As a popular cruiser sailing saying goes, “Our plans are written in sand.”
While waiting for our supplies to arrive from the US and doing subsequent boat maintenance in Georgetown we have had plenty of time to think about where we want to go next.
Our first impulse was to head south through the Windward Passage to Cuba and then south to Port Antoni, Jamaica before sailing south to Cartegena, Columbia. However the more we heard about Cuba the less interested we were in going there. We have a keen sense of fairness, and from everything we learned about Cuba from other sailors and our research, fairness does not prevail in Cuba. We also talked to and read accounts from other sailors who had sailed from Port Antonia to Cartegena and in short, no one we talked to had a good sail. The path is slightly into the prevailing trades and there is a three quarter knot west setting current which forces slower boats like ours into a close reach against trades that strengthen to 25-30 knots off Columbia.
We then turned our attention to the route along the south coast of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. We figured we would get a better sailing approach for Cartegena if we left from the east coast of Hispaniola. However, after searching extensively for cruising guides we were not able to find enough information about this route. There appeared to be some viable stops along the west coast of Haiti but we learned there was a real risk of piracy and/or violent crime at those ports. The south coast of Haiti also did not look very promising, with a beat into very reliable easterly trades. One remote cape in particular, the aptly names Cabo Beata, looked particularly difficult to round against the trades.
Our bookshelves hold a plethora of information on the traditional “Thorny Path”. We have no less than four detailed cruising guides and complete charts through to Grenada. The Thorny Path takes sailors through the Turks and Caicos, along the North coast of the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico and eventually the Eastern Caribbean. However not only did this route look like an unappetizing bash against the trades, but we already find ourselves tired of the tourist dominated economy of the Bahamas and can’t see ourselves enjoying doing the traditional Eastern Caribbean sailing route which includes many economies dominated by Western tourists.
We turned our attention back to that big island on the south end of the Windward Passage. Jamaica. During our research into possible routes we learned about Port Antonio, Jamaica, a tourist port on the Northeast coast of Jamaica. Jamaica sounded neat with it’s own indigenous culture that has not yet been overwhelmed by Western tourists. Port Antonio seems also to have a boat maintenance facility we can make use of.
And then after Jamaica what next? A turn towards Jamaica means we are turning our back on the Eastern Caribbean. In the end, perhaps we just are not interested right now in a tour of beautiful islands with tourist dominated economies. Well not in the Caribbean, at least. The truth is we want to get to the Pacific sooner rather than later. Perhaps we are more “voyaging” than “cruising” sailors. So after Jamaica we will head directly south, via some very pretty but less visited islands and atolls to Panama. We hope to get through the Panama Canal and then evaluate whether we are ready to cross the Pacific this year.
So that is the plan. We leave when the weather allows… but we reserve the right to change our mind, because after all our plans are written in sand.