Leela Year Five - Heading to the Pacific

15 September 2019 | Raroia Atoll, Tuamotus Archipelago, French Polynesia
13 September 2019 | Raroia Atoll, Tuamotus Archipelago, French Polynesia
07 September 2019 | Raroia Atoll, Tuamotus Archipelago, French Polynesia
03 September 2019 | Raroia Atoll, Tuamotus Archipelago, French Polynesia
27 August 2019 | S Pacific Ocean
23 August 2019 | Nuku Hiva
20 August 2019 | Nuku Hiva, French Polynesia
13 August 2019 | On passage S. Pacific
08 August 2019 | On passage S. Pacific
30 July 2019 | Puerto Aroya, Galapagos
24 July 2019 | Galapagos
17 July 2019 | Isla San Christobal, Galapagos
13 July 2019 | San Christobal, Galapagos
09 July 2019 | Wreck Bay, San Christobal, Galapagos.
06 July 2019 | 200nm ENE of San Christobal, Galapagos
02 July 2019 | N Pacific Ocean
30 June 2019 | 200nm south of Panama City
24 June 2019 | Vista Mar Marina, Panama
02 June 2019 | Vista Mar Marina, Panama
23 May 2019 | Panama City

The Hard Bit

14 May 2015 | Puerto Del Rey Marina, Puerto Rico
It is almost worth living on the boat full time just to avoid the pain of haul out. The credit card gets thrashed, backs get strained and nerves get shredded but it is all part of the process. To be honest, a lot of good things get done, some of which we have been avoiding all season, so we will start the next sailing season in good shape but it has been a tough week. At least it should be cooler when we go back in the water in November. One more day in the yard getting things in order then we will fly to Florida, pick up the car in Georgia and drive home via New York. We are looking forward to being back in New England but this actually feels like leaving home as Leela really has been a fabulous home fore the past four months.
I will throw up a few more technical blogs once we are settled in.

Journey's End

02 May 2015 | 18 19.849'N:65 18.891'W, Flamenco Bay, Culebra
We have arrived in Culebra and reached the easternmost point of this year's adventure. since leaving the US coast we have sailed 3,750nm or 4,315 statute miles. It has been a tough journey at times and in doing it we have learned a huge amount about sailing, weather, living on a boat, ourselves. It has been completely remarkable and amazing. We are going to spend about a week here decompressing then head to Puerto del Ray on Puerto Rico to decommision Leela for the summer. Then we fly back to Georgia to pick up the car and drive home. We are really looking forward to seeing all our friends and spending the summer in Portsmouth. Next winter the plan is to sail from Puerto Rico to Trinidad then perhaps leave the boat in Granada. that is a long way off and much can change.

The Mona is Behind us

29 April 2015 | San Juan, Puerto Rico
We are feeling pretty good about cracking the last, and toughest, crossing of this year's adventure. The Mona Passage has a fearsome reputation and the Internet is littered with tales of 'valiant' battles with the wind, waves and current. Not us I'm afraid. It was a cruise.

Very careful planning, mainly in Weathertrack, and a modicum of good fortune allowed us an easy 200nm sail. The usual route to do battle with the trades is down the west coast of PR but this leaves you with a tough slog along the southern shore. We spotted an unusual southerly that allowed us to blast straight past the "inhospitable" north shore directly to San Juan. Added to the southerly there was an unusually strong easterly current forecast for the top of PR that would assist in the inevitable motoring in the island wind shadow.

We rehearsed it hour by hour, did route meteograms based on different rates of travel, identified bailout points and locations (not many....) checked the forecast for several days for stability and, when it all appeared to hang together went for it. It went pretty much as per plan A.

We left Samana at about 5pm as the sea breeze was easing below 20kts and sailed down the long eastern shore of the DR until, at about 5am, it peeled away from us and we entered the Mona proper. We then stayed close hauled pretty much all the way across with the high winds of the day building just behind us. Once in the lee of the PR coast around sunset we motorsailed to San Juan, arriving about 6am, in time to get an entry slot with a Disney cruise ship, two container vessels and a cargo freighter. It was quite a convoy!

