Carlisle Bay, Bridgetown, Barbados

Bodrum, Turkey to Bridgetown, Barbados

Trip to date 6,108 nautical miles

0.00 nautical miles to Barbados

December 21, 2013

Dick, Andy, David, and Rick

Dick, Andy, David, and Rick

Yahoo – made it!! Arrived at 1050 this morning – 5 months from Bodrum. Barbados, low cloud, green island, multi-coloured water, 30C, 60% humidity, 20 knots breeze. Russel and Jane on “Ta-b” already here.

Great – last update. I can close the office door. Marian and I can start a holiday in the Caribbean with Andy (short timer) and Steven. Mary last seen sleeping in the snow in Turkey, somewhere near Antalya – Hi Mary.

Looking back…..

Our final stop in the Canaries was La Gomera. Very nice marina where Australian Andrew, 41, holder of the world 1,000,000 metre rowing record had dinner with us on the Van Kedisi. Based on his previous rowing experience he was looking for a “Back, crack and sack wax” – which might be a big ask in sleepy little Gomera. Andrew and other rowers are racing across the Atlantic. I think they can be found by googling “Talisker Atlantic Challenge.” Rick thinks they should be found in an institution.

The mini-Transat for fast, light, single-handed 21 ft sailboats was also in progress during our crossing. The race was started and stopped then restarted due to weather. Craig Horsefield benefited from the restart and was able to get back in the race and finish near the top.

We left La Gomera on Sunday, November 24, 2013, heading for Barbados. It was not to be a direct flight.

The winds were favourable for the first couple of days and then turned unseasonably light and from the south. If Christopher Columbus had met these conditions in his square rigged boats he would still be there. We struggled with the conditions that pushed us south and east of our planned course. There was a bright spot, and that was Andy’s fishing – he caught a large tuna and dolphin fish (mahi mahi). Eventually we were near enough to the Cape Verde Islands that we headed there to effect a few repairs and wait a bit for the wind to fill in.

We arrived at the anchorage at Porto Grande, Sao Vicente in the Cape Verde Islands with a failed autopilot, soggy steering, fuel blockage on the port engine and electrical issues. I was concerned this could be a long delay. I went ashore to clear in. After waiting in line for 2 hours and not getting the passports stamped because the official was not there, I returned to the boat and said, “Island Time folks – slow down.” However, while in the passport line, a young German guy who delivers catamarans for charter companies between Cape Verde and the Canaries had advice for each of my problems. The autopilot was fixed 15 minutes later – I disconnected 3 Seatalk wires at the course computer and the thing worked again (our diagnosis on board was to replace the course computer). The other problems were also all resolved within 48 hours and we still had a day to spare while the wind conditions hopefully improved.

The Cape Verde islands were a pleasant surprise. We were in Africa, not Portugal who used to be the ruler. The locals speak a Creole that is based on a west African language. The place had a nice vibe and the natives were friendly! On the advice of Jonah and Emma on the Prout 37 “Pilgrim” we took the ferry across to the island of Santo Antao. On the ferry a local developer told me that the Portuguese wrecked everything when they left and the locals had to rebuild, which put them a long way behind the Canaries who benefited from good cooperation with Spain. After a buffet breakfast at the hotel a taxi took us up the steep cobblestone road through the brown volcanic landscape with scrubby bushes and cacti. As we neared the pass to the wet side the landscape changed and there was grass and large pine forests. We looked down into the extinct crater, now supporting animals and agriculture. The taxi driver let us off at Cordas and we started the 2 and 1/2 hour walk down the wide cobblestone path. What a great walk! The trail was somewhat like those in Nepal, built over hundreds of years, but with scenery from the Lost World. We shared the trail with donkeys, farmers and kids in blue school uniforms on their way home to the crudest shacks. We continued through the ever changing mountain scenery of steep farms and plantations to the village of Coculi where the taxi took us back along the new asphalt coast road to the ferry.

