Leela Year Five - Heading to the Pacific

19 February 2019 | Shelter Bay Marina, Panama
11 February 2019 | Rio Diablo, San Blas
02 February 2019 | Combombier, San Blas, Panama
02 February 2019 | Nargana, Panama
02 February 2019 | Rio Diablo
28 January 2019 | Saladarup, San Blas Islands
27 January 2019 | Salaradup, San Blas, Panama
27 January 2019 | Salaradup, San Blas, Panama
25 January 2019 | Saladarup, San Blas Islands
21 January 2019 | Cayos Holandes, San Blas Islands, Panama
17 January 2019 | Cayos Holandes, San Blas Islands, Panama
12 January 2019 | Isla Rosario, Colombia
08 January 2019 | Cartegena
06 January 2019 | Cartegena
01 January 2019 | Cartegena, Colombia
23 December 2018 | Puerto Nariño, Amazonas
19 December 2018 | Leticia, Colombia
19 December 2018 | In transit
16 December 2018 | Cartegena, Colombia
14 December 2018 | Off Cartegena

Another Huge Change

19 February 2019 | Shelter Bay Marina, Panama
We have just transitioned from the sublime tranquility of the San Blas Islands to the industrial hyperactivity of the Panama Canal entrance.
The top image is self explanatory. The bottom image is a screenshot of our navigation system showing all the AIS (Automatic Identification System) symbols of the vessels in the Canal approach. The chunky symbols are - well chunky - mainly huge container vessels and tankers. Slipping through the breakwater entrance between them is certainly interesting.

Leela is now safely inside the breakwater and tucked into Shelter Bay Marina while we pop back to the States to sort out some admin and pick up the inevitable shopping (boat bits....). We have been working hard to be ready for the Pacific but we still have some readiness issues and time is passing so it remains in the balance right to the last moment.

Chanticleer has Arrived!

11 February 2019 | Rio Diablo, San Blas
After a long hard journey from New England our good friends and Pacific crossing buddies Jeff and Molly Bolster have arrived in the San Blas. It turns out they too have been on again off again about the big trip but, right now, after a couple of bottles of wine, we are going for it. Tomorrow might be a different story.... We both still have some concerns about readiness but we have agreed that, being ‘mature’ cruisers, we are unlikely to be in better shape in a years time so if we want to do this we need to get on with it. I’ve had a couple of wins on the boat this week including fixing a niggling intermittent fault on the engine tachometer and stripping and cleaning the dinghy carburetor which have improved my confidence that we are on top of the boat issues.

We have a pretty intimidating job list for the next month including installing the self steering, a haul out and a brief trip to New England to sort out some admin, get some electronics repaired and see friends, plus all the horrendous admin required for the canal passage and the visit to the Galápagos Islands. As someone pointed out this week when I was grizzlies about the job list, “it’s an adventure not a vacation”.

Right now I’m going through the inevitable shopping list while Janaki takes Jeff and Molly on a guided trip up the Rio Diablo bird watching.

It’s a Boat....

02 February 2019 | Combombier, San Blas, Panama
Swam under the boat today for a quick check - shouldn't have looked..... The centerboard was hanging down a bit and I was sure I had stowed it completely so I gave it a shove. There was a clunk and down it came, minus the wire. Oops - our draft has just gone from 4' 6" to 10' 6". Worse still it clunks every time the boat rolls when we are not sailing on the wind.

The VERY good news was that I could still see the end of the wire inside the centerboard housing. I was running a little short of air (snorkeling) but I decided to shove my arm into the centerboard slot to see if I could grab the wire - BAD mistake. Apart from the fact that I could have got my arm stuck, a terminal error, the slot was lined with razor sharp barnacles. I stopped bleeding after about thirty minutes.....

Having stopped to consider my options (and stem the leaks), I managed to borrow a long scuba hose from Erica on Endless Summer that allowed me to stay under the boat. I cleaned the barnacles out of the slot and managed to get hold of the end of the wire which is now hanging under the boat. I also managed to hacksaw the old wire loop off so we are all set for a repair in the morning. We need to partially lift the centerboard with a line from the stern, because the wire is now too short to reach, then re-thread the wire and clamp it up with a couple of small D clamps that I was fortunate to have onboard. That should be good for a while - the Pacific? Not so much....

The Panamanian Coast

02 February 2019 | Nargana, Panama
Leela anchored off the mangroves and mountains of the Panamanian isthmus in very different weather.


02 February 2019 | Rio Diablo
We have left the islands for a while to explore the Panamanian coastline. It is cloudier and grayer but there are a number of rivers that are fabulous for birdwatching. We have done two trips up the Rio Diablo now, seeing a huge variety of birds including Toucans, Woodpeckers, Kingfishers, herons and an enormous array of small fly catchers and the like. I do need to give a shout out to the Merlin Bird app from Cornell University. It is a big download but it is a wonderful app, making identifying birds easy and having wonderful photos.

Apart from the birds the river is incredibly peaceful the only people we saw yesterday were a young local couple in a dugout canoe collecting fresh water. We actually gave them a tow back to the river mouth to save them some time and effort.

We were so taken by the river that we will probably head down the coast to another one but we do have to head to an outer island for a day or so to charge up the batteries and make some water. It all needs careful planning in this cloudier weather.

Back in the Water

28 January 2019 | Saladarup, San Blas Islands
Unfortunately scuba diving is not allowed here but the snorkeling can be remarkably good. This afternoon we did a drift snorkel (towing the dinghy) through the cut between the two islands. The coral was in encouragingly good shape and we saw a number of small squid including this VERY small one. He clearly did not want to be photographed so he made himself as big and spiky as he could which was pretty impressive given that he was less than an inch long.....

