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

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Archive for March, 2007

The Cricket World Cup

Posted by: andy

The Cricket World Cup began today, as hosts West Indies convincingly blasted a pretty-darn-good Pakistan team 242-187 (I realize that may seem sort of close, but much like college basketball, cricket matches tend to be really close or not close at all – this game was among the latter).

Of the 16 teams in the tournament, there are only eight that have any chance at all of winning.   Pakistan is pretty clearly the 8th-best team in the tournament, but they are much closer to #1 than to #9.  They are 14-1 odds to win the tournament.  The #9 team (Bangladesh) is 300-1.  Accordingly, this was actually a very nice win for the “Windies.”

Much like Olympic basketball is the United States vs. Everyone Else (Everyone Else having done pretty well lately), the Cricket World Cup is Australia vs. Everyone Else.  After going nearly five years without losing a single game, the Australians have played terribly lately (getting beaten three games in a row by a New Zealand team that no one thought was any good, which, confirming those suspicions, subsequently lost to Bangla-frickin-desh).  As a result, Australia has gone from less than even-money to 9-4 as the favorites of the tournament.  Everyone knows their quality and expects them to sort things out in the tournament.  If I were a betting man, I’d take Australia at 9-4.  I’m heavily rooting against them (as I do in every sport in which Australia is involved), but they are clearly the most talented team.

Since I brought it up, here are the current approximate betting odds (all rounded off “to 1”):

(1) Australia – 2.25-1

(2) South Africa – 4.5-1

(t3) India – 7-1

(t3) Sri Lanka – 7-1

(t3) West Indies – 7-1

(t6) New Zealand – 9-1

(t6) England – 9-1

(8) Pakistan – 14-1

We’re thrilled to be in the right part of the world at the right time with a chance to see at least two games (and with good tickets to four) of the tournament.  Am I a big cricket fan?  No, but I almost completely understand and greatly appreciate the game, and I’ll be thrilled to be there in person to see it played at such a high level. 

This is one-day cricket, also known as pajama cricket (for the colorful uniforms), as opposed to test cricket (with white uniforms), which would be near-impossible to contest in a World Cup format despite it being “proper cricket.”  There will be Yorkers, doosras and googlies aplenty (but probably very few Chinamen) as we watch England play New Zealand on Friday, March 16 and then head to Trinidad for Sri Lanka vs. India on March 23.

Where do our loyalties lie?  We are rooting hard for Sri Lanka.  Not only are they a loveable team, but we have very close friends that are Sri Lankan, and we hope to be adopted Sri Lankans for the tournament and beyond.

Part of what makes the Sri Lankan team so likeable is the presence of two of the world’s best players, Muttiah Muralitharan and Sanath Jayasuriya.

It is easy to make baseball comparisons regarding Muralitharan (“Murali”) – he is the Greg Maddux of Cricket — simply the greatest off-speed bowler of all time.  Under the rules of one-day cricket, he will be limited to 60 balls (20%) of the pitches thrown by Sri Lanka each game, but he remains Sri Lanka’s big advantage – he is the odds-on favorite to win “Best Bowler” honors for the tournament (this is largely because Australia’s Shane Warne – for whom I’ve been mistaken more than once – retired before the tournament).

Jayasuriya was the MVP of the 1996 Cricket World Cup, won under controversial circumstances by Sri Lanka.  Now 37, he is the elder statesman of a team that is full of young players.  If he and Murali play well, Sri Lanka can beat anyone.

Final Disappointing Thoughts on Martinique

Posted by: melissa

Set the scene:  On March 11, we arrived in Martinique after a dreamy and event-free 48-hour trip down from St. Martin.  Thanks to semi-cooperative wind, we were able to sail the boat more than 60% of the time, and it felt great.  Everything worked (including us), and it was nice to be reminded why we chose to be boat owners and short-handed sailors.

We were really, really, really excited to reach Martinique.  There is no place in the first half-year of our trip that we more expected to fall in love with than Martinique.  As you can probably already ascertain, we have been extraordinarily disappointed by our experience.

