Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Sailor’s Christmas in Phuket

Maria and Susan shoe shopping in Phuket

Sala Resort & Spa, our Christmas present to ourselves.

Our room at Sala came with our own pool too!

Maria and her new lady boy friends

Steve getting a fish massage

Blue Water Rally women at a birthday party

Thai dancers with Captain Steve

Lunch!!!

Hugo and Juliet, also part of the Blue Water Rally on Laroobaa. Hugo has a bandage on his head - must have been a shark attack.

Chrissy and Mark from Blue Magic, another Rally couple.

Tsunami warning signs are all over Thailand now.

Typical resort in Phuket

Food cart in Phuket

Night time at Patong Beach, Phuket

Phuket town gold sculpture

Touring around Phuket on the west coast

Royal Phuket Yacht Club beach

Phi Phi Don street. Where else can you wear scuba tanks along the main street?

Long tail boats at anchor in Thailand

The Emerald Cave. We swam 300 feet through a pitch black cave entrance and arrived inside of the Hong and onto this garden of Eden!



S/Y Aspen – December 21, 2010 – Log #59
Position: 08 degrees 10’ N 098 degrees 20’ E (UTC +7.0 Hours)

A Sailor’s Christmas in Phuket

Sail on the horizon got a landfall rendezvous
The captain steers a well-known course he steers her straight and true
As he trims the sheets and sings the songs he learned on boats and bars
These sailors spend their Christmas in the harbor ‘neath the stars

They’ve traveled through the doldrums, shallow seas and hurricanes
They’ve logged many thousand soggy miles with water on their brains
But Christmas ‘tis the season better suited for dry land
They’ll tell some lies, meet some spies and dance barefoot in the sand

These sailors spend their Christmas in the harbor on the hook
Phuket is hot and muggy 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 Christmas Day

(with apologies to Jimmy…)

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

There are new pictures posted on the blog site too.

Sail on, sail on Aspen...

Love,
Steve and Maria

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Malaysia

Trying to sail through the shipping lane near Singapore and the Malacca Straits

Marina Keppel Bay, Singapore. Notice Aspen in the the far background.

Big ships and little sailboats

Klang, Malaysia. On a floating pontoon in the river. Notice the filthy water and all the trash!

Raffles Marina, Singapore. We did not stay here but it was a nice place to visit.

World's highest towers (Petronas Towers) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

An advertisement for a well-know tobacco product?

Shopping in Kuala Lumpur

A ground view of the Petronas Towers

Grocery shopping in Klang, Malaysia

S/Y Aspen – December 4, 2010 – Log #58
Position: 06 degrees 11’ N 099 degrees 46’ E (UTC +8.0 Hours)

After enjoying the excesses of Singapore we left on a fair tide, sailing to Malaysia and through the Malacca Straits. As we exited the beautiful Keppel marina one of our fellow Rally boats ran right onto a rather large reef. This was strange because the reef was marked by a building sized bright red marker! This was in broad daylight too. Luckily they have a steel boat and after several anxious minutes managed to get themselves free and underway again.

Then it was out into the dreaded Malacca Straits. This relatively narrow body of water is probably the busiest waterway in the world with huge ships from all corners of the globe passing through it. China, Japan, all of the Middle East countries, European ships and even a few ships from North America were all clustered around little Aspen. The supertankers glided by silently with their massive cargos bound for foreign ports. These Straits are also world-renown for pirate attacks on ships! Despite naval vessels patrolling these waters, daily boardings still occur by the pirates.

We traveled in a safety group of 8 boats northward, right on the edge of the large ship channel to avoid the ever present fishing boats too. These fishing boats are unlit at night and lay fishing nets right in front of us or where ever else they please, except inside the shipping channel. There the big ships just chew the nets up so the fishermen avoid the channel where we decided to go. Despite being right on the edge of the channel, the huge ships passed within one quarter of a mile from us at times. Our trusty AIS sounded out a warning with each new ship so our night watch appeared to be akin to a casino with the flashing lights and alarms going off all night long!

Malaysia is fairly poor, similar to Indonesia but without the corruption, at least what we have seen so far. There are Malaysians, Indians, Chinese and Japanese who make up the majority population of Malaysia.

Our first stop was at Port Klang, 20 miles from Kuala Lumpur. Port Klang is 15 miles up the most polluted river we have ever seen. The smell was strong enough to make flowers wilt and dogs cry. Exactly 15 miles up the river we came upon a floating dock near the middle of the river. This is home to the Royal Salangor Yacht Club. We tied up to the floating dock and watched huge piles of rubbish, as large as small islands make their way down stream, sometimes colliding with our boat and staying there. There was no electricity on the dock and we did not run our generator or engine to charge the batteries because the river water would clog the filters. That would not be a pretty sight. Instead we made the batteries work overtime and become very depleted!

