Leela Year Six - Across the Pacific

Well.... to our own surprise here we are

02 August 2020 | Pape’ete, French Polynesia
09 July 2020 | Papeete, Tahiti
21 June 2020 | Taha'a, French Polynesia
29 May 2020 | Cook's Bay, Moorea
14 May 2020 | Tahiti, French Polynesia
08 May 2020 | Enroute Gambiers to Tahiti
30 April 2020 | Rikitea, Gambiers, French Polynesia
26 March 2020
24 March 2020 | The Gambiers, French Polynesia
08 March 2020 | Taravai Island, The Gambiers
03 March 2020 | Airport Anchorage, Gambier
21 February 2020 | Kouaku, Gambier Islands
17 February 2020 | Rikitea, Mangareva, Gambier Islands
12 February 2020 | Rikitea, Mangareva Island, The Gambiers
25 January 2020 | Nuku Hiva
22 January 2020 | Ua Huka
14 December 2019 | Tahiti
16 November 2019 | Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva
07 November 2019 | Baie Marquisienne, Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Archipelago, French Polynesia
05 November 2019 | Baie Marquisienne, Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Archipelago, French Polynesia

Galapagos- Marquesas Week Two

13 August 2019 | On passage S. Pacific
I'm not going to torture you with a blow by blow account of week two as it followed a remarkably consistent pattern. The seas were 10-12', steep and confused. The ride was between uncomfortable and plain nasty. We made great progress every day. We saw two other vessels apart from our buddy boat, both tuna fishermen waiting for better weather.

As of this writing we have averaged 160nm per day at an average speed of 6.6kts. This is, of course, current assisted but it is way faster than we expected. Mind you, a slower but more comfortable passage might have been nicer. You get what you get. We are a little bit short on sleep, not because we are short handed, there is plenty of time to sleep. We have just found it difficult with the noise and the motion. The seas are down a little for the next couple of days so we should be more comfortable. We are eating really well despite the galley being a little challenging.

We thought boredom might be an issue but the days have passed remarkably quickly. Managing the boat, doing checks and chores and napping seem to fill the available time. Janaki has listened to a couple of audio books and I have fitfully attempted to brush up my French, now thoroughly contaminated with Spanish.

We have another 1,000nm to go and the forecast is good so, barring other issues, we should be in on the 20th, possible even the 19th, just a ‘few' more days eh? It is certainly an experience. I will qualify that statement after a couple of beers next week. The only significant boat problem to date has been our telescopic whisker pole turning into a short fixed length pole when the extension line parted (inside the pole unfortunately). This slightly limits both our wind angle range and the amount of sail we can put up. With the present forecast that should not overly impact progress.

We do get the comments from the blog so it would be great to hear from you. Our normal mail@ email works as well.

Galapagos- Marquesas Week One

08 August 2019 | On passage S. Pacific
Graham
One week completed and 1,000nm sailed, about 2,000 to go. Our average daily mileage has been 151nm at an average speed of 6.3kts. This has wildly exceeded our plan of 120nm per day. Let’€™s hope it continues. We did motor for four hours at one point but, with the benefit of hindsight, that was completely unnecessary, requiring only a little patience.

Thankfully the passage has been largely uneventful so far. We did have a remarkable encounter one afternoon. I was on watch when I heard a snort on the port side. I looked out to see a very large whale just off our stern quarter. I called Janaki up and we were just looking at the slick created by that whale diving when, with a great snort, a second, larger whale came to the surface right alongside the boat, maybe ten feet from the hull. It rested there a few moments before diving and turning to go right under us. That was a trifle unnerving. It was a fairly light gray on top and white underneath. The skin was very smooth. Longer and slimmer than a humpback, perhaps 45' with a relatively small tail and dorsal fin. Thanks to Kris for the onshore research, we established that it was a Fin Whale. We thought it was huge but it turns out that, at something over forty feet, it was quite a small Fin Whale as they are the second largest whale species after the Blue Whale and get to eighty five feet long. It was a very elegant beast and a real, if slightly scary, privilege to see from so close.

