Friday, September 27, 2013

The Long Passage to Spain

Maria on watch crossing the Mediterranean Sea.  It was a little cool out there!

S/Y Aspen – September 27, 2013 – Log #107
Aspen Position: 37 degrees 35’ N  000 degrees 59’ E (UTC +2 Hours)

It was a long, difficult and sometimes intense 8 day offshore passage from Sicily to Cartagena, Spain.

Aspen clawed her way west, past the dim glow of light on the far horizon from Southern Sardinia on her starboard side.

The strong winds and large seas finally died as we slowly sailed under a canopy of stars that even the ancient mariners looked up at in awe and wonder.

To our port side the unfriendly North African ports in Tunisia and Algeria watched us silently pass in the dark, shielded from their lights by the cloak of night.

Ahead on our bow lay Cartagena - city of fables and lore from glory days gone by.

On a wing and a few prayers (and little remaining diesel fumes!), Aspen carried her crew safely inside the historic port and to the inviting Spanish marina where we now rest.

Welcome to Spain!

Sail on, sail on and sail safe Aspen...

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Driving Up Mount Etna in Sicily

Here is a short video of Captain Steve trying to drive up the Mount Etna Volcano in Sicily, Italy.  Admiral Maria didn't think it was a good route to take for some reason...

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Cappuccino, Gelato, Pizza, Pasta, and Tunnels

Perceived chaos in the Cantania fish market.  Doesn't Maria fit right in???

After climbing in the Dolomites of Italy (behind us).  Yes we are still alive!

Mount Etna from our marina.  Mount Etna is the largest and most active volcano in Europe.  Let's hope she doesn't decide to get angry while we are here!

Mount Etna as we approached our landfall in Riposto, Sicily.  Those aren't clouds you see!

Taking the car ferry from Sicily to the Italian mainland.  25 minutes and safely across the Straits of Messina.  Let's hope Aspen can have an easy ride across too!

Pompeii.  The original streets that were uncovered after being buried by Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

A victim of the massive eruption of Mount Vesuvius that buried 16,000 people.

The Roman baths that were famous in Pompeii.

Typical Italian breakfast at a castle hotel we stayed at in the mountain town of Arpina.

The Italian mountain town where Maria's grandfather was born (Santo Stefano).

Maria is taller than most of the men in Accettura!

The Dolomites of southern Italy are one of the premier rock climbing areas in the world for obvious reasons!

The Italian mountain town where Maria's grandmother was born (Accettura).

A view of Mount Etna as we attempted to drive up high!

Finding rock specimens on Mount Etna.

A view of the Ionian Sea from the Renassance town of Taormina, Sicily.

Maria's new bling from Taormina, Sicily.  The shopping there was very nice, she said.

Fish market in Riposto, Italy.  The fish are plentiful here, unlike in Greece!

Food time at the outdoor market in Catania, Sicily.  You gotta love the Italian sausages!!!

Cheeses, salami, motadella, prosciutto, capicola and any other Italian meat you can think of overflow in the outdoor Italian market of Catania!

And the market even has chicken...

The black basalt elephant was carved by the Romans in the 8th century and the Egyptian obelisk sitting atop the elephant is supposed to keep Mount Etna from destroying Catania.  Of course in 1669 the city was destroyed and 12,000 died in that eruption!

Hundreds of just pirated current movies are available for the exorbitant price of 1 Euro ($1.30 US)

Anyone for sword fish????

S/Y Aspen – September 17, 2013 – Log #106
Aspen Position: 37 degrees 43’ N  015 degrees 12’ E (UTC +2 Hours)

Long pole Italian fishermen excitedly cry out Pesce! Pesce! as they greet the awakening day catching their morning breakfast while standing on the shore looking out at the endless sea.

While close by, half a dozen church bells ring out in unison to call their faithful on a typical Sunday in Riposto, Sicily.  Ahhh, Italy!  Land of the best food in the world, along with an unmatched cultural experience.

Of course it helps to be with Italian Admiral Maria who doesn't know the language but is instantly recognized as being one of their countrymen by everyone we meet.  With a LOT of arm waving and gesturing we usually can get an answer to our questions.

Aspen is resting in a very nice marina in Reposto, Sicily on the flank of the most active volcano in Europe, Mount Etna.  Sure the volcano could erupt but what are the chances???  Captain Steve knows that there will be an increase in seismic events just before an eruption so he is closely watching the ground for any signs of movement, between bites of pizza and pasta, licks of gelato and a few glasses of vino of course.

We rented a car and toured around the Italian countryside, seeing nearly every town and village south of Rome while we searched for Maria's grandparents birth places.  It was a grand adventure among the high hilltop villages in Santo Stefano and in the Dolomite mountains where we did locate the ancestral villages.

Pompeii brought history to light for us and luckily none of Maria's grandparents were there so long ago when Vesuvius erupted and buried the entire city and entombing the inhabitants forever.

