The Voyage


Andy and Melissa are sailing around the world on their 48-foot sailboat, Spectacle.

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Archive for the ‘Regattas’ Category

Heineken Regatta

Posted by: andy

We hadn’t initially intended to visit St. Martin.  Then, after we changed our minds (swapping out St. Barts), we intended to stay in St. Martin for only four days.  Then, while still in Tortola, we looked at the calendar.  Sure enough, the Heineken Regatta was set to begin four days after our arrival.  O.K., better make it a week (at least).

The Heineken Regatta is arguably the biggest sail-racing “meet” in the Caribbean each year.  It is inarguably one of the three biggest – alongside similar events in Antigua and Tortola.

There are big boats here – boats like ABN-AMRO I.  When you’ve won the Volvo Ocean Race, this is a piece of cake (even with the handicap).  There are also small boats competing here, plenty of them smaller than Spectacle.  Indeed, most of the racing is done on rented charter boats, mostly Beneteau and Dufour bareboats rented from Sunsail and The Moorings.  This sounds comparatively tame – it isn’t.  These folks have lots of training, lots of intensity, lots of crew and lots of competition.  There are at least 15 different classes (probably more), every single one of which is hotly contested (except, funnily enough, maybe the very biggest boats – I didn’t get the sense that ABN-AMRO I had much trouble).  The most competitive classes are boats just about Spectacle’s size.

It also is a notoriously big four-night party, one that moves around the island to various locations.

Truth be told, they don’t do the best job of advertising where everything is and when, so it was only on Day 3 that we really joined in the fun.  That day, the race was scheduled to end in Marigot, where Spectacle is currently moored.

That morning, Melissa began walking up the dock to the bathrooms.  We’re moored quite some way from them, so she had plenty of time to notice that the marina had gone from 70% full to about 20% full overnight.  On the way, she passed Etienne, the Belgian-fabulous director of the Marina.

“Everyone left,” she commented cheerfully.

“You stay here zehn, today?”  He queried, in his thick Belgian accent.  “You are not afraid?”

“Afraid? Of course not,” she replied, a bit confused.

“You will see,” he deadpanned, walking off.

At that point, Melissa noticed that every single free space in the marina had a “RESERVED” sign on it.  She returned to the boat and reported, “I think we’re going to have an eventful afternoon.”

Team Papillon and Etienne (Marina Director and Fellow Hard Partying Belgian) Artistically Conduct Marina Traffic to Ear-Splitting Wagner Sure enough, around 1:30 p.m., boats began pouring into the marina – it was a borderline traffic jam.  We stood on deck, boat hook in hand, fenders at the ready, waiting to see who was going to try to moor next to us and fend them off if necessary.  The high winds greatly increased the chances of disaster.

Thankfully, we emerged unscathed.  Some did not.  We saw one Dufour that had been T-boned during the race and had four bashed-in stanchions and a giant (big enough to crawl through) hole in its deck.  Surrounding the hole was blue paint.  Not flag-blue hull paint, but light-blue BOTTOM paint.  Someone had ridden up and over them.  Ouch.  Some poor sucker (who was surely not involved in the race) owns that boat and leased it out for the Regatta.  I’m sure he won’t be very happy even after the charter company “fixes” it.  By the way, I can’t speak well for the quality of Dufour decks (which involve plywood in inappropriate spots) now that I’ve seen a cross section.

Team Papillon Preparing to Med MoorAs the day wore on and cocktail hour began, we noticed that the boat that seemed to be having the most fun at the whole marina was about four slips down from us.  They had a Belgian flag flying and were partying up a storm.

  This was Team Papillon, indeed from Belgium, aboard a Beneteau 505.  Among Team Papillon’s sponsors was Laurent-Perrier, the champagne house.  Not too shabby.  I was told that part of the sponsorship arrangement was that the team was given one magnum per crew member (there were nine of them) per day to drink.  I have absolutely no doubt that they finished it all and more.

These guys were hilarious.  We partied up a storm with them.  Champagne and good cheer were flowingTeam Papillon Parties Hard Even With First Place on the Line Making Laurent-Perrier Proud! to such an extent that, eventually, the party moved into the water, and Melissa dutifully joined them, drinking out of a shared magnum while floating around the marina.  Needless to say, they liked her better than they liked me.

Part of their good cheer might have been owing to their performance.  They had won both of their races to that point, making them odds-on favorites to win their class (“Bareboat 4”) of about 15-20 boats.

Laurent-Perrier Would Not Be DisappointedAt this point, I decided that I needed to become an honorary member of Team Papillon.  I pulled the navigator, Guido, aside and recounted how Red Auerbach used to light up a victory cigar every time he knew the Celtics had the game won.

“I have a box of Cuban Romeo y Julieta Churchills on my boat,” I said.  “I’m going to go get nine of them and, once you know you have the race won, I want all nine of you to light one up.  It’s the American way.”

