Tuesday, December 20, 2016

St. Thomas, USVI with a Dead Engine

Michele (Tarantela), Maria and Heather (Lady Britt) after the long walk to Coral Bay for drinks (and food too)!

In case you wondered what the Zika mosquito looks like

Michele and Maria hiking near Brewers Bay

Towboat US arriving in Brewers Bay to take Aspen on a towing adventure

Maria happy to be underway once again, even if it is with a little help

Towing Aspen into the wind.  Luckily we had fairly gentle conditions!

Waiting for a mechanic in American Yacht Harbor, Red Hook, St. Thomas, USVI

 Better to be in a slip in these conditions, since we don't have a working engine!

S/Y Aspen – December 20, 2016 – Log #145
Aspen Position: 18 degrees 19’ N  064 degrees 51’ W
American Yacht Harbor Marina, Red Hook, St. Thomas, USVI

Aspen anchored in the US Virgin Islands, home to cheap rum, plentiful supermarkets and groceries direct from the good old USA.  Wow.  And the mail service for parts is quick and cheap too.  Gotta have access to boat parts and little did we know how crucial that really is.

It took us nearly a month to get Aspen refitted (everything brought back to working order) before we could leave Puerto Rico.  It was a great stay in a wonderful country with explorations of Arecibo and ancient Taino religious sites in our trusty rental car.  Luckily we only saw one slow speed head on collision on the narrow roads in the middle of Puerto Rico.

Driving around San Juan is not for the weak at heart.  Pot holes will swallow your tires before you can say Santa vaca!

Finally the winds abated, somewhat, and we were off to Culebrita, a small island off Culebra.  Clean clear water made our short stay a great way to start the cruising season.

We sailed direct to St. John next, a sail of only 30 miles and we were back in paradise.  The anchorage was full of sailor friends so happy hour and hiking made us feel right at home once again.

We had one memorable hike from the north side of St. John to the south side (Coral Bay).  It was raining so what better activity than take a short hike with friends?  Well, the forest service signs kind of had the mileage wrong so it was a lot longer, steeper and muddier than we expected.  But everyone persevered and we ended up at Skinny Legs bar/restaurant on the water for burgers and beer, a bit soggy and sweaty from the hike.  It doesn’t get much better than that!

Then it was a nice sail to Lameshur Bay on the south coast of St. John before heading to Brewer’s Bay back on St. Thomas.

It was in Brewer’s Bay where all the excitement began.  Hmmm.

Maria and I were motoring out of Brewers Bay with the mainsail up and nicely filling as a piercingly loud alarm went off in the cockpit.  The engine was nearly exploding from overheating, it seemed.  Quickly turning the engine off and making a U-turn, we sailed her back into the bay and anchored under sail.

Captain Steve worked and worked on the engine but to no avail.  Overheating?  That was a new one with a lot of possibilities.  Replacing all the obvious causes had no effect on the problem.

Exasperated, Captain Steve went in search of a mechanic on St. Thomas.  Not an easy thing to come by, as you might expect.  Getting lucky, he found one who could look at the non-functioning engine in 7 days time.  Geeze.  Oh, first we have to get Aspen to the other end of St. Thomas in order for that to happen too. 

After more futile work on the engine we decided to get a tow to the mechanic (18 nm away), into the wind.  TowBoat US showed up at 3:30 pm.  After a 3 hour tow into the wind and after sunset, Aspen was ingloriously pushed into a waiting dock at American Yacht Harbor where we are now waiting for the mechanic to diagnosis our problem. 

Oh yes, Christmas is coming, along with Zach and family who will spend it with us on Aspen before the engine will be fixed.  We have the lights and tree up to welcome them to a tropical kind of celebration.  A little different than Colorado to say the least.

Sail on, sail on Aspen…

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

Friday, November 25, 2016

Puerto Rico!

Aspen in the water at Puerto del Rey, Fajardo, Puerto Rico.

Puerto del Rey Marina, Fajardo, Puerto Rico.  This is the largest marina in the Caribbean.  Lots of boats!

Aspen after getting cleaned up with new red dorades, new bimini and a shiny new wax job, courtesy of Maria.

Maria admiring her new anchor - the one on the left!

Captain Steve really getting into his work on the refrigeration system.  Who designs these things, he was heard to mumble...

Admiral Maria also getting into her work.  It seems all we ever see of each other is our backsides!

Maria cleaning and waxing Aspen, one of her favorite jobs.

 El Yunque, Puerto Rico's extensive rainforest, towering above our marina.  No wonder it rains so much every day!

