Friday, May 17, 2019

Making Good Speed, Caribbean vs. Pacific

May 17
16.6N 81.3W

Intermezzo had a noon to noon run of 155 nautical miles, one of our best days ever, an average speed of 6.5 knots. And we continue to move along at that pace, which means we could arrive at Grand Cayman tomorrow evening instead of Sunday morning. That would be nice.

An alarm went off early this morning letting me know that the house batteries fell below 12 volts. Cloudy skies have reduced how much solar power we are generating and the autopilot has been working hard in the confused seas, increasing power demand. So we started a diesel to limit further discharge of the batteries and took the opportunity to make some water, too.

If you look at Intermezzo's track at you will see that we have been down the Pacific coast of Mexico and Central America and now we are sailing up the Caribbean coast of same. I've been reflecting on the differences in the sailing between the two bodies of water. Here are some of my observations:

The water on the Caribbean side is more clear. I'm not sure why this is; less nutrients in the water?

Tides in the Pacific are much greater. We had a 16.5 tide on the Pacific side of the Panama Canal. At Isla Providencia the tide difference was only 1.25 feet.

Winds on the Caribbean blow steadily from the same direction for days. The Pacific winds are much more variable.

The Caribbean has squalls. We rarely encountered them on the Pacific coast, except around Panama and southern Costa Rica.

The ocean swells in the Caribbean are steeper and closely spaced, not like the long, gentle swells of the Pacific.

The Caribbean has coral reefs and sea mounts far offshore. These are rare in along the Pacific coast.

There is much more sea life along the Pacific coast; lots of dolphins, birds and pelagic fish. So far we have only seen a few dolphins, one bird and lots of flying fish while sailing in the Caribbean.

Of course, my observations are specific to the track we sailed so far at the times we were sailing it. Things could be different if we had taken different routes at different times. Yet the differences are great enough as to be obvious to a casual observer like me.