Leela - Year Four - A Bounce Around the Caribbean

After a troubled year at home in the US and more so in the Caribbean, we are starting with only a vague plan: Martinique, Bonaire, Jamaica, Guatamala...... something like that. Anyway - stay tuned - we will probably change our minds every week anyway

20 March 2018 | Anse de Colombier, St Bart's
16 March 2018 | St Bart's
10 March 2018 | Simpson Bay Lagoon
04 March 2018 | Sint Maarten (again...)
04 March 2018 | Wells Bay, Saba
27 February 2018 | Saba
20 February 2018 | Lagoonies Bar, end of the dock
19 February 2018 | Lagoon Marina, Sint Maarten (still)
11 February 2018
11 February 2018 | Lagoon Marina, Sint Maarten
28 January 2018 | Explorer Island, St Martin
28 January 2018 | Lagoon Marina, Sint Maarten
22 January 2018 | Lagoon Marina, Sint Maarten
18 January 2018 | Pigeon Island, Guadeloupe
16 January 2018 | Fort de France, Martinique
09 January 2018 | Anse d'Arlet
07 January 2018 | Anse d'Arlet
03 January 2018 | Marin, Martinique
31 December 2017 | Morne Gommier, Marin
31 December 2017 | Morne Gommier, Marin

A Very Pleasant Surprise

20 March 2018 | Anse de Colombier, St Bart's
We did not expect much from St. Bart's but we are really enjoying it. We are in a delightful sheltered bay with no commerce, no roads, no crowds and NO mosquitoes (it is very arid, with no standing water). It is pretty much the first time we have experienced this since we left the Bahamas several years ago. Most of the anchorages in the Eastern Caribbean are long roadsteads in front of towns, villages or beach bars. This is very unusual and very much appreciated.

Despite the shelter, the beach is a bit too rough to safely land a dinghy so we are getting plenty of exercise swimming a quarter mile to the beach with our clothes in drybags, changing, going for a hike and then swimming back. You know you have had a workout by the end of that lot.

If we want 'civilization' the delightful town of Gustavia is a (wet and bumpy) twenty minute dinghy ride away but we have only bothered once. We will spend a couple more days here before heading over to Statia. Like Saba, it is a tricky spot to visit and the forecast looks promising for next weekend. After that - who knows? We shall look at the all governing weather and decide.


16 March 2018 | St Bart's
17 55.410'N:62 52.213'W
We are finally out of Sint Maarten. After a good beat upwind we are in a small bay on the north end of St. Bart's. There is nothing here but the water is clean and there are no jet skis so plenty of swimming in our future. We will probably stay here for a few days and watch the super yacht racing that is coincidentally taking place this weekend. After that we will head down to Statia. From there is more uncertain. We might head straight to Bonaire or run past the Virgin Islands.

Now we just want to get the city grime off us and the boat and get some exercise.

The Cruising Life

10 March 2018 | Simpson Bay Lagoon
Back in Sint Maarten.... We found that our auxiliary fuel tank was full of water due to an incorrectly installed breather so the whole system needed pulling out and cleaning. Lots of other jobs getting ticked off. I think I could probably strip, clean and assemble a Lewmar winch with my eyes closed at this point. We have recently decided to spend a little more time in the Leewards and the wind gods are now playing with us by providing the first good weather window to get to Bonaire for WEEKS and terrible conditions for the Leewards transits - oh well.

Currently we are in admin mode, having spent the whole day failing to sort out our medical insurance..... The cruising life is many things, exciting, adventurous, fulfilling, scary... but carefree it is definitely not. The world does not go away. It just gets a LOT more complicated. Current stressors are: finding a safe place for hurricane season, making sure the boat insurance agrees, resolving expat medical insurance without having to get a mortgage to pay for it, remotely dealing with tax time, sorting out retirement investments, and on and on, all over a slow and expensive Internet connection. Add to that lot the usual boat stuff like getting on and off concrete docks without aquiring 'souvenirs', anchoring in crowded lagoons, fixing the miriad things that seem to fail on an old boat, getting spares and provisions in remote locations, making safe sailing calls in rapidly changing weather conditions and there are plenty of things to occupy the mind. Thank goodness we have awesome tenants and don't need to add that to the list.....

We are really ready to get out of here at this point. If the wind settles or turns a little off the bow we will head over to St Bart's and then possibly Antigua. First priority is somewhere we can swim - a rare treat recently.

UPDATE - since writing this we have decided to spend the hurricane season in Curacao and continue our journey to Central America in the fall. We have managed to book a berth in a marina. Now we just have to get the insurance to agree. Technically Curacao is just inside the hurricane box but it is on the southern edge and well to the west. Hurricanes generally kick to the north while crossing the Caribbean sea so the risk is very low and we are short on better options. We had hoped to spend the summer in the Rio Dulce, in Guatemala but we don't want to rush past Bonaire so we need to slow right down. We looked at just getting to Panama and the San Blas islands but there is a serious risk of lightning strikes there in the summer. We then looked at Cartega in Columbia but our insurance balked at that option. Guatamala is over a thousand nautical miles from Bonaire so that left us with a binary choice of a couple of brief weeks in the ABC's (Aruba, Bonaire & Curacao) before pressing on or six months. One of the primary constraints of livaboard cruising anywhere is these type of seasonal restrictions.

