The Voyage


Andy and Melissa are sailing around the world on their 48-foot sailboat, Spectacle.

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Bali, Indonesia

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The Voyage of Spectacle

Archive for December, 2006

Our Own Saffir-Simpson Scale

Posted by: andy

We’re settling in at the Conch Inn Marina in Marsh Harbour. But for a little bit of grime, Spectacle is just as I left her. This is mostly — but not entirely — good news.

You see, there is an essential boat system that has been in need of fixing since late October.  This repair has now developed into a “Setback.”  Much like a cyclonic tropical storm, it could well develop into a Bummer on its way to becoming a full-blown Fiasco.  To be honest, it is sort of heading that way.

And much like a cyclonic tropical storm, it has now reached the point where it has earned a name.  For now, we’ll call this “Setback Autopilot” (equivalent to a tropical storm).  Previously, it was merely a Situation, much like, say, a tropical depression.  As the misfortune mounts, we’ll perhaps be renaming it “Bummer Autopilot” (equivalent to a category 1 hurricane), “Fiasco Autopilot” (category 2), “Calamity Autopilot” (category 3, the level where there is no longer any residual humor or whimsy in the situation), “Cataclysm Autopilot” (category 4) or “Apocalypse Autopilot” (category 5).

By the way, we fully plan on revisiting the newly-devised “Spectacle-Simpson” scale when future misfortune (which is, to some degree, inevitable) occurs.  Hopefully, we’ll keep all of it at “Fiasco” or below.  Fortunately, this one is highly unlikely to get worse than that, although a full-blown Fiasco still brings 80-100 mph teeth gnashing and 12-15 feet of garment rending.

There is quite a story behind all this, but I’m going to save that until we know how it ends.  For now, the good news is that the autopilot component in question is, as of yesterday, off the boat, in a box, and on its way to Merrimack, New Hampshire, and the service department of its manufacturer, a certain prominent defense contractor whose marine instruments are of notoriously inferior quality to those of its major competitors but whose service department is supposed to be outstanding (perhaps because they get plenty of practice).  It’s not really an exaggeration to say that every single semi-important thing that has broken on the boat since we bought it has been manufactured by these folks. Let me put this another way… I fear for our troops.

Obviously, this is a fluid situation (*rim shot* — “I’ll be at the Comedy Store all next week”).  Hopefully, we’ll know a lot more on Monday or Tuesday.  No, let me rephrase that.  We had better know a lot more on Monday or Tuesday.

Prop Plane from Ft. Lauderdale to Bahamas

Posted by: melissa

Yellow Air Taxi Mel & Andy.jpg Yellow Air Taxi pilots.jpg After several long weeks of hard work and trying to anticipate every conceivable contingency, we started our adventure off with a bang … a 1 hour 10 minutes flight on an eight seater Cessna prop plane!  The good folks at Yellow Air Taxi took really good care of us to include accomodating our whopping 180 pounds of luggage!

Andy had taken Yellow Air Taxi from Great Abaco back to Ft. Lauderdale once already, but I didn’t really know what to expect.  The cockpit is several feet away allowing passengers (particularly those nervous about flying) to fixate on the various known and unknown gauges and blinking lights.  I found myself concentrating rather heavily on fuel, oil pressure, and radar … all conveniently clustered together!  After awhile however, I was able to relax and take in some truly beautiful scenery.  More Pictures

Treasure Cay

Posted by: melissa

After several days of boat projects and just getting settled, we decided to have a tourist day.  We are in the Bahamas after all and we had yet to see any good beach time. 

Treasure Cay is 30 miles northeast of Marsh Harbour on a peninsula of Great Abaco (not its own island as Cay would suggest).  Unfortunately, the scooter rental establishment denied us scooter rentals due to our lack of a motorcycle driver’s certification, so we opted for a compact car for the day.  As if the late 80′s Chevy Citation wasn’t scary enough, Bahamians drive on the left, and rather crazily and lawlessly to boot.  However, most cars are not outfitted to be drive-on-the-left cars … that is to say, the steering wheel is also on the left which makes for an incredibly difficult driving situation (i.e. imagine trying to Keep Leftpass the slower car in front of you on a two lane road, just checking for oncoming traffic is harrowing!).  Luckily for me (the designated driver in foreign lands), a stark reminder was plastered in full view.  It came in handy several times when the compulsion to veer right was strong!

