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

Last Post for the Season

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

Graham & Janaki

The fish pics are still here.

Playtime Over

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

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

Curacao Stack

1 - Today

1.1 - Change prop anode

1.2 - Clean hull & prop*

1.3 - Clean dinghy bottom

1.4 - Check whisker pole behind fwd shrouds

1.5 - Get dive tanks filled

1.5.1 - Discuss remaining dives on card

1.6 - Visit with Ralph and Monica

1.7 - Visit Kim White

1.8 - Town trip

1.8.1 - Clear out

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

1.8.3 - Get batteries for transmitters changed

1.8.4 - Shop for veg

1.8.5 - Shop for pressies

1.9 - Fill fuel tank and gas and water

2 - Before arrival

2.1 - Flush holding tank

3 - Misc

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

3.2 - Clear in. Customs Immigration

3.3 - Wash and stow dive gear

4 - Admin

4.1 - Check supermarkets for GF goods

4.2 - Provide boat combo to marina

4.3 - Create checklist for marina periodic checks

4.4 - Inventory

4.4.1 - Clothes

4.4.2 - Contact lenses

4.4.3 - Eye drops

4.4.4 - Drugs

4.4.5 - Medications

4.4.6 - Batteries

4.4.7 - Below-waterline hoses

4.4.8 - Spare lines

4.4.9 - Spares (what's on board only)

4.4.9.1 - Engine

4.4.9.2 - Electronics

4.4.9.3 - Rigging

4.4.9.4 - Plumbing

4.4.10 - Pipework requirements for watermaker inlet mod

4.4.11 - Consumables

4.4.12 - Foods

5 - Dinghy

5.1 - Tefgel dinghy motor pins

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

5.4 - Deflate and stow dinghy
Where?
6 - Engine

6.1 - Run engine at 2800 for 10mins

6.2 - Check drop anode wiring

6.3 - Drain and replace fuel filters

6.4 - Clean engine and aux strainers

6.5 - Clean and cover instruments

7 - Interior

7.1 - Empty, clean and turn off refrigerator

7.2 - Top up water tanks and chlorinate

7.3 - Clean drains

7.4 - Pickle watermaker

7.5 - Decommission head

7.6 - Remove Seagull filter

7.7 - Clean interior

7.8 - Cover portlights and hatches

7.9 - Close through hulls except drains

8 - Exterior

8.1 - Bag up propeller

8.2 - Remove and stow sails*

8.3 - Remove, wash and stow all running rigging*

8.3.1 - Measure Genoa sheets and traveller lines

8.4 - Clean and stow barbeque

8.5 - Replace and stow hydraulic backstay

8.6 - Rinse, remove and stow canvas

8.7 - Remove and stow bimini solar

8.8 - Remove davit solar panels

8.9 - Secure one solar panel in cockpit

8.10 - Move all deck stowed items below

8.11 - Wash and stow wheel

8.12 - Double up docklines

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

10 - Pack for Europe

11 - Move to hotel

12 - Book airport taxi

The Bonaire Salt Pier

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

67

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

A Working Boat Again

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

Snorkeling

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

Meet The Locals

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

It's a Boat.....

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

A Brief Respite

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

A Remarkable Experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Close to the Action

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

Album Order

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

The Night Companions

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

We love night diving. So much stuff that is hidden in the daytime comes out. I have posted a few pics from last night in the album. More will follow when I get the hang of the camera....

Movie Time!

28 April 2018 | Bonaire
I managed to get a video of the fish using the Sharp Tailed Eel as a hunting 'dog' and posted it to YouTube. Let's see if this works.....


More Fish Pics.....

27 April 2018 | Klein Bonaire
I've upgraded my photo gear a little, particularly for macro photography, so lots of small stuff coming. We are very aware that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to dive an area like this so we will probably up our dive rate to two a day. If you get bored with fish pics you might want to come back in October.....

This pic is from Klein Bonaire. The visibility is spectacular. More photos in the album.

