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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The Voyage of Spectacle

Archive for the ‘Yoga’ Category

Fall Schedule

Posted by: andy

When we planned our departure schedule, we figured we would be spending the fall doing all manner of boat-improvement projects in Fort Lauderdale . What we didn’t anticipate was that we would be buying a boat that is almost entirely ready to go already.

When we realized that our fall was not going to be as chock-full of projects as we had thought, Melissa decided to go to Bikram yoga instructor certification training, something she has wanted to do for years. This twice-annual teacher training starts September 17 in Los Angeles and runs through November 18. She’ll live at my mother’s house in Glendale and be off contorting in 105-degree rooms for 3 hours per day. Sounds like a party!

It won’t surprise you that I, on the other hand, have no desire to become a yoga instructor. So I will be off to Florida. Instead of scores of do-it-yourself projects, we are faced with mostly just learning all the ins and outs of the boat systems. Spectacle is a very complicated piece of machinery and I am not the most mechanically inclined individual. Just sitting down with the manuals and getting a sufficient working knowledge of all the relevant systems is probably going to take me at least 20 days on the boat. While there, I’ll also take in a few college football games in my spare time. I’ll also be making several trips home to visit Melissa.

Quite a lot is involved in uprooting one’s life and leaving the country for three years, and it’s all coming up very soon. The moving truck comes on August 23. We begin our cross-country drive (so we’ll have a car in Florida) on August 28 (with a stop for USC vs. Arkansas in Fayetteville on September 2). We are officially out of our house in San Clemente on September 15 – less than five weeks away!

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.

A Lovely Morning of Hotel Amenities

Posted by: melissa

Unfortunately, Andy woke up this morning feeling really crappy.  He has a fever, sore throat and is super-tired since he coughed his head off all night long.  I, however, feel great.  The cricket starts at 2:15 p.m., so I decided to let Andy relax as late as possible.  Plus, we have a lot of errands to accomplish while we’re here. 

The hotel is gorgeous.  It just reopened after a massive refurbishment, and we have the reopening promotion to thank for our excellent rate.  Having most of the morning to myself, I had breakfast in the dining room, tasked the very competent Concierge with confirming our many restaurant reservations, caught up with email, and took advantage of the gym facilities, and indoor pool and jacuzzi. 

Back in 9-to-5 real life, I was a bit of gym rat … workout fanatic might be more like it.  I ran a lot, hiked, did Bikram yoga, Pilates, etc.  Now that my lifestyle is extremely transient, oftentimes strange, logistically complex, and totally ambiguous, workouts for the sake of exercise (especially gym workouts) are few and far between.

Furthermore, my priorities have changed.  I used to say the phrase, “If I didn’t work, I would definitely [insert worthwhile activity],” and the phrase “work out more” often followed.  But it’s funny how when the “if” phrase becomes reality, things pan out so differently.  I guess other things pile up to fill the time, and when the “other thing” is a boat, the pile is extremely high.  Furthermore, we are not on “Outward Bound” and we are not “weekend warriors.”  This is everyday life for us, not vacation, which makes a difference as to how we spend our time.     

A lot of our friends comment that this trip must be so healthy and outdoorsy.  The opposite is true.  What about the sailing part, you ask?  Isn’t that physically active?  No.  Absolutely not.  It’s not America’s Cup racing stuff with a crew like a well-oiled machine.  There’s no high-pressure tacking, very little grinding of winches (unless the electrics are out and then we endlessly gripe because it’s a nightmare), no dropping headsails and flying spinnakers.  On our three-week sail from the Galapagos to the Marquesas, we tacked once and tacked back once.  The rest of the time, the boat basically sailed itself in the very constant and reliable trade winds.  We sat on our asses bored to death.

The other issue has to do with the availability of stuff.  On a trip like this, you have to eat what is available to you, and sometimes the safest thing on the menu is French fries.  In my 9-to-5 life (particularly while marathon training), I would plan a lot of my meals to ensure some balance of protein to carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, liquids and electrolytes, etc.  In many places, you’re lucky to have fresh meat and you’re subsequently crazy to ask for something extra lean.  When the supply ship doesn’t come in, you’re looking at canned corned beef.  Yummy.  In many places, you’re lucky to have fresh produce.  Everyone views the islands as a paradise of plenty where fruit is plucked from the trees and a ripe banana is never more than an arm’s length away.  Nope.  Produce is seasonal in paradise just like everywhere else. 

Back to my point, the gym is a real treat and I was happy to take advantage of the facilities!