In the weeks since our last post, we have covered roughly 700 miles. The strong trade winds have been both our ally and our nemesis. In the words of Robert Service the winds have at times seemed “a solid thing.” As a character in this year’s adventure, the wind merits an introduction. .
Amanda Delaney, a meteorologist and weather router, explains that
two features govern Caribbean winds: a high pressure system in the North Atlantic and the northern Caribbean; and a thermal trough of low pressure in the SW Caribbean and along the NW coast of South America. Delaney further explains that an “interaction between these features will typically bring NE to easterly Trade Winds across the Caribbean” and advises boat travel from “November through March . . . be done ahead of cold fronts in the NW Caribbean with plans to stop frequently in ports” such as San Andres, Roatan, Grand Cayman and Cancun. The cold fronts that Delaney describes interrupts the Trades with strong north winds. For those keeping track we are heading north.
Thus, Delaney’s summary has characterized our strategy for leaving the San Blas (the location of our last post): wait for a weather window and then head northwest for San Andres (on the weather map below a speck on the weather map below at 12N and 82W), 260 miles north of the San Blas and east of Nicaragua.
For example, this wind forecast from Passage Weather for February 25 shows north winds of 20-25 knots from the Gulf of Mexico through the Yucatan Channel and along the Yucatan Peninsula south to Belize and Honduras. The light blue area off the coast of Nicaragua depicts East Northeast winds of 10-15 knots. There are also East winds of 20-25 knots off of the Colombian coast.
Had this been our forecast in January (the above figure is only for illustration) it would have made heading north from the San Blas Islands (our location as of our last post) to San Andres (that black speck at 12N and about 82W) a bit iffy because of the north winds of 10-15 knots at the very bottom of the picture right above Panama.
In early January, we actually found a favorable window with East Northeast winds that we used for a two night passage to San Andres. With winds averaging 15-20 knots, Elizabeth Jean bolted forward, the bit in her teeth for a spirited ride north. As we adjusted our course to take the 7-8 foot seas more comfortably on our beam we enjoyed our first taste of Caribbean sailing. We arrived in San Andres on January 6.
What have we been up to for the last 7 weeks? Stay tuned for future posts.
For those interested in exploring Passage Weather and other weather forecasting sites see the following: