Thursday, April 27, 2017

Sailors; Have We Been Gone Too Long?

 Aspen going through the Simpson Bay Bridge, St. Maarten, headed for Antigua

 Double rainbow at Great Bird Island, Antigua

Aspen's head hose.  The opening should be as large as the hose.  No wonder nothing would go out!  Captain Steve finds this job disgusting.

Maria's toes in the sand

Wet dinghy landing on Great Bird Island, Antigua

The movie set for Pan 2 at North Sound, Antigua.  Great location!

West Indian squall approaching our peaceful anchorage at Great Bird Island, Antigua.  They come on you fast and leave you fast.

Captain Steve doing what he does best on Aspen - sailing!

Admiral Maria tending the jib sheet on Aspen 

 
Hawksbill Rock, Antigua

Jolly Harbour, Antigua

Montserrat in the distance, from Antigua

Maria just enjoying the sailing on Aspen

Falmouth Harbour, Antigua and some of the big boys waiting for the Antigua Classic race to begin

Falmouth Harbour, Antigua 

Proper dinghy dock in Falmouth, Antigua

Aspen hauled out of the water for summer
 Another deserted beach on Antigua

The Admiral, after a successful Caribbean sailing season,  enjoying a condo in Jolly Harbour


S/Y Aspen – April 28, 2017 – Log #150
Aspen Position: 17 degrees 03’ N  061 degrees 52’ W
Jolly Harbour, Antigua, Caribbean

It’s been nearly 6 months in these warm Caribbean waters for two wandering sailors and this makes the 150th blog we have sent out.  How time flies?!?

We’ve heard things back home have changed.  But living as we do, with only the wind and waves to guide our way, the future is always full of adventure without the latest news reports.

It was an overnight sail to Antigua from St. Maarten, with a half moon to light our way.  The occasional mammoth cruise ship interrupted our bouncy sail against the ever present Trade Winds, that were forecasted to be gone but were still there.  Oh well, at least Aspen got us to the harbor a little tired but ready to explore Antigua after a few hours of much needed sleep.

Antigua has probably the strictest customs and immigration of any Caribbean island.  So we simply tied up to the special customs dock and wore our friendly smiles no matter what was said to us.  A mere 15 minutes later we are back on Aspen and headed for our anchorage, fully cleared into Antigua.  It always pays to be friendly.

Great Bird Island was our next destination.  This remote rock is an ideal place to kick back, snorkel, walk the two small but incredible beaches, run the deserted short trails and just chill out.  It is rare to find many sailors in the north sound of Antigua because of extensive shoals and reefs that pop up everywhere, along with the difficult sail against the trade winds and seas. 

Yet once we overcame those obstacles the destination was well worth the effort.

However, the new movie Pan 2 was being filmed about a mile away from our tranquil anchorage. 

We needn’t worry because none of the film crew ventured over to our magical island.  It was rumored that Captain Steve’s identical twin brother, Steven Segal, might be in the movie.  That did not prove to be true upon further investigation (ha).

A week is a long time to accumulate trash in remote Great Bird Island so Admiral Maria was ready for some civilization, she subtly made known to the captain.

So back we went to Jolly Harbour and Aspen’s summer resting place, on land.

It’s time to go back to Colorado and spend summer in the mountains we love so much.

Until next sailing season.

Sail on, sail on Aspen…

Also, our book, Voyage Into Hell, is available at Amazon.com

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

How Time Flies in Paradise

An FOD meeting (Friends of Denis - our Caribbean weatherman/sailor) on St. Maarten at the St. Maarten Yacht Club, by the bridge.

Our friends on Sheric (Sherry and Ric) at the Cruisers Party at the Buccaneer Beach Bar, St. Maarten (Cruising Outpost Magazine party hosted by Bob Bitchin and Jody)

Another party at Lagoonies, St. Maarten.  The agony never ends :)

Heineken Regatta fans greeting the racing sailors at the end of the day, as we come back through the bridge.

Racing Azura with Captain Steve in the back trimming the Cruising Chute (blue sail).

Admiral Maria getting ready for the Heineken Regatta.

 
The racing crew returning victorious, or something like that...

 
Returning through the Simpson Bay Bridge after a day of racing and celebrating!

Our friends Don and Donna who own Villa Rosa on St. Maarten who give us a break from living on the water by letting us stay with them (where we get to take long hot showers).

 Captain Steve and some R&R at Villa Rosa in the infinity pool.  St. Barths is in the distant background somewhere.


S/Y Aspen – March 29, 2017 – Log #149
Aspen Position: 18 degrees 02’ N  063 degrees 05’ W
St. Maarten, Caribbean

7 weeks!  That is how long we spent in St. Maarten/St. Martin. 