The autostrada (tollway) in Italy is fantastic!  We never wanted to exit the highway because the restaurants on the tollway were superb and we didn't have to wait until 8 pm to get anything to eat, unlike in the towns and villages where everyone stays up almost all of the night and sleeps during the day.  8 pm is when the restaurants open here!  Of course everyone snacks all day on pizza as well as fish and prosciutto sandwiches and they wash it all down with bottomless cups of cappuccino.

In the Calabria region of southern Italy the tollway cuts through mountains in an endless tunnel system.  Colorado engineers need to hire a few Italian highway engineers to help them with the tunnels in the Rocky Mountains!  The Italians could build the tunnels in less than half the time as they do out west.

Sicilian pizza is thin crust and the toppings are so fresh they are nearly growing as you eat the pizza.  Maria claims that she has never had vegetables as fresh as what we find in the markets here.  The fish is caught off the shore and brought directly to the small carts around Riposto as well.  Calamari seem to swim right into fishermen's nets and are then fried and ready for us to eat.  You just gotta love this food!

We are waiting for a good weather window to head further west and ever closer to the Atlantic Ocean.  But for now we will savor the delights of Italy!

Sail on, sail on and sail safe Aspen...

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Sailing Videos

This is how sailing should be!  Isn't it nice and calm?!?  Taken in the Gulf of Corinth, Greece.

But conditions change by the hour!  Captain Steve's type of sailing!

And then an hour later everything is nice and pretty again!  You just never know out on the sea...

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

We Finally Found Greece!

 Sailing in the Bay of Corinth before the winds start blowing!

 The abandoned iron ore mining area on Serifos, Greece.  Aspen is anchored on the far right side.
Captain Steve running in the iron ore mining area on Serifos, Greece.

Motoring through the historic Corinth Canal in Greece.  4 miles were cut through solid rock.  There were no other boats when we transited.  Fantastic!

Motoring up a lazy channel to Messolonghi Marina, Greece.  What a nice place on the mainland of Greece!

Maria is happy to be in a marina again!  There are showers and electricity for Aspen.

Another view of the houses that line the channel near Messolonghi, Greece

The green Vespa scooter in the background is exactly like the one I had many years ago!

Street scene in Zakynthos, Greece

More sailing in the Ionian Sea

Zakynthos, Greece with the shops and restaurants.

The harbor area on Zakynthos, Greece

Another nice beach in Greece!

Some of the beaches are very small.  This picture was taken about noon and hardly anyone comes to the beach before 2 pm!

Sunrise on Corinth Bay.  We like to start out early!

S/Y Aspen – September 4, 2013 – Log #105
Aspen Position: 37 degrees 46’ N  020 degrees 54’ E (UTC +3 Hours)

After sailing through the Dodecanese, Sporades, and Cyclades islands of Greece as well as Crete we finally found the best of Greece.  Northern Greece, including Corinth, Peloponnese and the Ionian is where Greece came alive for us!

Greek food is wonderful here as are the people and the prices of everything. 

Well, how about the sailing in these northern waters of Greece?  Well, the meltemi (Devil wind) is gone, thank goodness.  But, of course you knew this was coming, the daily wind up here is not nice either. 

To give one example, imagine trying to get some sleep while at anchor on a bucking bronco in what you thought was a protected anchorage at 11 pm at night.  Suddenly you hear yelling and people are pounding on your boat.  That doesn't sound normal, said Captain Steve to Admiral Maria???

Jumping up half naked and running into the cockpit we saw the yelling people were in a dinghy behind Aspen and between us and the jagged cliffs on our stern.  Time to leave and quickly too!!!  The Admiral did a magnificent job of not falling overboard while getting our anchor back on board too :)

This was the first time we were blown out of an anchorage.  Blown out.  That is not a nice thought and it was not pleasant at all.

Unfortunately there were no other anchorages within 5 miles of us so we simply motored out into the maelstrom in the middle of the night.  In other words we went to sea where it is safer!

Daybreak found Aspen crashing into 10 foot seas and 34 knots of wind while going simply nowhere.  Somehow Captain Steve finally located a harbor to our port on a beam reach and Aspen spun around like a top and headed like a horse for the barn.

Upon reaching the safety of our fortunate harbor we licked our wounds, rested 3 hours while the wind died, and headed back out to sea for our Corinth Canal transit.  Life goes on!

Yet once we set foot on the mainland of Greece the food improved dramatically and everyone seemed glad to see us.  We were greeted in the harbors by helpful people who offered us fuel and helped take our lines to secure Aspen.  There is actually electricity that we can use and sometimes there are even showers.  What a great feeling.

We are currently at Zakynthos Island in the Ionian Sea, getting weather forecasts for our sail across to Sicily, Italy.  Let's hope the weather Gods treat us well on this 3 day passage!!

Sail on, sail on and sail safe Aspen...