We left the Cape Verde Islands on December 6, with 2,020 n.m. to go to Barbados. We had light winds so we flew Marjie, the spinnaker, day and night for a few days until the 17 year old 12 mm halyard parted with a bang in 20 knots plus. John Ridsdel, who has helped with weather routing, said that when he crossed, there was Rule 1 “Do not fly the spinnaker at night” and Rule 2 “Rules are made to be broken.” I had not planned on flying the spinnaker. There were twin head-sails in the plan – but that is another story. Marjie did wonders for our daily passages until we got into the real trade winds, at last, on December 11.


25 knots +/- 10 knots day and night, right behind, for days on end. We reefed the main, poled out the reefed genoa to starboard and steered, with the autopilot, downwind. The seas were never smooth. There were squalls that brought rain, 50 knot gusts and changes in wind direction. There was the wind driven swell that eventually came from astern, but there were also swells from the north and random swells. We got used to it. “Calibrated.”

Down below, there was the constant noise of the water past the hulls which turned into a roar as we surfed down the swells, sometimes for as long as 20 seconds. In the cockpit there was the sound of the trade-wind driven waves breaking and the wind whistling in the rigging during the squalls. On the surface there were the ever present flying fish, the occasional solitary storm petrel gliding an inch above the waves and a little black bird that remains unidentified – could be the brother of the one who hitched a ride.

We were certainly faring much better than the Swedish monohull we met halfway over. Sailing with his girlfriend, rolling from gunwale to gunwale, he asked when the “storm” would be over. I had to tell him that the Grib files showed no change for the next 5 days. I sensed it was not the answer he or the girlfriend was looking for. We did not see but talked on the VHF to an Italian on a 72 ft boat trying to contact the boat in front of him, and we saw one freighter. That was it! About 1,000 miles from land in all directions and we saw only 2 boats in more than a week.

The 22 knots of steady breeze, smooth rollers and happy hour that I had hoped for finally arrived for the last few days. With the steady breeze our daily trips increased from 140 n.m. to 163 n.m. on the last day.

It is great to arrive. There will be some adjustment to not moving all the time and not being on watch.

My thanks to the crew for this last and longest leg:

  •  “Otto” as the autopilot has been called by countless sailors (each thinking they are the first!) Any time you stopped we were immediately reminded who is the most valuable helms-person. Please keep your partner “Stan”(dby) from making unrequested appearances.
  •  Andy – Great to have youth on board. You showed great tolerance in listening to old farts retell the same stories.
  •  David – Thanks so much for the provisioning and cooking. You came at a time when our heads were down with necessary maintenance. We ate fabulously!
  •  Rick – You put up with me for 3 months and always had a helping hand before a word of advice. There’s a lot to be said for that. A word comes to mind: “Won-der-ful!” Thanks mate.

What worked:

  • Ham radio (Icom-M802), Pactor modem and Airmail. Great to get daily weather forecasts and email from home.
  • AIS – Automatic Identification (Icom-MA500TR) – shows where other boats are and if they are a danger.
  • GYMSIM – Phone service that keeps the same number
  • Pole for the genoa – still be out there without it
  • Vacuum packed meat – lasted when the freezer became less cool

What did not work:

  • Gel batteries – EverExceed 135Ah, made in China.. 3 years old. 3 of 5 failed
  • ARCO after-market 100 Amp alternators. Both failed.
  • Power hungry computers – inverter not big enough to handle 10 amps +

Joke of the trip (or why old guys don’t get hired):

HR interviewer: “What would you say is your greatest weakness?”
Old applicant: “My honesty.”
HR interviewer: “I don’t look on honesty as a weakness.”
Old applicant: “I don’t really give a shit what you think.”

Thanks Lyle.


The Atlantic Crew

Andy, Rick, Dick, and David

Andy, Rick, Dick, and David

So who are the crew that are going to sail Van Kedisi across the Atlantic Ocean? Here is a brief introduction to each of them:

Dick Leighton: Captain, ocean voyager, engineer, married to Marian for 30 years.
Andy Leighton: Dick and Marian’s youngest son. Just finished 128 Olympic triathlons.
Rick Lane: New Zealander, ocean voyager, married to Jacquelyn for 45 years.
David Greer: Technologist, sailor, married to Karalee for 31 years.