We stayed 2 nights so that we could tour Kuala Lumpur, the capital. What an enigma that place is! They have the Petronas Towers, the tallest buildings in the world, or at least they were until one of the Middle Eastern countries decided to build a taller one. The city calls itself a mini-Singapore but it has quite a ways to go before that is really true. Bargaining for pirated DVD's in China Town was fun and we ended up with original movie DVD's in original packages for about $1.25 for any of the latest movie releases. We now have lots of movies to watch while on passage.

Right now we are sitting in a very nice marina at Langkawi, the northern-most island in Malaysia. The Marina is called Telaga Harbour Marina. We will leave from this popular tourist oasis in a few days to spend Christmas in Phuket, Thailand, only 120 miles away. There we will clean, check and repair Aspen, getting her ready for our next journey - across the Indian Ocean. There will also be lots of parties to attend once we are in the marina.

More pictures will be posted shortly on our blog site!

Sail on sail on Aspen...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Singapore

Our marina, Marina Keppel Bay, Singapore

The grounds around the marina

Just the closest mall to the marina - stunning!

Mark, from the Rally yacht Blue Magic, getting a fish massage

Downtown Singapore at Clarke Quay

Walking along the river

Is that a ship in the air??? Yes, it is a restaurant and park area in downtown Singapore

Shopping on Orchard Road, Singapore. Probably the best shopping area in the world.

S/Y Aspen – November 24, 2010 – Log #57
Position: 01 degrees 14’ N 103 degrees 49’ E (UTC +8.0 Hours)

Wow, what a change 20 miles brings! We left Indonesia on a rising tide and 20 miles later arrived in ultra-modern Singapore.

Sailing across the busiest shipping lanes in the world was quite a challenge as we tried not to get run over by the massive number of ships traversing the Singapore Straits. Our AIS system identified 100 targets in our path but the AIS unit cannot handle more than that number so there were probably twice as many ships around us. Of course we had squalls, a water spout and lightning accompanying us on our short 4 hour trip.

Once we were inside the breakwater we saw a sight that was absolutely stunning (see the attachment). This is the marina we are staying in. It is ultra-modern as is all of Singapore. Restaurants, shopping on Orchard Road, parks, zoos, China Town, India Town, shopping malls that dwarf anything we have ever seen in the US are everywhere! Luckily Singapore is where east meets west so there are a tremendous number shops from Europe, the US and elsewhere in the world. This is one amazing city/country.

We celebrated our Thanksgiving dinner by going to Raffles, the original home to the famous hotel is here in Singapore. This is where the Singapore Sling drink was invented. We had to try one and afterward ate their famous curry buffet. This was a really special treat for us and hopefully our credit card will pay for this!

For the next few days we will luxuriate in the excesses of Singapore before heading north to Malaysia. There are more pictures on our blog if you are interested too.

Sail on sail on Aspen...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Equator Again!

Typical fishing boat plying the Kumai River, Borneo.

Kumai, gateway to the Orangutans and a very remote town 25 miles up the river.

Fishing boats that surrounded Aspen when we were anchored.

Typical Indonesian fishing boat at sea.

Smaller Indonesia fishing boat.

Bali, the resort island of Indonesia.

Transporting a stone carving in Bali.

S/Y Aspen – November 15, 2010 – Log #56
Position: 0 degrees 0’ S 104 degrees 55’ E (UTC +8.0 Hours)
Sailing

The crash and banging of the mainsail shook me from my peaceful daydream as I absently watched the deep blue sea flow past Aspen's keel. The Tradewinds have died, leaving us nearly stationary on our journey northward toward the equator. But the wind shall return and sail on we will.

It seems so long ago that Aspen was sailing south with the Southern Cross guiding her across the vast Pacific Ocean and into the land of so many dreams. Yet today, Aspen sails northward and will cross the Equator into the northern hemisphere, carrying with her two sailors profoundly changed by the journey at hand.

Smiling faces, storms, ships passing in the night, brave fishermen plying their trade out on the sea, surly government officials, deadly and dangerous creatures that walk on land and swim in the sea, volcanoes tsunamis and earthquakes rattling the planet, the vivid colors of sunset and the eternal welcome of a new dawn at sea are a small sampling of the wonders left in Aspen's wake.

Many become what they must be, not what they want to be. We are fortunate to live our dream and be what we want to be: sailor, traveler and explorer experiencing the treasures of the world. It doesn't get any better than this!

We hope you are enjoying our voyage vicariously with us. We have now sailed over halfway around the world on Aspen and the next half promises to be at least as exciting as the first half. The pendulum swings backwards and forwards so stay tuned!

