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

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Another Day in the Caribbean; Onboard Aspen

Friends Vicki and Suzanne from Colorado came to have dinner with us in Antigua.  It was great fun seeing them!

Deshais, Guadeloupe after the torrential tropical downpour.  It is a river of debris and mud in the harbor!

Just another great sunset over the Caribbean Sea in Guadeloupe.

Iles des Saints, Guadeloupe sitting at our favorite French pizza place along the main street.  What traffic?
Jolly Harbour Marina dock and Aspen is very lonely sitting by herself.  It is low season so not many boats have been launched yet.

North Sound Marina, Antigua where the hurricane damaged boats from St. Maarten and the BVI's have come to rest.  So sad.

The barge Marilyn Monroe was the transport for all the damaged sailboats and masts from the hurricane damaged boats.

This is what happens to a boat sitting at the bottom in Oyster Pond, St. Martin looks like.  Ugggg!

Guadeloupe is on the horizon!

 Pretty view of Iles des Saint, Guadeloupe and the red roofs of the main town.

Scenic waterfront of Deshais, Guadeloupe with one of the rare mooring balls being used!

Maria getting caught up on news with a WIFI connection in the Saints.

 The best beach in Iles des Saints.  It is getting cleaned up after hurricane damage by the French military who are camped behind the beach.  Now that must be a tough assignment!

Toes in the sand in Iles des Saints

Dominica, our favorite island in the Caribbean was hit by category 5 hurricane Maria and the lush vegetation was laid bare, as you can see.  Landslide scars litter the hillsides that have never been seen before because of all the trees that used to cover the slopes. 

S/Y Aspen – November 26, 2017 – Log #152
Aspen Position: 14 degrees 27’ N  060 degrees 52’ W
Le Marin, Martinique, Caribbean

Leaving Antigua we had a no-wind motorsail to Deshais, Guadeloupe where we got very lucky in finding a vacant free mooring ball on our arrival.  Finding a mooring in the bay is never easy but since it is so early in the sailing season, several mooring balls were empty so we grabbed one.  Anchoring in Deshais is usually a challenge because the bottom is poor holding and boats drag into one another all the time.  At least on a mooring we should stay in one place as Aspen does circles around the ball with the constant winds shifts at Deshais.

Just as we arrived in Deshais, the heavens opened up and a monster tropical deluge engulfed the anchored boats for three straight hours.  The rain was so heavy it filled the streams that empty into the bay and brought large trees in a tidal bore that engulfed Aspen and everyone else in the anchorage.  The pretty blue water turned a sad shade of black from all the sediment carried by the rivers into our bay.

Because of all the debris and mud, we decided to stay on Aspen and not go ashore until the next day!

Of course the next day was a Sunday and nearly everything in town was closed except a few restaurants.  Customs was supposed to be closed but was open for about an hour, enabling us to check into Guadeloupe.  The owner was using his wifi to update his computer operating system and the computer had locked up, much to his dismay.  So just as we finished checking in, the owner locked his door and went home.

Our next stop in Guadeloupe was Iles des Saints - a spectacular little group of islands that belong to Guadeloupe.  The French love to vacation in the Saints and we joined them of course.

While anchored in Iles des Saints we tried to get our trusty water maker working.  Well that was a complete failure.  No amount of coaxing by Captain Steve persuaded the non-functional machine to give up a drop of water.  So Admiral Maria took over and wasn’t as nice with her fury aimed at the dead piece of steel.

So, we can’t make water and that is a problem as you might guess.  Luckily we found out that water can be purchased at the main dock:  1 Euro for 100 liters (26 gallons).  What a deal!

The only problem is that you can either bring your nice boat against the gooey black rubber tires and fenders on the big dock and be bashed by the constant swell or put the water into your 5 gallon jugs and dinghy the containers back and forth between the dock and Aspen.

Well, there was one other problem.  Aspen only has 1-five gallon container for water (who would think our water maker would quit???).  And we needed a lot of water.

Luckily we met another Island Packet sailboat in the bay who was on a mooring ball right beside us and the owner, Skip, offered us his 3 - jerry jugs to use.  Instead of 15 trips back and forth to the water tap on the main dock, we only needed 4 round trips with our dinghy.

Admiral Maria and Captain Steve loaded 600 pounds of water into Aspen’s tank over the course of 2 hours.  What a job that was!

Once Aspen’s water tank was full we needed a beach break.  The best beach on the island was a 20 minute walk away so off we went to lie in the sand and enjoy the warm Caribbean Sea and abundant sunshine.  Isn’t that was sailing is all about?

With a full water tank we sailed south to Portsmouth, Dominica.  As many of you recall, Dominica was destroyed by hurricane Maria in September of this year (2017).  The category 5 hurricane had a bullseye at the center of pretty Dominica and the destruction was complete.

We wanted to stop at our favorite island to at least tell our local friends we were thinking of them and would return later in this sailing season, once the area is ready for visitors.  It was a great sight, seeing Lawrence of Arabia in his little boat as he came motoring up to us to say Hi.