The four of us have been drawn together by our relationship with Dick and Marian. And our love of the ocean and adventure. What a basis to spend four weeks together on a sailboat crossing the Atlantic Ocean.


Sailing Off Sardinia

Twin Headsails

Twin Headsails

We left Palau at noon and now we are sailing a course of 260 degrees along the NW side of Sardinia. We have the twin genoas up doing up to 7.5 knots with the wind dead astern. It is a beautiful day and we have “God’s power”, as the Turk in the restaurant called it, working for us.

If it works so well we may arrive at Menorca at our favourite hour of 0200 instead of the 0900 we had sort of planned. That will be OK too.



Valletta, Comino, and Syracuse

Bodrum, Turkey to Bridgetown, Barbados

4,679 nautical miles to Barbados

August 11, 2013

Syracuse, Sicily

From Valletta we motored NW to the little island of Comino. The Blue Lagoon was packed with day tripper boats which were entertaining for an hour, then we moved to Santa Marija Bay where we could get ashore to run the rocky Comino circuit to the ancient tower at the south-west corner.

Syracuse Town Quay

Syracuse Town Quay

After a night passage where the forecast westerly failed to materialize, but were replaced by a welcome southerly, we Med-moored to the town quay in Syracuse. The old town of Ortigia includes the very beautiful Duomo Church. There was a wedding taking place – the father of the bride dismissed the driver with a perfectly arrogant mafioso gesture – we are in Sicily!

I am surprised at how much I am enjoying the feeling of Syracuse – the start of a month in Italy, with the time split between Sicily and Sardinia. Maybe the bar behind the boat with free wifi has something to do with it, but I think it is more to do with being somewhere new for the next month. Mary, I did not learn a single word of Greek or Maltese but I think Italian will be different. I want to learn to talk with my hands.


10 km run from the amphitheatre around Ortigia – acqua – Birra Moretti – G & T – antipasto – vino – perfect spaghetti Carbonera – vino – gelatto ice cream – live 60s rock music on the quay – 8 year olds dancing- Birra Moretti – girls in high heels promenading at midnight – 70s rock music – babies in strollers at 0100 – perfect temperature – perfect everything – Sirens of Odysseus – if we do not leave tomorrow we may never leave …


Cephalonia to Valletta

Bodrum, Turkey to Bridgetown, Barbados

4,886 nautical miles to Barbados

August 7, 2013

Valletta, Malta

At 0400 the wind dropped to 5 knots. At 0420 the autopilot failed. Dean had steering, freighters, sails, fluky wind and a cup of tea to deal with. Marie managed a 360. We rediscovered that the autopilot is worth 3 helmsmen – worth more really – only eats a few amps a day.

The first 2 days of the crossing to Malta saw average 15 knot NW wind on the beam. Right between the five knot forecast by “Passage Weather” and 25 knots by “Poseidon Weather.” The beam sea had me fending off seasickness. Throw-up, barf, puke, chunder, technicolour yawn. Select any one of the five options to really ruin your day. “If you get seasick Dick, why go sailing?” Well, that is part of the bigger question, “Why do we do what we do?” Fortunately I usually only suffer the first day or so of a passage.

Years ago I was forced by fog and nightfall to anchor Puffin II behind a tiny rock north of Vancouver Island exposed to the Pacific swells from Japan. Marian had saved champagne and treats, which she encouraged me to share with her from my spot by the rail feeding the fish. Lorne Priestley said to son Jason, Rowley and me on a night race to Ballenas Island, “I never get seasick.” An hour later that record was gone. The following day on the spinnaker run back to the yacht club he said, “Dick, If there was a bridge to your boat last night I would have walked back to Vancouver and sold my new boat.”

