09 January 2018 | Anse d'Arlet
I was in the water scraping the barnacles off our new, expensive and apparently ineffective anti-fouling when I spotted these little guys by the anchor chain.
These are some of the many colors they managed to produce in the space of ten minutes. They stayed brown when near the (rusty) anchor chain (1-3), became mottled in open water (4) and produced false eyes and irridescent pale colors when I got too close. It is rare to get in the water and not see something interesting.
Back in the Water
07 January 2018 | Anse d'Arlet
Only snorkeling but a step in the right direction. There was a lot of swell and not great visibility so we spent our time looking at the tops of large boulders. There were masses of small creatures, most of them moving way to fast in the swell for my photographic skills. This beautiful sea urchin was moving at just the right speed....
It is about 2" point to point and the color has not been manipulated at all. That is just how he looked
We are back in Petite Anse waiting for a big blow to pass over before we head back up to St Maarten via Guadeloupe and possibly Antigua. Hopefully we will only be there about a week before we can say goodbye to the Eastern Caribbean and sail down to Bonaire. It is a one way ticket but we have talked it through a lot and we are ready to move on.
03 January 2018 | Marin, Martinique
More local fauna. I am enjoying photography with the Pixel 2. It may not be a 'real' camera but it is small and clever - enough for me at the moment.
A French Walk 3
31 December 2017 | Morne Gommier, Marin
Had to post this portrait of nonchalance.
A French Walk 2
31 December 2017 | Morne Gommier, Marin
There were lovely flowers by the side of the road all the way up the hill.
A French Walk 1
31 December 2017 | Morne Gommier, Marin
We decided we had been sitting around too long and needed to get some altitude. The map showed a number of interesting trails up the nearby hill to a viewpoint at 750', the perfect destination. Anyway the first three trails all ended up at a fence with a big and unpleasant dog, very reminiscent of our experience in Provence. In the end we took the dinghy to a spot further along the bay and walked up the road. When we got to the top the viewpoint was 2EU to get in and the gate was padlocked anyway - all very French..... It really did not matter because there were excellent views from the road up.
The rain held off until we were in the middle of the bay heading home so we got a delightful fresh water shower as well. A fine outing.
Life on a Boat
28 December 2017 | Marin, Martinique
We are still in something of a hiatus dealing with health issues and bouncing between St Anne's and Marin so we have been in 'home improvement' mode. I have been cleaning fans and repairing the odd loose item and Janaki has been squeezing the last drop out of the galley storage space with very elegant pockets.
I have also been pondering why we are so busy all the time and fall into bed exhausted by 9pm. This led me to thinking about modern conveniences and, more to the point, not having them. So here is a partial list, in no particular order, of what we are managing without: a car, mains electricity, mains gas, mains water, mains sewage, trash pickup, AC power, powered kitchen appliances, microwave, washing machine, dryer, more than two gas rings, sewing machine, continuous hot water, broadband Internet, TV (Yeah!), snail mail, packages, Amazon shopping (Grrr...), Easy access to a plumber/electrician/technician/etc.
There are ways of working round all of this but everything takes more work and more time. Taking out the trash requires an often wet dinghy ride. Disposing of sewage means upping anchor, heading offshore then back to re-anchor. Provisioning is a major project. We look for stores within reach of a dinghy dock or get familiar with local buses. So, just living on a boat takes a lot of time and effort without even getting to the bits of boat constantly crying out for attention.
But a great thing about this lifestyle is how aware you become. You are constantly reminded about how much power/water/bandwidth you consume and how much waste you create. We make all our electricity and water but we carefully ration both to stay within an energy budget. For instance we cannot make ice and water on the same day and charging devices is a sunny daytime job.
None of the process is hidden from view by the 'system'. So, life without most of the conveniences of Western life is actually both fine and satisfying. Hopefully we can take this philosophy with us when we eventually return to life ashore.
