The Voyage


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

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Bali, Indonesia

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Archive for the ‘Rum’ Category

Tortola Beach Bars and Final Thoughts

Posted by: andy

We took a day to meet up with the aforementioned Bumfuzzlers, who are just finishing up their trip.  This turned into quite a long day/night/morning of boozing it up.

We started out at Quito’s Gazebo, a relatively famous bar at fairly scenic Cane Garden Bay.  Quito is Quito Rhymer, a local reggae star, who plays live most weekends.  We were there during the day, and it was dead, but I’m sure it’s pretty hopping when he is playing.  We then ventured on to the fairly famous Bomba’s Shack, a beach bar made mostly out of driftwood.  It’s probably great for the Full Moon Party, but it’s otherwise just license plates, underwear, graffiti, business cards, and drunk charter vacationers – bars like this are, sadly, a dime a dozen.  We had a great time with Pat and Ali, but none of these bars is reason enough to re-route one’s boat (or life) toward Tortola.

The Infamous Willie TA different day, we also made it out to the infamous Willy T. at Norman Island.  I totally loved it – my favorite watering hole we’ve yet visited. Melissa doesn’t agree – at all.  As I said before, there are only two things to do in Tortola – sail and drink.

As far as we’re concerned, Tortola really is no better than O.K.  We both doubt that we’ll ever set foot on the island again.  It’s totally skippable unless you’re coming specifically to GO SAILING.  Once you put all the sailing business to the side, it is not somewhere I’d choose to be stuck for longer than an afternoon cruise-ship excursion (not that cruise-ship excursions are in our future, but, boy, there sure are a lot of people taking them in Tortola).  Road Town, the main town, is decidedly not charming.  We were told that Tortola is a sailing “Mecca.”  Indeed it is – we’re just not that kind of Muslim.

Jost van Dyke

Posted by: andy

We decided to leave Tortola around 2:30 p.m. yesterday and head for Jost van Dyke, the nearby “out island” that is home to two legendary beach bars – Foxy’s and Soggy Dollar Bar — and very little else.  The thought was that we’d get to JvD around 4:30, anchor the boat, dinghy ashore, check out of BVI customs and immigration, have dinner and a few drinks at Foxy’s, dinghy back out to the boat, and sail overnight to St. Martin.

We actually managed to get off the dock just after 2:30.  It was strange saying good-bye to three different boats we had encountered in multiple locations already, knowing that, this time, we were unlikely to see them again.  I suppose we should get used to that.

Having FINALLY gotten our batteries replaced, we now no longer need to be tied to something hard – we can finally “anchor out” like proper sailors.

Anchoring is surprisingly difficult for many, many sailor – it is probably the one thing that most boat owners are slightly afraid of, and for good reason.  People often times make complete … well … spectacles of themselves as they attempt to park the boat.

I am pleased to report that our maiden anchoring was absolutely flawless.  We planned it out well and executed it perfectly.  This was a strong point for each of us back in sailing school, and, apparently, we remember what we were taught.

Our maiden post-anchoring dinghy ride, however, was not so flawless.  We managed to get the dinghy to Foxy’s dock right at 5:00.  Melissa jumped off and sprinted for customs.  Alas, we had missed them.  So, we’d have to stay overnight – no big deal.  St. Martin can wait one more day.

Foxy’s might be the single most-famous beach bar in the entire Caribbean, if not the world.  We felt like we “needed to do it” but expected to be put off by excess commercialism in the vein of Hard Rock Café.  Boy, were we wrong.

The Infamous Foxy's at Jost van Dyke, BVIYes, it has a very large T-shirt shop/boutique, and they do a very brisk business.  But Foxy’s puts out a tremendous product.  The bar is great.  The drinks are creative and tasty.  The staff is fantastic and professional, and the food was surprisingly delicious.  We were a little bit hesitant to pay $28 apiece for a “Beach BBQ,” but this was fantastic food – ribs of near-Twin Anchors quality, the best jerk chicken either of us have ever had, corn that was downright memorable (now that’s saying something).  It was a bargain at twice the price.  Foxy’s certainly doesn’t need me to tell you how great it is.  The word is already out.  But it isn’t popular by accident.

“Several” (ahem) Dread Fox cocktails later, we walked down to the dock to get on the dinghy and head back to the boat.

It was sinking.  Seriously – it was SINKING!  The left pontoon was basically flat and submerged.  We got into the boat, thinking we might just be able to make it back to Spectacle.  Totally wrong.  All we did was make it worse, instantly.

Melissa jumped back on the dock, losing a flip-flop, grabbed the waterproof bag, as we prepared to “save” the outboard.  I jumped into the water … which, thankfully, was only about four feet deep.  I managed to wrestle the outboard off the boat and onto the dock, and we eventually retrieved the boat as well and dragged it onto the beach.  However, it’s pretty clear that we’ve got a fairly meaningful “slow leak” in the dinghy (and not that slow, apparently).  Add that to the list of repairs.

