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The Voyage of Spectacle Guests

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 ‘Guests’ Category

Panama Canal Transit — Part I

Posted by: andy

“The Crew” — Line Handlers Ian and Margaret, and Pilot Advisor Meza (Middle)On the 19th and 20th, Spectacle transited the Panama Canal.  Given the current ridiculous delays for sailboats, we were pleasantly surprised that our agent Roberto Solano was able to get us an appointment with “only” a 12-day wait and that we managed not to get “bumped” or otherwise stymied.

Among the requirements of the transit is the presence of linehandlers.  Each boat needs the captain plus four other people. This left us two people short, so we enlisted the assistance of two of our fellow Shelter Bay detainees, Ian (a Toronto-based English ex-pat) and MaMargaret, Ian, and Erik on the Approach to the Gatun Locks on Day 1 of Spectacle’s Crossingrgaret (from Southern California).

Each boat crossing the canal is required to employ an “adviser” who assists with the transit (but, presumably as some sort of liability limitation device, makes only “suggestions” instead of issuing commands).

We were told to be in the “flats” anchorage by the Canal entrance no later than 4:00 p.m. on the 19th to pick up our advisor (who would be brought to us via motor launch), so we departed Shelter Bay at three and got over there in plenty of time.  The arrival time of the advisors is notoriously variable (read as: they are supposed to get there at 5:00 but sometimes don’t make it until 9:00), so we figured we’d drop the anchor.

We just could not get the darn thing to hold.  We have some (uninteresting) ideas as to why this may be, but, suffice it to say, we tried to anchor four times with no success.  In fairness to us, the holding in the flats is notoriously bad and the winds were quite high, but it was pretty ridiculous.  Indeed, we made a bit of a spectacle of ourselves, continually driving around in circles and setting then retrieving anchors before returning to further circle-driving.  Not the most auspicious of beginnings.

Around 5:45, we were alerted by the Canal authorities that our advisor was on his way, and within 15 minutes we had him aboard.  His name was Meza, and it became clear right away that he was going to be great – totally friendly, informal, helpful without being bossy.  He informed us we would be the middle boat of a three-boat raft, which is a bit of a mixed blessing.  Although the captain of the middle boat has the added (significant) responsibility of driving the raft, the good news is that (a) if he drives the raft into a wall (or someone else makes a mistake), the damage is going to be to one of the other boats and (b) the middle boat’s linehandlers have very little work to do.  On balance, being in the middle is pretty good.

We motored toward the Canal entrance and began the process of rafting up with the other boats.  This was also the beginning of our concerns.  Suffice it to say, it is not often that we are the only people who know what they are doing (in fact, when it comes to boat-related things, usually quite the other thing), but the Canal crossing was one of those times.  The two other boats with which we were rafted were a bunch of humorless, unpleasant and borderline incompetent Germans to our right and preposterously Wile E. Coyote-esque incompetent-bordering-on-ridiculous French/Dutch to our left.

We stopped Spectacle to allow the left boat to raft up.  They blasted up to us at about four knots and nearly ripped all of our fenders/stanchions off through sheer velocity before deciding to try it again.  Fantastic start, guys.

Panama Canal Transit — Part II

Posted by: andy

After getting the boats rafted up, we drove into the first lock behind a container ship.  Basically, the drill is as follows: the middle boat captain (i.e. me) drives the boat into the middle of the lock (we had probably 15 feet to spare on either side so this wasn’t particularly tough but did require paying constant close attention) and then the Canal personnel throw long lines with monkey-fists on the ends to the linehandlers on the outside boats (two to each side for a total of four).  The four linehandlers then hold the whole raft in place, keeping it from drifting too far to either side or spinning.  When the lock fills up with water, the linehandlers take in the slack as the boats rise.  When the lock empties, the linehandlers let out slack as the boats go down.

This is not a tough job, but, for the forward linehandler on the French/Dutch boat on our left, it apparently was tantamount to splitting the atom.  This guy was a complete fool.  Every couple of minutes, the raft would begin rotating clockwise, I’d look to the bow of the left boat, and the guy on the bow would be standing there with a slack line running though his fingers.  I mean, really … a six-year-old girl could do this job.  I’d yell at him, he’d begin taking in the line, the raft would straighten, and, three minutes later, the process would repeat itself.

Needless to say, none of us aboard Spectacle were even slightly amused.  At one point (after a particularly heated exchange), one of the Frenchmen aboard the left-side boat said something lippy to Ian, who responded (without missing a beat), “Hey, didn’t you guys try to build this thing once?”  It was pure genius.