The Exercise Swim is never boring

21 April 2018 | Bonaire
We try and do a long swim every morning. Most days I just wear a mask but today we put on fins and I dragged my camera along. It was not wasted. We saw a small Eagle Ray about 40' down on the edge of the reef and I managed to dive down and get a half way reasonable photo. We also saw a great school of Baitfish (photo in album) along with all the usual suspects we see most days, parrot fish, tangs, bonefish, flounder, eels.... The list is endless.

We ended up swimming about 1.5 miles which is a good way, even with fins, so not much else has happened today. We plan to go on a night dive from the dinghy tonight which should be an adventure, IF we can stay awake long enough....

The Author ‘at Work’

19 April 2018 | Bonaire
This is me getting ready for a dive. There is an amazing amount of clut involved, particularly in a small, rocking dinghy. It all becomes a lot more manageable in the water. When we return to the dinghy after a dive we inflate our bouyancy compensators and hang our gear off in the water before getting onboard then drag it all in. ‘Fun’ in the daytime and quite scary at night...... on night dives we hang a strobe light under the dinghy so that we find it again. So far I have not taken my camera on a night dive as I wanted to get back into the process without too many distractions but we plan to dive on Saturday night so I will take then.

Coral Textures

17 April 2018 | Bonaire
We saw some great corals on today's dive and I have posted several images in the album. A few people are finding the album a little tricky (it is - not sure why Google half finishes everything....) so I will create a little explainer when I get some time.

New Album

09 April 2018 | Bonaire wall
So.... This was clearly going to get out of hand so I have created a new album called Bonaire Diving 2018. There is a link at the bottom of this page on mobile and to the right on a big screen (recommended).

This French Angel Fish was a total camera hog. For pretty much the whole dive he followed me around and as soon as I lifted up the camera he was in front of it, sometimes so close he more than filled the frame. It was fun at first but eventually I had to gently bat him away for a brief respite.

As I told you - Janaki simply does not use air....

The Hunting Party

09 April 2018 | Bonaire wall
Something we see quite often is a diverse group of fish hunting together. In this case the sharp tailed eel was being thoroughly exploited. He would fossick in the crevices and flush out various things which would be quickly snapped up by the entourage. It was clear that the eel did not like this arrangement as he would periodically shoot off and get in clear space but the other knew when they were onto a good thing...

The mooring

09 April 2018 | Bonaire mooring
Our mooring consists of two concrete blocks in about 10' of water and could easily be an aquarium in it's own right. There is a large moray eel in the gap between the blocks, along with a variety of arrow crabs and cleaner shrimp. On the outside are numerous sponges and hard corals and countless juvenile fish. I will do a complete photo survey at some time. I was a little cold at the end of a dive today so could not hang about. I was also a little short of air..... Janaki, of course, still had 1,000psi. I swear she doesn't breath when diving......

One of our Neighbors

09 April 2018 | Bonaire moorings
This little guy was scuttling around the sand near our mooring yesterday. It is actually a fairly rare Flame Box Crab. The two front claws combine to create a defensive barrier across his face. His eyes project just above it but I've not worked out how he feeds yet.

I'm afraid the blog is going to get decidedly fishy for the next few months.....

Octopus Color Madness

08 April 2018 | Bonaire Moorings
We have seen octopi develop all sorts of camouflage colors but nothing as dramatic as this one. The picture takes some interpretation. The white diagonal bar to the right is the inside of half a shellfish that I watched him/her opening earlier in the day. The dramatic red bar is one of the eight tentacles. If you look carefully you can see the suckers along the bottom edge. One eye is visible in the curve of the tentacle.

Octopus can get into VERY small spaces and this is actually a fairly large one in a tiny hole. I'm sure we will see more of him.

Looking Good

08 April 2018 | Bonaire moorings
Having been really disappointed in the quality of the underwater life in the Leeward Islands we were pretty nervous about conditions here but it looks at first glance that there was no need to worry. All we have done so far is snorkel around the mooring in six feet of water and there are masses of fish and crustatia. This is what control of fish traps produces.

There does seem to be some fishing allowed, something we need to investigate, but it is clearly not impacting the marine life too much. We are very much looking to diving once we are settled in.

Landfall Bonaire

07 April 2018 | Kralendijk, Bonaire
We have arrived in Bonaire after an amazing night sail with relatively calm seas and regular 7kt speeds. This was followed by a nasty squall that required a trip on deck to reef the main in a downpour just to let us know it can still bite....

