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The Voyage of Spectacle Bluewater Cruising

The Voyage

Spectacles

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

The Position

Bali, Indonesia

The Pictures

The Voyage of Spectacle

Archive for the ‘Bluewater Cruising’ Category

Another Unscheduled Stop

Posted by: andy

Well, we’re pretty much 0-for-2 on having successful passages.  Last night, we found ourselves with a motor that was losing revs.  I think we have some sort of fuel pump problem.  Great.

It’s also pretty clear that the passage to Turk & Caicos (see “Tale of the Twin Fiascoes“) has resulted in some problems with our electrical system.  We also have no electric winches, windlass or bowthruster.  Awesome!!

All of this occurred quite near Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic.  After some discussion, we elected to stop.  This passage wasn’t too dramatic (other than my sliding off the high side bench and launching Chicken Jalfresi all over the cockpit), but getting the boat tied to something hard and having the engine examined just seemed like a good idea.

“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.

The Sail to Grenada Via Bequia

Posted by: melissa

When planning a sail, we look at the distance and route between the two points, plan for an early daytime arrival, and work backwards to a departure time and sailing strategy.  We get very frustrated when we arrive at our destination with not enough daylight left to make the approach and land the boat safely.  In that case, we are forced to heave-to and wait until dawn which can be a very long night monitoring traffic and maintaining an acceptable position.  The sailing time from St. Lucia to Grenada is fairly short, but while passing by the Grenadines island chain, we had to plan for the nighttime lee effect and some other idiosyncrasies.  As such, we started to consider the possibility of a stop along the way.

St. Vincent is by far the largest of the Grenadines, but we dropped it from our itinerary after hearing some less than flattering reviews mostly involving gangs of impoverished, disenfranchised, and armed young men.  We knew about other super fancy islands of the Grenadines – most notably, Mustique, where Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous spends a lot of time with the likes of Mick Jagger and Paul Newman, but I’d rather visit Mustique during the extremely impressive Blues Festival.  However, we heard many good things about Bequia and decided to stop there.

Meaning “island of the clouds” in Arawak, Bequia (pronounced beck-way) is the second largest island of the Grenadines.  Our cruising guides indicated that the bay in Port Elizabeth is a charming anchorage, and though our upcoming cricket commitments prevented us from staying for the annual Easter Regatta, we decided to pull in and check it out.  Distance-wise, Bequia was the perfect intermediate stop since we left St. Lucia in late afternoon and dropped anchor at Port Elizabeth around 9:00 a.m. the next morning.  The night’s sail was really nice and uneventful — Will shared impressions (examples here and here) of Billy Birmingham imitating famous Australian cricket announcer Richie Benaud, which had us in fits.

The anchorage turned out to be insanely crowded, but Andy and I put on a pretty impressive display of anchoring.  We then woke Will up and put him on anchor watch (since he hadn’t taken a night watch), and Andy and I slept for several hours.  With a power nap behind us, we prepared to go to shore, which, from a distance, looked fantastically charming and quirky.  Andy and Will started pumping up the dinghy.  After further investigation of the Jost van Dyke incident, Andy and I have a sneaking suspicion that our previous episode with the dinghy might very well be attributed to a combination of user error and Dread Fox (for Melissa) and Sly Fox (for Andy) cocktails.

As such, we inflated the heck out of the dinghy, jumped on it, double checked all the valves, listened for leaks, and made sure the hand-pump would come to shore with us.  We lowered it into the water and all systems seemed a go.  Unfortunately, the stupid outboard wouldn’t start this time.  I had just tested it in St. Lucia, where it was fine.

After trying the string about a thousand times, we began the disappointing chore of deflating the dinghy and putting everything back together.  Stuck on the boat with plenty of daylight left, we decided to make a quick meal on the boat, pull up anchor, and head to Grenada knowing that we had enough time for an early daylight arrival.  Will got to experience a sadly typical passage … so much of the trip is low on glamour and high on frustration.  In any event, the little we saw of Bequia looked spectacular!

The sail to Grenada was pleasant and uneventful with good wind in the headsail.  I went to bed early and got up around 4:00 a.m. for watch.  As such, I watched the sun come up and the island come into view as we passed by it to get to the preferred bays to the south.  It was an absolutely spectacular morning — mist on 2756-foot Mount St. Catherine provided breathtaking rainbows, lush tropical rainforest, blue sky and bluer ocean, and dolphins welcoming me with my morning coffee.

Arrival in Newcastle

Posted by: melissa
Imagine my surprise when this kayaker pulled up next to me to say hello!

Imagine my surprise when this kayaker pulled up next to me to say hello!