The right side boat (aka the humorless Germans) weren’t much better.  Mostly, they lounged about the cockpit eating various hot meals brought up from below while their captain decided to engage in his own raft-steering regime (against the instructions of the advisors and making my job more difficult).  But their best moment came when it was time to break up the raft for the first time.  As we released the lines tying the boats together, their captain brilliantly decided to simultaneously floor it and make a hard right turn, swinging the stern of his boat into us.  An incredulous but extraordinarily alert Melissa grabbed the boat hook and began trying to fend him off, putting the (plastic) hook onto his (metal, non-aesthetic) stern cleat and pushing with all her might.  Again, the non-scratching plastic was on their cleat, needed to be there, and the guy was driving like an idiot.

Well, the guy reacted like she was keying his car.  “Do NOT use zee boat hook!” he screamed.  OK, dude, do not drive zee stern of your boat into us…

By this point, we had completely had it with both the other boats.  So, for the rest of the transit, we basically treated them like six-year-olds and barked orders.  I’m sure they hate us.  Believe me, the feeling is mutual.Beautiful Scenery

Aside from our chilly relationship with the other raft members, the transit was really fun.  We went through the Gatun locks in darkness on the evening of the 19th before Meza was picked up by a launch and the remaining five of us spent the night on a mooring buoy (hard to call it a “ball” since it was about four feet across and Erik had to stand on it to tie us up).  I cooked up some of my ersatz shrimp creole (which is now approaching semi-official “Dish of Spectacle” status), we had a few Balboas and headed to bed, awaiting Meza’s promised 7:00 a.m. arrival back at the boat.

Meza was right on time, and off we went through Gatun Lake.  It was a blessing to be able to spend most of the day free from our NATO allies as we motored through this beautiful and strange creation.  Eventually, we reached the brown water and high walls of the Gaillard Cut before rerafting with the Europeans to pass through the Pedro Miguel Locks and, finally, the Miraflores Locks.  We sailed under the Bridge of the Americas at around 3:15 p.m. Melissa raced up to the front of the boat so she could be first one into the Pacific Ocean.The Webcam at the Miraflores Locks

Our total transit time was about 12 hours (four hours the first night and eight hours the second day).

We had visited the Canal before and, to be honest, were kind of disappointed.  From the observation deck at Miraflores, it sort of looks like a suburban street that happens to be filled with water – not very dramatic.  But going through it, one far better realizes the sheer magnitude of the engineering project and just what a wonder it is.  It was a very cool experience, not particularly stressful (except for our raftmates), and something we are very happy to have done.

The Big Crossing (With Ian)

Posted by: andy

We are running around like chickens sans heads today as we prepare to begin our Pacific crossing tomorrow (yes, this all came on very fast, we know).  Alas, as of just this hour, an unexpected final repair has just arisen and may delay our Pacific departure (for you excessively curious mechanical nerds, it is a busted diode in our inverter that is causing the batteries to charge erratically … this may or may not be quickly fixable, but it is sort of looking like not).

Repair permitting, we will depart Flamenco Marina about noon local time tomorrow and expect to arrive in the Galapagos in about one week’s time.

Ian Is PyschedIn bigger news, we have added a crew member for the Pacific crossing … he is a 57-year-old Brit turned Canadian from Toronto named Ian McLean, our line-handler during the Canal transit.  He has crossed the Atlantic twice (but never the Pacific), once going eastbound in the North Atlantic in a 29-footer.  Although his politics are going to drive me absolutely insane, he is a very funny guy (especially when ridiculing French/Dutch buffoons) and we should all get on well.  For those of you who have seen too many Nicole Kidman/Billy Zane movies, take some solace in knowing that his passport both appears authentic and bears the same name he told us …

Spectacle in Sydney — Day 1

Posted by: melissa

 The alarm went off and we were all really dragging.  That little tease of sleep wasn’t totally satisfying, but after a caffeinated beverage, a slightly less intense adrenalin-high kicked in to assist us through this day.  We moved the boat over to Rushcutters Bay to the D’Albora Marina.  Once we arrived and tied to the dock, I suddenly became obsessed with bathing … a hot shower was my mission in life.  So we packed up the shower bag and headed up to the office to get the key to the facilities when the quarantine guy showed up.  He delivered a minor admonishment for leaving the boat without clearing quarantine, and I didn’t care.  I said something to the effect of:  “I haven’t showered in over 9 days so I need you to clear me and my person immediately because I am going to the shower right now.” 

