Friday, March 16, 2018

Sweet Bequia; Deep in the Southern Caribbean

 SY Aspen sailing south toward sweet Bequia with St. Vincent in the background.  Sailors will notice the reefs in our sails!

 Admiralty Bay, Bequia, St. Vincent.  Maria and I counted 130 boats in the anchorage in this view from the highest point on Bequia.

 Captain Steve and Admiral Maria sailing toward Bequia.  Look at Maria's hair being blown by the trade winds.  It was a bit blustery!

Maria with Lorilee from the sailboat Ventana at the top of Peggy's Rock, Bequia

Captain Steve, March 2018 sailing in the Caribbean

Captain Steve, March 1986 sailing in the Exumas, Bahamas

S/Y Aspen – March 16, 2018 – Log #157
Aspen Position: 13 degrees 00’ N  061 degrees 14’ W
Admiralty Bay, Bequia, SVG, Caribbean

Sweet Bequia; Deep in the Southern Caribbean

It was September of 1970 when I first sailed into Admiralty Bay, Bequia aboard the schooner, Flying Cloud.  We were the only sailboat in the bay when the local boat boys paddled out to greet us as the ship swung at anchor in the magnificent sheltered bay on Bequia.

Today, Bequia has been discovered, as have most places in the Caribbean.  Maria and I climbed to the highest point on Bequia, an outcrop called Peggy’s Rock, where we counted 130 boats enjoying the rhythm of sweet Bequia.

The islands in the sun have surely changed, but that is part of life and we deal with it, or try to.  Some things do remain the same on Bequia like Mac’s lobster pizza, the Green Bole for conch roti, the Frangipani for happy hour, the Whaleboner for BBQ,  and oh so many other things.  The locals still greet us with a friendly good morning or good afternoon as we walk the little streets in their villages or during my runs in the early morning hours.  The culture and getting together with fellow sailors are what makes the Caribbean special for Maria and myself.

It was 32 years ago when Maria and I sailed the first Aspen away from friends and family to the Bahamas along with our son Zach.  Since then a lot of water has passed under our keel.  These days our more modern Aspen has safely taken us further away from home and even around the world crossing endless oceans. 

This sailing season is quickly coming to a close as we head south to Grenada where Aspen will be stored on land for the upcoming dreaded hurricane season.

I rarely dwell on what happened in the past.  The tides of change never look back and rarely do I.  But  this one time, I found a picture that I wanted to share with our friends and family.  The before and after pictures of Captain Steve aren’t very different, at least to my eye (well, maybe the mustache is gone).  (Note: If you look at the blog link below or on FB you will see the pictures)

Sail on, sail on Aspen…

Also, our book, Voyage Into Hell, is available at

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

A Special Island: Dominica and Sexy Bones

 Portsmouth, Dominica.  Our favorite nature island in the Caribbean and yes, it rains a lot here!

 Walking around town in Portsmouth, Dominica.  Anyone need a toilet?

Hurricane Maria damage in Portsmouth, Dominica.

The hospital in Portsmouth, Dominica.  Notice the blown out windows.  Yes the hospital is still functional but the conditions are not very good.

Metal building peeled back during hurricane Maria.

This home across from the hospital still has a person living inside.  Incredible.

Market day in downtown Portsmouth, Dominica

The Kalinago Reservation on the Eastern side of Dominica.  This is how you get drinking water.

 Our tour guide Winston standing in front of the barrel he spend 5 hours hiding in during hurricane Maria.  The barrel saved his life.

Dropping our supplies of roofing screws, nails, tarps and kitchen goodies off at the Kalinago Reservation on Dominica.

Sexy Bones house, or what is left of his house after hurricane Maria.

Sexy Bones house showing the inside.  A little paint and maybe some nails might help?  Maybe not.

 Sexy Bones x-sister-in-law on the Kalinago Reservation.  I thought she might like to have a couple books...
Portsmouth PAYS Sunday night BBQ with fish and chicken on the grill.  You gotta have something to drink (Carib beer of course) while you are cooking!

Bounty, one of the PAYS boat boys in Portsmouth with Dawn (Cat Tales) and Maria at the BBQ

Sara and Norm from SV Norsa at the BBQ in Portsmouth, Dominica.  We last saw them in Tahiti when they were with us in the Blue Water Rally and wisely left the Rally.

Rainbows herald a new beginning, hope for the future and special times amongst the beautiful islands in the Caribbean Sea.