There was a bit of a learning curve using the double genoa but we seem to have tamed that. The Hydrovane was really struggling with the big seas from the stern until we deployed the stern warps, consisting of 100' of anchor rode, 10' of chain and a fender to create some drag. We last used this offshore Colombia and it does a remarkable job of settling down the yawing motion as we drop over the waves. Right now, as long as the wind is above 14kts true we have a good setup of reefed double genoa, the windward sail on the pole and the leeward sail on the swung out boom, the Hydrovane doing the steering, ably assisted by the stern warps. If the wind drops, with the big seas, it all gets a little ugly but, apart from a period around dawn and sunset, that is becoming rarer.

After several days of constant intervention we are now along for the ride. We have been a bit surprised by both the constant variability of the conditions and, more recently, the sea states. We did have a few days of the promised slow rolling swells. Now we have 11ft+ seas with an eight second period which is a lot more robust. We have a few more days of roller coaster then it should settle down again. We hope so because this makes every little task pretty hard work.

We set off with a buddy boat (Kelvin and Caroline, a couple of Kiwis on SV Ondina) with a degree of ambivalence about the concept and, for the first few days, they were no more than an occasional satellite text or incomprehensible noises on the completely useles SSB radio. Now we can see them behind us and talk to them on the VHF radio and we are very thankful to have them there. This is a very big very empty place. We have seen one other vessel in seven days and that was several days ago. We seem well matched for speed and are going the same way so all is good.

As I write this Leela is in the groove, doing seven knots over what feels like flatter seas. The stars are down to the horizon and the Milky Way shines brightly above. It is both beautiful and a little scary. I am suffering a degree of anxiety over potential gear failures and their consequences. Did we do everything we needed to do? Did we miss anything? Much as I am enjoying the experience I will be very relieved when we get to Nuku Hiva.

I have been putting daily updates on a cruiser tracking site:

https://cruisersat.net/blog/Leela

You can subscribe to those updates to get them by email. There has been a technical issue with that but it is apparently fixed now.

Ready for the Off

30 July 2019 | Puerto Aroya, Galapagos
Graham
The hull is clean, the water tanks are full, the rig is set up, the provisioning is nearly done and the crew are feeling good. I guess we better do it...

We are planning to depart the Galapagos at midday local time tomorrow enroute to Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas. We will be on passage for between three and four weeks, depending on the wind, which tends to be a bit too light on this route. We will drop down to the 5S latitude and maybe a little further to find the southern trades and a favorable current.

We will be traveling with a buddy boat, Caroline and Kelvin on SV Ondina, which will be a good feeling because it is a VERY big piece of ocean....

Our normal emails should be accessible (not art@). No attachments please. I may be able to post to the blog occasionally but there will be daily updates here on cruisersat.net. There is a 'follow' button if you want email updates.

After considerable soul searching we are looking forward to the experience. The very tough sail from Panama certainly improved our confidence in both the boat and ourselves. This passage is much longer but more benign. Hopefully boredom is the only problem.

We have done a little more tourist stuff amidst the preparation. Seen enough giant tortoises for a while.... This land iguana was impressive.

More from French Polynesia.

Isla Isabela

24 July 2019 | Galapagos
Graham Openshaw
We have had a fabulous few days on Isla Isabela. The weather has been remarkably cold and wet but that has failed to detract from the experience. On the way there we tested our double genoa setup in preparation for the long downwind passage to the Marquesas. It worked really well and we are hoping it will knock a few days off our passage time. I will do a tech post about that one later.

We spent one day going up the still active (last eruption 2018....) Volcano, Sierra Negra, using a combination of truck, horses and boots. It was fascinating to see the 15km wide caldera full of recent black lava and to crunch over the fresh lava pebbles. They are incredibly light and some are beautiful, with coloration from pyrites. The sky cleared on the leeward side of the volcano and the views north towards the equator were spectacular, if hard to photograph.

The next day we went for a long walk along the coast. We thought about renting bikes but, after a day on horseback, the idea was unappealing.... The highlight of this one was Janaki spotting a pair of giant tortoises in the bush. We were planning to go and see them on a tortoise 'sanctuary' but this was much better.

