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The Voyage of Spectacle Caribbean

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 ‘Caribbean’ Category

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.

Sri Lanka Superfans — The 5 Part Series

Posted by: andy

Sri Lankan Cricket and the Cricket World Cup came to play a surprisingly central role in our lives in March and April.  The tournament just ended, and we already are having withdrawal pains.  Rather than interspersing cricket tales with everything else, we decided to consolidate them in one place.  So, in keeping with our propensity for five-part series, we offer you the chronicle of our time as the Sri Lanka Superfans.

Episode I

After our outing to Trinidad and Tom Moody’s entreaty to come watch more games, we knew that we had to join up with the team once again.

Episode II

After the game, we drove to the team hotel to greet the team bus.  There were high-fives aplenty, but we only stuck around for about five minutes.  To be honest, we were getting a little bit worried that they might be beginning to think we’re crazy/annoying stalkers.

Episode III

After talking about the trip for a while, Melissa asked them if they wanted to see the boat.  Jayasuriya did her one better — he wondered aloud whether we could take them sailing.

Episode IV

After everybody changed clothes, we were invited to the post-game team celebration at the hotel.  Once again, it was us, the families, the coaches and the team.  Dozens of would-be crashers tried to get in on the action, to no avail.

Episode V

Not five minutes later, the PA announcer came on and notified us that the game would begin at (as I recall) 12:30 and would be 38 overs per side.  “There’s absolutely no way they’re going to get in 38 overs per side,” I said to Melissa.  “I know,” she said.  “We’re going to be batting in the dark.”

So Far, So Good

Posted by: melissa

Planning and packing to leave the country for 10 months is no easy feat.  Trying to anticipate every need and desire regarding not only personal effects but also possible boat parts and accessories is nerve-racking.  We did the best we could and set off yesterday for a very long travel day … LAX to Houston, Houston to Panama City, and Panama City to Cartagena.  We arrived back at Club Nautico Marina well after midnight.  At first glance, the boat seemed to be intact, so we crashed out without even bothering to make the bed.

We both had some trepidation in leaving the boat, which is now more like our home than anyplace else, for an extended period of time.  Luckily, as a matter of convenience, price and quality of service, Cartagena is a pretty terrific place to store a boat long term.  On the recommendation of marina manager John Halley, we hired a boat sitter named Alberto who was responsible for watching the lines, airing out the boat on a regular basis to minimize mold and rot, scrubbing the bottom to keep nasty barnacles away, and generally acting as project manager for a list of repairs about 50 items long.

After a long sleep, we awoke to find the boat in encouragingly good shape.  We have yet to go through our to-do list one by one with Alberto the boat sitter, but I’m fairly confident that the conversation will go well.  Unfortunately, the one problem that we’ve discovered since our return involves a stowaway of sorts.  Yes, sadly, Spectacle has acquired a minor roach problem.  We don’t seem to be full-fledged infested and the critters are both small and scarce, but it is nonetheless more than a little unnerving.

Club Nautico is just as we remember, and there’s quite a buzz around here as many boats prepare to head toward the Panama Canal and begin the Pacific Ocean crossing.  When we left Cartagena last summer, it was the rainy season – blisteringly hot and intensely humid, interrupted by frequent downpours.  Having returned in the dry season, the days are temperate, breezy, and dry (comparatively speaking).  As I sit here writing this post, I’m looking out on the marina and beyond … it’s a sunny and beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky.  The clubhouse is full of boaters from all over the world … drinking Aguila or Club Colombia beers, playing dominoes and Scrabble, and passing time in anticipation of the passage to Panama.

Upon Further Review … The Play Stands

Posted by: melissa

After closer investigation, the boat seems to be in surprisingly good shape.  We went over our list with the boat sitter and the marina manager item by item, and what they have not already completed, they have detailed suggestions for.  Today and tomorrow will be packed with repairs, maintenance, cleaning, sanding, and oiling.

Emigdio, the electronics guy, is checking out the single side band (SSB) and VHF (very high frequency) antennas.  Although I’m no SSB expert, I have never been able to pick up anything resembling communication on any channel, and the VHF has been spotty at best.  Antenna problems are fairly common, so hopefully Emigdio can save the day.  Although we have two backup, handheld, battery-operated radios, the boat unit is quite convenient (and powerful) to use underway.

