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The Voyage of Spectacle Love/Loathe

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 ‘Love/Loathe’ Category


Posted by: andy

I know that some of you are wondering what our day-to-day lives are going to be like when we are “out there.”  Well, I want to recommend a fantastic log maintained by another young couple (younger than we are, actually) who are circumnavigating over almost exactly the same course over almost exactly the same schedule.   The difference is that they have a three year headstart, which means that they are presently in the Mediterranean, sailing from Turkey to Greece.

They are Pat and Ali from Minneapolis/Chicago and their boat is named Bumfuzzle. This is a great boat name and a great couple.   Their web site is www.bumfuzzle.com.  We’re hoping to meet up with them this winter in the Caribbean, just before they finish their voyage in Florida.

A lot of pself-pstyled (and pself-important) pseudo-psalty psailors have their knickers in a twist over Pat and Ali.   They left on this journey without decades of experience, without excessive psuffering and drama, and without the kind of “authentic” credibility that many of these pseudo-psalty psailors seem to require.   As a result, they have often been psavaged by armchair idiots/poseurs who enjoy a Pussers on the rocks from the comfort of their insurance-agency office in Milwaukee while they lament how sailing has gone “to the birds” because actual pself-psupporting, attractive young people are out doing it while the critics are still at home.   It’s quite psilly, actually.

We think their journey is fantastic.  We think their site is fantastic.   We root for them constantly.  We strongly encourage you to check out their website for (a) some insight into what our lives will be like and (b) some great entertainment.   They have done a fantastic and entertaining job of communicating the essentials of what their trip is all about.

This is not to say our journey will be the same.  Obviously, there will be some stark differences (for starters, think Michelin stars vs. McDonald’s).   There are things that I already know that we disagree about (e.g. catamarans vs. monohulls).  But, on balance, I must say that they have been a major inspiration to us and I hope that you will enjoy reading their site as much as we have.   For that matter, I secretly hope that they will enjoy reading our site as much as we have enjoyed reading theirs.  Fair Winds, Ali and Pat!

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.

Our Own Saffir-Simpson Scale

Posted by: andy

We’re settling in at the Conch Inn Marina in Marsh Harbour. But for a little bit of grime, Spectacle is just as I left her. This is mostly — but not entirely — good news.

You see, there is an essential boat system that has been in need of fixing since late October.  This repair has now developed into a “Setback.”  Much like a cyclonic tropical storm, it could well develop into a Bummer on its way to becoming a full-blown Fiasco.  To be honest, it is sort of heading that way.

And much like a cyclonic tropical storm, it has now reached the point where it has earned a name.  For now, we’ll call this “Setback Autopilot” (equivalent to a tropical storm).  Previously, it was merely a Situation, much like, say, a tropical depression.  As the misfortune mounts, we’ll perhaps be renaming it “Bummer Autopilot” (equivalent to a category 1 hurricane), “Fiasco Autopilot” (category 2), “Calamity Autopilot” (category 3, the level where there is no longer any residual humor or whimsy in the situation), “Cataclysm Autopilot” (category 4) or “Apocalypse Autopilot” (category 5).

By the way, we fully plan on revisiting the newly-devised “Spectacle-Simpson” scale when future misfortune (which is, to some degree, inevitable) occurs.  Hopefully, we’ll keep all of it at “Fiasco” or below.  Fortunately, this one is highly unlikely to get worse than that, although a full-blown Fiasco still brings 80-100 mph teeth gnashing and 12-15 feet of garment rending.

There is quite a story behind all this, but I’m going to save that until we know how it ends.  For now, the good news is that the autopilot component in question is, as of yesterday, off the boat, in a box, and on its way to Merrimack, New Hampshire, and the service department of its manufacturer, a certain prominent defense contractor whose marine instruments are of notoriously inferior quality to those of its major competitors but whose service department is supposed to be outstanding (perhaps because they get plenty of practice).  It’s not really an exaggeration to say that every single semi-important thing that has broken on the boat since we bought it has been manufactured by these folks. Let me put this another way… I fear for our troops.

Obviously, this is a fluid situation (*rim shot* — “I’ll be at the Comedy Store all next week”).  Hopefully, we’ll know a lot more on Monday or Tuesday.  No, let me rephrase that.  We had better know a lot more on Monday or Tuesday.

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