But, in the interest of being well rounded, and frankly, charitable, I will discuss the things I liked first.  As mentioned, Martinique has beautiful natural scenery, as you can see on the Photos page.  Another highlight, the amazingly beautiful Rocher du Diamant rises sheer from the water to over 500 feet.  Martinique also has some of the best rum distilleries in the world.  As avid wine-tasters, we jumped at the chance to rum taste although it’s a little more difficult on the palate (on my palate, anyway…).  The people at Trois Rivieres were especially nice and the historical tour at Habitation Clement was splendid.  Even better than local rum straight up is Martinique’s local drink, Ti Punch, made with 4/5 white rum, 1/5 a special cane syrup, and small slice of lime.

The guidebook says:

Martinican food has a traditional French flair and is considered by many to be the best in the Caribbean. Here, you can make your holiday almost entirely gastronomic, as there are cafes and open-air restaurants to linger in at every turn. You will find traditional cuisine gastronomique, but also its Caribbean or Creole equivalent. Lovingly prepared, the dishes are often spiced, and of course, it is all in the sauces.

I must call my website host to increase our bandwidth to provide a proper and comprehensive rebuttal.

The food has been nothing short of terrible.  Excited to hit land after such a great sail and eager to love Martinique, we ordered the first croque monsieur possible.  It arrived on sliced generic white bread with an un-melted slice of jack cheese and a slice of cold grocery store ham.  Undaunted by strike one, we scoured the guidebooks and the Internet for the savory French goodness we’ve heard so much about.  After such a great experience in Grand Case, French Saint Martin, we were very excited to dive into Martinique cuisine, the crème de la crème of the French Caribbean.

Sadly, we never located a meal even in the same ballpark as Saint Martin.  We never even found a restaurant with an actual wine list or any thoughtful, skillful preparations.  We had a decent (but no better) Creole lunch at Restaurant Josephine in St. Pierre consisting of stewed curry chicken, but that’s about it.  We went to supposedly the best French restaurant in the best eating town of Martinique, and it was inedible and cost about 100 Euros.  We then had to leave to go eat again somewhere else (which was also pretty bad).

This food discussion is not an exaggeration, and sadly, it symbolizes what we feel is the problem with all of Martinique … a lack of effort and a “who cares” attitude derived from unconditional financial support.

Martinique tenuously enjoys its French-dom … and honestly, what’s not to like?  The economy is based primarily on French government subsidies (way more than even tourism, its second-biggest source of revenue).  It is more affluent, cleaner, and infrastructure-ready than almost all of the other Caribbean islands.  Yet, island purists yearn for total autonomy even while enjoying parliamentary seats and equal voting rights.  As such, the supported colonization model can go one of two ways:  the best of France and Caribbean, or the worst of France and Caribbean.

In our opinion, Saint Martin is absolutely the best of both worlds … French, Caribbean, Creole, no matter the culinary style, all food, from a roti on the street to foie gras and blanquette de veau in Grand Case, is prepared with care and pride.  The sophisticated style of Paris is totally evident, as is the friendly and carefree Caribbean attitude, both melding together into an exquisite vibe that translates into distinctly local architecture, customs, carnivals, and of course, food and wine and service.  The standards of French tradition stirred up with Caribbean flair makes for a marvelous combination.  Even the small things — like horn-free, courteous driving (in Peugots, and Citroens of course) and yielding to pedestrians — feel uniquely French Caribbean.

Martinique lacks this thoroughly enjoyable, best-of-both-worlds vibe.  There is vague sense of menace about the place.  Actually, that’s being too nice.  There is a palpable sense of menace about the place … wild and lawless and angry and resentful.  Indeed, we had our first back-alley “run in” here, which might have become fairly ugly had our would-be assailant not been so drunk.  Sure, an altercation with an obnoxious drunk could happen anywhere.  Unfortunately, it didn’t happen anywhere, it happened here in Martinique.  All over the island, you can feel the racial tension barely suppressed.

Fort-de-France could be really great, with its ocean-front promenade, the Canal Levassor, the Savane, and the roughly seven-block square “centre ville.”  Instead, it is a threatening and dumpy city that feels unsafe to walk around in broad daylight.  And even if it felt safe, there’s nothing to see or do.