The combination of the enforced slow pace and having rented out our house is having an interesting effect on our perception of our current situation. We are transitioning from 'we are on a journey that requires living on the boat for a while' to 'we are living on the boat for a while and we have a vague destination and an even vaguer timeline'. It is definitely more relaxing although, if we had anticipated the extent of our sailing ambitions, we would definitely have bought a slightly bigger boat. Leela is a wonderful craft and very seaworthy but she is on the small side for a long term home and there are some challenges, such as limited tank capacity, that have to be addressed for bluewater sailing. At this point in our lives we (and particularly I) don't have the time, energy or budget to sell Leela then buy and setup another boat so we will make it work until it doesn't then transition to some other, probably land-based lifestyle. At sixtysix I am already one of the more senior cruisers and Janaki misses her garden and studio so we understand that we will not be doing this for ever. Time passes.....

This has been a long ramble. Hopefully my next post will be more 'Caribbean adventures'.

Take care


The Best Laid Plans

04 March 2018 | Sint Maarten (again...)
And ours were never that..... Anyway we decided that the trip was in danger of being over before we were ready so maybe a year sailing round Europe first would be fun. The more we prepared for it the less fun it felt. The eastbound crossing is non-trivial, with a high probability of adverse conditions and doing the loop in one year was going to be a grueling amount of sea time with little time to stop and enjoy the experience. Over-wintering in Europe was not very appealing and extended the trip more than intended.

So - to cut a long ramble short, we are (sort of) back to plan A. We were hoping to be in Bonaire by February to allow time to do some diving then get to Guatemala for the summer. That is clearly not going to happen so we might spend a little more time in our favorite island of Martinique and head down to Bonaire/Curacao for the early part of the hurricane season. We can leave the boat there safely while we do some visiting. Then, insurance permitting, we will head on down to Cartahenia, Columbia and thence onto the San Blas islands in Panama. In the very unlikely event that a hurricane threatens to go that far southwest we can run to Bocos del Toro, Panama in less than a day from there.

This is a new plan so it will probably all change tomorrow. In some ways cruising confers great flexibility but, when you get down to it, there are significant constraints, hurricane seasons, unstable countries, piracy risk, adverse winds all have to go into the mix. Once all this is factored in choices are remarkably limited.

Anyway, we will mull this one over for a while and see if it sticks. There is a good weather window for Bonaire next week if we change our minds again......

Delightful Saba

04 March 2018 | Wells Bay, Saba
Saba is tricky to visit as there are no harbors and no safe anchorages in anything but calm conditions. We have passed it a number of times without an opportunity to stop so we were thrilled that conditions allowed us to go there. If it had a safe place for Leela I suspect that we would have spent the rest of the season there. It is truly a delight.

There is a permanent population of about 1,400 people in a couple of pristine and cute villages nestled into the side of the volcano (which apparently featured in the opening credits of the original King Kong). There are few tourists with no beaches or beach bars, just hiking and scuba diving. We did not manage to get our act together to go diving but the hiking was fabulous. I have posted some pics in this season's album.

The people are equally delightful and had the same sense of community and helpful resilience we found in Newfoundland. You could easily spend a month there just being - no need to do anything. Definitely worth thinking about for a 'get away from it all' vacation.

Anyway, a big swell was forecast, coming down from the superstorm in the north so we have bolted back to Sint Maarten to get good shelter and decide what to do next. That is a topic for another post.

On the Road (Water) Again!

27 February 2018 | Saba
We finally made it out of Sint Maarten. There was not enough wind forecast to get to Bonaire so we have taken the opportunity of calmer seas to visit Saba. This is something you cannot do most of the time so we are very fortunate.

The coast by the anchorage is incredibly rugged with no place to land a dinghy but we can take it a couple of miles round the south end of the island to a small harbor to get on land. We will go hiking tomorrow so lots of pics.

It's Not All Work

20 February 2018 | Lagoonies Bar, end of the dock
One of the benefits of being dockbound here is the VERY close proximity of the main cruisers hangout. This results in an occasionally excessively good social life but also means we do not have to dinghy across the bay late at night, a potentially hazardous occupation, with wild chop and high speed dinghies driven by people who really should not be on the water. Tales of late night dramas are a scarily regular topic of conversation here....

The bar has live music but it is of remarkably high quality and low volume for the Caribbean and has never bothered us.

We do need to get the list done and get out of here soon. There are enough old cruisers hanging about here full time and we don't plan to join them just yet.

It's a Boat.....

19 February 2018 | Lagoon Marina, Sint Maarten (still)
Whoever installed the autopilot actuator either needs a medal or shooting.... It is at the back of the aft lazarette which is pretty much full of steering quadrant, hoses, wires and general boat parts. Anyway I finally managed to find a geometry that allowed me to get both arms in (and out again....). Janaki had to pass me tools through a 2" hole under my hip. Anyway, the old one is out, and badly in need of a service, and the new one is partially installed. I will finish the job after I reinstall the aft chain plate that is being inspected.