We are going to spend a few days here enjoying the city. The marina fees are WAY less than a hotel. Then we are only an overnight sail from Culebra, where we plan to have a little diving 'vacation' before stacking Leela and heading for home.

Santo Domingo

27 April 2015 | Santo Domingo
We took a bus trip to the capital before we head out. We enjoyed the place and learning about history from a Spanish colonial perspective was both interesting and amusing. For example an English schoolboy hero, Sir Frances Drake, is described in apocalyptic terms as the "rapacious sea wolf and pirate" because he came in and stole all their goodies. He managed to do so killing only three people whereas the Spanish had just systematically wiped out the indigenous population of about 600,000. I guess it is all a matter of perspective. We stayed in a lovely hotel and walked the streets for a couple of days. General impressions were a delightful people, a serious trash problem and tricky pavements (that really is how I got into the bank.....).

We have a tight window to head for Puerto Rico tonight so, if the afternoon forecast does not close it completely, we will give it a go tonight. I am lashing everything down well in case we misjudge it.

And Now For Something Completely Different

22 April 2015 | Samana, DR
After an interesting few days navigating the north coast of DR we are now holed up in our first fancy marina of the entire trip and LIKING it. It actually costs the same as the worst dump we stayed in in Georgia so a great deal. Five pools, a gym and a couple of restaurants will do for now.

We will do a couple of side trips here, with Leela to the nearby national park and then a bus trip to Santa Domingo, the capital. Then it will be waiting for a weather window to cross the Mona Passage to Peurto Rico.

Heading East

21 April 2015 | 19 17.536'N:69 19.692'W, Peurto del Valle, DR
Heading east on the "thorny path" directly into the persistent trades is definitely a challenge. Van Sant's book is proving to be remarkably useful and accurate. I'm not sure how we would do without it to be honest. We left Luperon early in the morning as the crazy beaurocracy would not allow us to do a night exit, and spent the afternoon hiding from the lethal sea breeze / trade wind combo in Sosua. We then went overnight to Puerto del Valle which is a beautiful spot that is hard to do justice with a photo.

The night passage past two large headlands with cotrary winds and currents was distinctly interesting and occasionally scary but we managed to sail a fair bit and did not use as much fuel as anticipated although we did manage to get fairly wet and had to clear the flying fish of the deck in the morning. We are resting out here until 4am tomorrow when we will tackle the last two headlands before Samana before the winds kick up and make them almost impassable. Looking forward to a marina and a clean up after a stretch on the seas.

DR Travels

17 April 2015 | Jarabacoa
We are having a multi-day trip into DR to get a different flavor of the county. It is typically Latin American with the bustle, noise and crazy driving but the people are a complete delight. They are all smiling and helpful and seem to be a particularly happy bunch. We are not sure about how the ethnology but they are also a very good looking people. As you can tell we are quite taken with the place.

Tonight will be our first night off Leela for about 100 days. It feels a bit weird. We have got very comfortable living in the small space of the boat and neither of us is finding it cramped. We are still looking forward to a summer with our friends in NH.

Luperon

15 April 2015 | Luperon, DR
First impressions of Luperon are great. A mooring is $2 per day. Check in was easy. Nobody hit us up for a 'gratuity'. In fact they were all very professional and gracious. The scenery is spectacular and it really is the first time we have felt 'abroad'. We are looking forward to a look around, either from here or from Samana.

In the Dominican Republic!