Captain Steve got to race on a 56 foot Swan sailboat named Azura in the Heineken Regatta, of all things.  His job was spinnaker trimmer and rail meat.  Rail meat are the people who hang their bodies over the life lines on the high side of a racing sailboat.  The added weight of many crew members acting as rail meat helps the boat to sail faster.

Rail meat was kind of fun because there was not a lot of thinking about what to do when the big seas pummeled our legs as the boat screamed forward to a marker in the middle of the sea, closer to St. Barths than St. Maarten.

The only problem was when the boat went to the other tack - meaning that the boat turned suddenly to put the sails on the other side.  The experienced captain and crew neglected to tell Captain Steve that he needed to QUICKLY (like lightning) move his body to the OTHER side of the boat and hang over the lifelines there.

So when the boat first tacked, Captain Steve quickly noticed he was alone on the low side of the boat, with the rest of the rail meat perched high above him.  In a flash (well kind of a slow sprint), Steve clawed his way up the mountain of a boat to the other rail and hung there, waiting for the next tack.  That was exciting!

We rounded the mark far out at sea and POW, the spinnaker shot away, filling with a huge whoosh in front to Azura.  Captain Steve went into action and managed to get the proper spinnaker line tight around a huge winch to hold the sail in place. 

Once again, no one bothered to tell Steve that he could not take his eyes off the spinnaker because he had to constantly trim the spinnaker until the end of the race.  Captain Steve still has a neck ache from that ordeal.

Right at the finish line, another similar sized racing boat tried to beat Azura.  That didn’t go over well with Azura’s racing crew and captain.  So with an unplanned, wind howling, screaming maneuver of the boat and spinnaker (with the other boat less than 1 FOOT from Azura’s bow), we thundered across the line without hitting anything.

Captain Steve was heard saying afterward, “I don’t see a lot of ocean racing in Aspen’s future”.

After the Heineken Regatta, Maria and Captain Steve enjoyed the many restaurants, beaches, friends (both sailing and land friends) and parties on the island for the next month, while working on Aspen of course.

Maria went to women’s only lunches where the female sailors talk about everything and anything, except boat problems!  Over 30 women show up for those luncheons too.

With our boat projects finished, at least for now, we are headed to Antigua.  The winds never do this, as we have all heard before.  But the forecast predicts we can lay Antigua on Aspen’s bow and not get beat up going southeast.  We will see!

Sail on, sail on Aspen…

Also, our book, Voyage Into Hell, is available at Amazon.com

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Half Dutch and Half French

Our sailing friends Cindy and Dan on Sitatunga at the Bitter End on Superbowl Sunday.

The Bitter End, Virgin Gorda, BVI's

 Maria enjoying the Bitter End beach, BVI's
Biras Creek, North Sound, BVI's
Sailing on Aspen with Cindy and Dan on a shopping trip to Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda, BVI's


 Maria at the Customs office in North Sound, BVI's.  We are checkout out of the country to sail further south.


It is Heineken Regatta time in Sint Maarten!!!

Our view of the Lagoon at Sint Maarten, watching the jets take off too.

Our marina docks at Heineken Race time.  Maria is standing across from Aspen who is dwarfed by the larger sailboats!

Our sailing friends Sherry and Ric from Sheric.  We are enjoying the cruisers party!

Captain Steve helping a 72 foot racing yacht named Sapphire dock next to Aspen in the marina.


S/Y Aspen – March 1, 2017 – Log #148
Aspen Position: 18 degrees 02’ N  063 degrees 05’ W
Sint Maarten, Caribbean

Aspen got a great weather window to sail further into the little latitudes and we arrived on the dual island nation of Sint Maarten/St. Martin.  It is great to be back on this island that is one of our favorite places in the Caribbean.

What could be better?  French food, French groceries, Dutch grocery stores with lots of USA items to choose from and great island friendliness.

Oh yes, there are lots of boat parts to be had on this island too!  Aspen loves to be pampered with the right things to fix whatever is broken at the moment.

Our neighbors from Colorado, Art and Liz, arrived on a Celebrity cruise ship one day and we toured all around the island.  French food, pastries, the town of Marigot and Orient Beach were at the top of their list of places to visit.  The weather cooperated and the tour was lots of fun.  We even got them back to their ship before it sailed away.

Simpson Bay Marina, where Aspen is tied up, had a volunteer day at a local orphanage for any sailors wanting to help out.  Maria and I painted interior walls all day in really hot conditions.  The resident’s smiling faces made our work worth the effort.  After our day of labor we got to visit Ile de Sol Marina, home of Superyachts from all over the world and enjoy a BBQ put on by the marina as a way of thanking us for our time.