25 December 2017 | St Anne's, Martinique
We hope you are all having a great Christmas and are looking forward to the New Year. All is well on Leela despite squally weather. Blog postings are a bit thin for now as we are pretty much repeating last season at the moment. Once we break the bonds of the trade winds and commit to heading West I will pick up the pace.
Anyway, take care
Graham & Janaki
19 December 2017 | St Anne's Martinique
We have now arrived in St. Anne's on the SE corner of Martinique where we plan to spend Christmas before slowly heading back up to St Martin via Dominica and Guadeloupe.
This is significant for a couple of reasons. The first is that is likely to be the furthest east we ever sail and the second is that today might be the last time we thrash upwind into 25kts for a very long time. It was actually a great sail so we might have to do it for fun ....
The cloud? I just liked it's optimism when surrounded by dark shadows.
12 December 2017 | Fort de France, Martinique
We are now anchored off Fort de France, Martinique after a 250nm sail down from Sint Maarten. That was one hell of a 'warm up'.... We knew the first night would be 'lively' but if we waited any longer we would probably have been motoring most of the way. Anyway, we were not nearly hardened enough for total darkness, pouring rain, 8' seas and 35kt squalls. Just staying oriented was actually quite a challenge. We had a few dramas and thoroughly tested the new furling system which performed perfectly - unlike the crew - oh well... Anyway we got through the first night without any breakages or injuries and the weather settled down to absolutely perfect sailing conditions, 3' seas and 15kts on the beam much of the time, allowing us to tear along at 7kts and make up for the slow first night and the longish stretches hove-to sorting things out and getting a breather. We only had to motor a little down the wind shadow of Dominica and again along the Martinique coast. We had a thorough debrief at the end of the trip and came away with a number of really important lessons-learned which I will articulate in different posts for my own future reading. We are still not happy with our squall-management techniques and will be talking to a few more seasoned sailors about that.
Anyway, we have 'arrived' in the sense that the to-do list does not dominate our lives and we will very soon be somewhere we can swim and perhaps even dive. We are determined to slow things down and enjoy the 'being there'.
We hope you are all doing well.
05 December 2017 | Simpson Bay, Sint Maarten
Not sure what to do about this one. I would like to put him ashore but I have no idea how to catch him without hurting him. It's not like I can chase him into a corner and he is very fast..... At the moment we are getting lots of insects so he is doing fine. I did manage to catch a tiny one in the galley and delivered him to a nice garden onshore. Wrong island mind you, but he probably won't notice.
We are STILL in Sint Maarten as Janaki has a slight eye infection we want to get on top of before we head off. There looks to be a good weather window on Sunday which will be fine. In the meantime I can tackle a few of the 'someday' projects that are filling one of the much needed lockers.
Subscribing to the Blog
02 December 2017 | Simpson Bay, Sint Maarten
It is a drag to keep going back to a blog or website to see if anything has changed so, after a number of requests, I have been investigating various options to allow you to subscribe to the blog so that you get an email when there is a new post instead of having to keep checking in.
The easiest option would be for me to use a third-party email subscription service like MailChimp. Unfortunately these don't seem to protect subscriber privacy at all well and there is a risk of them harvesting and exploiting your email addresses which is not going to happen.
The best option I have found is IFTTT. This is a service that you subscribe to that can do a remarkable number of automation tasks - most of which are probably useless..... it will need your email address of course but you control the privacy settings and you may actually find it useful for checking in on other web pages that change infrequently. All you need to do when you have set it up is to login to your IFTTT account and manage your privacy settings so that it doesn't send you promotional emails, but this seems to be fairly straightforward. Happy to help if needed.
The link to the IFTTT setup page is here.
The RSS feed link you will need for the blog is:
memberdir directly follows the question mark with no space.
I hope this is useful. Please provide feedback in the comments.
It's a Mess
01 December 2017 | St Martin, French side
This place is functioning fine. Bars, restaurants, banks etc are available and marine services are still second to none, but the scenery is pretty depressing. So many dreams piled up. With distant owners, insurance companies and the complete lack of cranes etc it is hard to see how this sort of mess will ever get cleared up. We seem to have the to-do list under control and we are now anchored out in Simpson Bay waiting on a good wind to head south - looks like Monday at the moment.