More Boat Stuff

27 January 2019 | Salaradup, San Blas, Panama
I was not the only one having a notable boating experience yesterday......

A Better Day

27 January 2019 | Salaradup, San Blas, Panama
Sorry about the dark post.... Feeling better today. We had a gathering of the clans yesterday to celebrate Australia Day and it went off in style with beach games, windsurfing lessons, dugout canoe races and lots of good food, drink and company. It was a cloudy day which was good as we could spend more time on the beach without frying. There has been a lot of cloud here which is challenging our decision not to install a wind generator. We shall see how it goes. I am loathe to hang any more clut on the back of the boat.

Dereck kindly lent me his windsurfer and it was very gratifying that, at sixty seven and after a thirty year break, I could still actually do it reasonably well. Mind you, I feel like I was run over by a truck this morning.....

We will spend another week or so poking around the islands before heading to the canal and decision time. We are STILL undecided which is ridiculous but there it is.

The Veggie Boat

25 January 2019 | Saladarup, San Blas Islands
We are in an idyllic spot with a number of small palm covered islands set on a ring of coral reefs. Without the local charts it would be quite tricky getting in but, once inside, the water is completely calm and very clear. It may not be quite so idyllic tomorrow as it is the gathering spot for all the Australian boats in the area and various hangers-on to celebrate Australia Day, a celebration that is inclined to get a trifle rowdy....

But today is the veggie boat. It is pretty intimidating as it is about 10' longer than Leela and they are MUCH less concerned about their paintwork. Anyway, we managed without incident. Prices were definitely on the high side but, as the alternative is a day's sailing outside the reef then a night in a marina, they can pretty much charge whatever they want and the variety of stuff they carry is remarkable.

We are regularly approached by boats selling seafood but that is all a bit sad, undersized lobsters, octopus caught using Clorox and normally ornamental reef fish. Unfortunately we are part of the problem. Tourism, along with severe over-population due to better healthcare has resulted in the local consumption rate going up exponentially and they have pretty much fished the place out in ten short years. What with that, the worsening diet, booze and the copious amount of trash that they just toss into the sea they have become a poster child for the awesome destructive power of western capitalism and a depressing microcosm of the human condition. Ain't no such thing as paradise......

Sorry, having a dark day..... On a lighter note, we are enjoying the company of the rally boats and actually getting to know a few people better. The area is visually stunning and the weather is being kind to us, with less wind for a while. We are going to spend a couple more weeks here in the islands, hopefully with Chanticleer at some point, then head down to the canal entrance. We STILL don't know if we are going through this year. We will have to decide at some point. It is an irreversible step so not to be taken lightly, but we are laboring it a bit.....

Failure to Launch

21 January 2019 | Cayos Holandes, San Blas Islands, Panama
Yup, still in the same spot, growing roots or at least weed.... We have made a couple of failed attempts to move but they did not come to anything. Our theory is that all these island are very similar so why leave a really sheltered spot with great views and great company for the uncertainty and hassle of a new anchorage? Hassle? A bit. When you arrive anywhere here you will be gently accosted to buy, Molas, often undersized lobsters, fish, etc. The locals can be quite persistent but, if you stay in the same place a while, they get bored with paddling over and leave you in peace until you wave them over, an altogether better arrangement. We have a Mola (pictured) that we love but one is enough.

While we chill here we are mulling (not for the first time) a whole new plan. We are not completely convinced that we are ready to head over the Pacific. To some extent this is natural caution about boat and crew readiness but it is more about not wanting to dash through S. America and Central America. They are both SO interesting and attractive that our time here feels way too short. Anyway, we will keep working it and let you know when we make up our minds. I guess if we keep procrastinating the decision will be made for us as the Pacific needs a degree of preparation and commitment.

We will make another attempt to move tomorrow morning. We spent so long saying goodbye to people today that it got too late to go. I have confirmed that today's goodbyes are valid for 24hrs. Upside is a couple of Aussies from a large three-master back in the bay swung by and invited us to a beach barbecue this evening.

The social scene can be a bit overwhelming. We had a six hour barbecue party on another island yesterday dominated by a petanque competition which Team Leela managed to win after a nail biting comeback in the final where we were 8:1 down (first to 11) but clawed our way back. Things had gone on a bit long and the entire spectator fleet had headed back to their boats in order to get across the reef before dark so the prize ceremony was ‘low key' then we had to dash off while we could still navigate our way home. All interesting stuff.

A Very Pleasant Change of Pace

17 January 2019 | Cayos Holandes, San Blas Islands, Panama
This is my first post by satphone for some years so I have no idea if it will work. I cannot pop it up on Facebook until I get Internet access again. We were very sorry to leave Colombia. It is a truly amazing place and people and it felt like unfinished business but this is a very pleasant change.

We have not really been in a remote island anchorage (i.e. no bars and no city dust and noise) since the Bahamas and that was in 2014! This is truly remote, no bars, no internet, no electricity, almost no motors. The locals visit us, and they do visit, in dugout canoes using hand-carved paddles. The Kuna seem very lovely but we have to remember that the 'cultural experience' is primarily transactional. They see cruisers come and go every day and their interest in us extends to extracting a few dollars. They are happy to stay for a bit of a chat (via Google Translate) but business is business. We did run into a few young children on a beach and stopped for a bit of a play. They were an absolute delight, happy, healthy and carefree and very quick to laugh. Their lack of stuff certainly did not seem to bother them in the slightest. This is in stark contrast to my excess of stuff, which bothers me enormously - oh well.

