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The Voyage of Spectacle Weather

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 ‘Weather’ 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.

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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