Leela Year Five - Heading to the Pacific

15 May 2019 | Shelter Bay Marina, Panama
09 May 2019 | Medellin, Colombia
01 May 2019 | Medellin, Colombia
26 April 2019 | Medellin, Colombia
17 April 2019 | Cusco, Peru
03 April 2019 | Arequipa, Peru
23 March 2019 | Shelter Bay Marina, Panama
17 March 2019
16 March 2019 | Shelter Bay Marina, Panama
07 March 2019 | Gatun Lake, Panama
03 March 2019
03 March 2019 | Fort Sherman, Panama
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

The Gulf Stream - part 2

27 April 2014
It got very dark - no moon then less and less stars. Then the seas started getting up. Suddenly a dense rainstorm appeared directly on our track and we started to see lightening ahead of us. After some discussion we decided to cut west to avoid it. Just as we turned another, larger, cell appeared directly ahead of us. Now they were popping up all over the place and the seas were getting uglier.

Gradually the radar image took on a clear pattern. A squall line had formed right down the center of the Gulf Stream. It was moving W to E and we were on the wrong side of it. The fireworks display was totally spectacular by this time. There were pretty continuous lightening flashes in the tops of huge cumulonimbus and every now and then a bolt would come down to the sea illuminating a roiling mess. Are we having fun yet? Running away was not going to work so we dropped the sails, cranked up the motor, picked what looked like the skinniest brick in the wall and threw ourselves at it.

It was quite a ride but we popped out the other side unscathed if a little damp. The storms looked a lot more attractive now they were going away from us but we were wet and exhausted, the seas were unpleasant and the wind was unhelpful so we decided to bail on St. Mary's and head for St. Augustine, further south for a beer and a good night's sleep.

The Gulf Stream - Part 2

27 April 2014
Lots....

The Gulf Stream - Part 1

27 April 2014
After a great sail across the banks



and a wonderful night anchored in 10' of water on the NW corner of the Bahama Bank, about 30 miles from the nearest land - just us and one Yellow Footed Booby (it took quite a while to clean up after him), we stowed the dinghy on the foredeck and headed NW towards the Gulf Stream. Gradually the wind built and we found ourselves heading north at a very satisfying 9kts.

It was getting dark but the forecast was great so what could go wrong.....

A Perfect Day

22 April 2014
Apart from the wind right on the nose.... We unfortunately don't have time to beat our way north so it's chug time.

Heading Home

22 April 2014
After dropping our friends off in Marsh Harbour after a wonderful week we are heading home. We got stopped by the conditions at The Whale Cut last night so we pulled in to Great Guana Cay and spent the evening with a bunch of fun Californians at Nippers. We need to cover more ground today.... In true sailing tradition the wind is on the nose so it will be motoring but at least not into the 20kts of yesterday. Should be in Georgia for the weekend if all goes well.

Slow Time in the Sea of Abaco

20 April 2014
Wow! More than a week since our last post.... Truth be known we have not had a great deal to report. We had a pleasant few says sailing up to Green Turtle Cay with Tim and Diane before they set off for the US. Apart from that it seems to be more about dealing with the mundanities of a bad back (improving) a sprained ankle (yee gods....) and various boat problems the best of which was a broken gear shift linkage just as we were coming out of a slip with a brisk onshore wind. That we did not end up on the beach was more luck than judgement.
The Abaco's are more developed than the Exumas and the weather is definitely more varied. We have had a few storms and quite a bit of rain. Lots of books are getting read... It remains a wonderful experience. We have our friends Sten, Anna and the kids with us now and we are having a great time with better weather than expected. They rented a little cottage on Lubbers Quarters (pictured) so it has been nice to get some island shore time for a change. After this week with them we will be heading for Georgia to haul Leela for the summer. The weather forecast is not quite what we would wish for for the return - very safe but probably lots of motoring - oh well, I need to get back so we don't have the luxury of hanging about for ideal sailing weather. There will be plenty of that in the fall.