S/Y Aspen – February 20, 2018 – Log #156
Aspen Position: 15 degrees 34’ N  061 degrees 27’ W
Portsmouth, Dominica, Caribbean

The tooth saga has ended.  After seeing a French dentist who took nearly a dozen x-rays and poked and probed Captain Steve’s mouth for over an hour, he found nothing wrong except an infected gum.  Fantastic!  The tiny tools, antiseptic mouthwash and advice took care of the problem in a week.  The total cost?  Less than $50.

So it was off to Dominica we sailed, along with 25 other boats that were heading in the same direction!  Wow, what a pounding we took sailing between Martinique and Dominica.  8-10 foot Atlantic rollers shook Aspen while Admiral Maria tried to calm herself by watching the Devil Wears Prada for the five hundredth time on the DVD player.  The wind was blowing up to 25 knots so that made the trip even more rough.

Yet Portsmouth, Dominica was calling us to visit, after category 5 hurricane Maria destroyed nearly everything on the island.  Our friends needed help so it was well worth the effort to visit them.

Unlike Puerto Rico, the USVI, BVI’s and St. Maarten who were also destroyed by hurricanes this fall, Dominica has no big country to support them.  The USA helps Puerto Rico and the USVI.  England helps the BVI’s while France and Holland help St. Martin/St. Maarten.  Dominica is the poorest island in the Eastern Caribbean with only their neighboring islands to help them.

Caribbean sailors have always remained loyal to enchanting Dominica and this season was no different.  We rallied to help out as much as we can.  Roofing screws, food, ropes, tarps, you name it and sailors have arrived to do anything and everything we can for our friends in Portsmouth, Dominica.

The boat boys always take care of visiting sailors in the bay and now it was our turn to help them.  Unlike the damaged islands to the north, Portsmouth harbour is a beehive of activity with over 65 sailboats anchored for Cruisers Appreciation Week, willing to help in any way possible.

After many supplies were distributed, the sailors gave what is needed most to Portsmouth:  Money!  We spend currency on tours, food, rum, beer, in the restaurants and little bars, etc.  How about the little boy or girl selling a trinket on the street?  Sure, we’ll buy what they have but please keep the neckless or whatever they have for the next sailor walking by.

We took a tour with 3 other couples to the eastern side of the island; the Kalinago (Carib Indian) Reservation.  We thought the damage on the Portsmouth side of the island was bad.  Yet on the remote eastern coast of Dominica nearly every house or structure was heavily damaged.  Roofs are nonexistent, walls have been blown apart and the people are living in desperate conditions.

We had our tour van loaded with many supplies to help the Kalinago as much as we could.  Once the supplies were dropped off on the reservation, Captain Steve’s quest began:  Where was Sexy Bones?  (Sexy Bones is Captain Steve’s Kalinago friend/Shaman whom he wrote about in his book, if you remember)

Sexy Bones house was destroyed.  Several neighbors offered differing stories of where Sexy Bones might be.  We pursued each lead, eventually finding Sexy Bones x-sister-in-law who had the most recent information on his whereabouts.  Sexy Bones was somewhere in the bush, she explained.  He had been in the bush since the hurricane but came out when he needed to.  But not today it seemed.  Oh well, another time Captain Steve will catch up with Sexy Bones again and it will seem like old times.

Despite the hurricane damage and life changing events, the boat boys (officially knows as PAYS) hosted their weekly BBQ for sailors.  Nearly 120 sailors showed up to enjoy a chicken or fish supper with unlimited rum punch, along with welcoming speeches by government officials and dancing under the stars until the wee hours.  It just doesn’t get any better in the Caribbean than that.

Sail on, sail on Aspen…

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Still in Martinique?

 Here is a picture of Maria at the dentist’s front door, waiting for him to return from lunch.  I believe the dentist’s office is also home to a hypnotist, as you can see.  Hmmmm.

 A hike on the wild side of Martinique's windy east coast.

 Our small hiking group of sailors on Martinique.

 Crossing a river along the route.  Luckily Maria didn't have to swim!

 Visiting the Clement rum distillery

The various rums that Clement produces.  Of course it is necessary to sample each one!

 Chateau Aubrey on Martinique.  This was supposedly owned by Lord Byron.
Steps up to the Chateau.  It was very eerie inside with crumbling ceilings and floors to avoid.  What a majestic place this must have been, back in the day.

