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

Season's End

09 May 2017 | St. Kitts Marine Works
Here we are. Parked in a hole on St. Kitts - as safe as we can get given where we are. This blog will resume next season, possibly in a new forum as we venture out in new ways - more later!

A Strange Experience

09 May 2017 | St Kitts Marine Works
That was weird.... for reasons beyond our comprehension they drove us all round the yard and then left us swinging in the travel lift for about three hours. We kind of got used to it and got on with our chores but it was strange to come out of the cabin from a boat still rocking in the wind and find yourself hanging above a field full of goats. Anyway, we were very lucky and the heavy rain just missed us so Leela ins now all tucked up ready for the summer and we are luxuriating in an air conditioned hotel room before heading to the airport.

Heading home

07 May 2017 | St Kitts
After a lovely but busy week in Nevis we are on our way to St Kitts to haul out.

Should be home at 3am on Wednesday- strange concept.....

The Fishing Tournament

01 May 2017 | Charlestown, Nevis
The weather forecast resulted in us arriving in Nevis earlier than planned but we are very glad we did. It is a delightful island and we have both been doing a leisurely demobilization and having fun.

A couple of days ago there were heavy rain squalls in the bay between Nevis and St Kitts so we decided to go wash the sails. We put on our swimmers and put up WAY too much sail then proceeded to thrash around the bay in lots of wind and pretty much flat water looking for rain. It was enormous fun and we realized that we had been turning from 'sailors' - who love to sail into 'cruisers' who sail to get somewhere. We have had some awesome sails but it was the first time in a long time we had gone sailing just for the joy of it. We will do more.

Today we were invited to the annual fishing tournament by a delightful couple who run a bar on the nearby beach. The fishing boats landing on a surf beach was pretty dramatic but the tournament sort of took second place to a giant party with food, drink, music, kids running everywhere and various entertainments, few of which materialized but no one seemed to care..... we met quite a few locals and it was a lot of fun. Mind you, it was a delight to dinghy back to the tranquility of Leela after being assaulted with noise for several hours.

Tomorrow we are going to take the ferry over to St Kitts to check out the storage location.

Last Leg

26 April 2017 | Off Redondo
We are just passing the Monserrat volcano enroute to St Kitts & Nevis for the haul. The sea really is that color today. We are having a dream of a last sail in 15kts of wind and moderate seas. We set off at 3am under a cloudless and moonless sky with the Milky Way on full display - a great way to end the season.

We now have a week of hard work preparing Leela for storage then it's home to cut the grass.....

Heading Home

22 April 2017 | Petite Anse d'Arlet, Martinique
We were planning to spend a couple more weeks in Martinique before heading north but weather (wind) rules. We have an ideal wind tomorrow then two weeks of light and variable conditions so it in time to go to avoid a long motor.

Before setting out we had a wonderful dive on the north side of Petite Anse d'Arlet. These two shots of an octopus were taken only about thirty seconds apart. Basically before I annoyed him and after. I generally take great care not to disturb the fauna but getting a rise out of an octopus is to good to miss - sorry....

Tomorrow we will head up to St Pierre to clear out the do a 24hr run up to Monserrat. There is still some uncertainty but we should be home at the beginning of May. The idea is a little strange give what has happened while we have been away.

Back in Martinique

16 April 2017 | Petite Anse d'Arlet, Martinique
We had a great 160nm sail up from Grenada. The moon was full and the winds were ideal and we arrived after 25hrs for an average speed of about 6.5kts which is pretty satisfying. Notable events were a couple of pilot whales coming alongside so close that you could have stepped onto their backs - no photos I'm afraid. I was too surprised to do anything - and a large pod of dolphins escorting us into Martinique.

We have had a couple of tough weeks what with chasing elusive replacement credit cards around the Caribbean and a surprising number of boat issues, mainly the plumbing unfortunately, so we are hoping for a bit of a rest now before we head north to St Kitts to stack Leela for the summer.

At this point we expect to be home by mid-May

Nutmeg

09 April 2017 | Grenada
We learned a lot this week. Some of it was about Nutmeg. Grenada produces much of the world supply so it is a good place to get an education.

We knew about the nut that you grate onto deserts and we assumed that Mace was the dried fruit round the nut but as you can see, the mace is a gorgeous red lace between the nutshell and the fruit. The next surprise was that all the local nutmeg products are made with the yellow fruit, not the nut.

We have spent the last couple of days doing boat chores so we are going to just hang about for a few days doing not much while we wait for a replacement credit card to arrive (again.....). Then we will start working our way north towards haul out in St Kitts. We have run out of fresh fish as well so I guess I need to find out if recent success was just a flash in the pan....