So there you have it.  The wasted potential of Fort de France, the overall lousy food, the drunk guy looking for a fight, and Josephine’s headless statue … nobody cares.  No pride or effort on display in any aspect.  And really, why bother putting forth a little effort?  French subsidies aren’t going anywhere, and the most French-ness that Martinique embraces is being affected and obtrusive and arrogant.

We don’t need highfalutin cuisine, pristine beaches and umbrella drinks to have a good time.  Indeed, we like our destinations to be a little bit shabby and run down.  We loved the Dominican Republic (and not the touristy parts).  But we’re not “package tour”-type travelers, and Martinique is a package tour kind of place, a place for French (and I mean ONLY French) tourists to jet in on chartered flights from Paris and be whisked off to the various well-fenced all-inclusive resorts to soak up some sun, have a few planteurs, maybe take a distillery tour or go see Little Pompeii, and get back on the plane with a couple of bottles of rhum agricole.

Greetings From St. Lucia

Posted by: andy

Today, we high-tailed it out of Martinique and made the four-hour trip down to St. Lucia.  We can’t even call it a “sail,” because we didn’t even bother to put the sails up.

As we were pulling into Rodney Bay Marina, we called them on the radio and asked to which side we’d be tying up the boat.

“That’s a starboard-side tie-up, captain,” they replied.

“Roger that,” I said.

Melissa sprang into action, setting up all the fenders and docklines on the starboard side.

As we coasted down toward the slip it began pouring rain – really, really hard rain.  We reached the slip – and it was, naturally, a port side tie-up.

Melissa scrambled to switch everything over and the rain kept pounding away.  It made for a very high-stress landing, but, in the end, it was no big deal.

In the few hours we’ve been here, St. Lucia has certainly been a major improvement over Martinique.  I can’t say it’s love at first sight, but it looks promising.  We’re attending the England/New Zealand match tomorrow and then are off to Trinidad next weekend for more Cricket World Cup craziness, watching our beloved Sri Lanka take on India.  We promise much more about St. Lucia when we return.

St. Lucia

Posted by: melissa

One of the Windward Islands of the Lesser Antilles, St. Lucia is located midway down the Eastern Caribbean chain north of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, northwest of Barbados, and south of Martinique.  The island is 27 miles long and 14 miles wide and is generally shaped like an avocado.  Saint Lucia is named after Saint Lucy of Syracuse, patron saint of the blind, and one of only seven women commemorated by name in the Roman Canon of the Mass.

Volcanic in origin, St. Lucia is more mountainous than most other Caribbean islands.  The island’s highest point stands 3000 feet above sea level at Mount Gimie; however, St. Lucia’s number one claim to fame is definitely the Pitons, which are two volcanic plugs standing majestically on the southwestern coast overlooking the spectacular Soufriere Bay.  Also a World Heritage Site, the Pitons make every list of things to see before you die from Conde Nast to Oprah Winfrey.  Emerging from lush tropical rainforest complete with huge ferns and banana orchards on one side, and incredible sparkling blue ocean on the other, the Gros Piton soars to 2619 feet and is slightly south of the 2461-foot-tall Petit Piton.  It’s difficult to adequately communicate the beauty of this area.

Like most Caribbean islands, St. Lucia’s colorful character is largely derived from the struggles between ancient indigenous populations, the slave trade, and conquering European forces.  Settled by Arawak Indians, a culture later eclipsed by the Caribs, St. Lucia was called “Hewanorra,” meaning “Island of the Iguanas,” since 800 A.D.  Erroneously thought discovered by Columbus in 1502, St. Lucia was more likely discovered by lesser known explorer and former Columbus navigator, Juan de la Cosa, in either 1499 or 1504.  The island’s first official European presence was established by Peg-Leg le Clerc‘s enclave on Pigeon Island used to pillage treasure-laden Spanish galleons.

The first legitimate European settlement was founded by the Dutch around 1600 at Vieux Fort.  In 1605, an English ship bound for Guyana (ironically called the Olive Branch) blew off course and went aground off the coast of St. Lucia.  The sixty-seven passengers safely waded to shore and found coexistence with the Caribs to be impossible.  In less than five weeks, only 19 of the original party remained due to violence, disease, and exposure.  Another English colony was also wiped out by the Caribs in 1639.