Russell tells the story of coming up to the cockpit for night watch on a bumpy Juan de Fuca race with a beer, a Mars bar and a cigarette in hand. The girl he was replacing lurched across the cockpit to the rail – the sight of Russell was just too much. (Sorry Russell – too good of a story)

Enough – fellow sufferers will relate.

The new Icom MA-500TR AIS (Automatic Identification System) we installed at Argostoli works really well. With the dedicated VHF antenna on the first spreader it finds, sorts and lists all the ships in range (250+ near Malta) and makes a separate list of those that may be trying to kill us. And costs just one BOAT unit = Bring On Another Thousand.

When the wind stopped completely 100 miles from Malta we stopped too, went swimming, did some laundry, replaced a suspiciously tight Seatalk cable to the autopilot, reset the autopilot compass and continued to Valletta with light winds, some engine and a dozen dolphins off the bow for a couple of hours.

Dean, Marie, and a Dolphin

Dean, Marie, and a Dolphin

We anchored in Marsamxett Harbour near Msida Point. The garbage in the water did not encourage swimming, but did not seem to bother the locals who were packed on the rocks and in the water behind us. Malta is a sandstone rock. All the older buildings are constructed from blocks of this material. The east coast is becoming wall-to-wall 10 storey concrete highrises.

When the Knights of Saint John were offered the islands of Malta by Emperor Charles V of Spain in 1530, they were hesitant to accept as Malta paled in comparison to Rhodes, where they had been overthrown by the Turks. They accepted, reluctantly, because they had no other options, and Malta has the Grand Harbour which was ideal for their activities.

Malta is off the path to Barbados, but I needed to visit after reading “The Great Siege,” Malta 1565 by Ernle Bradford. We spent a morning walking through Valletta and looking across Grand Harbour to Fort St. Angelo which is still recognizable as a fort. After the hot walk we had 10 pints of the local Cisk beer. We decided that the beer was not that great so we should move on (Marie wants it noted that she only had two).


Letters from the Ionian

Last week Dick, Dean, and Marie sailed from Cephalonia, Greece across the Ionian Sea to Malta. On board Van Kedisi, Dick sent Marian updates on their passage using the short wave radio.

Date: 5 August, 2013 9:38:00 AM PDT

Motoring into the sunset with a dozen dolphins at the bow. No wind – nice stop mid-ocean for swim and laundry. Autopilot stopped working but just needed sorting out. Valetta in the morning.


Date: 5 August, 2013 4:13:00 PM PDT

It is 0200 here, Dean just came on watch. There are 6 ships anchored up ahead, 20 miles out from Malta in 100m depth! Lovely night. We sail whenever possible – even 2 knots – but there is only 5 knots of wind so we are motoring. Should be in Valetta around 0800.

The AIS we installed in Argostoli is working great. More than 100 ships in a 100 mile radius. Takes a lot of the guess work out, but you still have to look for boats that do not have it. Have figured out light levels and all that for the instruments. Everybody was very very very happy to have the autopilot working after being down for 6 hours. Marie did a circle, Dean wandered all over when it happened – in the dark, sails up, freighters near by and a cup of tea!

I surprised myself that I got the new computer working with the HF radio and the modem in 1/2 an hour. It is great!

All is well here

Take care




On the Way to the Corinth Canal

N37°57’00″ E22°58′00″

Bodrum, Turkey to Bridgetown, Barbados

5,176 nautical miles to Barbados

July 26, 2013

Corinth Canal, Greece

Corinth Canal

The Greek experience started just as I expected. “I am closed” said the 2nd official on Friday at 2 p.m. as I was buying the 30 Euro Greek Transit log. “Come back on Monday for your receipt.” Makes you wonder, early weekend and what happens to the receipt-less 30 Euros?

The harbour master in the old port of Kos was no better. “Moor only there,” pointing to a location opposite the ferry dock where the swell rolled in and the buses were running.

However, Vodafone was great and we have internet connection in Greece for 2 weeks for 20 Euros.