Talking of 'stuff', today the local 'head man' dropped by and managed to sell us a Mola (more on them later) and a couple of young men bought us a VERY large lobster that I paid $10 for and then discreetly released over the other side of the boat. I know - pathetic - but I made a contribution to the local economy and allowed a large lobster to go on making baby lobsters so I generally felt good about the whole transaction. Cheap at $10. Thinking about killing (or not killing) things for food, I caught my first large Mahi Mahi on the fast but uneventful crossing from Colombia to Panama (thanks for the lure Martin. It worked first time!). My satisfaction with the successful hunt was tempered by the gory process of killing and processing the large fish. This is particularly difficult on a small boat underway and we will be getting blood out of lines (and clothes) for a while. Perhaps that was why I was driven to release the lobster. Enough savagery for a few days. Good thing we both like lentils and tofu....

We are comfortably anchored in a fairly small sand hole surrounded by extensive reefs with palm covered islands scattered around us. It is very beautiful and it is good to be able to swim again, despite the crocodile rumors.... The snorkeling (scuba is forbidden here) that we have found so far was OK but we need to explore further. Unfortunately the surf on the fringing reef is HUGE so we will not be going there. When I look at that surf I think "no-one in their right mind would go out there in a small sailboat" - oops..... We will need to go and check in sometime then we think we will probably come back here. We are not inclined to 'tick islands off'. They are all very similar and we would prefer to get to know one spot better.

Still got Stuff to Learn

12 January 2019 | Isla Rosario, Colombia
Well.... That sucked. We left Cartegena with a careful plan to maximize the potentially light winds. The maximization definitely 'worked' - we ended up with mid 20's gusting high 20s with truly horrible seas, short, steep and random. Anyway, it was about 10pm and we were feeling pretty lousy but pressing on when there was a loud bang and the main cross support of the davits disconnected. We slowed the boat down but we were still rolling like a pig and the dinghy was threatening to pull the davits completely apart. By now the moon had set so it was pitch dark and both of us were seasick for the first time in five years. Are we having fun yet?

We managed to lower the dinghy into the water and get it on a very short tow without having to unclip the davit lines, not possible in any event. The dinghy thrashed around appallingly but the davits were now safe so what to do next? The closest shelter was back to Colombia and Isla Rosario and we had been there before so the anchorage was familiar. Fortunately this direction seemed to at least reduce the dinghy thrashing but I was waiting for it to be swamped the whole way back.

We got to Rosario at about 3am and crept through the reefs with a couple of different charts as it was utterly dark. Unsurprisingly, the Colombian navy intercepted us on the approach (this area is well monitored). After about twenty minutes of Google Translate yelled between boats, I managed to explain what was happening and they very helpfully led us the rest of the way to the anchorage and wished us a good sleep. Boy! Was it good to have the hook down and the sea flat.....

If you cannot be good be lucky.... The custom bolt that had come out had fallen into the bottom of the dinghy and nothing had been distorted by the incident so it has all gone back together really easily. Our plan is to do it all (well - not ALL) again tomorrow. What joy....

Like all incidents, there were lessons to be learned:

1. There is no such thing as a 'benign' passage. You always need to be prepared for the worst. Leaving the dinghy in the davits when going offshore was a HUGE error of judgement that could have got us into serious trouble.

2. You need to touch every part of a boat regularly and I mean EVERY part. Every fitting, bolt, structure etc. There were a disturbing number of other loose bolts on the davits.

3. Emergency equipment and supplies need to be checked and properly located all of the time. We struggled to find a number of items as we rolled around in the dark - not least being seasickness medications.

4. Cruising can be a lot of fun but it can also be extremely dangerous and needs discipline and constant vigilance. After nearly a month of living it up in Colombia we were way off our game.

Anyway, you don't learn much when things go well and the difference between doing it right and getting away with it is not always apparent so it was a valuable experience. Hopefully these notes will give you some ideas minus the pain.

A Tale of Colombian Grace (and My Stupidity)

08 January 2019 | Cartegena
Yesterday we went to a fairly distant mall to do a resupply run. By the time we were heading home we we're both pretty frazzled so finding that both my credit card and my driver's licence we're missing was not a happy moment. I went back to the supermarket, nothing (although the fact that they had a big pile of other credit cards made me feel a bit less foolish), the mall security, nothing, so the taxi was the most likely place. There are thousands of small Yellow taxis in Cartegena so it was going to be a tough one.

Another taxi driver at the ramp suggested I come back the next day and look at the mall security camera footage and get the taxi number. It was a great idea but easier to check the marina security cameras as they were closer. We found the number quite easily. The marina used it to get the driver's name and phone number and a few hours later the taxi driver was waiting at the marina gates with both my cards.

As a side note, I was checking for bogus transactions pretty frequently as I did NOT want to cancel the card, and yes, the driver was appropriately rewarded.

I'm not sure how many countries this would happen in, certainly few with zero form filling or beaurocracy. Once again stuff seems to work here and the Colombian people rise to the occasion. Loving it here.

The picture? I decided a picture of a credit card was not a great idea and this little beauty was fishing of our Stern dock line this morning.

Remote iPad Display - UPDATED

06 January 2019 | Cartegena
A number of people have asked me how to use a remote iPad as a cockpit screen for a PC that is safely down below. This is particularly useful for those using OpenCPN for either direct navigation or display of satellite imagery (more on that later).

UPDATE: Complements of Ted Owens, a fellow Suzie 2 rally member. If you do not need the extended functionality of OpenCPN such as selecting chart groups and switching between charts, the iPad app SEAiq provides a simple KAP charting tool. At first glance this works fine although there are no file management tools so I would add and remove charts as needed. It is definitely more electronically robust but the unpredictable switching between charts and satellite imagery does not work for me. I am talking to the author to see if there is any chart selection capability planned.