Made it to The Abaco's

06 April 2014
Well.... That seemed pretty improbable at times but we did it. The boat was fine when we got back to Nassau apart from a thick layer of city grime on the top sides and a forest of weed on the prop. We spent a day cleaning up and reprovisioning then set out for an overnight sail to the Abaco's. At first it did not look too promising. Winds were very light, we tried the spinnaker and then motored for a while but then, as darkness fell, the wind really picked up and we blasted the rest of the way. The sky was clear and the stars were amazing.
It was a slightly surreal what with the luminescence in the bow wave and the Disney cruise ship fireworks display.
There was a fair bit of large vessel traffic to keep us from getting bored. It focuses your attention when a 600' tanker is bearing down on you on an almost moonless night. The AIS system worked amazingly well. From many miles away we knew the name of the vessel it's dimensions and even it's destination (Liverpool). More importantly we knew its speed, track and CPA (closest point of approach) so we could safely pass in front of her knowing the CPA was 1/2nm astern. It was also good to know that she knew as much about us.
We actually arrived off the Abaco's a little to early so we hove too for a couple of hours to get some daylight and an incoming tide. There was a pretty big Atlantic swell running and the cuts into the Abaco's can get 'interesting' with wind/swell against tide. Not something to try in the dark.
Anyway, we got inside about 8am and there was Tim and Diane onboard Kuivato waiting for us after their adventures in the Bahamas out islands - awesome! The team was back together. We rested up for a few hours the chugged up to Hope Town on an unusually gray but windless afternoon. That is where we are now anchored, recovering from celebrating Tim's birthday with yet another fabulous boat dinner. We will be able to spend a few days with them before they head back to the US and we get ready to meet our friends who are joining us here for a week.

Photo Albums

28 March 2014
I have posted links to our Google+ albums under Favorites to the right of this post.

Back in Action!

28 March 2014
Well - the back is not totally fixed but it is a LOT better so we have decided I might as well be uncomfortable in the sun and we are heading back to Nassau next Wednesday to resume our travels.
The plan at the moment is to spend a month travelling through the Abaco's and then stack Leela in Georgia for the summer. This will make room for kayaking, gardening and getting properly fit before we head out again in the fall.
Thanks for the offers of help with the boat. They were very much appreciated.

Graham

Back to reality

21 February 2014
Got to the doc this morning and it is good news / bad news. The good news is that he thinks it is fixable without surgery. The bad news is months rather than weeks. So..... here endeth my sailing for this winter. No matter, life goes on. We are better sailors than when we left. We have determined that we LOVE it (there was a lot of uncertainty around that) and we have determined that Leela is in great shape for this sort of journey.

Now the goal is to get the crew in as good shape as the boat by the fall so that we can head out again. There is the thorny issue of getting the boat back from Nassau to at least the southern US - anyone want an all expenses paid sailing trip???

A Normal Service Will be Resumed as Soon as Possible.....

19 February 2014
Well,
The remote back fix did not go so well so we are heading home for a while to work on it more effectively. We will be back on the journey early April all being well. We are NOT looking forward to the cold but we are looking forward to seeing all our Portsmouth friends earlier than expected. I will resume this blog when we get back to the boat and on our way again. Until then, take care, Graham & Janaki

An interesting week

15 February 2014 | Exuma Land and Sea Park
Well.... Things were going great until I (Graham) went down with acute sciatica. Apart from being very painful, this is more than a little inconvenient when you have a sailboat to operate. We spent a couple of days in a marina wondering what to do next and came close to flying home but I talked to a physical therapist who happened to be staying there then called the invaluable Jerry Hyman for advice. I now have a set of exercises to do and we will try and work through it for a while. We have moved to a mooring in lovely spot in the Exuma Park so there are worse places to recuperate - if indeed I do recuperate.
I am very conscious that I have family members wrestling with real medical issues at the moment and this does not really amount to much but being partially disabled on a sailboat thousands of miles from home is certainly an interesting experience.

Our first Lionfish dinner

08 February 2014
Finally managed to spear a few Lionfish. I also found out what a Lionfish sting feels like (bad wasp sting if single sting). When filleted they are TINY but that is four less invasive predators and I learned enough to do better next time.

UPDATE: Panko sautéed Lionfish tastes awesome and our little filets actually made an OK meal.

Farmer's Cay Regatta

08 February 2014
We came down to Farmer's Cay for the local regatta. It is not actually that local as there were boats from all over the Bahamas and they take it fairly seriously. The racing was fun but there were about 150 cruising boats and I felt a bit uncomfortable that we were overwhelming what should have been local festivities. The balance is tricky..... I will post more pics when I can get some WIFI.