The Apogee

06 April 2017 | St George, Grenada
Here we are..... probably as far south in the Caribbean as we can go. Trinidad is not really tempting these days and we need to be back in St Kitts mid-May. It's a strange feeling, turning round, as the journey is far from over.

This place looks very interesting so far and we are going to rent a car for a good look round tomorrow.

When we leave we will pay a price for all the cushy broad reaches we have had recently. We have come a surprising distance West and we will need to push upwind to at least St Lucia on the way north. Such is life....

More like it!

05 April 2017 | Off Carriacou
Hey Tim,
The small Barracuda were actually really tasty- white flakey flesh, not unlike cod.

BUT this little Tuna is WAY better! 👍👍👍

UPDATE: Barbecued fresh tuna was awesome.

A New One

03 April 2017 | Tobago Cays
Just when I was wondering what I could post without repeating myself a delightful new one appeared while we were snorkeling in the Tobago Cays.

This is a 'Flying Gurnard' in full spread, a fairly rare find. They are remarkable in a number of ways apart from the amazing display capability. They have a well developed lower pectoral fins that they can use like hands to turn over rubble looking for food. I will post a picture to the album that shows this better.

Comments Restored

03 April 2017
Hopefully the comments capability is now working correctly so if you are here it would be great if you 'popped in' and said 'hi'.

It would be nice to know who is still hanging in there with all my ramblings...

Thanks!

Graham

Awesome Day!

31 March 2017 | Admiralty Bay, Bequia
The picture is my 'hunter/gatherer' success. Barracuda in packets is REALLY GOOD (thanks Ed for the fishing lesson, although you might have told me that you should NEVER scale a fish on the upwind side - we will get rid of them eventually.....).

However the real story today was the sailing. Leela clearly enjoys having a clean hull. We left St Lucia at 4am, passed St Vincent at lunch time and arrived in Bequia, in the Grenadines at 3pm. That is 68nm in 11hrs with a fishing break. We had to power for some stretches in the island lees but most of the journey was a beam reach at about 7.5kts, sometimes over 8kts. We are so used to being close hauled that it took a while to get used to it but it was a spectacular sail. The sun shone, the views were spectacular, the wind blew. What more can you ask for?

Goodby St Lucia

31 March 2017 | The Pitons, St Lucia
We had a better time in St Lucia than we expected. Some of the scenery was spectacular. This is as we sailed past The Pitons this morning with rain falling on the hills.

A Big Day Out

29 March 2017 | St Lucia
We just did a full circumnavigation of St Lucia by road with Gene and Dolly as our guides. It was exhausting (particularly for Gene who drove) but great fun and very interesting.

The picture is looking back over Soufriere to the Pitons in the SW corner of the island.

Survived Another One

27 March 2017 | Rodney Bay, St Lucia
Every time you escape a haul intact is a good day. The guys here were very professional and there were no scary moments.

We managed to get the bottom survey done, clean the bits I had missed diving, grease the prop and back in the water in an hour. We are now in a slip waiting to complete the survey.

St Lucia

25 March 2017 | Rodney Bay, St Lucia
After regretfully leaving Martinique (we will be back) we have arrived in St Lucia. This is a working stop for us as we are hauling Leela on Monday for an insurance survey and we need to clean the hull and carry out an engine service.

The biggest surprise here so far is the amount of free space in the anchorage after the crowded conditions further north. This may be due to the slightly dodgy reputation St Lucia has for crime. It feels OK at the moment but we have significantly upped our security measures. It is a big resort area so there is a bit of hassle with jet skis and big power boats but not dreadful and the ever present bar music has been a lot quieter than reports would suggest. All good so far.

Despite the work schedule there should still be time for some fun. We have reunited with Gene and Dolly on mv Groundhog, who we first met in the Turks and Caicos two years ago and we are all going for a day out on the island on Wednesday.

Given the current weather forecast we expect to set out for Bequia at 4am on Friday.

Photos Uploaded

24 March 2017 | Martinique
I managed to find some WIFI and uploaded a bunch more photos to the 2017 album, mainly of Martinique. I don't think I am ever going to be able to label them all so if you want some info please put a comment on the photo or drop me an email.

We are off to St Lucia in the morning and then onto the Grenadines.

Back Online

23 March 2017 | Martinique
Sorry about the big gap in posts.... we have had Tim and Diane as guests on the boat for a week and the (self-imposed) full on schedule did not leave time for much contemplation. We had a great week. The weather was mixed but never stopped us doing what we wanted to do which was a mix of sailing, lots of snorkeling and some island exploration. The picture is of a hike in the Pitons and a view of the infamous Mount Pelée volcano.
I will post more pics to the album when I find some WIFI.

At Last!