Maria waiting for the bus in St. Anne, Martinique

 Aspen's anchorage in St. Anne, Martinique.  Diamond Rock is in the distance on the left while the coast of Martinique is in the middle and on the right.
The dinghy dock in St. Anne, Martinique.  This is where we put our dinghy when we go ashore.

Another hiking grou of friends in Martinique.  It was a beach hike as you can see.  We were waiting for noon when the restaurant would open!

Sunshine and water in St. Anne, Martinique.

The view from Aspen of our neighbors in St. Anne, Martinique.

Petit Anse d'Arlet, Martinique.  A fishing village along the west coast of Martinique where we anchored for a change.

S/Y Aspen – February 3, 2018 – Log #155
Aspen Position: 14 degrees 25’ N  060 degrees 53’ W
Ste. Anne, Martinique, Caribbean

Almost 2 months later, yes we are still in Martinique.  It is difficult to let go of the French wines, baguettes, cheeses and fantastic reasonably priced restaurants in this special place, deep in the Windward Islands of the Caribbean.  So why not just enjoy it?

Many of our sailor friends are here with us and that lends a daily air of partying to the whole experience.  Hiking, sunset happy hours, beach picnics, a wee bit of Rum and great conversations are part of the sailing experience.

Well we did make two trips to the neighboring island of St. Lucia to get a few parts, or at least tried to get boat parts.  Captain Steve managed to spin the propeller on the dinghy outboard engine (he ran over a submerged rope).  So we needed a new propeller.  There were none in Martinique but St. Lucia said they had one, after a telephone call.  Well it turns out they really didn’t have a replacement propeller, once we made the sail over to that island.  Geeze.  It must have been a “mis-communication”, or so they thought.

We also had to find a dentist in Martinique yesterday.  Captain Steve’s tooth has been bothering him for about a month and after snorkeling it became more painful.  So off on a hike to the dentist we go.  Once we located a dentist about a mile away, we waited for him to show up at 3 pm, after he took a 3 hour lunch it seemed.  Unfortunately he didn’t speak English but agreed to take a look at the troublesome tooth.

Luckily the dentist’s next patient spoke English so that helped things as the waiting patient translated for the French dentist.  After poking around and pounding on the offending tooth it was determined that there might be a cavity under a crown but the dentist did not have the proper equipment to proceed any further.  Hmmmm.

So now we have antibiotics and pain pills to take care of the problem until we fly back to Colorado in the spring.  Let’s hope it works.

Just more adventures in the tropical Caribbean!

Sail on, sail on Aspen…

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Christmas in the Caribbean

 My friend Brent Weigner at the finish of a 38 mile trail race on Martinique.  I paced him the last 5 miles so I had an easy run, as opposed to his great feat.  The race was Brent's 149th country in which he has run a marathon or longer distance.  Oh yes, Brent holds the world record for number of countries!
The view of Ste. Anne, Martinique from high up on Aspen's mast.

The muscle to winch me up the mast was provided by Laurie (of catamaran Cat Tales fame).  Maria just supervised the heavy lift!

Another aerial picture of the anchorage at Ste. Anne, Martinique from Aspen's mast.

Sailing past the infamous HMS Diamond Rock on Martinique

The rainbows on the flower island of Martinique are so vivid!

Maria admiring the Mini-Transat boats in Le Marin, Martinique.  These 20 foot boats raced across the Atlantic Ocean from France to Le Marin, Martinique - all single handed!

Captain Steve deep into fixing the head (toilet) on Aspen.  What a mess!

A Friend of Denis (FOD) meeting on Aspen with our friends (L-R Steve, Dawn-Cat Tales, Brian-Peace&Plenty, Laurie-Cat Tales, Lorna-Peace&Plenty, and Admiral Maria).  Denis was our weatherman for many sailing seasons in the Caribbean before he sold his boat this year, of all things. 

Admiral Maria with our new batteries and the old batteries still needing to be lifted out from that little space on the left (at 70 pounds EACH)!

Our friends Katrin and Steve on Dorado in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia.  We sailed around the world with them and haven't seen them since 2011.

S/Y Aspen – December 21, 2017 – Log #154
Aspen Position: 14 degrees 25’ N  060 degrees 53’ W
Ste. Anne, Martinique, Caribbean

Yes, it is that festive time of year in the Caribbean where rainbow colors paint the morning sky above our anchored sailboat Aspen in French Martinique.