We caught a ride out to the boat, slept pretty well (no paranoid middle-of-the-night dashes on deck to check the anchor), and caught a ride back in the next morning.  After reinflating the dinghy and checking out of customs, we marched (sans dinghy) over the hill to Soggy Dollar Bar.  This was quite a hot, steep and lengthy shlep, but it was worth it.  The bar is not really the allure – it’s just ok.  The beach, however, is fantastic.  We put away a few Painkillers, opted for a cab (pretty tough to find on a tiny island) back to Foxy’s, and managed to get the dinghy towed back out to Spectacle.  Then we put the dinghy on the davits, pulled up the anchor, and headed off for an overnight sail to St. Martin.  More Pictures

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.   


Fort de France, Martinique, French West Indies

Posted by: melissa

After Mont Pele destroyed the thriving and fabulous St. Pierre, Fort de France emerged as more than just a backwater town with the title of official administrative capital.  Fort de France is strategically located (as are all pretty much all the capital cities of the Caribbean) on the island’s leeward side with a naturally protected harbor and the ominous and historically busy Fort St. Louis, established in 1639.

After parking the car, we opted against visiting Fort St. Louis as the walk to get there reminded us both of Frogger.  Across from the Fort, the Savane is Fort de France’s central park, and unfortunately, the whole area was cordoned off with chained-link fence during our tour day.  This park houses the statue of Josephine, who, as I mentioned previously, is Martinique’s famous, but not-so-favorite, Josephine's Monument in the Savane (Central Park), Fort de France, Martiniquedaughter.  Under normal circumstances, the statue would face her beloved home of Trois-Ilets, located across the Fort de France bay to the south.  However, in 1992, the statue of Josephine was beheaded, her trunk splashed in red paint, and the accompanying signage either covered in angry Creole graffiti or all-out destroyed, in an obvious political statement.  Josephine’s head has Vandals Protest Josephine's Posted Biography at the Monumentnever been recovered and, more relevant to one’s understanding of Fort de France’s vibe, the monument has never been repaired nor removed.  There she stands, Empress Josephine, wife of Napoleon Bonaparte the Great, cousin of Aimee Dubuc de Rivery (also known as Sultana Valide and adoptive mother of Emperor Mahmoud II), headless and symbolically bleeding and desecrated for more than a decade, and nobody seems to care.  More Pictures

Near the Savane lies the Schoelcher library, which was built in Paris in 1889 for the World’s Fair.   After the exhibition, the entire building, a baroque The Schoelcher Libraryassortment of iron arches and fretwork, was dismantled, sent to Martinique, and reassembled to house Victor Schoelcher’s personal book collection.  The old part of this working library is quite beautiful with its floor-to-ceiling stacks of antique books, stained glass domed ceiling, and exhibits of local artists.  More Pictures

We then headed to the Palais de Justice, which is the Palais de Ugly, and Hotel de Ville, which is mildly interesting.  Rounding a corner to find the beginning of the famous, and supposedly haute couture, Rue Victor Hugo, we also stumbled onto a nice square with a nice statue of Schoelcher … and a port-a-potty.

The guidebook says:

Fort de France, the capital of Martinique, is the largest and liveliest city in the Windwards.  It is a great place for people-watching, and shops and restaurants abound.  The central Rue de la Republique has been turned into a delightful pedestrian street.

How much time do I get for rebuttal?

Andy and I stood in Martinique’s “center of the universe,” the intersection of Rue de la Republique and Rue Victor Hugo (just the names of the streets alone insinuate their importance), blinking and confused.  No bars anywhere.  No street musicians.  No sidewalk cafes.  No pushcarts selling baguettes and espresso shots.  Indeed no restaurants of any kind, except one … KFC.  Of the very few open shops at 3:30 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon, not one interested us.

Fort de France's Charm-Free Urban Sprawl  What the intersection does have is loiterers … locals, by the hundreds, doing nothing … many staring in an unfriendly way.

    As such, we got in the car and left … even though we knew it meant another crappy meal at Mango’s, the marina restaurant.  Not only was there nothing to do, Fort de France felt threatening, and I didn’t want to see it at night.  More Pictures

Final Disappointing Thoughts on Martinique

Posted by: melissa

Set the scene:  On March 11, we arrived in Martinique after a dreamy and event-free 48-hour trip down from St. Martin.  Thanks to semi-cooperative wind, we were able to sail the boat more than 60% of the time, and it felt great.  Everything worked (including us), and it was nice to be reminded why we chose to be boat owners and short-handed sailors.

We were really, really, really excited to reach Martinique.  There is no place in the first half-year of our trip that we more expected to fall in love with than Martinique.  As you can probably already ascertain, we have been extraordinarily disappointed by our experience.