Why are we still at the dock? Good question - the main reason is we have decided that we might well accelerate our bluewater plans by a year so we need to get all the deferred jobs actually done. More on that in another post.

No More Belt Dust!

11 February 2018
The previous owner of Leela installed a high power alternator but (like many things) did not finish the job. With only a single V belt on the larger alternator, the wear rate was ridiculous and the engine was often covered in belt dust. Unfortunately I did not know any better so it has taken me four years to fix...

We now have a serpentine belt and pullies that are more than capable of handling the 125A alternator. As important , we fitted a tension adjuster system so no more jamming a hammer down the side of the alternator to create tension while trying to tighten up the locking bolt. Now all I need to do is turn the adjuster bolt until the tension is correct and tighten up. I have no idea why this is not standard kit on these engines. The whole package was supplied by Electromax, in Canada. The component quality and service were impeccable.

As I had been cranking on the tension to try and prevent the (inevitable) slip we also had the alternator rebuilt with new bearings so that should be good for the trip.

Growing Roots / Barnacles

11 February 2018 | Lagoon Marina, Sint Maarten
Geeze.... We are STILL at the dock in Sint Maarten. The to-do list is getting shorter and we are going to drop a couple of projects if the contractor continues to make promises he cannot keep and the weather window holds for later this week.

We are enjoying the social life here and learning a huge amount from the many more experienced sailors we are meeting so it is definitely not time wasted but we are looking forward to being able to swim and dive again after weeks in a rather dubious lagoon. We hope winter is starting to depart for you all and spring is round the corner.

The meet and Greet

28 January 2018 | Explorer Island, St Martin

A Weekend Off

28 January 2018 | Lagoon Marina, Sint Maarten
After a big week, reconfigured anchor locker, more chain, new stove, new batteries (HEAVY...), serviced engine, repaired Genoa, new foam in cockpit cushions, dive tanks rated for Nitrox, outboard serviced, we are getting in awesome shape and exhausted. We managed to take most of the weekend off (apart from dragging 200' of chain in and out of the anchor locker half a dozen times and scuba diving in the grotty marina to get the anchor back - very embarrassing - always tie it to something BEFORE removing the chain....).
On Saturday we went to an island in the lagoon on the French side for a meet and greet / Australia Day celebration. There are lots of Aussies here. Janaki tested the new oven by making awesome Australian Lamingtons which were very popular. Dinghying back into a 20kt headwind was something else. It felt like we should have been wearing our scuba gear - such is the sailing life. Today we have done nothing except laze around and listen to the rain squalls. The weather continues to be much wetter and wilder than we remember from last year.
We are struggling to find a big enough weather window for the four day sail to Bonaire so we think we will grab a smaller break in the weather for a quick overnight to St Croix USVI. It is sort of on the way and apparently has some great diving. We are probably not going to get our act together to do even that before the end of the week.

Constructive Chaos in Sint Maarten

22 January 2018 | Lagoon Marina, Sint Maarten
Back in Sint Maarten and the boat (and us) are in a phase of constructive chaos. The V berth is torn apart while we get the anchor locker reconfigured to hold more chain so we are sleeping on the sofa. The engine 'room' and quarter berth are torn apart, along with the lazarettes while we get the engine serviced and a serpentine belt kit fitted to the alternator (more on that in another post).

Anyway, we are both managing to stay remarkably upbeat in the confusion. We are about to rip out the stove so we will see how we cope then. There is a hotel up the road in emergencies.....

It is all going about as usual for a boat project. The new belts were too short and are not available locally so they are being shipped from Canada. The new stove is not likely to fit without some grief but Leela will be in great shape when we are done and we have big plans....

Quick Stop in Guadeloupe

18 January 2018 | Pigeon Island, Guadeloupe
We are now at Pigeon Island, on the west coast of Guadeloupe. We can only stay one day as we need to move on to St Maarten before the weather gets up and the crossing becomes unpleasant. This is a highly rated dive spot but we actually preferred the diving in Martinique. We will probably do one dive today but we are not feeling pressed as we will hopefully be in Bonaire in a couple of weeks and that is ALL about diving.....

Leaving Martinique

16 January 2018 | Fort de France, Martinique
We have now started our journey north to St Maarten to get ready to cross the Caribbean. It was sad leaving Ed and Sam on Santiago II, Probably for the last time. We first sailed with them early in January 2015 so it has been a while but we now have different goals - such is life. They are both very creative. Eddie makes
Beautiful sea glass jewelery:
and sells it way too cheaply....

Sam makes various art objects, often related to her Westie Harry who is her mascot:

Before leaving we took the local bus up to a tropical garden. The garden was OK but the hummingbirds we're spectacular. I have posted more pics in the album

Squid Ballet

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.

Another Portrait

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.

Happy Christmas

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

Easternmost point

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.

At Last!

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.

Groundhog Day.......

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....

At Last......

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......
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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