Sail on sail on Aspen...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bali

Kupang, Indonesia. Captain cook walked up this beach!

Bali dragon dance.

Bali dancer

More of the dragon dance

Aspen at anchor in the Gilli islands, Indonesia

Captain Steve working on the non-functioning windlass (the mighty machine that pulls the anchor up and lets it down).

Sailing along

Tracking the dangerous Komodo Dragons

A sea of fishing boats

Another fishing boat in our path

Typical gas station along the road in Kupang, Indonesia

Transportation in the Gilli Islands

To visit a temple you must wear a sarong

Statues are everywhere!

The holy temple in Bali

The Mansion Hotel gardens, where we had a nice stay

The Mansion Hotel lobby in Bali

Indonesia sailing

More Indonesia sailing with fishing boats on the horizon

A typical restaurant

Feeding the monkeys

This monkey was fascinated by the reflection in the mirror

Blue Water Rally yacht Talismano aground near the marina in Bali

Locals watching us!

Rice terraces in Bali

Rural road in Bali

Local fishing platform in deep water. No lights or anything else to help you avoid it!

Blue Water Rally sailors out for a day away from the boats in Kupang.

The entrance to the Komodo Island group.

Our guides for the day in Kupang.

Trimming sails!

Motorbikes are everywhere!!!

The temple where the cremation will be held.

Shrine to the late king and to be used during the cremation.

Waiting for the cremation to begin in Ubud, Bali.

Volcano that we sailed past enroute to Bali.

Another nice volcano in Indonesia.


Indonesia - Legalities, Temples, Shopping and even a Big Fire

Hold off on the lawyers, guns and money for now! We are finally checked into Indonesia, legally. It was quite a process that took 2 days and quite a few gifts to the officials but we have permission to remain in Indonesia finally.

The tsunami and earthquake occurred well northwest of us so we missed those too!

Aspen is at the Bali Marina, a dilapidated place they call a marina. The docks are crumbling, what little electricity there is functions erratically and the marina is in a very remote part of the island, near the local fishing fleet. Did we mention that it is really hot here? Really HOT!!! The air is stifling, and the humidity matches the air temperature. There are very few places that have air-conditioning here and we can't use ours on Aspen because of the power issues.

But the restaurant at the marina is nice and the local food is good. Prices are cheap here for just about everything. However, you have to bargain hard for everything you buy, except groceries of course. It is challenging to pay 80% less than the asking price every time!

So where is the Bali of legend? Well, things change with time and most of Bali is very crowded, noisy and busy. However, outside of the main town things are better. We are now in Ubud, the cultural center of Bali in a very nice hotel called the Mansion. The people are nice with the local Hindu people taking care of us.

Bali is Hindu with temples every 100 feet or so! Everywhere you look there is a temple. We must wear a sarong to enter the temples but they rent them to you outside, no worries. They have traditional dances inside the temple that are colorful and always tell an interesting story.

Maria enjoys shopping but in Bali you cannot shop, you buy. If you pick up an item you may just as well have bought it. Asking a price for something also tells the Balinese that you have bought the item. That is when Captain Steve steps in and has to negotiate a price. Having a good poker face really helps! We can never look happy when we buy something because that shows weakness. Instead we celebrate once we return to the boat and look at our purchases. The shop keepers or street vendors always ask where we are from and when they hear USA they always light up because of the ties with Obama during his youth here.

We thought we were going to rent a car here but after our first day of taking a taxi we decided that demolition derby is not fun for us. The driving is indescribably horrible in all of Bali. Police officers lurk around every corner looking for rental cars so they can pull them over and fine them on the spot for any made-up traffic violation. But there are no rules here and practically no traffic laws so any fines are whatever they want them to be. Strange! We hired a driver and a vehicle for the same price as a rental car with all the fines so it works out well when we want to go somewhere.

We decided to escape the heat, dirt and noise of the marina for a few days and are at Ubud as we said. The Mansion is a 5 star hotel with lavish gardens, air conditioning, huge suites, attentive staff and best of all a great spa. Maria has only had 3 massages in 2 days so far. I think she is going for a record! The massages are pretty inexpensive so we can afford to splurge on them.

Today is a historic day in Ubud. They are cremating the old king! Yes, he passed away and lucky for us the cremation is today. We visited the site and it is adorned with huge monuments surrounded by hoards of people waiting for the big fire in the main street where the cremation will be held. There will be 6,300 pall bearers carrying the body. They also sacrificed a sacred cow and the cow's head rests near the king's body. It is quite smelly yet impressive to see it on a large plate at the foot of the temple.

We hope you enjoy the photos on the blog site!

Sail on sail on Aspen...