“We’ll do it,” he promised.

That night went VERY late.  The next day, we spent too much time in the sun, but, worn out as we were, we still managed to show up for the final Regatta party and awards presentation down on the Dutch side.  Sure enough, Papillon had won.  Still, I wondered about the cigars, but we were so tired we ended up heading back to Marigot at 9:30 before tracking any of them down.  I joked that, “Tonight we’re going to party like we’re 99.”  When do we ever “hang it up” at 9:30?

Two days later, I awoke to the following e-mail, sent from Belgium:

Hi there,

As we promised, we did light the 9 cigars before getting up to the podium!  We did succeed in winning all 3 races in Bareboat 4.  Last race, we started from the worst possible position, the last one ! – everybody tried to push us out.  On top, another boat hit us during the race, what made us loosing at least 1 min.  However we finished 2nd – 9 seconds after the Sinner team, but they got disqualified as they crossed the starting line to early (before starting shot). 

So Andy, I kept my promise .  Thx for the support & nice smoking stuff !

Best regards from the complete team,


Navigator, Papillon Team.

Thoughts on Saint Martin

Posted by: melissa

The Obelisk at the Border Makes for a Tame Crossing between France and HollandOn the north end of the Eastern Caribbean chain, the island of Saint Martin overlooks British (and super ritzy) Anguilla with another popular French West Indies enclave, St. Barts (also super ritzy), about 13 miles to the southeast.  With both Dutch and French sides, Saint Martin is the smallest island in the world shared by two different countries (about 38 total square miles).  After multiple skirmishes involving the Spanish and British and area indigenous peoples, the island’s border between Dutch and French has remained pretty much consistent since the agreement in 1648.  That border is totally open marked by a small obelisk and a Bienvenue / Welkom sign.

As big fans of French culture and cuisine, we planned to make landfall on the French side.  Marigot, the main town on the French side, is hustling and bustling … not much late nightlife but plenty of restaurants and shops especially given the nearby ferry dock. 

Built in 1767, Fort Louis was named after the famous and ill-fated French king, Louis XVI, and was established to protect Marigot from foreign invaders, particularly the British.  At the end of Rue de la Republique and in the shadow of Fort Louis, the Fort Louis Marina is definitely a landmark in Marigot and a great central point for island travel.  We quickly adopted a local café, the Deli Spoon, befriending the jack of all trades wait person, Carole, and taking advantage of its great food and coffee, high speed internet connection, and friendly regular clientele. 

The main drag in Grand Case (about 5 miles northeast of Marigot) hosts the French side’s cuisine trophies, and we spent many a long, wine-swilling, cheese-tasting, multi-course-enjoying evening there.  We visited the infamous Orient Beach with its beautiful views and white sand beach like talcum powder, oh and, naked sun worshippers everywhere.  And of course, we hit the infamous Sunset Beach Bar in all its glory, complete with 747s skimming the roof of the bar on their final descent, best bikini body contests, and shots.  We were mightily impressed.

We ventured to the Dutch side of the island several times … the Sunset Beach Bar, an expensive trip to Budget Marine (now renamed “Break-Your-Budget” Marine), and Kim Sha beach for the marquee event closing the Heineken Regatta.  Against our better judgment, we also made a trip to Philipsburg.

Most of the travel guides describe Saint Martin as a crassly over-developed island ruthlessly pursuing the tourist dollar.  Throughout our stay, we found this synopsis to be totally silly as we experienced nothing but happy-go-lucky, as well as happy-to-help, locals.  No hustling, no pan-handling, no aggressive sales tactics, no thinly-veiled street scams, no “special” pricing, no shamelessly tacky crap stores, nothing.  Frankly, French Saint Martin has been our stand-out favorite Caribbean island thus far.

The Beach Boardwalk at Phillipsburg, Saint Martin, Dutch SideSadly, Philipsburg is a whole different ball of wax.  With terrible traffic and little parking, the entire town is quite commercial and charm-free except for the areas easily walked by cruise ship tourists in a 3-to-4-hour shore excursion.  The beach boardwalk is somewhat picturesque with a nice anchorage, millions of beach chairs, and generic bars and The Problem with Phillipsburgrestaurants.  The huge shopping street is jampacked with cruise ship patrons walking in circles and methodically muttering the words “duty free” under their breath.  The retail competition, especially among jewelry  stores, is ferocious and palpably desperate.  We bought some consumer goods, mistakenly ate at a French restaurant (on the Dutch side? Hello!), and high-tailed it back to France in soul-crushing traffic.

Grazing Pigs and Chickens in PhillipsburgIn lieu of a specific event, a mandatory trip to the island’s best chandlery, a flight, or a jaunt to the Sunset Beach Bar, there’s little reason to cross the border.  The picture to the right sums up our thoughts on Philipsburg.   


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.”

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!