29 November 2017 | Simpson Bay, Sint Maarten
After a long struggle we are back at sea - well about 100 yards from the Simpson Bay bridge but technically at sea. We could not believe what a treat it would be to be gently rocking at anchor after the dirt and heat of the yards. So the plan is to do NOTHING for a few days then head south. We actually still have a pretty long to-do list but we are going to try and overcome our natural instincts and tackle it Caribbean-style - tomorrow will be fine.
A Lesson Learned
24 November 2017 | St Maarten
We have a hydraulic backstay adjuster that some see as an over-complication but I think it is an essential element of boat tuning, particularly for managing heavy weather. However, it comes with drawbacks. A seal failure can put the rig out of action and it suffers from creep over time. That is the one that got us. The backstay slackened off while in the hard in St Kitts. This put sufficient slack in the forstay and furler tubing that it flogged itself to death during the tropical storms the boat experienced. Hence the new furler system. We could have just replaced the tubing but the drum was old and tired so a complete new system made sense.
The emergency adjuster can be used to replace the hydraulic adjuster at sea if needed and it will always be used when the boat is stacked in future. The rigging shop made this up out of largely second hand bits that kept the price down a bit.
24 November 2017 | Sint Maarten
No. This is not us STILL out of the water in St Kitts. It is us out of the water in St Maarten.... I guess that is progress of sorts. The new stuffing box worked fine but after launch we discovered a leak in the tubing that carries the centerboard cable. The leak was very small but well below waterline and not something you would want to get suddenly worse. So, back on the hard for a repair job. While we were waiting we replaced our decrepit Schaefer genoa furling system with a nice new Furlex number. It certainly looks prettier. Time will tell if it works better.
This has been a tough mobilization. We have been ploughing through boat lists for a month now and are only just getting to the point that we can see daylight. I know we are in so much better shape than so many others but we are still pretty worn down at this point. Anyway we have escaped to a hotel for a few days of AC while the boat is in the slings so that should freshen us up a bit before we (hopefully) head out to sea early next week with a nicely refurbished boat - new interior varnish, new stuffing box, new ablative, new furling system, new shore charger, repaired solar system, repaired head, new emergency backstay adjuster, new stbd running light, new speed sensor - and a gently smoldering credit card....
14 November 2017 | St Kitts (still....)
We finally got the second new stuffing box yesterday, the first having been sent to Papua New Guinea (long story....) and it appeared to install OK so we are hoping to launch tomorrow morning. I am still a bit anxious because there appear to be lots of ways to mess up a prop shaft reinstall. We shall see how it goes. As long as it gets us to somewhere with technical services I will be happy to get it checked by a professional. We are both looking forward to getting back on the water after three weeks in a VERY buggy apartment. I will do a tech post on the stuffing box once it is tried and tested but first impressions are very good. It was certainly much easier to pack than the traditional large nut.
Sort of a Plan....
11 November 2017 | STILL in St Kitts (and dreaming)
Well, we have been talking to cruisers, reading a bit and discussing a lot and this is the current result. as we have changed our plan on a weekly basis it should be taken with a grain of salt but we are pretty excited about this one.
The bottom line is we are not ready to rush through the Panama Canal this year. It needs too much preparation for both boat and crew and there is way too much to see in between here and there. So - we are planning to bounce around the Caribbean this winter: visiting friends in Martinique, scuba diving in Bonaire, Jamaica, visiting friends in Mexico (the Yucatan) then down to the Rio Dulce
for the summer. This looks like a fantastic base to explore Central America and maybe take a trip home.
If we are still feeling like another year on the boat then we will head down to the San Blas
islands after the, hopefully gentle, 2018 hurricane season and then onto the Panama Canal in early 2019. Anything after that is wild speculation - we shall see.
This does extend our trip quite a bit but it feels a lot more doable and we are very excited about the Central America stopover. Anyway, watch this space - probably a new plan next week when, hopefully, we will actually be afloat.