Black Point

07 February 2014
After all the deserted islands it has been nice to spend some time in a real community. Mind you, we were not the only ones with that idea so the place is a little overwhelmed by cruisers (over 100 boats earlier this week which effectively doubles the population of the whole island). We are heading down to the probable chaos of the Farmer's Cay Regatta and then back to the relative tranquility of the park and, hopefully, more diving.

Great Sailing

05 February 2014
We are really enjoying the sailing here. We are having to beat upwind a lot but in 20kts and sunshine who cares!



Shroud Cay

04 February 2014 | Exumas Land and Sea Park
The total failure of the sat phone has cramped my blogging a little. Shroud Cay was a delight. A very sheltered anchorage with beautiful beaches and mangrove swamps to explore. There are some pictures in the album section (along with some diving pictures in another album). hopefully the following YouTube link will work.

Heading down the Exumas

03 February 2014
LOTS to write about and many pictures to post but we have been having some comms troubles. will get online tomorrow and fill in the blanks

Under Way

27 January 2014 | 24 44.96'N:76 50.31'W, Allens Cay - Northern Exumas
This is a little out of sequence but it is a rare photo of us under way on the sail down to the Exumas that Tim took from Kuivato. It is a wonderful feeling to travel at speed (alright 10mph.....) under a full head of sail.

Arrival in The Exumas

26 January 2014 | 24 44.96'N:76 50.31'W, Allens Cay - Northern Exumas
We had a great sail down from Nassau to the top of the Exumas chain. We were close hauled all the way but managed to get there without a tack. The top end of the chain is a small archipelago of low islands with a mix of sandy beaches and rocky edges. The water and air are both noticeably warmer than the Berry Islands which is no bad thing. The coral reefs are not massive but they are in great condition, with masses of fish. We have to time any dives because the current really rushes through as the water moves from the deep side to the banks and back. It is all really lovely and we will stay here a few days before heading south.

The locals

26 January 2014 | 24 44.96'N:76 50.31'W, Allens Cay - Northern Exumas
No human habitation around here but there are locals.....

First Hooka Dive

26 January 2014 | 24 44.96'N:76 50.31'W, Allens Cay - Northern Exumas
Because it is impossible to get tanks filled in this area we decided to get a surface supplied dive system consisting of a small compressor and long hoses. It seems to be fine. Logistics are a bit of a pain but it is more comfortable than it looks and it is great to be able to dive in such untrammeled locations. Until we get used to it the dinghy was a MESS with us, our dive gear, anchors, a compressor and about 200' of hose. It will improve.....

First Hooka Dive

26 January 2014 | 24 44.96'N:76 50.31'W, Allens Cay - Northern Exumas
The Bahamas is famed for its sharks so I guess we should not have been surprised to find one on our first dive. We were.... Anyway, it was a 'training shark' a normally very benign Gray Nurse Shark. There are likely to be more exciting encounters in the future.

Nassau for repairs

23 January 2014 | 25 20.15'N:77 30.76'W, Nassau
What was that definition of cruising? "working on your boat in exotic locations". Mind you, Nassau can hardly be described as 'exotic'. More like a very down-at-heel American city with a distinctly bounded area of apparent affluence / Disneyland for the cruise ship passengers. I'm sure they are told, not without some justification, to stay in the well guarded area - all a bit sad really.

Anyway I THINK the furler is fixed, at least for now. More importantly I have established that catastrophic failure is unlikely so tomorrow we will do some provisioning and head out on a slow road to the Exumas.

UPDATE
We did find some lovely old colonial buildings near the Governor's house and some lively bars near the cruise ship dock but glad to be on our way south tomorrow.

The Tongue of the Ocean

21 January 2014 | 25 20.15'N:77 30.76'W,
We headed out from the Berry Islands at 4am this morning to sail down to Nassau. The night sail was amazing, 6kts over a flat sea under the moon and the Milky Way. We recently passed the deepest part of the crossing of the Tongue of the Ocean at 9,870'. There is nothing in sight except the sea and the sky.

Hanging out in White Cay

21 January 2014 | 25 36.77'N:77 44.03'W, White Cay
We spent few lovely days here. The anchoring was challenging and we managed to wrap the stern anchor rode round the prop at one point - no damage but stressful. It was well worth it. We really enjoyed not traveling and getting a chance to slow down. We barely did any boat chores, just slept, walked on the beach, snorkeled and set up our dive gear. There were a few other boats in, two French Canadian couple, an Australian couple and a Canadian family so we did quite a bit of cruiser socializing.