If you want to use OpenCPN I have finally managed to create a solution that seems to be reasonably robust using the Splashtop application. This is a free app pair. Splashtop server goes on the PC and the client app goes on the iPad. I change the PC screen resolution to something that has a similar ratio to the iPad screen in order to maximize real estate. In my case this is 1400:1050 but yours may be different. It takes a bit of getting used to but this app provides reasonable remote control of the PC including panning and zooming and selecting and deselecting charts.

So - here is the wrinkle. both the PC and the iPad need to be on the same network and the following WiFi networks do not work:
1. The multi-function display (Raymarine anyway but probably all of them)
2. The Iridium GO
3. Smartphone hotspots

What does work is a cheap WiFi router. Many of them come with external power supplies that provide 12V so they can be hacked to connect to the boat 12V system. To my surprise there were no real issues with not being on the internet. Some devices ask if you want to create a local network but it works fine. You can also connect your MFD to this network if you want to.

For me this is no more than an additional navigational aid. I would not want to rely on anything as complex and unreliable as a networked Windows PC as my primary navigation source. Our navigation capability in order of approximate priority, depending on chart quality is as follows:

1. Raymarine MFD running Navionics+
2. iPad 1 running Navionics+
3. iPad 1 running Garmin Bluechart (at the moment......)
4. PC running OpenCPN with various charts and satellite imagery
5. iPad 2 running Navionics+
6. iPad 2 running Garmin Bluechart (at the moment......)
7. Smartphone providing Lat/Longs
8. Paper passagemaking charts
9. Multiple bluetooth GPS devices
10. A sextant (we need to be in REAL trouble for this to come out....)

If OpenCPN becomes more prominent in our navigation hierarchy we might get another minimal PC to provide redundancy but I am loath to add to the electronic clutter and have another thing to maintain.

Feel free to ask questions or proffer alternative solutions.

Happy New Year

01 January 2019 | Cartegena, Colombia
We wish you all well for the New Year.

After a difficult 2018 we have resolved to make 2019 a better year, to the extent that we control the forces that buffet us.

It was hard not to be uplifted by the Colombian's approach to the new year. They moved on to the streets in their thousands and essentially turned the whole old City into a giant open air restaurant. The crowd was really dense but the atmosphere was completely relaxed and happy. We are still Loving this country and it's delightful citizens.

We are going to spend a few days more here trying to wrap up all the gnarly bits of 'real' life that follow you around and chew at your heels regardless of where you are. Then we will head for the San Blas Islands for some blue water and swimming.

Take care and enjoy the new year.


Amazon Adventure

23 December 2018 | Puerto Nariño, Amazonas
Wow.... That was an amazing (and exhausting) few days. We spent the first night in Leticia which is a fairly scruffy town but we actually liked it. The place is full of energy. Despite having no roads into the town and being more than 500 miles from the nearest highway the streets are constantly full of tuk tuk's, motorbikes, cars and people. The noise is awesome, with or without the parrots. Fortunately our Airbnb was out in a quiet area so we slept well.

The next morning we were picked up by Sergio, our (very organized) tour operator and taken to the public boat heading up river to Puerto Nariño, a distance of about seventy kilometers. The boat ride was an experience in itself. Firstly the river is incredibly wide even 1,500 miles from the river mouth. The boats are long and thin, like oversized canoes with huge outboards that travel at about 35kts while weaving through the floating logs that are a constant presence on the river.

Puerto Nariño is an interesting place. It has a population of about 4,000 but no vehicles at all, well, apart from a couple of community owned tractors. No cars, motorbikes, ATV's, not even bicycles. Everybody walks everywhere on reasonably well maintained concrete and brick paths. It makes for a very calm and safe place, with kids happily playing everywhere with no need for adult supervision. The atmosphere is wonderful. There is nearly always some kind of sport going on in the stadium. There are food stalls on the 'streets' and even where there are not food stalls people seem to pull their tables out and eat on the street anyway. There are a number of restaurants serving pretty simple food and lots of accommodation for the travellers that make it this far off the beaten track but the place does not feel overwhelmed by tourists.

I'm not going to give a blow by blow account or our experiences, in part because it is a bit of a blur and there are lots of Amazon tales online already. We spent some time walking in the jungle, both in the daytime and at night. They are having a lot of rain early in the wet season so mud was a dominant theme.... We spent a lot of time on the river and adjacent lakes in a small boat, both by day and by night. It was wonderful to see the extent of the forest and realize that it goes on for hundreds and perhaps more than a thousand miles in all directions.

The photos (here) tell most of the story but we saw many things that my camera could not capture including many monkeys, pink dolphins, three toed sloths and many different birds. I do need to talk about the monkeys we interacted with. Normally I don't like these canned animal experiences but all the monkeys we came into contact with we're rescued, mainly by confiscation as illegal pets. They we're completely free to come and go as they pleased but had clearly decided they were on to a good thing and stayed around the rescue centers. They also seemed to love the interaction. The howler monkeys in particular were incredibly affectionate and actively solicited scratches and strokes.

We spent the last day in a Peruvian village where we had a really nice lunch of local fish and vegetables before heading back to Leticia on the high speed boat. Well, it was high speed until it ran out of fuel about five miles from Leticia. We enjoyed a locerly peaceful sunset, drifting down the Amazon, while we waited for some fuel to be delivered. Nobody seemed in the slightest perturbed by this. Perhaps it is a regular event but nobody in Colombia seems to get perturbed by anything. I just hope I can eventually cast off some of my 'first world' angst and learn to treat life the way people do here.