A Neat Trick to Remove a Flange
09 November 2017 | St Kitts
After spending several days trying to get hold of a flange puller that would fit my limited space. David of Indigo Yachts in Bassterre taught me a fine method as follows:
0. Liberally apply TD Blaster or your choice of penetrating oil and leave overnight
1. Get a socket that will fit over the gearbox shaft end but is smaller than the prop shaft
2. Get overlength bolts that can pull the two flanges together with the trapped socket between them. The bolts should be just long enough to load the nut. Too long will foul the gearbox case.
3. Apply some tefgel or other anti-siezing compound to the bolts, particularly if they are stainless
4. Gradually tighten the bolts to ease the flange off against the socket
5. When the bolts start to foul the gearbox case remove them and backfill with washers or oversized nuts to reduce the length
6. If the flanges close up before releasing get a second socket and align it with the first with a cardboard tube
7. Repeat this process until the flange comes free.
It took a while but this worked perfectly for me. Good enough that I will not carry a dedicated flange puller but I will secure the required bolts.
The Apartment Lawnmower
07 November 2017 | St Kitts Apartment
Round here goats are known as ‘island lawnmowers’. In this case it is the apartment lawnmower and it is currently ‘mowing’ right outside our window.
Fun fact - goats fart - a LOT.
Public Transport - Island Style
05 November 2017 | St Kitts
Getting around here is very easy for those with strong nerves. The main roads of the island are covered by heavily used private buses. Some down-at-heel, others, like this one, pretty tricked out. They are universally loud inside, a mix of reggae and banter, and they all drive like maniacs. Any ride is 3ec or about $1 which is pretty good value for our thirty minute ride to the boatyard.
The taxi drivers down at the ferry terminal seem a bit put out when we go for the bus. I guess they assume white=tourist=taxi 😔. Can’t win them all.....
If All Else Fails....
05 November 2017 | Nevis
Take another day off...
So we took the crazy local bus downtown and then the ferry ⛴ over to Nevis, walked to a deserted beach and went for a looong swim. Now hanging about in a local beach bar (look at the color of the water in the background). Tomorrow it is back to fixing boats but this at least reminds us of why we are doing this....
04 November 2017 | St Kitts (for ever????)
We were looking good for a Monday launch when some dummy managed to irredeemably strip the thread on the stuffing box. And the peril of hauling the boat on an island with almost no technical resources rapidly became apparent. We are now on hold waiting for a new stuffing box
and some specialist tools to effect the repair - at least a week's delay.....
There are a few upsides. We are doing a slow and careful job with the bottom paint, important if we stay onboard next summer and having accommodation close to the boat has allowed Janaki to do a major number on the interior varnish so we will be very pretty when we finally get to be a boat. I have also upgraded the stuffing box for a more manageable model, not a fancy dripless but a more flexible conventional system.
It has also been an eye opener for a possible sortie into the Pacific. We will need to be a lot more self-sufficient - without sinking the boat with too much 'just in case' stuff. It will not be an easy call.
We are going to take full day off tomorrow to catch the ferry over to Nevis to catch up with a few people and actually go for a swim - Bliss!
Half a Day Off
02 November 2017 | St Kitts
It is a bit full on at the moment. Hot, dirty, buggy, just tough. Anyway we took a part day off after using the cool of the morning and did a tour of the island. To be honest, it is beautiful from a distance but not much to see close up. There are very few 'sights' other than the volcano but the people are great and the place seems to have good energy.
At the end of the tour we got dropped off at the old English fort at the top of Brimstone Hill which was beautiful in the evening light. We could look down on the boatyard which, like the rest of the island, looked better from a distance.
We walked back down the hill at sunset and the frogs were amazingly noisy. There is a soundtrack on a photo in the album. We will be a boat soon!
The photo is looking north from Brimstone Hill towards St Eustatius and, further away, Saba.
