We came up with the idea of sailing north, because we wanted to meet some friends in Bay Islands. Sailing north from Panama is not what you are looking for. Especially when you are chilled, seasoned cruiser and you know already that sailing upwind with waves building up along the Caribbean Sea is not going to be pleasant. You don’t want to put yourself or your boat in those conditions if you don’t have to. We don’t have a tight holiday schedule. But there is a time. Twice a year, where the conditions change and it is OK-ish.

Don’t get me wrong, people are sailing there all year long. And it is possible, but most of the time there is a list of so called “showstoppers”. Showstopper is something that stops the decision to lift an anchor and go sailing. For some, it is the possibility of the hurricane or tropical storm, for others big short waves and current building up during winter months. For me personally, it is the thunderstorms during wet season. Hurricanes/tropical storms are kind of predictable. They don’t happen over night. The hurricane hole in Guatemala is not that far, so you have a great chance of hiding in time. Thunderstorms on the other hand, basically don’t stop in the wet season. We have sailed this area with thunderstorms around us, massive lightning, and big squalls. If I am not forced to that, I would like to continue my life without that form of entertainment.

Planning the northbound passage

Distance from Panama to Honduran Bay Islands is about 750Nm. It could be shorter, but due to the piracy by the Nicaraguan coast, you have to plan a big detour (for details, see the map below). So we were looking for 5 days of reasonable weather forecast. With all that in mind, we spent October and November relaxing in San Blas, waiting for good weather window. “good time” to sail north is mostly at the change of seasons. That means May- mid June and end of November till mid December. After that, trade wind kicks in in the East, and El Norte in the North. Begining of trade wind season is called Christmas Winds. Sometimes it lasts for a week or two, but we’ve seen also a month and more. We crossed the Atlantic few years ago during Christmas Winds. It was very eventful. From zero wind and glassy seas in the middle of the Ocean, to 40kn and 4-5m breaking waves, hand-steering the whole thing. From the other side blows El Norte – a massive wind from the North America, which affects the coastal waters from Yucatan in Mexico, Cuba to Honduras or even Jamaica.

north from Panama


So what’s going on in that area? Here is what we found out:
– the area marked white represents the shallows with infamous Gorda Banks, where most pirate attacks happened. you should stay as far as 60-100 Nm away
– the area marked yellow is patrolled by Colombian Armada, they have several boats and resources to use them, aparently same is with Jamaican coastguard. It is all due to the drug trafficking, so they might be very serious. This info could be also helpful, as you can call them on the vhf i.c.e. (You won’t see them on the AIS)
– between 3-4 there are several rocks sticking out of the water, and this is also the zone where the equatorial current is leaving the Caribbean Sea, so the current can add few knots , but also can increase the swell
– around point 5 – there is a Honduran navy base. Due to the swell it is not a good place to stay long, but in case of emergency, you can stop there to ask for help
– we got some advice from people who sailed there many times to plan the passage that way so you would be between the 3-4-5 in higher seas, as piracy happens mostly when the sea is flat


By the end of the first week of December we finally got a forecast for 5 days of nice wind and low seas. 15-20kn of ENE, waves 1.5m (significant), E swell. 3 days of easy with rougher weather in the end. You probably cannot get any better, at least I haven’t seen better one this season.
Coast of Panama, Linton Bay, is a place where parts of equatorial current that runs across the Caribbean Sea is turning back towards Colombia. The sea gets very confused in the shallow waters. After few days of strong NE winds, it was amplified. First few hours was like sailing in the wash machine. Later, the waves finally got some rythm and we started sailing north as planned, but…

Sea sick? Me? Never🤣🤣🤣

…they say there is a sea state for everyone. Meaning if you sail long enough, you will eventually find yourself in the sailing conditions that would make you sick. So… after almost 30 years of sailing various seas, I finally found mine. I got sick few hours after we left Linton and stayed that way for next two days. On top of that, we realized that the water system was not working at all! We had water in the tanks, pump was working, but nothing was coming out of the taps. Guess what – we don’t have any toilet paper onboard, we use bidet system in the toilet! Painful…..

Having some past experience with disconnected pipes, and hundreds liters of fresh water in bilges, we established healthy habit of switching off the water pump during sailing. No different this time. Bilges were dry. Marcin made several attempts to find a problem, but you can imagine how the 42 footer jumps on the 3m waves. He managed to find out that pipes indeed disconnected, but unfortunately it happened under the kitchen cabinets! Zero access, impossible to fix it on the way. Adding to it my (and puppy’s) seasickness, Marcin made an executive decision to change the course to the Colombian island – San Andres. If not for that water system failure, we would probably continue… I mean, how long can this sea sickness last? Asking, I am new to that business 😀

San Andres for Christmas

We didn’t plan it, but you know what Neptune/Poseidon does when he hears sailor’s planning? – He/She is roaring “bahahahah…”
In San Andres we learned that none of the available fittings could solve our problem, so we blinded leaking pipe and decided that we will fix it somewhere else. This is how the sailors life looks like – you fix your boat in some completely unplanned locations, based on parts that are available. Temporary solutions have to last, so you’d better do it right! 🙂

Anchorage in San Andres was almost empty, but one of the boats turned to be SHADOW, with friendly faces on board. Vincent was very happy to see Kevin, we were happy to see Timo, and Matt was happy to see Ingo again. We checked in, fixed our problem, but the weather window was gone. Squalls started to reach 30+knots, wind turned N and we were stuck!
We spent Christmas in San Andres waiting for the next weather window, which might be next week or next month. Meantime we will try to find some good dancing as the New Year’s Eve is almost here!


north from Panama

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  1. Hello Kasia and White Dog crew, after reading the above I understand that you are stuck, and have to celebrate new years eve, not in the place you were sailing to.
    As we are 3 hours from the New Year, I quess this message will be in time to wish you all a very pleasant evening and a very good, healthy and save and sound and enjoyable 2023. Very Kind Greetings and (Tot ziens)

    1. We are kind of weather-wise stuck:) For now we enjoy where we are and try get the best of that geographical location. Tuesday we move a little bit further north to Isla Providencia – apparently the diving is divine there! HAPPY NEW YEAR! Dolf. Big hugs from us!

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