The next day was amazing. We went on an organized tour to Los Túneles. This is an area on the coast where the lava had hit the sea and the crust had hardened while the molten lava continued underneath forming a web of lava tunnels. Over time some of the roofs had collapsed creating a remarkable landscape.

Getting there was an experience in itself. First was a 45min blast in a powerboat doing 25kts over big Pacific swells, only punctuated by a couple of stops to look at Manta Rays. By the end of that I was very glad we only do a relatively comfortable 6kts in Leela. When we 'arrived' all we could see was an apparently unbroken line of large offshore breakers between us and the calm lagoon. It did not look remotely enticing. The skipper picked a spot and waited for several minutes apparently studying the surf then suddenly gunned the motors and rode a large wave through the reef. A couple of sharp twists through exposed rocks and we were behind the reef in utterly flat water - phew....

It is hard to describe the area in words but there are several photos in the album here. The combination of ocean, lava bridges and cacti was visually stunning. There were large green sea turtles everywhere and blue footed Boobies nesting in the rocks. Like everywhere on the Galapagos, the wildlife was completely indifferent to our presence, even the nesting birds. On the two snorkels we did we swam through lava tunnels and saw turtles, sharks, seahorses and a range of Pacific fish. The only downside for me was that the weather was kind of nasty and I got way too cold snorkeling. You cannot have everything.

Getting out of the reef made getting in look pretty benign. Again, the skipper waited for several minutes behind the reef studying the waves then suddenly gunned the 350hp motors and roared into the oncoming surf, weaving through rock outcrops. I'm not sure if we actually got airborne but it sure felt like it. I wish I had managed to get some pics but I was preoccupied with hanging on. All in all it was a memorable day.

We spent yesterday doing some final boat prep before heading to Santa Cruz for a few days before clearing out. As I write this we are on our way there at our stately 6kts. Slow but comfortable.

The Booby? She (the male was looking after the chick) very carefully stretched into this pose on one side, held it for about twenty seconds then repeated on the other side. It looked exactly like a yoga pose. She was totally Indifferent to our presence.

Moving On

17 July 2019 | Isla San Christobal, Galapagos
Graham
We have had a delightful ten days on Isla San Christobal. There is plenty to see and do yet the place is so laid back it is pretty much horizontal. We have become fairly reluctant to leave but we are told that Isla Isabella is wonderful so off we go.
It is an overnight sail to make sure we arrive in daylight because the anchorage is a bit tricky so we will leave tomorrow afternoon. We will take the opportunity to test the double headsail setup we have rigged for the long trip.

We have posted an album here that starts with the canal passage. It is organized with the newest images at the top so that you don't have to scroll through all the old stuff when we post more. Anyway, enjoy.

By the way, the rather strange photo is a young (inverted) sea lion closely checking out my camera...

First Galapagos Dive

13 July 2019 | San Christobal, Galapagos
Graham
After a day working through the to-do list we went diving yesterday at Kicker Rock. It was a suitably spectacular experience. The rock itself is awesome, jutting high out of the sea. As soon as I can get some decent bandwidth I will post more pictures. For 'mature' divers, used to gentle Caribbean conditions the diving was extremely challenging. The water is COLD so we needed much thicker wetsuits than we are used to, requiring more weight. The visibility at this time of year is relatively poor and there was considerable surge around the rock.

Was it worth it? Definitely! The sea life is totally different to the Caribbean, much bigger for a start. We saw large turtles that were completely unafraid and inquisitive, a school of big tuna, something I've always wanted to see in the water, a number of black tipped sharks and one Hammerhead shark! Actually I, who was very keen to see a Hammerhead, missed it completely and Janaki, who was distinctly more ambivalent about the idea, got a very good look at it, such is the fickle nature of wildlife watching.

One of the more remarkable experiences was swimming through a large school of smaller fish known, unfortunately, as a baitball. We have done this before but normally with small silver fish that are beautiful but do not obscure the light. This was very different. The fish were larger and darker and the ball was much bigger. The result was they could completely obscure both your surroundings and the light. It was like swimming in a moving cave, very strange and disconcerting. It became quite hard to maintain depth control and orientation. The photo does not really do it justice as I was a bit preoccupied at the time.....