The Grass Has Grown a Bit
25 October 2017 | St Kitts Marine Works
After a very disturbing/distressing summer in both the US and the Caribbean we are back onboard Leela in a fairly strange state of mind. For the first time we have rented out our house and committed to spending at least a year, probably more, onboard Leela or, at least, adrift in some form or the other.
It feels a bit weird at the moment - more unsettling than exciting - but that may just be the tiredness talking after a frenetic few weeks in Europe and then back home dashing around and eating and drinking too much.... Anyway, we have a couple of weeks of hard graft getting Leela ready to set sail again and then we will make a short-term plan and go from there.
We need to go up to St. Martin first to get some inspections done for the insurance then I think we are likely to blast down to Martinique to meet up with friends and chill out for a while. We have talked a big game about sailing to Australia and we are still excited about that idea. What we are not sure about is whether we can get ready in time to head out this year. Stay tuned......
09 May 2017 | St. Kitts Marine Works
Here we are. Parked in a hole on St. Kitts - as safe as we can get given where we are. This blog will resume next season, possibly in a new forum as we venture out in new ways - more later!
A Strange Experience
09 May 2017 | St Kitts Marine Works
That was weird.... for reasons beyond our comprehension they drove us all round the yard and then left us swinging in the travel lift for about three hours. We kind of got used to it and got on with our chores but it was strange to come out of the cabin from a boat still rocking in the wind and find yourself hanging above a field full of goats. Anyway, we were very lucky and the heavy rain just missed us so Leela ins now all tucked up ready for the summer and we are luxuriating in an air conditioned hotel room before heading to the airport.
07 May 2017 | St Kitts
After a lovely but busy week in Nevis we are on our way to St Kitts to haul out.
Should be home at 3am on Wednesday- strange concept.....
The Fishing Tournament
01 May 2017 | Charlestown, Nevis
The weather forecast resulted in us arriving in Nevis earlier than planned but we are very glad we did. It is a delightful island and we have both been doing a leisurely demobilization and having fun.
A couple of days ago there were heavy rain squalls in the bay between Nevis and St Kitts so we decided to go wash the sails. We put on our swimmers and put up WAY too much sail then proceeded to thrash around the bay in lots of wind and pretty much flat water looking for rain. It was enormous fun and we realized that we had been turning from 'sailors' - who love to sail into 'cruisers' who sail to get somewhere. We have had some awesome sails but it was the first time in a long time we had gone sailing just for the joy of it. We will do more.
Today we were invited to the annual fishing tournament by a delightful couple who run a bar on the nearby beach. The fishing boats landing on a surf beach was pretty dramatic but the tournament sort of took second place to a giant party with food, drink, music, kids running everywhere and various entertainments, few of which materialized but no one seemed to care..... we met quite a few locals and it was a lot of fun. Mind you, it was a delight to dinghy back to the tranquility of Leela after being assaulted with noise for several hours.
Tomorrow we are going to take the ferry over to St Kitts to check out the storage location.
26 April 2017 | Off Redondo
We are just passing the Monserrat volcano enroute to St Kitts & Nevis for the haul. The sea really is that color today. We are having a dream of a last sail in 15kts of wind and moderate seas. We set off at 3am under a cloudless and moonless sky with the Milky Way on full display - a great way to end the season.
We now have a week of hard work preparing Leela for storage then it's home to cut the grass.....
22 April 2017 | Petite Anse d'Arlet, Martinique
We were planning to spend a couple more weeks in Martinique before heading north but weather (wind) rules. We have an ideal wind tomorrow then two weeks of light and variable conditions so it in time to go to avoid a long motor.
Before setting out we had a wonderful dive on the north side of Petite Anse d'Arlet. These two shots of an octopus were taken only about thirty seconds apart. Basically before I annoyed him and after. I generally take great care not to disturb the fauna but getting a rise out of an octopus is to good to miss - sorry....
Tomorrow we will head up to St Pierre to clear out the do a 24hr run up to Monserrat. There is still some uncertainty but we should be home at the beginning of May. The idea is a little strange give what has happened while we have been away.