And Now For Something Completely Different

19 December 2018 | Leticia, Colombia
Well, we are right in the middle of the Amazon jungle and, to our surprise, nearly five degrees south of the equator. Also surprisingly, it feels cooler than Cartegena. It must be the absence of concrete and the presence of millions of trees.

Talking of millions, millions of paraketes roost in the trees in the town park. There is a whole jungle out there but that's what they have chosen.... When we got to the park, before they arrived, we thought there is no way we are going to hear parrots above the cacaphony of generators and motorbikes but within half an hour they managed to drown out the entire town. It was awesome. This video is one tree among hundreds, all full of squabbling paraketes.

We are off up the river at 6am tomorrow - VERY exciting.

Colombia ❤️

19 December 2018 | In transit
Please excuse the gushing but I am definitely in love with Colombia. The environment is stunning, mountains, jungles, rivers, more birds than anywhere on the planet, amazing history, but what most impresses me is how utterly civilized it is in the true sense of the word.

Everything works, public transport is excellent and easy to use, even with minimal Spanish, flying is still enjoyable with superb airports and new planes. There is zero graffiti and everywhere is pretty clean and tidy. People are out on the streets as couples, families, groups, talking and laughing. They seem genuinely relaxed and happy, even in the middle of a large city. Everyone who we interact with smiles, not a 'have a nice day' synthetic smile but real warmth. The taxi drivers promptly give the correct change. Street vendors correct you if you give them too much money. It really is a fabulous atmosphere.

The most telling example of the degree of true civilization was on our drive back from Mompox. We we're on a lightly traveled highway and the driver was stopped at a police checkpoint (remember, this is a country only ten years out of a fiftyfour year civil war).

In the US it would be 'keep your hands visible on the wheel' and wait for the cop to approach. He will have his hand on his gun as he does so. In rural Colombia the driver reaches into the glove box for his documents as the policeman approaches - a VERY dangerous thing to do back home. The policeman comes up to the vehicle, smiles, reaches into the open window, shakes the driver's hand then politely asks him for his papers. It was actually quite shocking.

So this is the 'dangerous' Colombia. Kids and families on the streets, smiling cops greeting you, people relaxed and enjoying themselves. A total delight. I don't want to completely underplay the risk. There are definitely places not to be at night but that is universal in big cities. It just feels good in a way I have not experienced for a while. I really could live here if I felt that we could get our pathetic Spanish up to speed.

Anyway, if you want your spirits lifted from all the 'developed' world gloom, GET ON A PLANE TO COLOMBIA! You will not regret it.

We are currently in Bogota airport, on our way to Leticia, a town on the Amazon at the tri-boder with Brazil and Peru so more adventure to follow.

Arriving in Cartegena

16 December 2018 | Cartegena, Colombia
Arriving here is a lot like sailing through New York. Lots of big traffic and plenty to look at. We are now anchored pretty much in the middle of the city which is good and bad... The good bit is obvious - it's a buz. The bad bit came as a bit of a surprise. We have been given a 'special' anchorage for the rally which is apparently directly on the route used by the fast launches that ferry tourists from cruise ships to the old town and they are NOT going to move. Anyway they seem perfectly happy to go past us at considerable speed and about 10' away. It gets quite lively. Such is urban sailing......

More on Cartegena later.

Streaming Warps

14 December 2018 | Off Cartegena
This technique is as old as sailing but seems rarely used these days. We were having a pretty boisterous time yesterday the wind was 25-30kts, sometimes more and dead astern. The seas were 12-14' on the Stern quarter. The motion was not pleasant. We we're yawing off the tops of the waves, sliding down them sideways, which induced considerable roll and then doing it all again. The autpilot was managing it remarkably well but working really hard.

After copping a couple of boarding waves over the stern quarter we decided we needed to do something about it so we used a technique we learned at a seminar held by Rene Teulering in Sint Maarten on crossing the Pacific.

We rigged ten feet of anchor chain to our Stern anchor rode then attached a fender to the connection point. We streamed 100' of rode from the stern in a loop attached to a Stern cleat. Then we tossed the chain / fender combo over the transom. The effect was immediate and dramatic. The fender submerged and the rode tension increased. When the boat started to yaw the rode grabbed it and damped the whole motion down. The yaw was dramatically reduced, the roll pretty much disappeared and the autopilot was much relieved. We also had no more boarding waves. There was little impact if any on boat speed. We may actually have gone faster without all the yawing. Rene's rule of thumb was:
25kt = 1 Fender
30kt = 2
35kt = 3

Below 20kts it was not really needed and the drag became more apparent. Anyway we will not head out into any more strong downwinders without this.

If you do decide to try it there are a couple of things worth noting;
1. Stream the whole rode before deploying the fender. The loads get high
2. Likewise, rig in a way that you can recover it onto a winch unless you want to stop.

Happy sailing!

Leaving Santa Marta

14 December 2018 | Off Cartegena
I am SO behind..... Anyway, we had a great time in and around Santa Marta. The town is probably a pretty typical Colombian seaside vacation spot for Colombians which is nice. I have posted a few pics of our travels in the album so I'm not going to write a long travelogue (until the Amazon....😊). What I do want to write about is the Colombian people.

Of all the peoples we have interacted with over our years of travel they must be some of the nicest. Right up there with Newfoundlanders. They have been universally happy, helpful and charming, even when faced with our negligible Spanish..... Just a complete delight.