Heading west, the Meltemi lived up to its reputation, quickly picking up to 25 knots plus. Fortunately not quite on the nose, but close hauled on the starboard tack. The wind was generally a little west of north and we were heading a little north of west. The seas were short, 1 to 2 metres and we bashed into them for 4 days with green water up the front windows and spray right over the boat. We had good speed for Van Kedisi, 6 and 7 knots, except for a frustrating time north of Amorgos where we tacked back and forth over the same patch of water so many times we figured we were wearing it out. We got accustomed to the bashing, the spray and learned the hot coffee stagger. Not everybody would have enjoyed it as much as Dean and I did.

We sailed 12 hour days and arrived at Poros on the Peloponnese peninsula just south of Athens 4 days after leaving Kos. Our stops were at Levitha, Mirsini on Skhinousa and Vathi on Sifnos. The trip from Mirsini saw a 50 knot gust and sustained 40 knots for several hours. We got calibrated quickly and when the wind dropped to 29 we called for more sail. Approaching picturesque Poros with the narrow channel the wind veered and we were able to ease the sheets a tad and sail at 8 knots in relatively calm waters – a Hollywood sailing finish, except for the white dried salt on everything.

A couple of days of summer holiday sailing brought us to the Corinth Canal where Dean’s wife Marie joined us with parts and repair materials from West Marine. I could have easily justified another season in Bodrum to get everything installed, checked, repaired and tuned, but it is well known that if you wait until everything is done you never leave.

We have been off the boat so little that the Greek language has not been required yet. Indeed, I may leave Greece without learning a single word of Greek.

The church bells sound here morning and evening. A change from Bodrum where we left the marina with the sound of prayer call – next prayer call – Morocco, inshallah.

“Van Kedisi this is Corinth Canal Control. Are you a tanker?”
“Corinth Canal Control this is Van Kedisi. No, I am not a tanker, I am a 12 m sailing catamaran.”
Patient lady’s voice on VHF channel 11.
“Van Kedisi this is Corinth Canal Control. Are you at anchor?”
Oh. Yes.
Ha ha.

The narrow deeply cut canal was cool. We did the 140 Euro transit alone. I slowed down to avoid a bungee jumper. We considered flying the spinnaker but thought the nice lady in Control would not be amused.

The wind gods were good in the Gulf of Corinth and we flew the spinnaker in light easterlies down to the island of Trizonia. We anchored off the sad marina with the sunken boat and decaying cruisers – the end of a lot of dreams.

Navpaktos with its tiny medieval harbour and several levels of castles was much better. At the square where everybody congregated the waiter brought us roast pork appetizers with our beer. He complained about the government – and I hope he meant the governments of the last decade or so who all continued the hypocrisy of civil servants making 3 times the going rate and retiring with pensions at 53.


Over 50 Knots on the Way to Sifnos

36°55.83 N 24°41.44 E

Bodrum, Turkey to Bridgetown, Barbados

Vathi, Sifnos, Greece

Dick and Dean in Greece

We are in Vathi on the Island of Sifnos. Anchored boats all dancing in the 30 knot gusts through the bay.

We have spent a couple of days close hauled and taking lumpy seas in 30 knots of northwesterly. Today was different. We had 25 knot northwest to start. Then we got 43 northerly. When it dropped to 29 knots I said something I would not have anticipated “It’s dropped to 29, we need to put up more sail.” Later we got 40 knots steady with one gust to 50.8 knots. We got wet and the decks and front windows have been fire-hosed.


Leaving Bodrum for Kos

N36°53’45″ E27°17′18″

Bodrum, Turkey to Bridgetown, Barbados

5,390 nautical miles

Kos, Greece

Dick Driving the Dinghy in Bodrum Harbour, Turkey

Dean French arrived at the Denizce Bar and Restaurant at midnight.

Farewell to David, Nuket and Elaine at Yildiz Yachting, Bodrum, marking the “end of an era.” Leaving Turkey on my 67th birthday seemed the right thing to do.

The sail to Kos was a nice reach with the wind increasing to 27 knots from the west to get us dialled in for the next few days to get to Corinth to meet Dean’s wife Marie.