Holiday hams are plentiful in the supermarkets, along with pate, cheese, baguettes, French wines and of course rum.

And then there is the music!  Christmas songs from days past are played everywhere in villages and towns on this flower island while children wait for the beginning of their school holidays to celebrate the coming of Santa Claus.

Santa might have a very deep tan and be dressed a little different by wearing flip flops and a Rasta hat but the message is still the same.  It is definitely Christmas time in da islands!

These sailors on Aspen spend their Christmas
in the harbor on the hook
Ste Anne is hot and sunny so no work today,
Let’s shelve the old logbook

The mast and shrouds are filled with lights
‘Neath the waning of the moon
There is an air of celebration within the realm of King Neptune

Christmas is a time that’s filled with music, rum and cheer
The waterfront is reveling - the season has begun
These sailors spend their Christmas in a harbor having fun!

The continents keep drifting but the children sing and play
‘Cause nothing really matters, after all it’s almost Christmas Day
(with apologies to Jimmy…)

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all our friends, wherever they may be!!

Sail on, sail on Aspen…

Also, our book, Voyage Into Hell, is available at

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

French Wine and Cheeses

Mount Pelee on Martinique with a rare cloudless summit.

Maria enjoying a Coka light in Martinique by the beach

Grand Anse d'Arlet, Martinique with Aspen in the field of anchored boats

Some beach scenes from Martinique.  The sailboat in the last picture was beached during a storm.  So sad...

S/Y Aspen – December 6, 2017 – Log #153
Aspen Position: 14 degrees 25’ N  060 degrees 53’ W
St. Anne, Martinique, Caribbean

The flower island of Martinique, oh la la!  In the Caribbean it doesn’t get much better than this for French wine, cheeses, beaches and French culture.  Oh yes, there are also lots of boat part stores here (chandleries) to fix what happens to be wrong with anyone’s boat.

What?  It isn’t all about swimming in the warm Caribbean Sea, sitting on white sand beaches sipping rum punches, peacefully sailing amongst the little islands in the sun or having BBQ’s amongst the anchored boats in a peaceful secluded bay?

Well sure, that happens but there is also the OTHER part of sailing we don’t talk about very often:  Fixing one’s boat in exotic places.

The Admiral and I arrived in Le Marin, Martinique and decided to kick back and relax, as usual.  Well, Aspen had other plans for us.  One thing after another needed attention on our sailboat.  Here is the list of things we did the first week in Martinique:

1.  Installed a new Rocna anchor while floating around – that was a challenge to say the least since Maria had to skillfully steer Aspen amongst the anchored fleet of boats as Captain Steve hung his body over the front of Aspen while hanging onto 55 pounds of anchor, with one hand, and trying to attach the chain to it without dumping the new anchor into the bay and losing it forever.
2.  Got the water maker running again – Captain Steve had to dive underneath Aspen and find what was causing a shortage of water problem.  The water intake opening was entirely plugged, for some odd reason, with a white substance.  Many ‘hold your breath for a long time’ dives later, we had water flowing into the water maker and it began working.
3.  Changed the third head hose (bathroom plumbing) that we have been dreading for 5 years.  The Captain had already changed the other two hoses but this one is the worst you could imagine.  The hose was completely blocked with calcium carbonate.  The problem was to figure out how to get to the hidden hose deep inside the belly of Aspen and it was a royal pain.  I had to cut the head sink cabinet floor with a reciprocating saw I happened to bring down with me this season.  Without that I would have been hosed (don’t you like the pun???).  I also had to avoid cutting into the hull and sinking us – it was that bad.  5 hours later we had a functioning head again!  Maria is really happy about that.
4.  Our onboard batteries that supply electricity on Aspen for things such as lights, fans, and everything you can think of, decided they had worked long enough (2 seasons) so it was time to get four new ones.  Hauling 300 pounds of batteries from the town in our trusty dinghy and heaving the batteries onto Aspen worked up quite a sweat, as you might imagine in the tropical sun.  After installing the new batteries, the old batteries (another 300 pounds) had to be hauled to the garbage area for a proper burial. 
5.  Captain Steve found his cherry beer at the great French supermarket so now he can drink a complete beer while Admiral Maria sips her very reasonably priced rose French wine from the south of France.  Now that is what Caribbean sailing is all about!

Sail on, sail on Aspen…

Also, our book, Voyage Into Hell, is available at