Interestingly, Janaki has observed that they seem to treat women as equals. They are comfortable in positions of authority and Janaki has not had any of the 'you are just a woman' dismissive BS that she gets in many other places (including home....). What with this and the fantastically varied environment it would not be hard to think about living here if our Spanish was better.

We are currently sailing (slowly) past Cartegena on our way to Isla Grande, just to the south. Today's 14kts and light seas is a bit too gentle but a good break after yesterday's 30kts and 14' Stern quartering seas. It was the first time we have ever had water down the companionway from a boarding wave - not fun.... We fixed it by trailing warps an old trick but a good one. I will write that up separately.

We are generally enjoying the rally. They are a great bunch of people and the pool of knowledge and support is awesome. We are still struggling a little with the social dynamics of the large group. We generally prefer to get together with a couple of other boats but, strangely, that seems to be harder in this slightly overheated social scene than just rocking up in a marina or anchorage alone. Odd....

Anyway, we have a couple of days in the islands then we head into Cartegena for what looks like being a hectic holiday season, with friends visiting and a trip to Leticia, on the Amazon river.

There seems to be a lot of latency in the tracking map - it's on the to-do list...

More soon.

Road Trip

05 December 2018 | On the bus
There were lots of tours available from Santa Marta Marina but they all looked a little too coreographed for us so we decided to get the local's bus to a completely relatively non-touristy town. A local recommended Santa Cruz de Mompox so here we go. We booked the bus and they sent a taxi to pick us up at the marina, This was all part of the US$22 fare for a fairly grueling six hour ride in a packed minibus that has seen better days. Note to self - we are not twenty any more.

When we started there were mountains to the east but now it is a gently rolling semi-arid plain that is startlingly like the drive south from Perth WA. I'm half expecting to see kangaroos although, if the road signs are to be believed, it's more likely to be ant eaters.

Only an hour or so to go....

The remarkable infrastructure is worth a mention. This was a standard inter-city bus. We rang up and booked and were told we would be picked up at midday. At midday a taxi was waiting at the marina to take us to the bus station. He made sure we were on the right bus and would not accept any payment, part of the bus fare. After about five hours we stopped in a very busy town and were pointed to another bus, again, no drama, no questions, it just worked. An hour later the driver asked where we were staying and dropped us at the door. We barely had to say a word, which is good because we have precious little Spanish. All this happened with smiles and calm. It was - civilized - in a way we have lost in the so-called 'developed world'.

Breakfast Roll

01 December 2018 | Off Cabot San Juan de Guia, Colombia
I know I promised no food pics but Vegamite on.... pretty much anything, in this case rice crackers, is perfect for those rolly mornings when spending time in the galley is unattractive.

Our First new Continent!

01 December 2018 | Santa Marta, Colombia
We have arrived in Santa Marta, Colombia after a very pleasant two day sail from Aruba. We were expecting a pretty wild ride coming into Santa Marta but it was not bad at all. The forecast was for 30kt gusts and 10' seas and I guess that is about what we got but you can suck up a LOT of wind belting downwind.
First impressions here? VERY friendly people, VERY hot, surprisingly dry. At the moment our forward plan is cold beer, sleep, repeat. A couple of cycles will get us to tomorrow and we will make a plan.

Rally Reflections

24 November 2018 | Airport anchorage, Aruba
Well, we are on our way, anchored at the end of the runway in Aruba. It's a little noisy but not really much bother. We are still working through the to-do list but it is getting manageably shorter and we are making time to do nothing much at all - it feels good after a horrendously busy and stressful few months. We did a lot of second guessing after selling the house but what is done is done and we will move forward.

We have joined a rally, the OCC Susie 2, for the first time and, to be honest, I'm still a little ambivalent about it. There are some real upsides. Suzanne, the organizer with her husband David is a force of nature and invests massive energy in organizing and simplifying the cruising experience in an area where it can be tricky. She does not stop at documenting the status quo. If it doesn't work she changes it. Governments? Authorities? No worries - she takes them all on. I think the general cruising experience will be improved for everyone after her efforts in Curacao. We shall see how things change further down the line. The other great aspect is the instant community of generally like-able and like minded people. This provides both good company and a talented support network ready to help one another. A number of the participants are cruisers we met and enjoyed in Sint Maarten last year, the main reason we signed up. Another very positive aspect of the rally is the improved security. Some of the areas we are sailing can be a little hairy and not only will we be in the company of other boats but national coastguards and navies are aware of our presence and providing some support directly, an awesome achievement on Susanne's part.

So why the ambivalence? There are a few challenges. The main one is the size of the fleet. Our group has about forty boats (some of them pictured under the full moon). That's at least eighty people.... I find eight people a bit overwhelming so eighty is a good deal more than I'm completely comfortable with. It is also one hell of a lot of names to learn - not my strength. The strange impact of this is that where I might normally be out in the anchorage meeting people I'm tending to hunker down on Leela and keep to myself - silly I know but.... The other issue with such a big fleet is we create our own over-crowding. Anchorages fill up, dinghy docks can't cope, we even managed to sell out the Local cinema last night. The last challenge for me is the schedule. For me, schedules are the antithesis of cruising but, apart from weather, we now know where we will be every day for the next several months. Are they places we would have gone anyway? Would we have stayed longer or left sooner left to our own devices? That is going to take some getting used to.

Anyway, we will see how it all goes. I think there is definitely more upside than downside at the moment. we will be here for nearly a week and then head to Santa Marta, Colombia. We are really looking forward to that after several years of small island sailing.

The Off

21 November 2018 | Spanish Water, Curacao
I decided not to bore you with yet another mobilization saga. So here we are about to make the first SMALL step towards Australia, an overnight hop to Aruba. New for us, we have joined the Suzie 2 rally. More on that later. I need to get prepared for departure now so more when we get to the anchorage.
We both hope you are all doing well.