After the dives we went to a beach and saw sea lions and marine iguanas. It was remarkable to watch these ungainly reptiles climbing into the surf and swimming away.

By the end of the day, having dragged our gear back to Leela and cleaned up, we were utterly exhausted so today will just be a local walk and a quiet day. The wind is up and there is a big swell coming into the bay making us roll a lot. I have set up a bridle that is helping but some time on land is going to be good.

Galapagos First Impressions

09 July 2019 | Wreck Bay, San Christobal, Galapagos.
Graham
1. We are horizontal again
2. It is COLD
3. Sea lions run this place
4. It's wonderful

I better clarify those....
It is wonderful to not be inclined at 20deg and bashing, sometimes violently, up and down. Ten straight days of sailing close hauled is exhausting. Being able to walk down the boat instead of swinging from the monkey bars is such a luxury.

Cold? Well night time temperatures fall to about 63F (17C) and it is often drizzling. For us delicate tropical flowers that is cold. We have had to unpack blankets and clothes we did not expect to see until New Zealand. This is not all bad. We are really enjoying the cool air after the oppressive heat and humidity of Panama and the afternoons seem to be bright and warm.

Sea lions along the foreshore go where they want and stay where they want. People have to adapt. We went to a restaurant for lunch that had a sign up asking people to use the other entrance as the sea lions had decided they liked the access ramp. There is a catamaran anchored near us that clearly spent some time preparing their defences. No matter, a young sea lion has decided he likes their cockpit and there he lives. He pops into the water for a cooling dip every now and again and climbs back onboard over large, carefully placed, ball fenders with apparent ease, a remarkable sight given he just has a pair of flippers.

We are SO glad we did not let all the alarmist online chatter put us off. The entry bureaucracy was impressive but not unpleasant. The town is attractive and quiet with low key tourism. Fresh fruit and vegetables are readily available and astonishingly cheap. The people are delightful, cheerfully greeting one another and always ready to smile and help. There is absolutely no sign of the aggression so often just below the surface in the Caribbean islands. All good so far.

We are not ambitious to do all the plethora of tourist things that are available. We have about a month here so there is no rush. We are going diving on Friday and will get a taxi over the highlands some time. Mainly we are happy to just chill out and enjoy the ambience.

There is, of course, the job list. Our shakedown cruise went really well but it did expose some things that need to be addressed before we head out. Tomorrow maybe.....

PS. Look up Boobies diving on YouTube. They are awesome.

More Like It

06 July 2019 | 200nm ENE of San Christobal, Galapagos
We seem to have timed our tack to the west well. We are still hard on the wind but holding the rhum line to our destination uncannily well. The Hydrovane continues to do all the work with us along for the ride.

We are pretty well heeled over while close hauled so we contemplated heaving to for meals but that is a bit of a palaver and it seemed a pity to disrupt a well balanced setup so we experimented with just easing the sails. There seems to be a sweet spot where they are not flogging but boat speed drops from around 6kts to 3kts and the heel angle goes to about 5deg from the normal 15-20deg. This is much more comfortable and safer for doing chores and eating meals. When we are done we just have to tighten back up and away we go. This is not going to work downwind but I suspect we will just have to reef the double headsail.

We should be in San Christobal, Galapagos on Monday morning. I will be glad to get the bureaucratic nonsense, that is apparently inflicted on you there, done and we can enjoy a couple ofp weeks of R&R before embarking on the big one. The current passage is about 850nm although we will have sailed a lot more than that due to the contrary winds (we have already done 927nm). The next leg is about 2,800nm but both the wind and the seas will be with us so probably three times as long. We are feeling much better about that now. Management of the key commodities, water, power and sleep, have all gone better than we anticipated.

Anyway, plenty of time to think about that later. Right now we are looking forward to some dry land and unbroken sleep.

Making (slow) Progress

02 July 2019 | N Pacific Ocean
320nm of the route covered 439nm sailed doing it.... Dodging or failing to dodge thunderstorms and battling current and winds coming straight up the rhum line. Seas lumpy and sky completely overcast. I thought the Pacific was all about lethargically running downwind on slow rolling swells and worrying about sunburn??