I've dropped in a few photos below.

Getting Wet

21 January 2014 | 25 36.77'N:77 44.03'W, White Cay
Heading out to the outer reef.

Getting Wet

21 January 2014 | 25 36.77'N:77 44.03'W, White Cay
Setting up to dive

Getting Wet

21 January 2014 | 25 36.77'N:77 44.03'W, White Cay
It is pretty underwater but cooler than we had anticipated. Might need to get some more neoprene.

White Cay

21 January 2014 | 25 36.77'N:77 44.03'W, White Cay
The boat soon gets cluttered when we stop....

Barbeque

21 January 2014 | 25 36.77'N:77 44.03'W, White Cay
Setting up

Barbeque

21 January 2014 | 25 36.77'N:77 44.03'W, White Cay
Sunset on the beach

Deserted islands - tricky anchorages

17 January 2014 | 25 36.77'N:77 44.03'W, White Cay
We have slipped down the coast to a small bay between a number of deserted islands. On the face of it it is paradise but it is actually quite tricky. The only deep water is scoured out by currents and has little or no sand cover so anchoring is not straightforward. There is also a significant swell rolling through that adds a level of discomfort. We have moved the boat twice now and we are still not completely thrilled with our location. We may try again in the morning when the wind has gone back to the NW. Otherwise a fun day exploring the little islands. we will probably stay here a few days util we can rendevous with some furler parts I am having sent to Nassau.

Sun on the Water

15 January 2014 | 25 44.7'N:79 50.36'W, Great Harbour Cay
When there are thundersorms the light on the water is amazing. Of course it helps not to be directly underneath......

This feels like the islands

15 January 2014 | 25 44.7'N:79 50.36'W, Great Harbour Cay
We left the port of entry marina yesterday and sailed round the back of the island to a lovely beach on the east shore. The water is a clear azure and we went for a good snorkel at a small island. The water is still cool so a wetsuit is needed but then it was fine.

Tim And Diane from Kuivato are still traveling with us and we visit one another pretty regularly. It definitely makes for a more social experience, I am learning a lot from Tim who has been cruising since he was tiny.

There is a pretty nasty front coming in this evening so we are going to set anchors at the north end of the bay where there is a little shelter. We have not riddden out a real blow at anchor yet so another new experience pending.....

Landfall

13 January 2014
After the blissful quiet of the early morning start the wind cooperatively swung the the north and picked up to about 20kts so we sped across the bank to Great Harbour Cay in the Berry islands.



We tucked into Great Harbor Cay marina where an immigration official came to meet us to do all the entry stuff as soon as we arrived And then it was off for a walk to a glorious white sand beach for our first swim. We will head out tomorrow to explore the Berry's.

At Last!

12 January 2014 | 25 45.5'N:79 03.8'W, North Bimini
Finally, after two months, we have arrived in the Bahamas! We had a wild ride across the Gulf Stream. Chris Parker, the Bahamas weather guru forecast 'horrendous' conditions but improving later. We thought we would give it a go early to make use of the wind. It was actually fine, the combination of strong winds and an opposing swell made it 'interesting' at times, but definitely FAST. We made it across a couple of hours before we had anticipated. We did manage to fill the cockpit on one ocasion and it was not a dry trip by any means but I guess we are OK with'horrendous'..... In fact, Leela seems to thrive on lumpy seas and 15-25kts plus. So far we have managed to keep pace with her. At least no-one has lost their lunch yet although we try not to go below when it picks up.

We anchored for the night behind North Bimini and set of again at 3am to sail over to Great Harbor Cay in the Berry Islands. Janaki is asleep, the wind has come round to the SW and moderated and we are running almost silently wing-on-wing across the Bahamas Bank at a leasurely 4kts under a sky full of stars. It is pretty magical. It is also a little weird to be absolutely in the middle of nowhere with only 10' of water under us. Once we have made this longer run we hope to slow it down a lot - no more 3am starts! - and get into the cruising mode. We shall see.....

UPDATE: Coordinates fixed (thanks Mark). E instead of W makes a big difference....
Vessel Name: Leela
Vessel Make/Model: Bristol 38.8
Hailing Port: Portsmouth, NH
Crew: Graham and Janaki
About:
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. [...]
Extra:
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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