Back in Martinique
16 April 2017 | Petite Anse d'Arlet, Martinique
We had a great 160nm sail up from Grenada. The moon was full and the winds were ideal and we arrived after 25hrs for an average speed of about 6.5kts which is pretty satisfying. Notable events were a couple of pilot whales coming alongside so close that you could have stepped onto their backs - no photos I'm afraid. I was too surprised to do anything - and a large pod of dolphins escorting us into Martinique.
We have had a couple of tough weeks what with chasing elusive replacement credit cards around the Caribbean and a surprising number of boat issues, mainly the plumbing unfortunately, so we are hoping for a bit of a rest now before we head north to St Kitts to stack Leela for the summer.
At this point we expect to be home by mid-May
09 April 2017 | Grenada
We learned a lot this week. Some of it was about Nutmeg. Grenada produces much of the world supply so it is a good place to get an education.
We knew about the nut that you grate onto deserts and we assumed that Mace was the dried fruit round the nut but as you can see, the mace is a gorgeous red lace between the nutshell and the fruit. The next surprise was that all the local nutmeg products are made with the yellow fruit, not the nut.
We have spent the last couple of days doing boat chores so we are going to just hang about for a few days doing not much while we wait for a replacement credit card to arrive (again.....). Then we will start working our way north towards haul out in St Kitts. We have run out of fresh fish as well so I guess I need to find out if recent success was just a flash in the pan....
06 April 2017 | St George, Grenada
Here we are..... probably as far south in the Caribbean as we can go. Trinidad is not really tempting these days and we need to be back in St Kitts mid-May. It's a strange feeling, turning round, as the journey is far from over.
This place looks very interesting so far and we are going to rent a car for a good look round tomorrow.
When we leave we will pay a price for all the cushy broad reaches we have had recently. We have come a surprising distance West and we will need to push upwind to at least St Lucia on the way north. Such is life....
More like it!
05 April 2017 | Off Carriacou
The small Barracuda were actually really tasty- white flakey flesh, not unlike cod.
BUT this little Tuna is WAY better! 👍👍👍
UPDATE: Barbecued fresh tuna was awesome.
A New One
03 April 2017 | Tobago Cays
Just when I was wondering what I could post without repeating myself a delightful new one appeared while we were snorkeling in the Tobago Cays.
This is a 'Flying Gurnard' in full spread, a fairly rare find. They are remarkable in a number of ways apart from the amazing display capability. They have a well developed lower pectoral fins that they can use like hands to turn over rubble looking for food. I will post a picture to the album that shows this better.
03 April 2017
Hopefully the comments capability is now working correctly so if you are here it would be great if you 'popped in' and said 'hi'.
It would be nice to know who is still hanging in there with all my ramblings...
31 March 2017 | Admiralty Bay, Bequia
The picture is my 'hunter/gatherer' success. Barracuda in packets is REALLY GOOD (thanks Ed for the fishing lesson, although you might have told me that you should NEVER scale a fish on the upwind side - we will get rid of them eventually.....).
However the real story today was the sailing. Leela clearly enjoys having a clean hull. We left St Lucia at 4am, passed St Vincent at lunch time and arrived in Bequia, in the Grenadines at 3pm. That is 68nm in 11hrs with a fishing break. We had to power for some stretches in the island lees but most of the journey was a beam reach at about 7.5kts, sometimes over 8kts. We are so used to being close hauled that it took a while to get used to it but it was a spectacular sail. The sun shone, the views were spectacular, the wind blew. What more can you ask for?
Goodby St Lucia
31 March 2017 | The Pitons, St Lucia
We had a better time in St Lucia than we expected. Some of the scenery was spectacular. This is as we sailed past The Pitons this morning with rain falling on the hills.
A Big Day Out
29 March 2017 | St Lucia
We just did a full circumnavigation of St Lucia by road with Gene and Dolly as our guides. It was exhausting (particularly for Gene who drove) but great fun and very interesting.
The picture is looking back over Soufriere to the Pitons in the SW corner of the island.