The Voyage


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 ‘Declaire’ Category

Welcome to

Posted by: andy

Welcome, one and all, to!  This website will chronicle our journey around the world, as well as our pre-departure preparations.   We plan to be underway on or about December 9, so things are starting to happen fast.  You can see our planned timeline in the Course & Timeline section.

The closing on the boat purchase is this coming Monday, July 24.  At that point, we will be the proud owners of Declaire, a 2001 Tayana 48 cutter-rigged blue-water cruising sailboat that will soon be renamed Spectacle.  You can get details about (and see pictures of) Declaire /Spectacle in the sections called Spectacle The Boat and Pictures of Spectacle.

As you might surmise, we are very excited about this addition to the family.

Finding Spectacle

Posted by: andy

Now that we have the boat (!), I thought I’d write a little bit about our search for it.

The prospect of finding the right boat for our adventure was VERY daunting.  As I’ve said to many people, it seems like buying a boat combines all the worst elements of buying a used car with all the worst elements of buying a house.  As early as last December, we began researching brands and models and messing around on Yacht World looking at individual boats.

There are surprisingly few boats that are actually designed for blue-water (i.e. ocean-crossing) sailing. Sailboats come in roughly three categories: (1) production boats, (2) semi-custom boats, and (3) custom boats.  For the most part, the largest boat manufacturers — Beneteau, Hunter and Catalina – do not design their boats for the kind of long ocean-passages and potentially violent conditions we will see. Have people sailed these boats around the world?  Of course.  It’s just not really what they are designed for.  These so-called “production” boats just aren’t as heartily constructed as “semi-custom” or “custom” boats.

“Custom” means different things to different people, but most of all it implies very small production. This was also a little bit scary to us.  We didn’t want a “one-off” design that could have any number of undiscovered – and potentially unfixable — quirks to it.  Basically, we wanted a proven blue-water design from a proven manufacturer.  That left us with the “semi-custom” category.

The day after the Rose Bowl debacle (don’t get me started), our search began in earnest with a trip up to the Seattle Boat Show.  Although this is not one of America’s biggest shows, it did give a chance to walk around on a number of different boats.  We saw several boats that we really liked (several different Hallberg-Rassys especially stood out) and others that we had expected to like but didn’t (we’ll keep that info to ourselves).  This helped us further refine our list.

We knew we were going to be attending a wedding in Michigan over July 4th weekend.  We also knew we wanted to buy a boat on the east coast.  So, on one particularly neurotic early March evening, I managed to track down every potentially suitable boat listed on Yacht World (believe it or not, there were only about 50) and list them in geographic order from Michigan to Maine to Florida, with the thought that we’d spend the month-or-so after the wedding driving down the east coast and finding the boat.  Needless to say, this plan would involve a considerable expenditure of both time and money.

However, we also knew we were going to be in Fort Lauderdale in March, so we might as well start the search then.  And the very first boat we saw was Declaire.  Both in terms of size and in terms of price, Declaire was at the top of our range.  However, it took about two minutes for us to know that she was exactly what we wanted.  We kept our cool until our broker, Patrick Jackson of Bollman Yachts, dropped us off.  Then I turned to Melissa and said, “We’re buying that boat, aren’t we?”   She said, “We sure are.”

So much for our month-long tour of every major marina on the east coast.

As we sailed down to Panama and back with John Kretschmer (who knows just a few things about buying a boat), we had five weeks to think about making an offer.  We prattled on and on about how much it loved Declaire, and we got John to agree to come look at the boat when we made it back to Lauderdale.

We got back, and Declaire was just as we remembered her, if not better.  John’s reaction?   “I think you can probably get this boat for $[X], and if you can, you need to buy this boat.”  Well, if the author of “Used Boat Notebook” (one of the leading books about purchasing a used sailboat) says we need to buy the boat, then we’re buying it.   We made an offer a couple of weeks later and, after a brief round of negotiation, we had a contract.

The purchase of a boat is never going to be the smartest financial decision one ever makes, but we feel very confident that we ended up getting good value for money.  And, no, you may not ask us how much we paid for the boat…

Marsh Harbour, Great Abaco, Bahamas

Posted by: andy

I’m sitting, with girly rum drink in hand (yes, it has an umbrella), at the highly recommended Curly Tails restaurant and bar here at the Conch Inn Marina, which will be Spectacle’s home until we leave on the great adventure on (or about) December 12.  First stop … St. Thomas.

Carey Meredith (from my mother’s clinic) joined Tom and me for the trip over here from Ft. Lauderdale (remember, Melissa is at Bikram yoga teacher training back in L.A.).  We had only the loosest of schedules, intending ultimately to end up in Port Lucaya, Grand Bahama.  As you might surmise, we ended up elsewhere.

Because of the long-held superstition that a voyage begun on a Friday is sure to be an unfortunate one, we planned for a 12:01 a.m. Saturday departure from Ft. Lauderdale.  Indeed, we moved the boat down the New River from our dock just before dark and parked at the Lauderdale Marina fuel dock around 7:00 p.m. before having an extended dinner at the decidedly so-so 15th Street Fisheries restaurant as we awaited the stroke of midnight.

Felicitously, our friend John Lewis Borovicka III (father of my close friend JLB IV) happened to be arriving in South Florida that evening for a business conference.  Of course, his flight was delayed, but John’s a trooper, and at 12:20 a.m. he arrived at Lauderdale Marina.