During the 1700′s, St. Lucia played an interesting role in the political and economic processes of the eastern Caribbean.  With the French headquartered on Martinique and the British headquartered on Barbados, the centrally located St. Lucia looked quite attractive to both parties, and both frequently worked to exert influence on its future, particularly the extremely lucrative sugar cane industry established in 1765.  After many violent battles, the British won out.  France permanently ceded control in 1815, and slavery was abolished in 1834.  St. Lucia was incorporated to the central government of the British West Indies, eventually achieving full independence in 1979 following a Constitution in 1924 and universal suffrage in 1951.

St. Lucia’s population is overwhelmingly of African descent due to the huge slave trade; however, the French influence is palpable right down to the Creole language.  The capital city, Castries, was founded by the French in 1650.  Originally called Carenage (or Safe Anchorage), the city was renamed Castries in 1756 after the commander of a French expeditionary force to Corsica.

Local chefs frequently combine fish dishes with the island’s abundant tropical fruits including mangoes, papayas, pineapples, soursops, passionfruit, guavas, and coconuts.  Another typical dish is callaloo soup made from a leafy green vegetable similar to spinach which, if not cooked appropriately, can be poisonous.  Beyond cuisine, St. Lucia’s cultural influence includes two Nobel Prize Winners:  Sir W. Arthur Lewis (Economics in 1979), and poet Derek Walcott (Literature in 1992).

The Most Expensive Game Ever Played — The 5 Part Series

Posted by: melissa

The Most Expensive Game Ever Played — Part I

When it comes to money being lost by legitimate “stakeholders” (i.e. not including betting) based upon a game’s outcome, this likely made this particular preliminary-round cricket match The Most Expensive Sporting Event In The History Of The World.  As we headed off to the airport, we were quite happy to know that the stakes had been ramped up from merely big to Incredibly Massive.  We were expecting a good match and a good time.  Little did we know just how fantastic it would be.

As many of you might know, we are big fans of the Sri Lanka team playing in the Cricket World Cup this year in the West Indies.  This series, called “The Most Expensive Game Ever Played,” chronicles our journey to Trinidad to see history-making match between India and Sri Lanka.  I hope you enjoy the Background story of Part I.

The Most Expensive Game Ever Played — Part II

The big game in Trinidad was India v. Sri Lanka.  Not only is this a huge game and historic rivalry, but India’s cultural influence in Trinidad is apparent in every part of life.  We briefly read about this alleged East Indian influence and thought:  Huh?  What?  How prevalent could it actually be?  Maybe some Tandoori chicken here and there?

Trinidad is a unique and culturally diverse place with a great vibe … and as it turns out, it is also the perfect place to watch India v. Sri Lanka play World Cup Cricket.  The second installment of The Most Expensive Game Ever Played is Melissa’s take on Trinidad.

The Most Expensive Game Ever Played — Part III

“You have to understand that it’s an island mentality.  These Indian guys are all very hard-working, pious, anal-retentive, high-strung guys.  Not us.  We’re islanders, man.  Give a Sri Lankan five dollars and you’ve fed him for a day, but he’d probably rather spend it on beer.”

Part III of The Most Expensive Game Ever Played describes the pre-game antics and excitement.

The Most Expensive Game Ever Played — Part IV

I stood up and started trying to lead the crowd in chants of “Vaas is boss.”  This proved fruitless, as 90% of the fans in our section were supporting India.  Shortly thereafter, the Indian team got to Vaas, hitting consecutive fours over the boundary.  “Vaas is fired!” came back the cheer.  This time, people joined in.

Click here for Part IV of The Most Expensive Game Ever Played called “The Match.”

The Most Expensive Game Ever Played — Part V

“The scene with you guys dancing around by the side of the road was spectacular,” said Moody.  “You should have seen the guys on the bus – they were going crazy – I’ve never seen them that pumped up.  Thank you for that.  Seriously … thank you.”

The final episode of The Most Expensive Game Ever Played describes the post-game euphoria.