15 March 2017 | Anse Noir, Martinique
Our first Frogfish sighting since - we had to really think back - Bonaire around 2005.... These fascinating creatures are pretty elusive so it has always been a thrill to find one. This little guy (probably less than 4" long) was relatively easy to spot in only about 10' of water as he was struggling to match his bright yellow coloration in fairly dull surroundings. The whole dive was really nice. I will post some other images in the Google album later.

Back in 'The Wild'

15 March 2017 | Anse Noir, Martinique
After a few weeks of loud, urban anchorages and marinas it was great to get back to an anchorage without loud music, where we could swim and dive off the boat. It was only for the day but we will come back once we pick up Tim & Diane - assuming their flight gets out of the blizzard-impacted NE. We had a great dive here. Photos to follow.

Salads to Soup

09 March 2017 | Anse de Mitan, Martinique
We had a spectacular sail back from Marin to Fort De France that involved pretty much every point of sail in 20kt+ winds but since then the delight in high winds has worn a bit thin. We are having regular 35kt (40mph) squalls with torrential rain and zero visibility. We are pretty confident in our anchoring these days so it is not a huge worry but it can hardly be described as fun either. Our diet has gone from salads to soups and we are looking forward to some 'Caribbean weather' soon.....

Chores

07 March 2017 | Marin, Martinique
After Carnival we beat our way round to Marin and spent a few days in the marina giving the boat a thorough clean (including dealing with all the seawater we took onboard in the very 'robust' sail to the marina) and knocking off as many of the 'to-do's as we could manage. It was pretty exhausting, with very high winds most of the time but we got a lot done. Looking forward to getting somewhere we can swim and dive again soon.

Carnival

02 March 2017 | Fort de France, Martinique
Well... That was pretty amazing (and LOUD). It was a very interesting experience, none of the choreographed splendor of New Orleans or Rio but a remarkable display of people power. I have posted (low quality at the moment) videos that show it best but what stood out was: the separation of the audience and the parade was non-existent - most of the audience were in costume and they joined and dropped off 'teams' at will, there was ZERO drunkeness or aggression - even in the densest crowds everyone was smiling and polite. It was a very endearing display.

We only saw / participated in three of the five themed days as we arrived in the middle of things but three days was plenty. We - and the whole island - are pretty subdued today, as befits lent.

Martinique

27 February 2017 | Fort de France, Martinique
After an awesome beam reach down from Dominica to St Pierre in a steady 20kts, with Leela maintaining a steady 7kts, followed by an ugly sail down the Martinique coast with winds all over the place from flat calm to 30kts we have arrived in the capital Fort de France in time for the big carnival parade. It is certainly a spectacle but sound levels are way into the danger zone so I'm looking for my earplugs.... the change from Dominican nature to French urban is going to take some getting used to. At one point this morning I was ready to turn round and head back but I'm settling in. Carnival pics will follow.

A Superfluity of Artifacts

23 February 2017 | The Cabrits Headland, Portsmouth, Dominica
I went for a wander round the Cabrits today and was surprised to see old cannon just lying around where they were left when the British abandoned the fort in the 1850's.

This wall was a defensive perimeter that went for about a mile along the shore facing the 'enemy' (the French on Guadeloupe). Amazingly the coast of Guadeloupe is clearly visible from this location without the need for any magnification. A very different form of warfare.

The fort never actually saw action but, after the French captured Roseau, the capital to the south, they subsequently abandoned the island due to an unwillingness to attack Fort Shirley. Deterrence is a very efficient form of combat.

An Idyllic Painting Location

23 February 2017 | Fort Shirley, Portsmouth, Dominica
Janaki spent today under a huge Mango tree in the middle of Fort Shirley, a defensive fort primarily occupied by the English but occasionally the French. I went exploring the Cabrit Point fortifications and found amazing stuff just lying in the bush.

Some Spots are Harder to Reach

21 February 2017 | Rosalie Rainforest, Dominica
Getting to the coastal waterfall on the Riviere Cyrique required climbing down (and up....) a 100'+ cliff using tree roots, roes and the occasional rope ladder. It was well worth the effort and fun in its own right for a retired climber. There are more pictures in the album.

Tall Ships

19 February 2017 | Portsmouth, Dominica
We have been surprised and pleased by the number of tall ships being both preserved and actively used. This particular vessel is the 256' Stad Amsterdam which is, unfortunately, a (very fine) 're-creation', built in Holland in the 90's but there are many original ships still about.

LOTS of new photos

19 February 2017 | Dominica
I have managed to upload a bunch of Dominica photos here or they can be accessed from the ALBUM link.

Who Needs a Reef?....

19 February 2017 | Portsmouth, Dominica
This is what happens to your prop when you don't move enough. I managed to get the worst of it off but it is remarkably tough stuff.