After a somewhat speedy tour of the boat, it was time to re-christen Spectacle.  Earlier in the week, the new vinyl names were put on the boat (out with Declaire, in with Spectacle), and it seemed totally inappropriate to merely sail off without some sort of ceremony.

Declaire’s fine service to the Gibsons was duly acknowledged.  There were plenty of alcoholic offerings to Neptune, the breaking of a Champagne bottle over the bow and toasts aplenty.  Even Sherman the Merman got involved.

To be honest, we thought that John’s late arrival might keep us from making a daylight arrival at Port Lucaya, so we were a little bit antsy to get off the dock.  We ended up hurriedly departing at 12:56 a.m. so we could make the 1:00 opening of the 17th St. Causeway bridge.  Spectacle was leaving the United States for … well, quite some time.  It was sort of emotional.

The allegedly ferocious Gulf Stream was a kitten.  The swell never got above 2 feet.  Turns out that we should have stayed and chatted longer with John — we ended up arriving at the channel entrance in Port Lucaya at 2:10 p.m. Saturday – precisely low tide.  The controlling depth (i.e. low tide depth) for the channel is 6 feet.  Our boat draws exactly 6 feet (or maybe 6-1 or 6-2, depending how full it is).  Needless to say, this is way too close to call, so we had to wait for the tide to start coming up.  We puttered around in circles and, at about 3:50 EDT, we started down the channel (at a very cautious 1.5 knots), expecting it to be 7-8 feet.  It was more like 10-11.  Apparently, we could have come in earlier and watched the UCLA / Notre Dame game, or at least the second half.  Long story short, I ended up just seeing enough to be tantalized and, then, ultimately disappointed.  Have I mentioned that if Notre Dame were playing al Qaeda, I might actually be “with the terrorists?”   When was the last time I was actually disappointed in a Bruins loss?

To say that Bahamian customs practices are a joke is almost an understatement.  We came down the channel — called the marina, called customs, docked the boat.  I spent 30 minutes trying to find the marina office (which includes the customs office) and is nowhere near where we docked the boat.  Eventually I found it, but next door to the marina office was the sports bar.  I ducked my head in — 14-13 UCLA with 9 minutes left.  I’m thrilled.

I made my first stop at immigration/customs.  It’s clear I needed to walk back to the boat to get some things (boat papers, home addresses from crew).  Yadda, yadda, yadda, I ended up walking into the aforementioned sports bar (with my papers) just as Jeff Smzqvcxrtmwdzija is celebrating in the end zone.  To be honest, I was crushed.  I have never before rooted for UCLA with all my heart and soul.

Oh, yeah, I stopped for a shower and change of clothes (in between visits to customs) along the way.  I also could have offloaded 1/2 ton of coke if that’s what I had been carrying.  Tom and Carey’s passports made it to the Customs office, but Tom and Carey never did.  Did customs ever come down to visit the boat?  Of course not.  It’s definitely not the US/Mexico border.

We set out from Port Lucaya at around 12:00 noon on Sunday, thinking we’d be going to “visit” Great Abaco, motoring once again into a direct headwind (the prevailing easterlies that Ted, Tom and me should have had when we sailed down to Key West).  We turned the corner at the southern tip of Great Abaco around 6:00 a.m.  I expected to be able to finally put the sails up (after nearly 36 hours underway since Lauderdale) as we worked our way northward up the east coast of the island.  Nope.  As if on cue, the wind backed around to — you guessed it — the north.  The sails did not go up at all.

After once again being forced to kill a little time waiting for the tides, we made it into Marsh Harbour around 4:00 p.m.  The channel here is about 5 feet deep at low tide and 9 feet at high tide.  To remind you, the boat draws 6 feet, so this is, er, “less than ideal.”  Indeed, we had a very low speed (1 mph) and soft grounding on the way in.  Apparently, this channel is as advertised.  This was far less dramatic than it sounds and lasted all of 20 seconds.  But, technically, we went aground.

Later that afternoon, we got word that a cold front was moving in from the north.  As a practical matter, this meant very high winds (around 30 knots) out of the north.  We woke up Tuesday morning intending to sail, but there is absolutely no way we could go out in those conditions.  I have no problem sailing this boat in 12 foot waves (which is what they were) and 30 knots of wind out in the open ocean.  What I have a problem with is doing that in 7 feet of water with obstacles everywhere.  Something tells me the troughs of those waves are a lot less than 9 feet off the bottom, even at high tide.  Best not to find out.  And, oh yeah, we don’t have an autopilot right now. It’s just not working at all.  Fortunately, the engine (which had been giving us trouble) seems to be 100% ok for now.

So, rather than sail around Abaco and back to Port Lucaya, we’ve decided to park Spectacle here until we leave.  We’ve had to rearrange some flights, pay some money, etc., but there really was no good reason to head back there.  Marsh Harbour is actually on the way to St. Thomas (Melissa’s and my first destination).  And double-handing the boat the wrong direction overnight in nasty conditions doesn’t sound like much of a party, especially without an autopilot.  The only downside is that Marsh Harbour doesn’t quite have the hurricane protection that Lucaya does.  I guess we’ll have to keep our fingers crossed that this already light hurricane season has begun to calm down for good.

“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.