13 April 2015 | 19 53.64'N:71 05.16'W, 8nm East of Luperon
That was a crazy trip. We motored across the Caicos banks yesterday which involved 8hrs of pushing into the wind with as little as 2' of water below the keel and coral heads to avoid everywhere. We arrived at the anchorage beside the Turks channel and were just relaxing with a sundowner and looking at the weather when we realised that the only halfway decent forecast for the trip to the DR was NOW.... We were not prepared, mentally or physically but we did it anyway. After a pretty hellish night of sailing close hauled in 20-25kts and 6' seas with no moon we arrived in the DR around 1pm today. We were way too late to get into Luperon against the trades and the sea breeze so we fell away down the coast a few miles to Bahia Isabela which is a lovely natural harbor where 5,000 people lived and worked in the Columbus era. They were all gone by 1502 so there is just a hotel and Columbus' old fort. We cannot land anyway as we are not cleared in but it is a fabulous place to refres h before facing the chaos of Luperon. We will go round there in the morning lee to do the formalities.

After all the little islands of the Bahamas banks DR is a shock, first it is huge and second it is high. We are looking forward to some exploring.

Tourists again

13 April 2015 | 21 45.43'N:72 14.00'W, Turks & Caicos
That was interesting. We drove a car for the first time in 87 days and just played tourist. To be honest it did not take long to see enough of Provo. It is probably some of the crassest commecial development we have ever seen. Very reminiscent of some areas of Florida. Every inch of the island is either developed or for sale. Oh well.... The rest of the Turks and Caicos might be nicer but it is not cruiser freindly with very shallow water so we will move on. We had some fun checking out the local secene. This is a picture of Boogaloo's Beach Bar.

Dawn landfall Turks & Caicos

08 April 2015
The wind gods are sure smiling on us this week. We had an awesome overnight close reach down from Mayaguana to Providenciales. The picture is me hauling the quarantine flag as we enter the enormously wide Sandbore Channel into the Caicos banks. We are now tied up in a marina, the first time we have not slept at anchor for 75 days. We cannot dive but we will rent bikes and play here for a few days. There MAY be a window to head down to Luperon in the Dominican Republic next Tuesday. Lets see if our remarkable run of good fortune continues.

Heading out

07 April 2015
Here we are at the VERY eastern tip of the Bahamas. At 10pm we will set out on what should be a simple overnight to the entrance cut of the Turks & Caicos. We have really loved the Bahamas but we are looking forward to the cultural and geographic experiences of the Dominican Republic and Peurto Rico. We are going to pass through one of the world's top diving spots enroute with both of us unfit to dive which is a bit of a bummer but I guess we can always come back some time.

Hope everyone is doing OK and beginning to warm up!

A Big Day East

06 April 2015 | Mayaguana
Well, that was unexpected. We developed a VERY ambitious plan to try and punch through the trade winds to Mayaguana. We pretty much expected to have to return to Attwood if we could not make sufficient eastings but the trade wind was remarkably kind to us, swinging up to almost NE at one point. We had to stay hard on the wind in 20kts plus all day but we managed to hook round West Plana and drive pretty much directly to Start Bay on Mayaguana.

We continue to be awed by how Leela handles pretty much anything thrown at her and delivers great performance with remarkable sure footedness, particularly with the new staysail. We are less sure about the crew.....

We are now we'll set up to traverse the island in the morning ready for an overnight down to the Turks and Caicos tomorrow night. Amazing.....
Sorry about another chart image but not much time or opportunity for photography today.

Escape from 'Chicken Harbor'

05 April 2015 | Attwood Harbour, Acklin
We finally did it! After a thirty hour, one hundred and sixty nautical mile,run involving a giant tack north of Conception and Rum Cays, we made it upwind to Acklins Island, about half way to the Turks & Caicos, just before the really strong trades kick in. It was an interesting exercise in planning that I will talk about in a tech blog later.
We definitely appear to be one night wonders. After thirty hours of sailing we were totally shot. I have no idea how our tougher friends Jeff and Molly manage over a week under sail short handed.
We have spent the day completely alone but there is another sailboat on the horizon so I guess we have company. Hope we like them because no one is going anywhere for a week....

A Walk on the Beach

30 March 2015
We went for a walk along Stocking Island to this little beach shack and then back down the offshore side. It was delightful and we never saw another person which is remarkable given the number of cruisers here.

