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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Archive for the ‘Budget’ Category

Thoughts on Tortola

Posted by: andy

To be honest, Tortola has been a somewhat weird stop for us.  I think that yesterday I figured out why this is.

It’s hard to think of a place where sailing is more of an “end” than it is here.  Scads of people fly in here, charter a sailboat, go sailing around the Virgin Islands, return the boat and fly The View at Nanny Cay Marina home.  The trip is about the sailing — and the sailing IS indeed great.  Throw in a few rum punches at Foxy’s and Soggy Dollar Bar, and that makes for a pretty nice getaway — I get it.

But, for us, our trip isn’t about the sailing – and it isn’t for a week or two.  Sailing is, for us, a “means” to see the world.  This is a trip around the world that happens to be on a sailboat.

And, speaking of sailing, not much of that is happening for us right now.  You may recall that our original plan was to sail the boat from the Bahamas straight to the Virgin Islands to have some repairs done.  After the Twin Fiascoes and the trip to Puerto Plata, we have even more repairs to add to the list.  Here’s a PARTIAL list:

  • Replace entire battery bank (5 new Lifeline 8D AGM batteries).  Four of the 5 current batteries areNot Only Are the Batteries $675 Each, They Are Also 180 Pounds Each!  Here's Part of the Team Using the Mainsail Halyard to Hoist One Battery onto the Boat!  It Was Quite an Operation! shot.  No sense in replacing   just four.  Good news … they’re only $675 each (not counting labor).  Ouch!
  • A new forward hatch, replacing the old hatch which (inexplicably) had a little solar fan on it, which  ensured that the whole forward cabin would be under 4-5 inches of water if you were sailing upwind.  This is a straight-up design defect – you aren’t doing much upwind sailing with that thing on there.
  • A new companionway slide (which I accidentally broke on the way to the D.R.).
  • Repairs to the companionway screen (another “oops” moment).
  • Reattachment of the autopilot rudder return indicator mount, which spontaneously disintegrated just as we were landing the boat here in Tortola.
  • Repairs and steel reinforcement of both salon tables (these were ridiculously flimsy and had obviously been broken multiple times before).
  • Freezer repair (this has never really worked very well).
  • Fridge repair (ditto).
  • Fix both air conditioners (the forward one needed a new pump, the aft one only minor repairs).
  • A comprehensive rust removal/polishing of all the stainless steel on the boat.
  • Sanding and oiling of the toe-rail (we’re removing the varnish and returning the teak to a natural finish)Quantum Sail Loft Taking Away the Mainsail for Repair -- Unbelievable That the Sail from a 64-Foot Mast Folds Up That Small!.
  • Yet another diagnosis/repair of the generator (we  have some sort of oil pressure problem).
  • Repairs and batten replacement on the mainsail  (thanks to my stupid Christmas Day furling maneuver).
  • About a dozen more “do it yourself” jobs, including sourcing and installing a new, proper-sized fuel-filter head to swap for our emergency, over-sized replacement from the D.R.

Obviously, this is going to be shockingly expensive (probably five figures).  But almost all of it simply HAS to be done.

Given the extent of the repairs, we have workmen coming to and from the boat basically every day.  This means that, by and large, we are stranded in the marina.  Even today (Sunday), we have a guy here working on the boat.  Aside from boat repairs, there are basically two things to do here: sail and drink.  We can’t really sail.  Fortunately, we’ve made some good friends here.  More on that in the next post.

Introduction to the Spectacle Guide to Dining Around the World

Posted by: andy

I’ve had at least 10 people ask me if I plan on reviewing restaurants during our trip. 

Of course I am. 

You will notice a new link under “Basics” called “The Spectacle Guide to Dining Around the World” which will contain our continually updated restaurant ratings as well as detailed rating criteria. 

Thoughts on Saint Martin

Posted by: melissa

The Obelisk at the Border Makes for a Tame Crossing between France and HollandOn the north end of the Eastern Caribbean chain, the island of Saint Martin overlooks British (and super ritzy) Anguilla with another popular French West Indies enclave, St. Barts (also super ritzy), about 13 miles to the southeast.  With both Dutch and French sides, Saint Martin is the smallest island in the world shared by two different countries (about 38 total square miles).  After multiple skirmishes involving the Spanish and British and area indigenous peoples, the island’s border between Dutch and French has remained pretty much consistent since the agreement in 1648.  That border is totally open marked by a small obelisk and a Bienvenue / Welkom sign.

As big fans of French culture and cuisine, we planned to make landfall on the French side.  Marigot, the main town on the French side, is hustling and bustling … not much late nightlife but plenty of restaurants and shops especially given the nearby ferry dock. 

Built in 1767, Fort Louis was named after the famous and ill-fated French king, Louis XVI, and was established to protect Marigot from foreign invaders, particularly the British.  At the end of Rue de la Republique and in the shadow of Fort Louis, the Fort Louis Marina is definitely a landmark in Marigot and a great central point for island travel.  We quickly adopted a local café, the Deli Spoon, befriending the jack of all trades wait person, Carole, and taking advantage of its great food and coffee, high speed internet connection, and friendly regular clientele. 

The main drag in Grand Case (about 5 miles northeast of Marigot) hosts the French side’s cuisine trophies, and we spent many a long, wine-swilling, cheese-tasting, multi-course-enjoying evening there.  We visited the infamous Orient Beach with its beautiful views and white sand beach like talcum powder, oh and, naked sun worshippers everywhere.  And of course, we hit the infamous Sunset Beach Bar in all its glory, complete with 747s skimming the roof of the bar on their final descent, best bikini body contests, and shots.  We were mightily impressed.

We ventured to the Dutch side of the island several times … the Sunset Beach Bar, an expensive trip to Budget Marine (now renamed “Break-Your-Budget” Marine), and Kim Sha beach for the marquee event closing the Heineken Regatta.  Against our better judgment, we also made a trip to Philipsburg.

Most of the travel guides describe Saint Martin as a crassly over-developed island ruthlessly pursuing the tourist dollar.  Throughout our stay, we found this synopsis to be totally silly as we experienced nothing but happy-go-lucky, as well as happy-to-help, locals.  No hustling, no pan-handling, no aggressive sales tactics, no thinly-veiled street scams, no “special” pricing, no shamelessly tacky crap stores, nothing.  Frankly, French Saint Martin has been our stand-out favorite Caribbean island thus far.

The Beach Boardwalk at Phillipsburg, Saint Martin, Dutch SideSadly, Philipsburg is a whole different ball of wax.  With terrible traffic and little parking, the entire town is quite commercial and charm-free except for the areas easily walked by cruise ship tourists in a 3-to-4-hour shore excursion.  The beach boardwalk is somewhat picturesque with a nice anchorage, millions of beach chairs, and generic bars and The Problem with Phillipsburgrestaurants.  The huge shopping street is jampacked with cruise ship patrons walking in circles and methodically muttering the words “duty free” under their breath.  The retail competition, especially among jewelry  stores, is ferocious and palpably desperate.  We bought some consumer goods, mistakenly ate at a French restaurant (on the Dutch side? Hello!), and high-tailed it back to France in soul-crushing traffic.

Grazing Pigs and Chickens in PhillipsburgIn lieu of a specific event, a mandatory trip to the island’s best chandlery, a flight, or a jaunt to the Sunset Beach Bar, there’s little reason to cross the border.  The picture to the right sums up our thoughts on Philipsburg.