Here we go again

29 October 2018 | Portsmouth NH
As we sit in the cold of a New England fall wrestling with the trauma of selling our house/car/stuff and putting the rest into storage (it seemed like a good idea at the time - at least to one of us......) Leela seems like a different life but, all being well, we will be back onboard in a couple of weeks and getting ready to head off on our grandest adventure yet.

The PLAN is to head down to Aruba for a shakedown of new gear, spend Christmas and New Year in Colombia, then on to the San Blas Islands before heading to mainland Panama and through the canal in February. From there it is mainly blue.... the Galapagos Islands, French Polynesia, Tonga and New Zealand by Christmas 2019.

So - that is the plan. we will stay flexible and respond to events so anything could happen. It is incredibly easy to write this down. Doing it is something else. I will write more about this crazy scheme in a subsequent post. This is intended just to wake the blog up and make sure everything works as it did.

I hope you enjoy my ramblings, feedback is always appreciated.


Last Post for the Season

30 May 2018 | Seru Boca Marina
Timing is everything.... My first post synced with Facebook is also my last post for the season. Leela is settled into her summer home, Seru Boca Marina. In Curacao and we will be in Europe and the US for most of the summer. Once we get back in the fall we will probably stay here for a couple of weeks then head down to Columbia on our way to the Panama Canal. This is all a long time off and anything can happen......
I will reactivate the blog when we get back. Until then, have a great summer.

Graham & Janaki

The fish pics are still here.

Playtime Over

23 May 2018 | Bonaire
We have been diving like crazy the past few days - thank goodness for Nitrox..... (the picture is a basket star at night).

Now it is work time. For your amusement the following list is our week. It is a work in progress and will get longer and it doesn't include sailing to another country. Anyway, we are ready to move on and looking forward to seeing friends and family but it is going to be quite a week first.

Curacao Stack

1 - Today

1.1 - Change prop anode

1.2 - Clean hull & prop*

1.3 - Clean dinghy bottom

1.4 - Check whisker pole behind fwd shrouds

1.5 - Get dive tanks filled

1.5.1 - Discuss remaining dives on card

1.6 - Visit with Ralph and Monica

1.7 - Visit Kim White

1.8 - Town trip

1.8.1 - Clear out

1.8.2 - Check in with Digicel re phone card and strange messages

1.8.3 - Get batteries for transmitters changed

1.8.4 - Shop for veg

1.8.5 - Shop for pressies

1.9 - Fill fuel tank and gas and water

2 - Before arrival

2.1 - Flush holding tank

3 - Misc

3.1 - Car rental Curacao, Luna Park 50 flemin body shop

3.2 - Clear in. Customs Immigration

3.3 - Wash and stow dive gear

4 - Admin

4.1 - Check supermarkets for GF goods

4.2 - Provide boat combo to marina

4.3 - Create checklist for marina periodic checks

4.4 - Inventory

4.4.1 - Clothes

4.4.2 - Contact lenses

4.4.3 - Eye drops

4.4.4 - Drugs

4.4.5 - Medications

4.4.6 - Batteries

4.4.7 - Below-waterline hoses

4.4.8 - Spare lines

4.4.9 - Spares (what's on board only) - Engine - Electronics - Rigging - Plumbing

4.4.10 - Pipework requirements for watermaker inlet mod

4.4.11 - Consumables

4.4.12 - Foods

5 - Dinghy

5.1 - Tefgel dinghy motor pins

5.2 - Wash, flush and stow dinghy motor
Run carburator dry
5.3 - Check dinghy for leaks

5.4 - Deflate and stow dinghy
6 - Engine

6.1 - Run engine at 2800 for 10mins

6.2 - Check drop anode wiring

6.3 - Drain and replace fuel filters

6.4 - Clean engine and aux strainers

6.5 - Clean and cover instruments

7 - Interior

7.1 - Empty, clean and turn off refrigerator

7.2 - Top up water tanks and chlorinate

7.3 - Clean drains

7.4 - Pickle watermaker

7.5 - Decommission head

7.6 - Remove Seagull filter

7.7 - Clean interior

7.8 - Cover portlights and hatches

7.9 - Close through hulls except drains

8 - Exterior

8.1 - Bag up propeller

8.2 - Remove and stow sails*

8.3 - Remove, wash and stow all running rigging*

8.3.1 - Measure Genoa sheets and traveller lines

8.4 - Clean and stow barbeque

8.5 - Replace and stow hydraulic backstay

8.6 - Rinse, remove and stow canvas

8.7 - Remove and stow bimini solar

8.8 - Remove davit solar panels

8.9 - Secure one solar panel in cockpit

8.10 - Move all deck stowed items below

8.11 - Wash and stow wheel

8.12 - Double up docklines

9 - Launder and pack clothes, towels, bedding etc.

10 - Pack for Europe

11 - Move to hotel

12 - Book airport taxi

The Bonaire Salt Pier

21 May 2018 | Bonaire Salt Pier
The salt pier is only accessible when there is no ship in so we were lucky today. I have put a couple of interesting videos in the album; one of a squid making the most amazing maneuvers and color changes, one of fish circling the pier members and, previously, garden eels feeding. They look so much more interesting with motion.


20 May 2018 | Bonaire
Wow.... sixty seven is a BIG number but there I am... anyway I am trying to age as (dis)gracefully as possible. I had an awesome birthday; two sails, two dives, caught a tuna on the way home then a spectacular chocolate birthday cake. All with a gorgeous partner. Can't ask for more.

