2004 11:46 AM

FL to the Caymans - which route?
Once again I learn from your postings Jack (smile). Excellent perspective on the paper trail too..

Could you add any rough time estimates on those legs? How about on a closing leg from GC through the Channel back to the Keys?

Guess I''m hoping for hand-holding on a goal of fitting it into 3 weeks.


WHOOSH 02-26-2004 08:41 PM

FL to the Caymans - which route?

Oh golly, 3 weeks isn''t even close to the time I''m afraid you''ll need. Don''t forget you''ll occasionally need to accommodate frontal passages, at the very least during your Bahamas leg and again when striking out from either Isla Mujeres or rounding Cabo San Antonio and heading back to Florida. Discounting side treks, I make the approximate run from West Palm via the Windward Passage and subsequently via the Yucatan Straits back to Key West at 1800 NM or so; and you''d need to add some add''l distance from your departure point? Plus of course, making the effort doesn''t include the add''l time it takes to make it worthwhile.


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