S/Y Aspen – November 26, 2016 – Log #144
Aspen Position: 18 degrees 17’ N  065 degrees 37’ W
Puerto del Rey Marina, Puerto Rico

Where has the summer gone?  Ah yes, we are back in the land of perpetual summer now that cold air has shrouded the high mountains in Colorado!

It is time for another round of not so often emails, blogs and pictures sent to our family and friends showing life in El Caribe (the Eastern Caribbean of course).

Landing in San Juan, Puerto Rrrrrico the hot humid air attacked our oh-so white bodies with a vengeance.  But it is the tropics and another season of sailing on Aspen lies ahead of us.

Of course we first had to get Aspen out of the dirty, messy boatyard and into the water.  Maria and I anxiously watched Aspen being lowered into the sea by a huge travel lift, hoping she would float nicely so we don’t have to jump in and save her, well at least I would have to jump in since Maria doesn’t like to dive too deep.

Everything went very well, UNTIL, Aspen’s engine decided not to start once she hit the water.  Wow, what was that?  Nothing happened when I pressed the start switch.  But the batteries were fine and all systems were a go.  Just the engine would not turn over at all.

It is not a good place to be stuck, at the end of the slipways and in the water because the travel lift needs to drop the next boat into the water on top of us.

A desperate call was made to a towing company (SeaTow) and we waited.  Luckily SeaTow took their time to get to Aspen and while waiting we made one last desperate attempt and Aspen’s engine sprung to life.  Fantastic!  We saved $375 on a tow out of the slipways.

Then the fun began.  Well, kind of.

Our re-commissioning list for Aspen is about four sweaty pages long, not counting buying lots of healthy groceries and rum.  I keep explaining to Maria that boat work is fun but she is not buying any of it.

We thought we would be in Puerto del Rey Marina for 10 days before heading further east and south.  South to the Virgin Islands where crystal clear turquoise water awaits, along with brilliant white sand beaches, endless hiking trails and friendly sailors anchored for happy hour.

I must not be able to count the days correctly because it has been 20 days in Puerto Rico and we are still here.  What is that?

It seems our repair list was longer than we remembered - fix one thing and 2 other things need fixing at the same time.  Hmmm, it must be a boat!

Then there was the parts thing.  We shipped 500 pounds of parts from home including a new anchor and chain, among other goodies and waited a LONG time for the ship to arrive in Puerto Rico.

The hassle of getting our parts out of Customs was brutal, especially since my Spanish is pretty rusty and all the forms, websites and phone calls were mostly in Spanish.  After two frustrating days of work, we got everything out of the bonded warehouse and loaded onto Aspen.

Thanksgiving was celebrated yesterday in the marina with about 30 other sailors and we even had turkey with all the fixings with a potluck dinner at the head of the docks.

Now Aspen is ready to set sail but the wind Gods decided we can’t go quite yet so Maria and I will sit back,
drink a rum, and toast to a new season while we take another crazy trip around the sun (when the winds cooperate).

Sail on, sail on Aspen…

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

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Time Is Slipping Away

Lunch at the Fat Virgin Cafe at Biras Creek, Virgin Gorda

Watching as the sea plane disappears out of sight from North Sound, Virgin Gorda

Saba Rock and a great restaurant/bar in North Sound, Virgin Gorda

You gotta love the water colors in the BVI's

"This is my favorite place", said Admiral Maria

Great beach around the corner from Saba Rock with no one on it except us

Necker Island:  Sir Richard Branson's private place

Even Maria likes the crystal clear water in the BVI's

S/Y Aspen – April 16, 2016 – Log #143
Aspen Position: 18 degrees 30’ N  064 degrees 21’ W
British Virgin Islands

The Anegada Passage from Sint Maarten to the British Virgin Islands is a notoriously nasty 15 hour sail.  Yet with proper planning the sail can be pleasant with the Southern Cross shimmering brightly in the dark night sky.

We had a very nice crossing and even watched the Disney cruise ship’s fireworks display as it flashed and boomed close to our course around midnight.  What fun that was.

We arrived to clear customs and immigration as the offices opened, made a quick trip to Digicel for our new sim card for internet and phone access and then it was back on Aspen for the 2 hour sail to North Sound and the Bitter End, Maria’s absolute favorite place in the Caribbean.

Entering North Sound the water turned to multiple shades of blue in the clear sea, with tarpon and barracuda following Aspen to her peaceful anchorage.  Ah yes, this is what sailing in the Caribbean is supposed to be like, Maria told me.