A Working Boat Again

19 May 2018 | Bonaire
After a fine effort by Louis at the Bonaire Marine Center we are back together with a running engine. This means we can take the big boat diving for our last few days in Bonaire before we head over to Curacao. Today we are resting up and letting the seals cure


18 May 2018 | Bonaire moorings
One of our favorite 'dives' is near the boat in 6' of water. There are SO many young fish there and we have seen some fine specimens of larger fish as well. Sometimes it is good to just deal with the simplicity of snorkeling.

Meet The Locals

16 May 2018 | Washington Slagbaai National Park, Bonaire
We met up with Monica and Ralph, a very nice German couple who had rented a car and invited us to spend the day with them visiting the Washington Slagbaai National Park. I have posted a number of pics in the Cruising 2018 album. Some of the park occupants were a tad too friendly. I think visitors have been feeding them....

It's a Boat.....

13 May 2018 | Bonaire
Leela obviously thought we were having too much fun and decided to break something. The exhaust elbow to be precise. This is a good news bad news thing. The good news is it was going to happen sometime and this is a relatively safe place to have no engine. The bad news is we have been using the big boat to get to all the remote (better) dive sites and we are back to the dinghy for a while. We also need to go to Curacao before too long. Hopefully the local Yanmar dealer is capable but Sint Maarten would have been a LOT better - such is life / cruising

A Brief Respite

06 May 2018 | Bonaire
We love Leela but.... We have been on board continuously for six months now and there are challenges. The living space is about 200sq ft which feels a bit small after a while. Normally we would spend more time on deck but it is very windy here and the mooring field is downwind of the town so we are constantly covered in a layer of brown dust. Janaki is dealing with a back issue and needs to do some floor work but the foredeck is pretty unpleasant in these conditions so we have rented a little studio in a dive center for a few days to spread out and get recharged. It is a little weird but we will get used to it.

A Remarkable Experience

05 May 2018 | Mi Dushi divesite, Klein Bonaire
Last night we went looking for the light show created by mating Ostracod. This only happens a few days after the full moon during the complete darkness between sunset and moonrise. It also only happens in an area with absolutely no artificial lighting.

The whole experience was pretty surreal. We took Leela around the back of Klein Bonaire, an uninhabited island to the west, and set up for a night dive as the light fell. We were several miles from the nearest other people and had no light on the boat at all. We took dive lights for safety but did not use them until after the show. We went into the water about twenty minutes after sunset and located a suitable spot to hang about before it got completely dark.

While we were waiting we played with the normal bioluminescence that we could create by sweeping our fingers through the water. Then it started....

Bright spots of bioluminescence started to appear about four to six feet above the soft corals. These turned into strings of lights descending towards the seabed. First there was a bright spot, then about ten medium spots going straight down followed by a meandering 'tail' of dim spots of light.

Each of these strings of lights was being created by a single tiny Ostracod ejecting bioluminescent material as he swam down trying to attract a mate. Soon we were surrounded with light strings. It was a magical experience but well beyond the capability of my camera to record. Because of that the image I have used is a screenshot from a National Geographic video that can be seen here. The Ostracod mating lights are from 0:30 to 0:57. The Ostracods they filmed travel horizontally while displaying. Others go upwards.

The display was in a narrow depth band of between 25' and 35' and lasted about 20 minutes. Once it thinned out we turned on our lights and did a short night dive before heading back to the boat to barbeque a couple of the Amberjacks we had caught on the way to Bonaire.

The dive moorings cannot be used overnight so we headed back to the main island after dinner, getting back to our mooring around 9pm, exhausted but very happy with the day.

Close to the Action

30 April 2018 | Bonaire
We really are moored in the middle of things here. The wall drops away from 20' to 110' right under the boat and there are often divers passing beneath the hull, day and night. We hear the bubbles on the hull and at night we can watch the lights as the divers pass underneath us. It was a bit frustrating last night as I saw one diver waving their light to attract his/her buddies than all four lights were pointing at something. I really wanted to jump in and see what they had found.....

Album Order

29 April 2018 | Bonaire
I hope this is not too confusing but I have reversed the order of the two current albums, Bonaire Diving 2018 and Cruising 2018, so that newest images appear at the top. As the albums get larger having to keep scrolling to the bottom is a drag. Feedback appreciated.

The Night Companions

29 April 2018 | Bonaire
I just posted a video about the Sharp Tailed Eel being used to flush out prey. Last night it was our turn.... A couple of large (4' - 5') Tarpon used our dive lights to hunt by. It is a little unnerving at first as they tend to come up from behind and make very close and fast passes. Within touching distance they are big and powerful fish. The beam that appears to be emanating from his eye is 'real' in the sense that the Tarpon's eye, like a cat, reflects a great deal of light, enough to illuminate particles in the water. It is interesting to speculate whether this is convergent evolution in the eye design as they are both visual predators.

We love night diving. So much stuff that is hidden in the daytime comes out. I have posted a few pics from last night in the album. More will follow when I get the hang of the camera....
Vessel Name: Leela
Vessel Make/Model: Bristol 38.8
Hailing Port: Portsmouth, NH
Crew: Graham and Janaki
We are a Brit and an Australian now based in the wonderful community of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. We have a delightful home there but a couple of years ago we began to feel a bit over-domesticated so we thought we would buy another boat and head south. [...]
Leela, a Bristol 38.8 has turned out to be a wonderful cruising boat for us. Some might find it a little cramped by modern standards but it feels like just the right balance of living space and storage to us. She sails like a dream. She is remarkably well balanced and is comfortable in pretty [...]
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