Actually it is quite invigorating beating upwind again and the new Hydrovane is working AMAZINGLY well. I expected it to be tested then packed away for emergencies but we have used it pretty much continuously. Good thing given the total lack of sun.... We seem to be south of the worst of the ITCZ so no more firework displays, just the odd rain shower and light squalls that need little action.

We have hardly seen a thing for the last two days, a few distant boats, a solitary dolphin and a few boobies checking us out then moving on to look for more luxurious accommodation. We plan on pressing on westward tonight then putting in a long southerly tack in the morning once the east setting current subsides.

All good onboard. We were very tired for the first couple of days but they were VERY busy and we are starting to settle into a watch keeping routine and get enough sleep. As I write this it is 11pm. Janaki is asleep below and I am on watch. The stars have finally come out on a moonless night and we have a trail of phosphorescence streaming behind the boat. The 6kts close hauled into a lumpy sea feels like 90mph and It seems, for all the world, like riding some crazy bucking rocket ship across the ocean.

Life at a churning 20deg tilt takes some getting used to. Every move feels like a gym workout. I will not be sorry when we find the southern trades and some nice flat downwind sailing but that is a long way off. We will be beating upwind all the way to the Galapagos and I think that could take another seven days at this rate. Crazy way to travel.....

On the move

30 June 2019 | 200nm south of Panama City
We hope this finds you all well. As we are setting off on the first leg of our Pacific crossing it seemed like a good time to update our plan and our communications options.

We are currently enroute to the Galapagos from Panama. After about three weeks in the Galapagos we will set sail for French Polynesia (the Marquesas). We plan to stay in French Polynesia until next May or June then continue our journey across the Pacific, aiming to arrive in New Zealand November 2020, in time for the Americas Cup.

This email address (mail@janakilennie.com) should be good any time but please don't send attachments or photos without prior discussion. The satellite link when we are offshore is SLOW.

I will continue to ramble away on the blog when I get the chance. If you are a Facebook user then friending me will give you notification of new blog posts.

https://www.facebook.com/graham.openshaw.54

For those that want to get closer to the 'action' when we are offshore I will provide position tracking and brief updates on CruiserSat.net. Our track will be here:

https://cruisersat.net/track/Leela

If you click the 'follow' button and put in your email you will get an email notification for the  updates. If that is too much information then you can just bookmark the link - or ignore it altogether.

The track position will update every four hours and we will try and provide a quick text update every day or so. There is a 'blog' tab at the top of the page to get to the updates. I will try and post a daily update.

CAUTION: there are MANY minor technical issues that can stop the satellite communications working and all of the above rely on it so please do not get concerned if we go off the air. We have other communication tools in the very unlikely event of a real problem.

The passage so far? It has not been boring.... More on CruisersSat.

It's a Boat.....

24 June 2019 | Vista Mar Marina, Panama
Graham Openshaw
The to-do list was free of essential items and we were all set to head out for the Galapagos today. Then I decided to just check the radar. We don't use it a lot but consider it essential safety equipment. It did not work at all. After several trips up the mast, to no good effect, I pulled the radome down and managed to find a boat with the same radar, importantly, at a significantly lower elevation. They kindly tested our radome on their system - nothing. At least the cable in the mast was probably OK.

We could probably send it back to Raymarine and get it repaired but that will not be free and will take a month so we bit the bullet and ordered a new one. It is a significant upgrade as it used chirp technology (using a coded signal instead of a simple pulse). It should have better resolution and use a good deal less power. It can also communicate with the MFD using WiFi as well as the cable so, if the cable is actually bad, all I need to do is get power to it, a relatively simple fix.

Anyway, we should have it here by Friday and be on our way over the weekend.

The radar joins a long list of "good thing it failed before we left" items. I wonder how long the "wish it had failed before we left" list will be.....

We will keep you updated.

40 Miles Done 12,400 To Go

02 June 2019 | Vista Mar Marina, Panama
Graham Openshaw
Actually the 40 were in the wrong direction but that's sailing.... What we have done is left Panama City for a marina just down the coast to have a BIG rest and finish our preparations for the crossing to the Galapagos.