We will spend a couple weeks in the Virgin Islands before hauling Aspen out of the water for hurricane season in Puerto Rico.

During our time here we will socialize, as sailors do, with new friends anchored near us for the inevitable happy hour celebrations as the sun sets gently into the Caribbean Sea.  Then there are the antics of the charter boats who give us unlimited entertainment as they try to pick up a mooring ball or avoid the sunken ships and reefs around us. 

Within sight of our anchorage are 2 islands owned by Sir Richard Branson, who sails by on his massive catamaran (Necker Belle) or flies in on his helicopter from time to time as he entertains his friends from a completely different extravagant lifestyle.

Captain Steve prefers the simple pleasures of fixing nearly everything on Aspen and bashing to windward against the strong trade winds instead of worrying about where the caviar and champaign came from on a megayacht!  The admiral might have a different opinion?

Sail on, sail on Aspen…

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

Sunday, March 27, 2016

A Little R&R on Sint Maarten/St.Martin

 Ile Fourchue, St. Barths.  What a great setting!

Maria walking the docks in Simpson Bay Maria.  There are lots of fellow sailors to visit here!

Maria and Deepti, her favorite jeweler, and always trouble for Captain Steve when they get together.

Maria and Kamal (Deepti's brother) at DK Gems.  The secrets are in the boxes...

 Just a view of the mega-yachts from Aspen's deck in Sint Maarten.

Maria after a visit to the hair salon on Sint Maarten.

 Two of our sailing friends, Don and Donna on Destiny, invited us to enjoy St. Patrick’s Day at the villa they built with spectacular views of St Baths in the distance.  Wow.
Green margaritas on St. Patrick's Day of course!

Two wayward sailors, Maria and Captain Steve, floating in the villa's fantastic pool.

Lots of anchored boats in Grand Case, French St. Martin for the Tuesday night street party.

 Another set of friends from Holland (Jan and Ida) paddled by Aspen for a visit as well.

Steve's running friend Jan from Holland.  We have been running together since 1996 on Sint Maarten.

Maria at the Tuesday street party in Grand Case, St. Martin.  It was pretty crowded!

S/Y Aspen – March 27, 2016 – Log #142
Aspen Position: 18 degrees 02’ N  063 degrees 05’ W
Sint Maarten/St. Martin

It was a lovely sail from Antigua to Ile Fourchue, off the coast of St. Barts.  We arrived in daylight and the entrance was easy and welcoming after 15 hours at sea.

Ile Fourchue is uninhabited and a national park for St. Barts.  If the once present goats had not eaten all the vegetation they might still be alive to enjoy the stark setting.  But such is not the case for the goats. 

Instead we discovered an ancient caldera, blown apart on the west side so many million years ago.  One part of the high crater rim is still present and my running was like being on a lunar landscape.  What fun that was.

Leaving Ile Fourchue it was only a 3 hour sail to our favorite island, Sint Maarten.  It felt like we were coming home as we motored through the bridge and into Simpson Bay Lagoon, Sint Maarten.

We have lived on Sint Maarten, partied here, made lots of lasting friends and of course anchored Aspen among the thriving yet friendly island.  Where else can you have happy hour beside the bridge and watch multi-million dollar mega-yachts float into the Lagoon mere feet from your rum punch?

The rich of the rich come here on their vessels, as do the beautiful people but no one really cares who they are.  Sailors love to look at their magnificent ships, enormous sailboats and all the toys they store on deck as they parade slowly by. 

If you have a couple hundred million dollars (US currency of course) you too can become part of the parade.

Aspen led one regal procession through the bridge and into the Lagoon even though Captain Steve hates to be first though the bridge, just in case something goes wrong as has happened before.  But this time it was fun waving to everyone gathered at the bar before finding a safe shelter inside.

Now it is time to relax and recharge, both Aspen and ourselves.

Maria was enjoying some great R&R with a hair appointment, nails done, a visit with her favorite jewelers (Deepti and Kamal) and even has managed to fit in a massage.

While Maria got pampered, Captain Steve changed the depth sounder, replaced the main battery bank, installed a new water maker pump, fixed the wind generator, worked on the refrigeration and only managed to smash 2 fingers in the process.  Ah but they will heal, he was heard saying.

We’ve posted some pictures of our social activities on the blog site too.

Sail on, sail on Aspen…

Friday, March 4, 2016


The volcano on Guadeloupe with the cone free of clouds.  This is a huge volcano and still active at times.

The customs officials in Jolly Harbour, Antigua.  Lots of movement and stamping of papers.

Jolly Harbour Marina and the nice docks (with power too).