Lawrence talked about the hurricane and the area’s clean up and how everyone was coping with no electricity since September.  Most houses suffered severe damage and are slowly getting put back together.  In the words of Lawrence, “we will be back as we were, just slowly though.”

We weren’t able to visit the Kalinago Reservation (Carib Indian Reservation) on the other side of the island to see how Sexy Bones was doing.  As resourceful as he is, we are certain he is still tending his vegetable and herb garden while enjoying life!

With only a short visit to Dominica we headed south again and made landfall in St. Pierre, Martinique where there was no hurricane damage this season.  But more on Martinique will be the next chapter in this journey on Aspen.

Sail on, sail on Aspen…

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

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Where we left off in April…

Aspen at Jolly Harbour Boatyard, Antigua - ready to go into the water!

Aspen behind our rented condo at Jolly Harbour , Antigua - no sails or anything else has been put on her yet.  So much work ahead of us...

 Two days later and Aspen still behind the condo at Jolly Harbour, Antigua.  Now everything is fitted again and she is ready for sea and another sailing season in the warm Caribbean Sea.  What a view we have as well!

S/Y Aspen – November 14, 2017 – Log #151
Aspen Position: 17 degrees 03’ N  061 degrees 52’ W
Jolly Harbour, Antigua, Caribbean

Well, how about that?  It is already the next sailing season for Aspen!  How fast time flies, or so it seems.

Aspen survived a category 5 hurricane at Jolly Harbour boatyard in Antigua.  WOW.  Hurricanes don’t get any stronger than category 5.  The eye of hurricane Irma with 220 mph gusts pummeled Antigua’s sister island of Barbuda, completely and absolutely destroying everything on the island.  Antigua is a mere 25 miles away from Barbuda with the massive eye wall of hurricane Irma measured at a diameter of 40 miles.  Antigua took a solid hit from hurricane Irma as well.

News reports from Barbuda told of total destruction while the reports from Antigua seemed surprisingly positive.  “Not much damage in Antigua”, the local broadcasters said solemnly on the TV station being broadcast live via our internet connection as Irma churned murderously right next to Aspen sitting patiently in Jolly Harbour, Antigua.

As our airport taxi dropped Maria and I off at the boatyard, we looked in wonder at pretty Aspen sitting just as we left her in April.  What a glorious sight!!!

We scampered onboard Aspen and noticed lots of dirt and pieces of gravel littering her decks, blown in from the surrounding hills.  Those fantastic hills provided the protection Aspen needed in order to survive the monster hurricane Irma.

The boatyard manager was surprised when I reminded him we were putting Aspen into the water in two days.  “What?” the manager said.  “Don’t you want to paint the bottom and work on your boat?”

I reminded the manager we did all of our boat work prior to leaving in April, allowing us to get Aspen floating as soon as possible and out of the dreaded dirty boatyard.

Aspen was launched last Thursday, on island time of course.  Once in the water, Maria and I motored 1 minute, around the corner to a dock located right behind a condo we rented for the week.

So here we are, watching Aspen float quietly 10 feet away from Maria and I, sitting in our air conditioned condo with hot showers, refrigeration, reliable internet and TV.  We never had the opportunity to have this kind of arrangement before but thanks to our friends, Don and Donna who miraculously still have a Villa on St. Maarten, all of this was possible for us.  But this great arrangement won’t probably ever happen again so we have to enjoy it while we can.

Did I mention that the admiral is really happy???

So what are our sailing plans for this season, you might ask?

That’s a tough question.  Our favorite islands have been literally destroyed by hurricanes Irma and Maria.  Those favorite sailing places are:  Dominica, Sint Maarten/St. Martin, The Virgin Islands (British Virgin Islands and US Virgin Islands - Maria’s idillic Disneyland sailing places) and even Puerto Rico.

Talking with our sailboat insurance company, storing Aspen in a boatyard anywhere in the “Hurricane Box” - meaning anywhere north of Grenada, will result in at least a doubling of our insurance premium, IF they will insure us at all.

All of this means that we will sail south from Antigua this year and slowly make our way to Grenada where we will store Aspen for the 2018 hurricane season.

Sure we have been south before where there are lots of choices for islands to visit again.  Places lying in the sunshine like Guadeloupe, Dominica (to see the destruction, geeze), Martinique, St. Lucia, Bequia and the Grenadines with the end of the season eventually in Grenada.

Most of our cruising friends will be heading to these same islands so we will rendezvous with them in the Windward Islands this sailing season.

You can bet the rum will still flow as we watch the setting sun during happy hour; the beaches will be blindingly white in the scorching rays of the tropical sun; and the warm Caribbean Sea still invites us to snorkel and swim with her every day.  We are very fortunate to spend winters in this tropical paradise!

So stay tuned and we will share our adventures, both idillic and not so good, during our continuing sails on the good ship Aspen in these little latitudes this season.

Sail on, sail on Aspen…

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

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