Quick Update

29 March 2015
I did not want to leave this empty for too long but I'm afraid there is not much to report. We are still in Georgetown and still wrestling with virus's, ear infections and bad backs - slow improvement noted. Two sickies on a small boat is definitely a test of one's commitment to the cruising life. We are doing OK so far.

There are some nice walks on Stocking Island, where we are anchored, that we are using to regain our fitness.

All being well well we hope to get moving again next Friday and push through to the Dominican Republic as quickly as the weather allows. We hope you are all doing well and that the weather is warming up.

Graham

Living on the edge (of infirmity)

24 March 2015
I very much admire the surprising number of young cruisers, many with children, who have had the gumption to do this early on in their lives but most of us are in the post-retirement demographic which implies a degree of health risk. This nessecitates extra caution in what is a very physical activity. The trouble is that in weeks of cruising you only need to make one foolish mistake and it can be all over. So I got bored yesterday and decided to borrow a small kayak to see if it would fit on the deck (it didn't). Janaki was sleeping and still delicate so I decided I could haul it on deck by myself. This was stupid in any circumstances, the more so less than a year out of back surgery but..... Anyway the result is I cannot bend over and am moving about VERY gingerly. The good news is that the pain is in my back and not down my legs so no slipped disk this time but a lucky escape. Both of us being laid up is not exactly getting us in the right frame of mind to head out into the relatively exposed passages to Puerto Rico. No matter, we have plenty of time and will not head out until we are ready and the conditions are right. This does mean there may not be any travel adventures to post about for a while.

Life onboard Leela - The spaceship

22 March 2015
We are very much enjoying living on a boat. It is a small space but very comfortable (in large part due to Janaki's awesome cushion making) but there are many things that are different to living in a house. The following is a partial list of the things we do NOT have, in no particular order:
Stability (houses tend to stay where you put them....)
Mains power
Mains water
Mains sewage
Trash disposal
Personal transport onshore
Constant access to shops
Constant access to the Internet
Constant access to plumbers, electricians, mechanics, etc.

Some of these can be very stressful (waking up at 3am to deal with squall and a dragging anchor). Some can be very therapeutic (loss of access to the Internet). All of them require that you understand your relationship to, and impact on, your environment. We do well on some and not so well on others. We generate all our own electrical power using solar and we use a portion of this to make all our own water which is both extraordinarily liberating and satisfying. Sewage we store and dump far out to sea, not ideal but few options.

Trash remains a huge issue. Having to store it for fairly long periods on a pretty small boat definitely keeps us focused on the problem. We are careful how we shop and try to minimize waste but there is no recycling and little environmental consciousness in the islands. Packaging still rules and the amount of plastic waste in the environment is really disturbing, as is the fact that all waste gets burnt. Unfortunately the islands simply do not have the wealth to deal with this effectively.

Dealing with all these real-world issues takes a good deal of time and planning. We were concerned that we might get bored after a while but just living on a boat and having to maintain all of the systems occupies a good deal of our time when we are not sailing.

Vertical Blue

20 March 2015 | Dean's Blue Hole
This is a bit out of sequence but I would be remiss not to post something about our dive training on Long Island. We wanted to improve our snorkeling experience so we decided to do a short private course with Vertical Blue, a free-diving school run by William Trubridge, a multiple world record holder and past world champion. Heaven alone knows what he thought of teaching a couple of old geezers who, by his standards, could barely swim much less dive but he was helpful and graceful throughout. In fact he was probably the most 'tuned' person we have ever come across. Mentally and physically he was so on his game it was awesome. During the training he was totally focused on improving our skills and helping us understand the mental game of free diving. Watching him demo activities was a delight. He moved in the water like a dancer. He was so unassuming he could have been the hired help and not someone who has dived to 100m with no equipment, including fins and who can hold his breath for more than seven minutes.
Anyway, we learnt a great deal that will help us dive better and diving in the blue hole was a trip in itself. It is at the end of an otherwise ordinary beach and drops 600' to the bottom of a cavern that is more than 600' wide.
A truly memorable experience. Thank you William.