Now it is Heineken Regatta time on the island.  Heineken Regatta is the largest in the Caribbean with over 200 boats racing around the island for nearly a week with parties everywhere.  Our marina docks are strewn with piles of extra sails, parts, anchors, and a few wayward sailors who didn’t quite make it back to their boat from the late night parties.  What an experience this is for little Aspen to be nestled among these tricked out racing boats, not to mention Aspen’s crew who are looking forward to seeing UB40 play at the finale this weekend.

Sail on, sail on Aspen…

Also, our book, Voyage Into Hell, is available at Amazon.com

Friday, February 3, 2017

Turquoise Water and Waiting For Weather




Aspen (facing sideways in the middle of the anchorage) at Norman Island, BVI

Happy hour and the Michael Beans show at Leverick Bay, Virgin Gorda

Always fun watching the antics of moored boats down here.  This boat is too long (over 60 feet) to take a mooring ball but did so anyway.  The boat is tied to a mooring at the bow while the adjacent mooring (supposed to be for another boat) is under the boat's stern.  A million dollar yacht with a paid captain and crew.  Makes you wonder, doesn't it???

Anegada lobster.  Ahhh, the best!

Anegada anchorage with Aspen floating with about 1 foot of water under her keel.  Kind of shallow!

Squall from Saba Rock, North Sound, Virgin Gorda, BVI.  Lots of sailors here!

The Michael Beans show at Leverick Bay, Virgin Gorda, BVI.  Always a fun time!

The reef behind Saba Rock, North Sound, BVI.  The charter catamaran didn't see the mile long reef for some reason and decided to just motor over it.  That didn't work out so well.  The police boat is trying to pull the catamaran off the reef, unsuccessfully.  Three hours later, two salvage boats pulled the boat off without sinking her.  I wouldn't want to own that charter boat!

The Bitter End Resort.  Admiral Maria's favorite place to visit!

Sunset on Anegada, BVI.

A parting shot from the infamous Willy T at Normal Island, BVI.  Jumping from the top deck is world famous as you can see.

S/Y Aspen – February 3, 2017 – Log #147
Aspen Position: 18 degrees 29’ N  064 degrees 21’ W
Bitter End, Virgin Gorda, BVI

February and ground hog day finds Aspen and her crew still in the British Virgin Islands. 

Since there are no ground hogs down here, for ground hog day, we waited for the elusive lizard (gecko) to make an appearance at the Saba Rock happy hour.  The lizard was a no show indicating that there will be 6 more weeks of sun and plentiful rum down here in the tropics. 

We’re thinking of all of you up in the frigid north and your 6 more weeks of winter too.

We’ve been on the move visiting more places here in the Virgins.  Trellis Bay and Anegada were on our list this season and they did not disappoint.

Trellis Bay has its’ artist shops and friendly sailor bars to enjoy along with great walks on the beach.

Anegada, well that is a special place.  Dangerous reefs and extremely shallow water guard this jewel but sailors love a challenge.  Aspen likes shallow water so it was no problem going deep into the anchorage where the waters were calm and inviting.

Anegada is known for lobsters, bone fishing and shipwrecks everywhere.  We focused on the lobster and exploring the flat island (great for running).  Cow Wreck Bay is closer than Loblolly Bay but both are well worth visiting if you happen to visit.

Anegada is only about 20 miles away from Tortola but a world apart with its’ laid back atmosphere and friendly people.  We visited there 18 years ago, according to Admiral Maria.  Hmmm, it seems like only yesterday that we sailed there with our friends Tim and Deb and Bob and Linda on that charter boat.  How time seems to fly!

Today Aspen floats just off the Bitter End Resort in North Sound, Virgin Gorda.  The resort welcomes sailors from near and far to enjoy this slice of paradise.

Two nights ago we were treated to an enormous fireworks display, courtesy of Sir Richard Branson, from his second private island called Mosquito Island in our bay.  The x-president of the United States happens to be visiting our little part of this world with Sir Richard so Sir Richard decided to light up the night sky with well over $100,000 worth of fire and exploding stars.  It was pretty spectacular we have to say.

Right next to the Bitter End Resort is a tiny rock named, appropriately, Saba Rock.  Happy hours of rum drinks and conch fritters are what make it a great place to enjoy the sunset, along with watching tarpon feeding for more entertainment.

Aspen and her crew need a weather window (appropriate sailing conditions) to head south to Sint Maarten/St. Martin across the dreaded Anegada Passage.  No, the Anegada Passage is not usually a fun or pleasant sail and many a ship and crew has come to grief if the weather is bad.

So we sit here at the Bitter End waiting for the right sailing conditions and listening to weather from Denis our weather guru and fellow sailor each day.  Soon, maybe in a week or so, the time will come and sail we will to even smaller latitudes.

Sail on, sail on Aspen…

Also, our book, Voyage Into Hell, is available at Amazon.com