Sint Maarten to Panama – A Change of Plans

Why Panama?

It’s pretty surreal. After all the back-and-forth on our future plans, it’s a great feeling to finally point the bow to our next destination with some certainty. Our original plan was to loiter around the Windward Islands for the 2021 hurricane season. While we do have insurance, we’re not covered against named storm damage unless we are south of 10° North.

So the plan was to hang around Grenada, St Vincent and The Grenadines. If a storm threatened (historically unlikely), we would head west to Bonaire, and if that was still not enough (historically highly unlikely) we would continue to Panama.

Our longer-term plan was to explore the other spots in the Caribbean we really wanted to see (St Lucia, Antigua, Martinique and more) after the hurricane season. We would then be in Bermuda by April to stage for the trip to the Azores in May, and the Med beyond that.

Several problems with this scenario presented itself, not least of which the continued lockdowns in the Caribbean due to COVID. Additionally, uncertainty in Europe over new COVID variants, additional lockdowns, and an unbelievable lack of transparency when it comes to the treatment of British sailors in EU areas post-Brexit (we travel on our British passports) made the whole thing very uncertain.

After much discussion and looking at the state of countries and what we want to achieve, we have decided to point our bows to the setting sun, and head to Panama! So we’ve embarked on a 1300 nautical mile journey across the Caribbean Sea from St Maarten to Panama.

We are really excited about the possibilities this presents. Not only can we spend time in Panama (including amazing places like the San Blas) but we can transit to the Pacific where we plan on spending time in Costa Rica. We’ve heard the Pacific side of Costa Rica is spectacular.

We’re then hoping to reach the Galapagos, then head north to Mexico, and work our way north to the Sea of Cortez, Cabo and – eventually – the US West Coast. At this stage, the game plan is to reach Alaska – whether the summer of 2022 or 2023 will all depend on how “stuck” we get along the way.

Day 1 – 20 July 2021

Noon position: N 17°43.093’ W 63°37.419’

We left the Port de Plaisance marina in St Maarten yesterday (you can only leave at certain times due to the controlled opening times of the Simpson Bay Bridge) and headed to Phillipsburg, a short hop to the east. We dropped the hook in the lee of 3 cruise ships silently brooding at the main dock, and jumped in the water to give the hull a good scrubbing. After 9 weeks in the marina at Port de Plaisance, she needed a little TLC below the waterline.

Since departing this morning at 5:30am we’ve had steady east winds at 17-20 knots, gusting to 23 knots. To make the most of favorable ocean currents, we are skirting along the edges of both St Croix and Puerto Rico before making a turn to the southwest toward our destination – Bocas in Panama. As we are not able to sail dead downwind, we need to create an angle between the direction we are heading and the direction the wind is blowing, so we are zig-zagging across our route (known as gybing) which means we need to cover more miles in order to progress toward our intended goal.

Panama Day 1

All is well – Chef has prepared a simply mind boggling amount of amazing food and snacks for the journey, and no doubt I will gain a few pounds before we reach the shores of Panama!

More updates to follow in the coming days.

In fact, my intention is to become more active on the website/blog, and on our Instagram accounts, so subscribe to the blog for more updates (including daily updates while making way) and check us out on Instagram: @svdoublestar and @dschefengineer.

More to follow.

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