But, in the interest of being well rounded, and frankly, charitable, I will discuss the things I liked first.  As mentioned, Martinique has beautiful natural scenery, as you can see on the Photos page.  Another highlight, the amazingly beautiful Rocher du Diamant rises sheer from the water to over 500 feet.  Martinique also has some of the best rum distilleries in the world.  As avid wine-tasters, we jumped at the chance to rum taste although it’s a little more difficult on the palate (on my palate, anyway…).  The people at Trois Rivieres were especially nice and the historical tour at Habitation Clement was splendid.  Even better than local rum straight up is Martinique’s local drink, Ti Punch, made with 4/5 white rum, 1/5 a special cane syrup, and small slice of lime.

The guidebook says:

Martinican food has a traditional French flair and is considered by many to be the best in the Caribbean. Here, you can make your holiday almost entirely gastronomic, as there are cafes and open-air restaurants to linger in at every turn. You will find traditional cuisine gastronomique, but also its Caribbean or Creole equivalent. Lovingly prepared, the dishes are often spiced, and of course, it is all in the sauces.

I must call my website host to increase our bandwidth to provide a proper and comprehensive rebuttal.

The food has been nothing short of terrible.  Excited to hit land after such a great sail and eager to love Martinique, we ordered the first croque monsieur possible.  It arrived on sliced generic white bread with an un-melted slice of jack cheese and a slice of cold grocery store ham.  Undaunted by strike one, we scoured the guidebooks and the Internet for the savory French goodness we’ve heard so much about.  After such a great experience in Grand Case, French Saint Martin, we were very excited to dive into Martinique cuisine, the crème de la crème of the French Caribbean.

Sadly, we never located a meal even in the same ballpark as Saint Martin.  We never even found a restaurant with an actual wine list or any thoughtful, skillful preparations.  We had a decent (but no better) Creole lunch at Restaurant Josephine in St. Pierre consisting of stewed curry chicken, but that’s about it.  We went to supposedly the best French restaurant in the best eating town of Martinique, and it was inedible and cost about 100 Euros.  We then had to leave to go eat again somewhere else (which was also pretty bad).

This food discussion is not an exaggeration, and sadly, it symbolizes what we feel is the problem with all of Martinique … a lack of effort and a “who cares” attitude derived from unconditional financial support.

Martinique tenuously enjoys its French-dom … and honestly, what’s not to like?  The economy is based primarily on French government subsidies (way more than even tourism, its second-biggest source of revenue).  It is more affluent, cleaner, and infrastructure-ready than almost all of the other Caribbean islands.  Yet, island purists yearn for total autonomy even while enjoying parliamentary seats and equal voting rights.  As such, the supported colonization model can go one of two ways:  the best of France and Caribbean, or the worst of France and Caribbean.

In our opinion, Saint Martin is absolutely the best of both worlds … French, Caribbean, Creole, no matter the culinary style, all food, from a roti on the street to foie gras and blanquette de veau in Grand Case, is prepared with care and pride.  The sophisticated style of Paris is totally evident, as is the friendly and carefree Caribbean attitude, both melding together into an exquisite vibe that translates into distinctly local architecture, customs, carnivals, and of course, food and wine and service.  The standards of French tradition stirred up with Caribbean flair makes for a marvelous combination.  Even the small things — like horn-free, courteous driving (in Peugots, and Citroens of course) and yielding to pedestrians — feel uniquely French Caribbean.

Martinique lacks this thoroughly enjoyable, best-of-both-worlds vibe.  There is vague sense of menace about the place.  Actually, that’s being too nice.  There is a palpable sense of menace about the place … wild and lawless and angry and resentful.  Indeed, we had our first back-alley “run in” here, which might have become fairly ugly had our would-be assailant not been so drunk.  Sure, an altercation with an obnoxious drunk could happen anywhere.  Unfortunately, it didn’t happen anywhere, it happened here in Martinique.  All over the island, you can feel the racial tension barely suppressed.

Fort-de-France could be really great, with its ocean-front promenade, the Canal Levassor, the Savane, and the roughly seven-block square “centre ville.”  Instead, it is a threatening and dumpy city that feels unsafe to walk around in broad daylight.  And even if it felt safe, there’s nothing to see or do.

So there you have it.  The wasted potential of Fort de France, the overall lousy food, the drunk guy looking for a fight, and Josephine’s headless statue … nobody cares.  No pride or effort on display in any aspect.  And really, why bother putting forth a little effort?  French subsidies aren’t going anywhere, and the most French-ness that Martinique embraces is being affected and obtrusive and arrogant.

We don’t need highfalutin cuisine, pristine beaches and umbrella drinks to have a good time.  Indeed, we like our destinations to be a little bit shabby and run down.  We loved the Dominican Republic (and not the touristy parts).  But we’re not “package tour”-type travelers, and Martinique is a package tour kind of place, a place for French (and I mean ONLY French) tourists to jet in on chartered flights from Paris and be whisked off to the various well-fenced all-inclusive resorts to soak up some sun, have a few planteurs, maybe take a distillery tour or go see Little Pompeii, and get back on the plane with a couple of bottles of rhum agricole.