You can garden on a boat

20 March 2015
Janaki has managed to get her gardening fix on the boat by growing sprouts. They are turning out to be the perfect cruising veg. The raw materials store indefinitely, they taste great and are very healthy and there is a wide variety available. We are really enjoying them and have some on the go constantly.

Escaping Georgetown

20 March 2015
Georgetown has a reputation for trapping cruisers. Some are attracted to the extensive and organized social scene, some are nervous about the more exposed sailing further south, some just don't have the time or inclination to go further. None of these apply to us but we are having a struggle escaping none the less. After a couple of sorties to the Jumentos, Long Island and Conception we "popped" back to pick up some deliveries (my Internet shopping habit is not completely cured) but Janaki has developed a nasty chest infection - UPDATE: we went to the clinic and it is an ear infection now being properly treated - and we do not want to get more remote until we are sure it is cleared up so here we are again....
Anyway, we have plenty of time still so hopefully we will be on the move again soon.

Conception Cay

16 March 2015 | 23 51.06'N:75 07.19'W,
We are just settling into conception and waiting for - I'm not sure what.... Janaki has a bit of a sore throat that precludes diving. Ironically it is the first time there has been NO wind for a month but that's life. We are definitely counting our blessings just being here. If we get a bit of wind later in the week we will run back to Georgetown to pick up packages then come back up here in preparation for the run down to Turks and Caicos. Even without the wind we might motor back down the edge of the dropoff and see if we can actually catch a fish. Our tutoring may have paid off because I got a HUGE fish on the line coming here. It did a dramatic tail walk before breaking free - without my lure for once. I'm not sure we could have landed it even if it had stayed on. And heaven alone knows what we would have done with it then. anyway we will press on.

After two months living on the boat we are feeling very at-home. I might write more about that in another post.

We hope everyone is well and starting to warm up.

G&J

Long Island - the way life should be

12 March 2015
This is perhaps not the most scenic place we have been but the community is a delight. Everyone greets one another, drivers wave and the people we interact with are invariably helpful and friendly but the telling thing is the children. They will always smile and say hello and, if you engage them, they will look you in the eye and engage in an articulate conversation without a hint of self consciousness or the brashness we are more familiar with. They are truly delightful and it reflects well on the whole community.

Current Position Mess

12 March 2015
Pam mentioned the interesting snail trail on our current position. Generally we have not been going round in circles. It is a mixture of bad position data from Iridium and a lack of data QC from our provider. They have promised to sort it out. We shall see....

In the meantime the red dot that marks our current position should be pretty accurate.

Anchorage

05 March 2015 | Ragged Island
This is probably as far south as we will get until we get to the Dominican Republic in a few weeks time. Tomorrow we start to head north again to Long Island and Conception in what is really a giant tack to deal with the persistent 20kts of wind coming directly from where we want to go. We are in no hurry and the trades will ease later in the spring.

Hog Cay camp

05 March 2015
From the water

The Beach Camp

05 March 2015 | Hog Cay, Ragged Islands
This place has a great 'camp' on the beach that was started by cruisers then improved by locals. Quite a few of the cruisers gather there for sunset. Tonight there was one boat just arrived from Cuba and two boats heading there in the morning so the discussion was lively. there is a great exchange of information and sharing of resources. Yesterday we had a fishing tutorial on one of the boats. Boats with water makers re-supply those without. People meet, part, re-meet in new countries. It is a good little community.

Blue Holes

01 March 2015 | Water Cay, the Jumentos
These Blue Holes are remarkable. As you approach it the seabed goes green/brown as the water shallows and then suddenly turns deep blue at the edge of the hole. it is very distinct. they are an impressive dives but still no matchfor the coral bommies all over the bottom in between 10' and 20' of water. They are beautiful and laden with fish. Between our current anchorage and the shore, in about 5' of water, there is a little patch of rock and coral that looks like nothing at first but it is loaded with fish and actually has three sharks tucked into it. - amazing....