We realized that, although the S. America trip had been great, it had been pretty hard work. When we got back it was full-on boat prep followed by the fairly taxing canal crossing and a grueling cycle of provisioning and prep in Panama City.



All of this had left us pretty depleted and the crew has to be ready for the trip as well as the boat. The trick now is to actually rest. We PROMISED ourselves a day off today but the anchor chain is covered in growth from the Panama City anchorage. This is now happily rotting just in front of our berth so the boat stinks. It's going to be hard to ignore that one. Then the head sink decided to stop draining last night. Day off tomorrow? Fat chance. We are definitely not bored...

The job list is getting shorter and Leela is in the best shape she has ever been in. Our stern clutter of ladder, dinghy Davits, solar panels and Hydrovane self steering all seem to happily coexist, even with the dinghy in the Davits, much to our surprise.



The new windlass purrs instead of grinds and all the other little mods like the raised cockpit connector and the new chair at the nav station are making life onboard more comfortable.



One nice job we (mainly Janaki) got done was getting the boat name on the front of the hull. The name on the stern is now completely buried under sailing clut so we needed to do this a long time ago. The print shop in Panama City made it an easier task than we anticipated.



We got our long stay visas for French Polynesia and we can stay there until at least July 2020 so we are not feeling rushed. Another week here should see the job list done then we will focus on the weather window. It is going to be a pretty tough trip to the Galapagos with lack of wind or contrary winds and squalls. We have been looking at the weather patterns and heading south nearly to the Ecuador mainland before turning west is likely to be the best option to find some sailing wind and conserve fuel, an important factor on the next two legs of our journey.



More when we are on our way.

The Panama Canal

23 May 2019 | Panama City
Graham Openshaw
The Panama Canal crossing was quite an event but it all went pretty smoothly for us. I will try and summarize it here. There is a good deal of administration before you can actually make the passage. The boat has to be measured and inspected and the equipment checked. They and a couple of crocodilhref't like people breaking down in the locks. Then you have to rent large fenders and special, stronger, lines to use in the locks. We used an agent for all of this and it went very smoothly. We also had to have four line handlers and an advisor from the Canal Authority on board so it got pretty cosy.

Our school understanding of the Panama isthmus is that it connects North and South America so it must run north-south and the canal east to west. In fact there is a really big kick in the isthmus and the canal runs from the northwest to the southeast which is completely confusing, at least it confused us. Another misconception is that the canal is a continuous entity. In fact it consists of two sets of three locks with the very large Gatun Lake in the middle.



Normally we go through the locks rafted up to one or two other sailing boats, in this case we went through rafted with a single, larger, boat. We went through the first three locks up to the lake at night. On the way up you always go behind a cargo vessel on the way down you go ahead of them. I think it's to avoid too much turbulence on the smaller boats (us) as the water enters the lock.



We had a pretty easy run up the locks because we were rafted up to the other sailboat, who was rafted up themselves to a small cruise ship, which was tied to the wall. This meant we didn't have to handle any lines on the way up. We moored up in the lake for the night and set off across the lake early in the morning passing a lot of large ship traffic. Gatun Lake is actually an amazing nature reserve. The canal authority does not allow any recreation or development around the lake so it is a huge wilderness area. We saw lots of birds and a couple of crocodiles.



Going down needed more care as the two of us were tied into the center of the lock with four lines that needed to be slowly slackened as the water level drops. Too fast and the raft drifts towards a wall, too slow and it risks jamming in a cleat - NOT good....



Anyway it all went fine and it was quite an experience as the last lock gate opened to the Pacific. It was actually a strange feeling, both momentous and anticlimactic.



Janaki did a totally spectacular job, doing all the very tricky boat handling AND catering for the mob onboard (I needed to be on deck making sure it all stayed safe - that's my story anyway.....).

We are now anchored in the bay in front of Panama City. This is not a great spot. The water is filthy and there is something of a security risk but we are glad the canal is behind us and we can focus on the remaining tasks and provisioning before we set off towards the Galapagos islands as soon as we possibly can.
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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