It is still functional enough to get us into and out of anchorages and we have managed to sail pretty much everywhere so far so a big clean up can wait until we haul out in May.

Back in the Water

17 February 2017 | Portsmouth, Dominica
We seem to be in a pattern of a few days in the forest followed by a few days diving - could be worse.....
Anyway I have masses of pictures to upload when I find some reliable wifi but this is a taster.
This sharp tailed eel was pretty feisty and was not going to be intimidated by my much larger presence. When he did move he exhibited a quite remarkable ability to 'slither' between rocks backwards. In fact he seemed as comfortable in reverse as forward, with the tip of his tail actually feeling around for a suitable path. It was a very strange sight.

Camouflage- The Land Edition

16 February 2017
I'm not sure how easy it will be to see this awesome creature. It was certainly not going to be seen until it moved. I will put a high resolution copy in the album when I get the chance. UPDATE: It is apparently a 'lichen mimicking katydid' or bush cricket.
The Dominican rainforest is astonishing. We are going to head out for another exploration on Monday.

Something Different

14 February 2017 | Rosalie Rainforest Lodge
This is our current 'home', a mile into the forest from the lodge it is wonderfully peaceful. There are rivers and waterfalls all around us, a delightful break from the boat.

Never a Dull Moment

11 February 2017 | Dominica
Here we are trying to enjoy a relaxing Caribbean vacation and some inconsiderate whatsit decides to try and bring down the government..., unfortunately a few people died but the island seems to take it in its stride and Roseau seemed calm today - at least as calm as any Caribbean city can get.... Anyway, it seems to have settled down again with little impact on us and we are heading off for a few days in the forest on Monday.

First Dominica Dive

10 February 2017 | Portsmouth, Dominica
But not the last. The shore here consists of a large boulder field going down to sand at about 80ft. We are surmising that it is the remainder when the sea washes all the ash away after an eruption. Anyway, it makes for very interesting terrain and amazing water clarity.

Again, there is not a lot of large fishes due to over-fishing but the small stuff is varied and fascinating. I do need to improve my macro photography to do it justice.

It is hard to fault the fishermen as they are a low tech, subsistence operation and they work incredibly hard. Interestingly one of the few modern facilities in the town is the fish market complex, "generously" funded by the Japanese. Those whaling votes at the UN must have cost a bundle....

A Walk in the Woods

09 February 2017 | Dominica
We took a day off the boat yesterday and headed into the woods with some fellow cruisers to check out a local swimming hole/waterfall. The drive over the northern tip of the island was fascinating. It went through the crater of a dormant volcano, smelling strongly of sulphur, then through a small farming village where the steep slopes were being heavily farmed using scratch terracing. There were Yams and several other tropical root crops as well as a number of varieties of Plantain and Banana. I will document this better when we go in our road trip.

We then walked up a stream bed to a small but impressive waterfall. Where the braver of us went for a swim/pounding. Again, the valley was quite heavily, if primitively, farmed so I am looking forward to the national park to see the unmodified rainforest. The ferns and tree ferns were spectacular- more later.

The Dominica stay is proving to be a little more expensive than we had anticipated as the 'natural experience' has been thoroughly monetized. For example, to cross some private land to get to the waterfall required a 'donation' of 20 $US each, add the van and driver and it mounts up quickly. Each of the trails in the national parks requires a paid permit. No issues with them making a buck but it becomes a lot of bucks and it may push us to the sufficiently forested but, surprisingly, less costly Martinique a little sooner than planned.

Hope those of you in New England stay warm. We are a tiny bit jealous of the snow but you cannot have everything.

Portsmouth, Dominica

05 February 2017 | Portsmouth, Dominica
Another day, another country. We have not been ashore yet but first impressions are good. Lots of hills, lots of forest and LOTS of rain..... It is definitely third world compared with the French island of Guadeloupe, reinforcing our impression that the British gave the islands a very raw deal. Anyway, more later.

Another Landfall

05 February 2017 | Portsmouth, Dominica
After a great sail down from Guadeloupe we have arrived in Dominica. It was only a 20nm sail but it was around 24kts with a reasonable sea running so it was a fun ride. We are still working out how to point efficiently with a reefed genoa but we were a little off the wind today and it worked fine. The pic of Leela under sail is from last week's sail to Les Saintes when we were hard on the wind with the same wind and setup. Mike from Sea Biscuit took the photo. Always something to learn....

Keeping in Touch

04 February 2017
We have been having a technical problem with the comments not posting (I still get them by email) so I have turned that functionality off for now. We would still love to hear from you by email at our usual address (mail@janakile.....com)

Take care and stay both warm and sane.

Graham

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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