After only a few days at sea it is amazing how smelly land is. From a mile or so off we can smell wet earth, specific plants and donkeys.....

Passage Making

06 April 2018 | Caribbean Sea
As I write it is day three. So far so good. It has been Caribbean bumpy with short, sharp seas, but the wind has stayed in the 11-14kt range since we started and we are currently belting along at 7.5kts on a broad reach with a poled out Genoa and a full main. We have the entire sea to ourselves, horizon to horizon, the fridge is full of fish and we have had hot showers, all before breakfast. What more could you ask for?

We have never had much luck trolling for fish enroute so we decided to make more effort. When we found this huge patch of sargussum weed we took the sails down (a tough call when you are going well), started the engine and started to make passes over the Lee end of the patch. We made nine passes in all and caught a fish on every pass. Seven Amberjacks and two tuna. All perfectly sized for easy processing and going on the barbeque. We only stopped when the fridge was full and I tired of being covered in gore.

We have 24hrs to go but the trip is already long enough to get past the early watch keeping fatigue and start to settle into the passage-making rhythm, just as our more experienced friends, Jeff and Molly, hoped we would. At 400nm it is a tiny passage (Galapagos to The Marquesas is 2,800nm.....) but this is a big deal for us. We were not at all sure we would cope with constant watches and the fatigue of short-handed sailing but we are feeling WAY better about it now. As an added bonus Janaki has not had to take any seasickness pills despite considerable motion. All good.

It is also interesting being so far from others. We saw a couple of cargo vessels and one cruise ship in the distance yesterday but today we have the visible world, and probably a good chunk more, entirely to ourselves and very nice it is too.

I will post this once we get to Bonaire, hopefully tomorrow morning.

Off to Bonaire with Position Tracking

04 April 2018 | Ready for the off
We FINALLY have (nearly) enough wind to sail to Bonaire and are planning to depart around midday today. Our position will, or should, be updated every four hours on the blog map. I may even be able to make a couple of posts.

It should be remembered that this satellite communication system can fail for several technical reasons and we may well stop or change course, so don't worry if this is not always consistent. We have plenty of means of communication in the very unlikely event of a real problem. The biggest issue will be lack of wind and the forecast is building steadily later in the weekend so worst case we will spend an extra day or two floating about and fishing.

Christmas Tree Worms

04 April 2018 | Fredrickstad
The Fredrickstad pier was pretty beaten up by the hurricanes but these guys survived well. Normally you only notice the feeding structure but, on the flat surface of the pier, the whole tube is visible. When disturbed they rapidly retract into the tube and it is clearly hurricane-proof. The range of colors is astonishing. The yellow cast is probably an algae.

As a reminder, high resolution copies of these pictures are in the 'Cruising 2018' album linked from this page.

A Solar Power Challenge

02 April 2018 | Fredrickstad, St Croix
We tend to hang out on the Leeward side of islands to get the best shelter but that can put us in direct line with the cloud streets that pop off high ground and drift downwind. The result is that, in an otherwise blue sky, we can spend the day under quite dense cloud cover. It is actually a bit of a relief to get out of the sun for a while (sorry 🤐) but it does create a few challenges for a solar powered boat. So far this has not been too often.

This cloud street coming across St Croix was taken from the Fredrickstad cruise ship pier. Leela can just be seen in the left side background. There is a cruise ship in today so no more promenading.

Company

31 March 2018 | Fredrickstad, St Croix
We are now at Fredrickstad, on the west coast of St Croix. We have not gone ashore yet but it looks like a pleasant old town with a Latin feel. We had the company of a pod of dolphins for about half an hour as we came around the NW point of the island, enjoying the pressure wave at the bow. It was amazing both how close they came to the boat and how they coordinated their movement. There are more pics in the linked album.

Tomorrow we plan to dive the cruise ship pier. Rumor has it there are still seahorses there after the hurricane.

4am Under the Full Moon

30 March 2018 | Christiansted, St Croix
We had a fast and bumpy ride to St Croix under the full moon and are now at anchor steeling ourselves for the US clearance process. It is always an order of magnitude more unpleasant than any of the other countries we visit which is a bit sad - such is life......