Also luckily for me, the drive itself to Treasure Cay was terribly uninteresting (and would’ve been awful on motor scooters by the way) so I was left to concentrate on staying on the left.  We passed a huge gulag-looking school, a burning landfill that looked like it belonged somewhere like Mogadishu, and a spooky cemetary with its equally spooky adjacent shanty town.  And then voila … the paradise called Treasure Cay!

 After clearing the guard gate, we drove to the top of the peninsula through small Beautiful Beach on Treasure Caystreets lined with beautiful homes.  We parked and headed out to a beach so picturesque, it was almost corny … crystal blue water, powder white sand, not a soul besides us, late afternoon sun and billowy clouds floating by in a cool ocean breeze … okay, that’s sufficiently corny now!  More Pictures

Getting Used to Boat Life

Posted by: melissa

After about a week, we are starting to get settled into our new boat life but, alas, we have yet to sail anywhere!  It’s a good idea to acclimate to marina life considering only about one-third of our trip is at sea anyhow.

The Abacos are located in the northeast of the Bahamian archipelago (175 miles east of Palm Beach) in a 140-mile curve around the east of Grand Bahama.  The population of the Abacos is 11,000, and Marsh Harbour (located on a north-facing cove about midway down Great Abaco) is the third largest town in the Bahamas (after Freeport and Nassau).  A popular area with sailors, the Abacos are home to about half of the 60 marinas in the Bahamas.  Many of the cays in the surrounding area were settled by Loyalists after the American Revolution.  In 1973, the Abacos launched a fairly strong, but ultimately unsuccessful, movement to remain part of Britain rather than declaring independence with the rest of the Bahamas.

Marsh Harbour has been an excellent place to begin our journey.  The town is just big enough to have a lot of resources and services.  For instance, the eight restaurants within walking or short cab ride distance have been consistently pretty good (Andy begins the full-fledged restaurant reviews shortly).  We visited two different grocery stores to investigate the eventual boat provisioning opportunities, and we were pleasantly surprised both in availability and affordability.  One of the two stores is a Costco-type warehouse situation where we purchased gobs of non-perishables, soda, and paper products for about $350.  And I’m talking gobs of stuff … an avalanche of pancake mix, a dozen batches of brownieGrocery Run Bahamas Style mix, granola bars, a dozen boxes of mac n’ cheese, etc.  The other store is a proper grocery store with produce, butcher, deli, bakery, the whole shebang – it could be a Ralphs in Pasadena.  The decent restaurants and proper grocery stores have been quite comforting for me since I can be quite finicky about food (for those who know me well, stop snickering).

The View from our Slip at Conch Inn MarinaThe Conch Inn Marina has been a welcome first stop as well.  The facilities are clean and well managed … also a comforting revelation for me … and of course, there’s the spectacular view.

Hopetown, Elbow Cay

Posted by: melissa

Andy’s middle brother, Erik, arrived Tuesday, December 12, and we are so excited to have our very first Spectacle visitor!

On Thursday, after a leisurely breakfast, the three of us walked east from the Conch Inn toward the far point of Marsh Harbour, past the ferry dock and out nearly to the end of the point, past some beautiful homes and beaches.  Then we hopped on the 12:15 ferry to Hope Town, Elbow Cay (about 4 miles away and a 20 minute ride).  Six miles long and one quarter mile wide, Elbow Cay is surrounded by a huge The View from the Hopetown Lighthousebarrier reef and has a protected natural harbor.  Hope Town is very charming with clapboard houses, white picket fences, petunia-adorned window boxes, and small winding pedestrian streets.  We wandered aimlessly for awhile, had a mediocre-bordering-on-bad lunch, and ended up at the famous lighthouse (that’s right … To The Lighthouse with Ms. Woolf).  Built in the 1830’s, the Hopetown lighthouse alleviated the treachery of navigating through the many shoals and reefs in the area, not to mention providing a fabulous view of the town and surrounding cays.  More Pictures