Blue Holes

01 March 2015 | Water Cay, the Jumentos
Looking up as we descend into the larger of the blue holes.

Diving

26 February 2015 | Water Cay, the Jumentos
We are now well down into the Jumentos heading towards Ragged Island, about 60 miles north of the Cuban coast. This area is VERY remote and there is not much shelter from fronts so we need to keep en eye on the weather. the forecast is fine for the next week so we will press on south for a while. The diving here is awesome. There are a number of subsea blue holes in the area. We dived the baby today, about 300' across and 46' deep. Tomorrow, weather permitting, we will head out to a bigger one that goes down to 120'. It is a three mile run offshore in the dinghy so we need settled conditions. There are a good number of large loggerhead turtles here (one kept us awake by tapping on the hull a couple of nights ago). It is the first time we have seen them big enough to carry remora. Come to think of it, it is the first time we have seen bright yellow remora - diving is full of suprises......

Heading South again

23 February 2015
We have left the crowds at Georgetown and are heading south into the Jumentos chain. This is a tiny crescent of islands between the southern Exumas and Cuba. It will be interesting to see how many boats venture this far from 'civilization'. The cut was VERY skinny 1' below the keel at high tide for a long way. The 5' we have now feels like deep water.
The shallow water does make for some awesome color.

Tax 22

21 February 2015 | Georgetown (Still.....)
A combination of waiting for parts and weather has us as slightly reluctant Georgetown 'residents', at least for a few more days. While getting our stuff into the country we came across a very convoluted piece of tax logic that is worth recounting.
The Bahamas has just introduced a VERY unpopular VAT so, although boat parts can be bought in duty free we discovered we still had to pay VAT. A pity but OK. However the VAT charge seemed very high so I asked for an explanation. As far as I understood it, I got the following explanation:
"Vessel parts are duty free but, if you did have to pay duty on them it would be about $800. You have to pay VAT on both the value of the goods AND the duty that you would have had to pay if they were not duty free." Still with me? I'm not sure I've come across having to pay tax on a tax before. I have certainly never come across having to pay tax on a tax that you did not have to pay. A trifle wierd but you have to roll with it. Anyway, we have our parts and we are all geared up to head out for the Jumentos as soon as we get reasonable conditions.

Georgetown

16 February 2015
Well, we finally made it past our furthest point of last year with a great sail down to Georgetown at the foot of the Exuma change. Nice quiet spot - apart from the four hundred other boats...... We have not even got to 15kts of wind and there is talk of boats dragging. When it swings through 360deg and jumps up to 25+ later in the week it should get 'interesting'.....

We were hoping for a quick in and out but the weather is going to get stinky later in the week so we are probably here for the whole week - that's sailing.

This place is like a giant summer camp with organized events and a well established community of long term regulars. Not really our thing so we will get sorted and head out as soon as the weather allows.

Heading South

15 February 2015
Today we went down the outside to Little Farmers Cay. It was a reasonable run but the wind was dead astern with a stern quartering sea so it was a bit rock and roll. We had hoped to make Lee Stocking but what with the light wind and the late night partying (thanks guys....) we had to shorten the day. We will get up early tomorrow and try and make Georgetown in a single run to get in before the VERY nasty weather we are going to get later in the week. Hope it's stopped snowing..... A little is nice but it looks beyond a joke at the moment.

Cambridge Cay (again)

15 February 2015
Sorry about the lack of posts. We have spent most of a week at Cambridge Cay which has very limited communication, snorkeling the reefs and generally kicking about - very nice if a bit cool. Janaki is really getting the hang of diving down while snorkeling which is a good thing as our hooka dive rig is bust and waiting for a replacement part.....

Janaki Exploring

15 February 2015
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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