We will spend one day in Christiansted then head round to the western end to do some diving.

UPDATE: Clearing in thoroughly exceeded expectations. No one was officious or rude, as is all too often the case, but what a shambles. It took half an hour to get someone on the phone and they told us 'you have to come to the airport to clear in'. So a $50 (round trip) taxi ride later and we get to the customs office - all locked up. The taxi driver asks around and we finally find a customs officer who takes us through a security door and puts us in a line for people about to embark on a plane - whatever.... We get to the desk and another customs officer looks at our boat papers and tells us (unsurprisingly) that we are not supposed to be there. She calls another customs officer who escorts us to a secure area where we actually manage to get our passports checked. So far so good BUT the person who clears in boats is at the harbor (where we started from....) So we are escorted to a different security area where we wait for thirty minutes for her to get back. She looks at our paperwork and says 'i don't know who sent you here. We could have done this over the phone'. Yeee gods....
Anyway we did manage to persuade her to give us our clearance out paperwork while we were there so we don't have to do it twice. The taxi driver was still waiting outside thank goodness. He thought we had been arrested.....

Why is it all these little two-bit nation's on other Caribbean islands can make this so easy and even pleasant, despite being thrashed by hurricanes but the US of A, with all her resources, persistently makes a pig's ear of it? Very puzzling.

Heading West at Last

29 March 2018 | At sea
We are just passing to the South of Saba enroute between Statia and St Croix. We only plan to spend a few days there before turning south to Bonaire. This is really the start of our journey to Australia so a short but momentous sail. 15nm done, approximately 10,000nm to go. That's a bit daunting I must say. Anyway, we press on - slowly. Actually Leela is raring to go and I have been steadily reducing sail in order to arrive at daylight. We only have 12-14kts on the beam but we are down to a tiny sliver of Genoa, the staysail and a triple reefed main to keep her under 7kts. We definitely need to get used to this off-wind sailing....

Remora in Training

27 March 2018 | Oranje Bay, Statia
We are over in Statia now and loving it. The main industry is a giant oil terminal and there are lots of oilfield boats but no other cruisers. The only tourists appear to be a few scuba divers. It is all very laid back.

The water quality is the best we have seen for a long time and the whole island is a marine park so there are big fish. On our snorkel this morning we saw an old cannon, a couple of turtles, a nurse shark and four large permits that are fairly rare these days. We are going scuba diving in the morning so I will report back but we are hoping it is not as beaten up as other places we have dived.

The Ramora? Oh yes, the Ramora. This little guy will hang out on sharks or large turtles when he grows up but, right now, I'll do. He was very pretty. The sucker is on the top of his head so you are looking at his belly here. They are VERY persistent and it was quite hard to persuade him that I was not his new home. I guess getting out of the water would have done the trick.....

Cheap Thrills

24 March 2018 | Sint Maarten
The runway here pretty much starts on the beach and one of our friends who is an air traffic controller knew when the weekly Airbus A340 was due to land so we dinghied over and went for a swim under the flight path. The pics do not do it justice. It was pretty scary and impressive. Janaki is in the bottom left of the top picture. I was surprised by the nose-up attitude of the plane on approach.

A Nice Sunset

22 March 2018 | St Bart's
Not posted one for a while.....

A Good Workout

22 March 2018 | St Bart's
Cleaning the bottom is one of the more physical tasks we need to do. It looks pretty straightforward in a still photo but the boat is swinging on the mooring and heaving up and down, sometimes quite violently, hence the helmet. This, and the considerable surface area is the recipe for a tough couple of hours. Tools of the trade are a microfiber cloth for the soft stuff, a paint scraper for the barnacles and a screwdriver for the hard to reach spots.

In some places the fish that come to feed on the marine growth can be quite entertaining but unfortunately this area seems to be pretty sterile, with everything choked by the layer of topsoil blown off the island by Hurricane Irma.

We are going to head back to Sint Maarten for a couple of days tomorrow (I know.... But the wind rules all) then we should get a good sail down to St Eustacia on Sunday and possibly on to Bonaire. We shall see what the weather God's provide.

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.

Escaped!

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

G

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......
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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