Great Bird Island and some picnic tables slowly sinking into the sand.

This is what sailing is all about...

S/Y Aspen – March 3, 2016 – Log #141
Aspen Position: 17 degrees 08’ N  061 degrees 43’ W
North Sound, Antigua

The winds of March blew Aspen from Guadeloupe to Antigua, another x-British island sitting in an emerald sea.

Along the way we passed the active volcano on Montserrat before making landfall in Jolly Harbour and meeting with the customs officials.  We got lucky and found the required quarantine dock free of boats so Maria only had to jump off Aspen and quickly tie our lines before we drifted away. 

Maria doesn’t like jumping from a moving boat so with a lot of coaxing from Captain Steve, she managed the 1-foot leap without making a splash in the  bay.  Maria seemed happy with her jump as well, reminding the Captain that her legs are not as long as his.

It only took two days to stock up on vegetables, food, a cheap digital watch for Steve so he can time his wayward runs once again and get on our way.

I kept telling Maria is was only a 3 hour sail, hmmm, to the north end of Antigua and a rumored great anchorage.

Well, luckily, 3.5 hours later, we found Great Bird Island in an area that looked exactly like the Bahamas:  Colorful water, uncrowded anchorages and a deserted island awaited us.  Wow.

We wandered the island on white sand beaches and waded in the water looking for shells.  Now this is how sailing in the Caribbean should be, we both thought.  We had never ventured on this coast of Antigua and wondered why it took us so long. 

A party catamaran full of party people showed up and swam to shore on our private island but they didn’t stay long before leaving us in solitude once again.

This weekend, as you are enjoying life on land, Maria and I will be sailing overnight to Sint Maarten.  Hopefully the stars will guide us there and the squalls will stay away.  Give us a thought or two as you enjoy your restful slumber, knowing we are rocking and rolling in the warm Caribbean breezes far away from land.

Sail on, sail on Aspen…

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

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Marie Galante and Guadeloupe

Portsmouth, Prince Rupert Bay, Dominica with Aspen in the sea of boats somewhere

These big boats always want to anchor close to Aspen, for some reason

Hiking Segment #12 of the Waitukubuli Trail, Dominica. 
After the hike and well rested in Portsmouth, Dominica at the restored Fort Shirley
 In case you wondered, yes there is a green flash at sunset if you are lucky enough to see it!

Hiking on Marie Galante and finding a grotto where the Amerindians once lived.  Pretty nice!

 The cave also had a nice water catchment system - what else could you want?

View from inside the grotto.  What a great view the Amerindians had.

They make the baguettes big on Marie Galante

The windward side of Marie Galante

A rather large sink hole on Marie Galante that dwarfs the one in Aruba

There are over 100 old sugar mills on Marie Galante, scattered everywhere.

 The very nice marina in Bas Du Fort, Guadeloupe.  Notice there is only 1 US flag on the dock.

Petroglyphs on Guadeloupe.  These date from 300 AD, based on pottery fragments found at the site.

Happy hour on Gosier, a small island 3 miles from Pointe a Pitre, Guadeloupe that we anchored at.

S/Y Aspen – February 27, 2016 – Log #140
Aspen Position: 16 degrees 13’ N  061 degrees 31’ W

Leaving Dominica we had a great sail to an island that has been on our list for a long time, but we were never able to get there because of the wind and seas:  Marie Galante.

This time we got lucky with a weather window and made it there without too much discomfort.

Wow, what a gem of an island Marie Galante is.  They farm sugar cane, cotton and graze cattle on the flat beautiful island.  The island is all limestone so the water is crystal clear and you can really see starfish by moonlight in the anchorage at Saint Louis.

We rented a car for a day and drove nearly every road on the island - that is not difficult because it is not very large.  The beaches are stunning and even though no one speaks English (!) we enjoyed being there.

Another 5 hour sail took us to the mainland of Guadeloupe and the capital of Pointe a Pitre.  It seems that the admiral, Maria, developed a tooth problem when she was in Dominica.

Yes there is a dentist in Dominica but you would not want to go there.  X-ray is a foreign word to them.

So we waited and luckily found a spot in Bas du Fort Marina at Pointe a Pitre with a dentist close by.  The office was modern and the dentist even spoke English.  Maria ended up with a root canal with a lot of infection so it was good she didn’t wait until we were back in Colorado, as the captain advised her.

Since we had a pretty secure place in the marina to keep Aspen we even rented a car and toured Guadeloupe.

This island is huge and the sights are really interesting, as the pictures show.

Sail on, sail on Aspen…

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