Andy stayed with the quarantine guy as he looked for potential dangers, organic material, and introduced species.  His services cost AUS $416 making this the most expensive check-in process we’ve ever experienced.  He indicated that a good chunk of the charge was overtime to come on a Sunday.  We could’ve avoided overtime rates by staying on the boat until Monday morning, but that just wasn’t in the cards.  And he did take out all of the garbage in a fancy trash bag with official “Danger” and “Quarantine” stencils on it.  Whatever.  I didn’t care as I was luxuriating in a hot shower! 

Icebergs at Bondi Beach

Icebergs at Bondi Beach

As it turns out, Andy’s close friend from Mizzou was visiting Sydney on business travel from Bangkok, where he now lives and works.  As we pulled into the marina, Jason was waiting for us with hot flat whites and wow that was the most delicious coffee I’ve ever had!  After we cleaned up a little, we jumped in a cab and headed over to Icebergs, the famous restaurant with sweeping views of Bondi Beach.  We had a fabulous lunch with plenty of wine, and experienced the same “land sickness” episodes that we usually experience at our first onshore meal.  I started to relax a little, but I still felt like I was running pretty high on adrenalin.

After lunch, the boys went to check out the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia which is right next door to our marina.  The CYCA sponsors the annual Sydney to Hobart race which is both famous and infamous.  Since we had just crossed the Tasman, we were feeling a special affinity towards those brave enough to take on sailing in those latitudes!  Additionally, tenants at D’Albora Rushcutters are welcome to the private bar and restaurant so I’m sure we’ll be taking advantage of that in the future!  I, on the other hand, went for a relaxing lay down with my book.

Soon it was time to get up and eat again!  There’s so much great stuff to do in Sydney, and with Ryan on his last day, and Jason in town to visit, we were eager to get to it! 

We hopped in a taxi and went to an area called The Rocks which is right on the Bay and across from the Opera House and Harbor Bridge.  It’s a very cool part of town with all sorts of outdoor bars and restaurants and people milling around, so we decided to sit down and have an adult beverage.  We happened to be there during the Luminous Festival, and Sydneysiders were treated to huge, high-powered light shows with the Opera House as the canvas.  It was absolutely stunning and mesmerizing. 

Finished with cocktail hour, we headed to dinner at Quay, which is considered one of the very best restaurants in Australia.  It’s perfectly located also across from the Opera House so our viewing of the light show continued all evening.  The food was amazing, the wine was exquisite, and the company was fabulous … a truly magical night and a far cry from fighting the elements in the Tasman Sea!

Getting Back to Normal Means Boat Work

Posted by: melissa

We said “Goodbye” to Ryan yesterday evening, and then went out for pizza and beer with Jason.  He stayed on the boat with us last night, and was off to the airport early this morning.  And so Andy and I are left by ourselves with our thoughts.  We both still don’t really know what to think about the passage.  Every time we tell the story, some new detail comes out or some new emotion bubbles to the surface.  It doesn’t help that we both still feel very tired.  It’s hard to sleep soundly after a passage anyway because you’re so used to sleeping in 3-4 hour increments depending on the watch schedule, but adjusting this time is proving especially difficult.  I think we are both suffering from an adrenalin hangover of sorts, and coming down is a real bitch.  The whole experience feels quite surreal.

One way to shake such a strange feeling is to get back to normal things, and for me, that means boat work and check lists.  First on the list is dealing with the head sail.  It needs a new shackle for the halyard, but unfortunately, the halyard and furling drum did not come down the forestay when we dropped the headsail at sea, so someone will need to go up the mast to retrieve it.  The furling line is looking a little haggard as well so I’ll look into replacing that while we’re at it.  The staysail blew out completely.  It seriously looks like it was shot with a shotgun, but the sail loft thinks it may be repairable and will pick it up later today.

I’m also going to find someone to service the autopilot.  If you’re a boat person, or if you follow our travels or the travels of any other cruiser, you realize the importance of the autopilot.  During the crossing, poor old Otto was working really really hard against that huge, following, Tasman swell, and he was making some pretty sad noises.  It was also making a “thunk” noise as if it was slamming into something when turning sharply and completely to port.  Whatever’s happening, it can’t be good.  The loss of the autopilot was a secret fear for the entire crew, but never articulated out loud in an effort to keep everyone’s stress level as low as possible.

At some point during the crossing, a loose jib sheet was whipping around and whacked a big hole in the plastic window of the dodger.  The boat trim guy will come by later this week, and I’ll probably get a quote to re-do the bed cushions as well. 

Additionally, we have a ton of exterior lights that are burned out – anchor light, tri-color, starboard deck light, and starboard running light.  Other than that, I would like to hire someone to help me scrub the deck, work on rust removal, polish all the metal, and sand and oil the teak.  Bayswater Marina in Auckland was a stickler on not allowing exterior boat work, so much of the deck desperately needs attention.


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