Yesterday, we ate lunch, showered, paid our tab at the chandlery, paid the marina bill, and we were off.  We headed off to find a diesel dock since the D’Albora Rushcutters Bay Marina was remodeling its diesel dock rendering it unavailable.  We were referred to the Point Piper marina at Rose Bay, but when we called the port captain, he did not know how deep it was at his own diesel dock.  We were quite amazed at that, but we figured we’d head over and get a look-see for ourselves. 

As we entered the fairway, we noticed that most of the dock was occupied by power boats … that’s usually a sign of shallow water since power boats have much shallower draft than displacement boats.  I yelled to some guys on the dock and they were not optimistic about our chances of clearing the bottom at the diesel dock.  As they were giving me a rash of shit about my All Blacks fleece, the wind caught the bow pretty severely and everybody scrambled to fend us off of several huge power boats.  One of the guys suggested the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron near the Opera House, so we set off back the way we came. 

RSYS was able to accommodate us, and we filled one of our two tanks with diesel in hopes of a cheaper price per liter outside of Sydney Harbor.  Then we went for our final pass through the Harbor, under the bridge, and by the Opera House.  We both felt really sad to be leaving.  As we went through the headlands exiting the fabulousness and safety of Port Jackson, I experienced some post-traumatic stress as well … we were voluntarily going back out onto the Tasman Sea which had beaten us up so badly on our previous passage.  But it was relatively calm.  I was suddenly shaken out of my thoughts by a hearty “G’ Day!”  There was a guy in a kayak right next to us!  We had a quick chat, and then he turned and went back into the Harbor.

The overnight sail was rather uneventful.  The East Australian Current is hard to predict and a very big consideration since it can be extremely strong.  It runs in a southerly direction, oftentimes up to 3-4 knots.  Since we’re going north, we will normally assume adverse current, but there are eddies where the current reverses direction.  The current effect is less pronounced closer to land, so that was our passage strategy.  And yes, we have been looking for Nemo!

We arrived at the Newcastle approach about two hours before dawn, so we puttered around in circles until the sun came up.  And since it was dawn, I was obviously on watch.  Right at first light, at least 20 freighters set off to sea all heading in various directions.  It was pretty neat.

I woke Andy up and we began our approach between the massive breakwaters into the well protected harbor in Newcastle.  We easily found the marina, tied up, checked in, had some breakfast, and settled in for a nap.

Arrival in Gold Coast — Welcome to Queensland!

Posted by: melissa

Well, during the passage from Coffs Harbour to Gold Coast, we passed two milestones.  First, we said goodbye to New South Wales, and hello to Queensland.  Second, we left the latitude of 30 and higher behind us.  I am relieved to have re-entered the milder waters and warmer temperatures of the 20s … equator, here we come!

Our departure from Coffs Harbour was delayed by a couple of hours because of the tide.  Low water was at 10:30 a.m. so we waited until noon to give ourselves some leeway.  Plus, Coffs Harbour was hit hard by a recent storm that pounded the harbor and damaged the marina.  The channel entrance was still undergoing some redredging as part of the recovery. 

We went through the breakwater and headed offshore slightly, but only about 2-3 miles to try and avoid current.  As night fell however, we started seeing more and more fishing vessels, and we were forced to go further out away from the coastline to stay out of traffic.  The wind completely died and we were forced to motor as well. 

At dawn, we passed by Byron’s Bay which is the eastern most point of Australia.  By that time, I was heavily into my next book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which is a plot driven page turner which is nice on long passages.  Andy highly recommended it, as well as the sequel called The Girl Who Played with Fire.  Evidently there’s a third in this Stieg Larsson trilogy, but we don’t have it onboard. 

Anyway, I was totally engrossed when a humpback whale surfaced and blew its spout less than 50 yards away from the boat.  It was startling, but so incredible.  We’ve seen a lot of whales now, and it never gets old.  It’s just amazing to experience such a rare and exotic animal in such natural way … no tour group, no whale-watching guides, no throwing food in the water … just observing a whale doing what whales do, and have instinctually done, for millions of years.  Being that close is like meeting a dinosaur or something.  It’s awesome, in the truest definition of the word.

The sun was shining and as predicted, the weather was really warming up.  I may be able to put away my Newcastle Knights hat and scarf for good shortly!  Unfortunately, 20 knots of wind turned right on the nose, so it looked like motoring the rest of the way.  Gold Coast and Surfers Paradise were quickly in view — it looks like Miami with sky rises and huge white sand beaches. 

The approach to Gold Coast was pretty chaotic.

The approach to Gold Coast was pretty chaotic.

We located the channel entrance mostly by following the 30 or so boats heading in after a Sunday afternoon on the water.  The currents going over the sandbar were weird enough, but the wakes of macho, speed demon, power boats bounced us around as well.  Dinghies, jet skis, fishing boats, whale-watching power catamarans, party barges … it was pretty much total chaos.  But, we turned the corner and followed the very distinct aids to navigation, easily found the marina, filled up with diesel, found our slip, and settled in.


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