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The Voyage of Spectacle Planning

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 ‘Planning’ Category

Route Planning — There’s a Method to It

Posted by: andy

People have asked about how we have planned our route. The answer is pretty simple: we mostly let Jimmy Cornell do it for us.

Cornell’s book “World Cruising Routes” is, more than any other, the one must-have book for the circumnavigating sailor. In addition to detailed instructions on how to get from just about every conceivable Point A to just about every conceivable Point B (it’s a big book), it has detailed weather information and suggested circumnavigation plans, which can be tweaked here and there.

The biggest factor involved is that there are certain parts of the world in which you just can’t safely sail during certain parts of the year. The prime reason for this is cyclonic storms (i.e. hurricanes). For example, Atlantic hurricane season officially begins July 1 and ends December 1 (except, of course, on the rare occasion Mother Nature disagrees — last year’s Hurricane Epsilon lasted until December 8 – only the sixth December Hurricane ever recorded). It’s not an accident that we are beginning our journey on December 9. Similarly, South Pacific cyclone season runs from December to March. We’re going to be sure to have the boat in New Zealand – and out of the cyclone belt – by November 15.

Given the prevailing winds (which make sailng westward easier) and the weather patterns, the course and the timing are largely decided for you. Of course, we have to keep our fingers crossed that our ever-warming earth won’t start deviating from the patterns that mariners have relied upon for centuries. Last summer wasn’t particularly encouraging.

If you are wondering to yourself, “Hey, isn’t it hurricane season where their boat is right now?” The answer is yes. We’re checking The Weather Channel every day, hoping to avoid a replay of Summer 2005 and, in our case, especially something like Wilma.

Fortunately, Spectacle is fairly far up the New River, so a hurricane storm surge is unlikely to cause major problems for us . . . but you can bet that we check every single day.

Just Pick a Date

Posted by: andy

As I was sitting at the Rose Bowl on Saturday wondering when the USC offensive line was planning on arriving, it occurred to me that it was the day of last year’s much more enjoyable USC/UCLA game when we finally let the proverbial cat out of the bag concerning our intention to take the trip.I thought about this again today as we were talking with some nice people from Las Vegas who just returned from a charter trip (Conch Inn has a very large “The Moorings” charter dock connected to it).

One of the women mentioned that, many years ago, she and her husband had tossed around the idea of a long voyage but had never done it.  She asked us, “So what was the thought process that got you actually to go?”

I think she was expecting a complex, involved answer.  But Melissa and I answered simultaneously, “Telling people we were going to do it and then picking a date.”

“Yeah,” another member of the group chuckled. “Then you’re committed.”


Once we told people the “what” and the “when,” our planning took on a different level of seriousness. Last year, at my brother’s tailgate party, we told Andy Esbenshade we were going leave to sail around the world on December 6, 2006.  It got easier from there.

Prop Plane from Ft. Lauderdale to Bahamas

Posted by: melissa

Yellow Air Taxi Mel & Andy.jpg Yellow Air Taxi pilots.jpg After several long weeks of hard work and trying to anticipate every conceivable contingency, we started our adventure off with a bang … a 1 hour 10 minutes flight on an eight seater Cessna prop plane!  The good folks at Yellow Air Taxi took really good care of us to include accomodating our whopping 180 pounds of luggage!

Andy had taken Yellow Air Taxi from Great Abaco back to Ft. Lauderdale once already, but I didn’t really know what to expect.  The cockpit is several feet away allowing passengers (particularly those nervous about flying) to fixate on the various known and unknown gauges and blinking lights.  I found myself concentrating rather heavily on fuel, oil pressure, and radar … all conveniently clustered together!  After awhile however, I was able to relax and take in some truly beautiful scenery.  More Pictures

Getting Used to Boat Life

Posted by: melissa

After about a week, we are starting to get settled into our new boat life but, alas, we have yet to sail anywhere!  It’s a good idea to acclimate to marina life considering only about one-third of our trip is at sea anyhow.

The Abacos are located in the northeast of the Bahamian archipelago (175 miles east of Palm Beach) in a 140-mile curve around the east of Grand Bahama.  The population of the Abacos is 11,000, and Marsh Harbour (located on a north-facing cove about midway down Great Abaco) is the third largest town in the Bahamas (after Freeport and Nassau).  A popular area with sailors, the Abacos are home to about half of the 60 marinas in the Bahamas.  Many of the cays in the surrounding area were settled by Loyalists after the American Revolution.  In 1973, the Abacos launched a fairly strong, but ultimately unsuccessful, movement to remain part of Britain rather than declaring independence with the rest of the Bahamas.

Marsh Harbour has been an excellent place to begin our journey.  The town is just big enough to have a lot of resources and services.  For instance, the eight restaurants within walking or short cab ride distance have been consistently pretty good (Andy begins the full-fledged restaurant reviews shortly).  We visited two different grocery stores to investigate the eventual boat provisioning opportunities, and we were pleasantly surprised both in availability and affordability.  One of the two stores is a Costco-type warehouse situation where we purchased gobs of non-perishables, soda, and paper products for about $350.  And I’m talking gobs of stuff … an avalanche of pancake mix, a dozen batches of brownieGrocery Run Bahamas Style mix, granola bars, a dozen boxes of mac n’ cheese, etc.  The other store is a proper grocery store with produce, butcher, deli, bakery, the whole shebang – it could be a Ralphs in Pasadena.  The decent restaurants and proper grocery stores have been quite comforting for me since I can be quite finicky about food (for those who know me well, stop snickering).

The View from our Slip at Conch Inn MarinaThe Conch Inn Marina has been a welcome first stop as well.  The facilities are clean and well managed … also a comforting revelation for me … and of course, there’s the spectacular view.

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.

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