In matters less important but highly irritating, the light on the cockpit chartplotter (manufactured by our good friends at Raymarine) has burned out.  We have called the Raymarine reseller in Panama City, who happened to have the guy from Raymarine standing next to him at the time of his call.  Andy said that we needed a new lightbulb for a Raymarine RC520.  The reseller relayed the message to the Raymarine guy, whose laughter was audible in the background.  Apparently, this is viewed as a nearly prehistoric unit.  This “ancient” equipment was new on this boat in 2001 and spare parts now basically can’t be had.  Have we mentioned how much we love Raymarine?

We aren’t buying a whole new chartplotter just for a light bulb, so it looks like nighttime navigation checks will involve either a flashlight or a trip down to the navigation station belowdecks.

The ongoing saga of the boat’s teak trim continues as well.  The former owner of this boat prided himself on the flawless varnish job on the toe rail.  Maintaining a perfect varnish job, however, has proven to be far more effort than we are willing to put into an essentially cosmetic project.  As such, we decided to let the wood go natural.  I sanded all the varnish off of the wood and treated it with teak oil.  As it turns out, maintaining even the natural wood has also proved to be a lot of effort, especially in equatorial heat.  But we think it looks even better than the varnish and it’s not quite as much work.

When we arrive at places where people need work and labor is cheap, we’ve been hiring people to sand and treat the rail, which is what we did last summer here in Cartagena.  Another boat in the marina recommended a kid named Carlos.  They said he did great work for them, and he’s learning English at night while manually laboring during the day to support his wife and young son.  After striking a deal with the eager young Carlos, we were informed by the marina manager that we had committed an infraction of sorts regarding the workmen’s pecking order.  There are guys who work here at the marina on a regular basis taking on any project available … no matter how difficult or unglamorous.  In their view, Carlos is inconsistent … highly visible and very charming when a lot of cushy jobs are available and disappearing when the hard work starts.

Evidently, Carlos pulled another disappearing act right after we prepaid him and left the country last August.  Now, on our return, Carlos is back but continues to be in especially poor favor with the regular workmen for a variety of reasons:  1) for skipping out on our project, and 2) taking off to Panama for a month and returning with T-shirts and souvenirs and stories of fun and adventure.  And of course, Carlos is in pretty poor favor with us since it’s clear he failed to complete the work for which he was commissioned.  But our boat sitter, Alberto, is holding Carlos’ feet to the fire, and a couple of days ago, Carlos returned to our doorstep with hat in hand.  After some negotiation, we struck a compromise and agreed that Carlos owes two days of work.  Because of his extended “vacation,” he pleaded for more work, but at that point, we didn’t really have any more work for him or any real desire to fork over any more cash to him.  In any event, we felt a bit bad that we had contributed drama to internal marina politics.

Back in Cartagena, we have been excited to revisit some of our favorite hotspots, especially the fantastic El Santisimo.  Additionally, a new French bistro – “Oh-La-La” — has recently been opened by a French husband/Colombian wife team, and its pretty impressive value for money — delicious French specialties made with a nod to local Colombian ingredients and flare.  Three courses plus wine ended up under $50 for the two of us the other night, and everything but the wine was pretty darn good.

Although we are quite sad to leave beautiful Cartagena, I am really excited to get this show on the road.  We should pull out of here on March 5 and be in Colon, Panama, about two days later.

The War on Terror

Posted by: melissa

So Huge and Quite CloseOur 47-hour passage from Cartagena to Colon, Panama, was totally uneventful, unlike our last attempt.  The wind was  very low and we were forced to motor about two-thirds of the time.

On our approach, we marveled at the 30 or so tankers and freighters anchored outside of the entrance of the Panama Canal waiting for passage.  We passed through the “goalposts” (that’s kind of what they looked like) indicating the opening of the canal breakwater, and then took a right turn into Shelter Bay The Entrance to the Breakwater is Really Well MarkedMarina.

The assault on Spectacle’s roach problem (now referred to as the War on Terror) is coming along nicely as well.  Due to our unusually conscientious/formalistic (depending on your view) regulatory framework, the United States is missing out on all kinds of extremely effective, and equally frightening, insect extermination systems.  I purchased an aerosol spray that is an absolute killing machine … one quick blast will instantly drop a roach in full stride.  Andy zapped a fly the other day and the thing was dead well before it hit the ground.  We no longer use this (nicknamed “Napalm”) without ample ventilation and immediate hand-washing.


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