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 the ‘Bahamas’ Category

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 

Great Guana Cay

Posted by: andy

On Sunday, December 17, the three of us ventured out to Great Guana Cay for a visit to the infamous Nippers and its weekly Sunday pig roast. 

The Rainbow Bulldozer Marks the Path to NippersAs beach bars go, it’s pretty tough to top Nippers, and getting there is half the fun.  After the ferry (about 30 minutes), one follows the signs on a Candyland-like adventure — turn left at the fence, right at the graveyard (complete with picture of the grim reaper on the gate), left at the rainbow-colored bulldozer, steer clear of the poisonwood tree, up and over the hill and you are there (we managed to avoid Molasses Swamp).Nippers Beach Bar at Great Guana 

Nippers itself is a multicolored, multi-tiered, cacophony of wood planking and American tourist jackassery.  It appeared to be South Carolina day at Nippers, as evidenced by the number of sun-burned necks protruding from Clemson and University of South Carolina tanktops. 

The pig roast was pretty good (alas, the pork was already carved and in trays, so there were no porcine rotisserie displays), the “Nipper” (a frozen rum punch concoction) proved excellent, the weather was perfect, and a good time was had by all.  We took a long walk along the beautiful beach, returned for a final round, and got ready to head home.

Just as we were closing out, Erik attracted … well, let’s just call it what was … a gay stalker.  This guy tried everything – herd separation tactics, inviting the three of us to dinner, etc.  He even invited us to stay at his apartment.  This dude was PERSISTENT.  He was accompanied by one of his co-workers (reasonably intoxicated, not particularly annoying) and a fall-down, Stacey Toran-drunk Australian (there’s always at least one wherever you go) who was some sort of boat captain/crewman.

The six of us sauntered back to the ferry dock (past the graveyard, the rainbow bulldozer…) to await the last ferry of the day.  Shortly thereafter, a very distraught woman holding a very small plastic bag arrived at the dock.  As we came to learn, she was holding her friend’s fingers.  We were told that the friend was building her own house on Great Guana and was the victim of a table-saw accident. Apparently, the owner of the fingers had already been transported to Marsh Harbour, en route to Nassau, inexplicably sans digits. 

Fall-down drunk Australian sprang into action.  Apparently, he’d come over to Great Guana in some sort of small powerboat that was affiliated with the bigger boat of which he was captain/crewman.  He dashed (ok, staggered) off to retrieve his powerboat so that the fingers could be sped to Marsh Harbour. Gay Stalker, apparently in a hurry to get home, suggested that we all hop on the boat.  Needless to say, we declined – we’re not getting on a speedboat, at night, in a very tricky harbor, with a fall-down drunk Aussie driver and the gay stalker co-pilot.  Equally needless to say, the gay stalker then changed his mind and decided to wait with us, and off roared the speedboat at triple the recommended speed. Yikes.  All I could think is that it takes a true friend to hop on drunken Aussie’s speedboat to make a nighttime delivery of your severed fingers.  More Pictures 

Happy New Year!!!

Posted by: andy

Happy New Year with Dan & Selena!!Happy New Year from Providenciales, Turks & Caicos!  We spent our New Year’s Eve with our new friends Selena and Dan here at the nearly excellent Coyaba restaurant and the quite chi-chi Grace Bay Club.  Selena and Dan were down here honeymooning at the Grace Bay Club from their home in St. Louis, where Selena is a law student at an excellent law school and Dan is a sales rep for an excellent golf company.  We actually spent three very fun evenings with them, and I expect they’ll be our friends long after we leave the boat.

We also spent New Years Day with Selena and Dan, this time sitting on our behinds at what passes for a sports bar here in Provo (and, by the way, it passes pretty well, all things considered) and watching the Trojans shred the heretofore ballyhooed Wolverines, followed by the eye-popping Boise St./Oklahoma Fiesta Bowl.  During the games, I realized that this was the first Trojan Rose Bowl I have missed attending in exactly 30 years – and I’m only 34 years old.

As some of you likely have heard, our passage down here from Marsh Harbour was not exactly “smooth.”  I am working on a comprehensive integrated write-up of “Fiasco Autopilot” and “Fiasco-Plus Turks & Caicos Passage.”  The passage really was a borderline Calamity, except that (a) it was never dangerous, and (b) it always was at least somewhat funny.  I promise you a full (which will mean VERY lengthy but quite entertaining) account in the next couple of days. 

The Dilapidated Geo TrackerFor now, we are enjoying Provo, except for the third-world marina in which we are staying.  The marina is a very bumpy 20-minute drive down a dirt road from anything resembling civilization.  It has no hot water (so I haven’t shaved since Marsh Harbour) and is generally filthy, so we’re trying to finish our boat projects by around 2:00 p.m. each day before having a (cold) shower, getting dressed and heading into town (in our sweet rental Geo Tracker that is about to fall apart). 

We expect to be here for about another week before pushing off for St. Thomas.  It is unfortunate to be behind schedule already, but if there is one thing that the trip down here taught me, it is that you simply can’t use a “land” schedule for a “sea” trip.  We may have to skip an island or two that we’d previously planned on visiting, but that’s just how it goes.

“Tale of the Twin Fiascoes”

Posted by: andy

Episode I – Fiasco Autopilot

“If you had told me two years ago that I’d have a tranny-adjacent, Bahamian auto-pilot repair man who shares my name climbing around on my bed (that’s where the access to the autopilot is), I’d have suggested you get your head examined.”

At long last, the long-promised first installment of “Tale of the Twin Fiascoes” has arrived.  Given its length, we’ve posted it on a separate page, which you can find here.

Episode II — Big Wind = Not Fun

At one point, Erik was wretching over the starboard cockpit combing, and I was puking away over the port cockpit combing.  Only Melissa emerged unscathed.

Again on its own separate page, you can find Episode II of “Tale of the Twin Fiascoes” here. 

Episode III — The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat

So as we bashed upwind through the night, I thought about the apologetic phone call I was going to have to make to my mother in which I was not only going to have to explain that Erik wouldn’t be home for Christmas but that the reason for this was that the boat had no engine and was losing power.  I’m sure just having two of her sons out sailing on the open ocean already had my mother replaying  Ordinary People in her head.

For the latest in our continuing saga, check out Episode III here.

Episode IV — Christmas Really Is a Holiday in the Turks and Caicos

“Get the flares,” I told Erik.  We proceeded to shoot two flares at this plane.  We waved our arms in a distress motion.  We couldn’t possibly have been more obvious in trying to convey that we were indeed the boat for whom they were looking.

Why are we shooting flares at planes?  Read on to Episode IV, which you can find here.  

Episode V — A Retrieval With “Flare”

Of course, after firing off 5 cannon flares, 4 pistol flares, all sorts of smoke flares, self-firing parachute flares, an assortment of handheld flares, and plenty of duds — well, after all that you begin to feel like you know what you are doing.  You also get trigger happy.

For the exciting conclusion of “Tale of the Twin Fiascoes”, click here.