Friday, October 8, 2021

Into the Pacific!

 

Shelter Bay Marina crew

Little Aspen, center tied in front of a huge tanker in Mira Flores Lock

Maria is ready for the Canal Locks

Spending the night in Lake Gatun

Motoring at 6.6 knots through the Panama Canal

Maria enjoying the ride along the Canal

Crowd of onlookers at Mira Flores Lock

Maria, letting the professionals do the heavy work

Aspen arrived in La Playita Marina, Panama!

Our friends Judith and Haaken on Touche and new friends June and Sone on Carpe Diem.  Both boats are from Denmark and headed to the Galapagos Islands.

Fort San Lorenzo.  Where Captain Henry Morgan began his overland journey to pillage, plunder and destroy Panama City.

The mighty Chagres River at Fort San Lorenzo.

Ah, but the cannons are silent now...

 Lake Gatun in the early morning, waiting for our next advisor
 
 
So you think you can be a line handler???  The monkey fists are thrown pretty hard and catching them is an art.  Notice the port side where the Canal employee misses Aspen with the line, the first time.  The final line can be seen hanging in the air, ready to impact Aspen!

 


A view of Mira Flores Locks and the crowd of onlookers.

 

 

S/Y Aspen – October 7, 2021 – Log #175

Aspen Position: 08 degrees 54’ N, 079 degrees 31’ W

La Playita Marina, Panama City, Panama

 

Well, transiting the Panama Canal from the Caribbean Sea into the mighty Pacific Ocean was fun because this time we had four professional line handlers to do all the hard work.  What a difference that made, insuring we had a smooth and safe passage.

            We used an agent, Stanley, to handle all our details and permit work.  Stanley also provided the required long lines and fenders for Aspen’s trip through the Canal.

            Spending the first night of our crossing, moored in Lake Gatun, was pretty hot and sultry.  Maria fed everyone her famous Italian dinner, something the four line handlers had never experienced.  The guys said they had never been treated to such good food, during a crossing on a small sailboat.  Normally they were lucky to even be fed during a crossing. 

            When we arrived at Mira Flores Locks, the observation area was packed with over 200 sightseers, looking down on little Aspen in the middle of the massive lock.  The announcer was describing the process to everyone as Aspen sat in the center of the lock, followed closely by an 850 foot oil tanker.  I guess there was a little pressure on Captain Steve not to screw up in front of everyone.

            Luckily we didn’t hit the lock gate or walls as water rushed out of the huge chamber, letting Aspen into the Pacific Ocean once again.  Whew!

            La Playita Marina welcomed Aspen and her tired crew to stay for a while now.  Our friends on their Island Packet named Touche, Judith and Haaken from Denmark, were in the slip right beside us.  It was fun seeing them again, since we last saw them in St. Lucia three years ago.  How time flies by.  Touche is on a similar sailing voyage as Aspen; going south to Chile but stopping in the Galapagos first.

            Aspen and Captain Steve are going to mainland Ecuador and skipping the Galapagos this time.  The admiral, Maria, will fly back to Colorado from here in Panama in a couple of weeks, after Aspen is fully loaded with food!

 

Sail on, sail on Aspen…

 

Fair winds,

Steve and Maria

 

PS -

1.   Aspen will have a Garmin tracker working so you can follow along:  https://share.garmin.com/SYAspen

2. Our updated sailing book, Voyage Into Hell, is available at Amazon.com (www.voyageintohell.com)

3. And the new edition for the book, Leadville Trail 100; History of the Leadville Trail 100 Mile Running Race is also available at Amazon.com (www.LT100history.com)

 


 

 



Friday, October 1, 2021

Panama Again!

 

Linton Bay Marina restaurant, Panama.  Lots of cruisers hang out here.

Portobello ruins

Captain Steve fixing things on Aspen...

Portobello anchorage from the fort

Local bus in Panama with plenty of hp!

The unique Black Christ - Portobello, Panama

Maria walking the Spanish ruins in Portobello, Panama

Captain Steve on guard duty in Portobello, Panama

Nombre de Dios, Panama.  Once the richest city on Earth.

Nombre de Dios, Panama

Aspen, before going back into the water at Shelter Bay Marina Boatyard, Panama

Houston Airport - It has to be the most unfriendly place to catch a flight!  There are no places to sit at the gates, except at the restaurants where you order food on the iPads. The airport is very modern and probably how the future looks for air travel.

Aspen back in the water at Shelter Bay Marina, Panama - yea!
 

S/Y Aspen – October 1, 2021 – Log #174

Aspen Position: 09 degrees 22’ N, 079 degrees 57’ W

Shelter Bay Marina, Colon, Panama

 

Panama, land of sweltering heat, humidity, the Panama Canal and best of all, where Aspen was waiting for our return.  Panama is where we are now.

With Aspen on land for only three months in the Panamanian jungle, we discovered there was a lot to clean when we got her back into the water.  Luckily Maria was here to take control of the nasty process for making Aspen look pristine once again.  Of course Steve helped when he could, so it was a team effort.  Most of Aspen’s systems worked, luckily, and grocery provisioning is still ongoing for the voyage ahead.

We always have time to play so it isn’t all work work and more work on Aspen. 

Visiting Nombre de Dios was simply amazing.  This is where Columbus landed in 1501 on his fourth voyage and named the Bay where he rode out a ferocious storm, and his fleet survived: Nombre de Dios (In the Name of God!). 

Gold and silver from the conquered Inca Empire transited through this once richest town in all of the Americas (Nombre de Dios), in the early 1500’s, where the stolen loot was loaded onto Spanish galleons bound for Spain. 

But after 10 years, this main route from Panama City, was abandoned because the Bay of Nombre de Dios was indefensible.  

The Spanish then moved their gold and silver base to nearby Portobello.  Portobello then became the wealthiest city in the world, as history recorded.  Richest city until the likes of Captain Henry Morgan, Sir Francis Drake and British privateers (pirates) constantly attacked the town, while burning and looting everything in sight.  Harassing the Spanish became a cause célèbre for the British that resulted in this area being named The Spanish Main.

Exploring Panama is not for the faint of heart.  We’ve posted a video showing how things operate and the traffic we must negotiate to get anywhere in Panama.  Even though it is a movie, there isn’t a lot of movement!  Traffic here makes rush hour back home look like a walk in the park…

This Saturday, tomorrow Oct. 2nd, we are scheduled to transit the famous Panama Canal, from the warm Caribbean waters to the mighty Pacific Ocean.  Peaceful, if only the Pacific would live up to its’ name!

Transiting the Panama Canal will take us two days.

If you want to watch Aspen and crew transit the Panama Canal, here is the link for the camera at Gatun locks that we should transit tomorrow, Saturday, about 4 pm (Central Time).

https://multimedia.panama-canal.com/Webcams/gatun.html

Then on the second day, this Sunday, we should be in the Miraflores Locks and in camera range around 11 am (Central Time).  https://multimedia.panama-canal.com/Webcams/miraflores.html

We will also have our Garmin tracker working so you can see when we approach the various locks:  https://share.garmin.com/SYAspen

 

Sail on, sail on Aspen…

 

Fair winds,

Steve and Maria

PS -

1. Our updated sailing book, Voyage Into Hell, is available at Amazon.com (www.voyageintohell.com)

2. And the new addition for the book, Leadville Trail 100; History of the Leadville Trail 100 Mile Running Race is also available at Amazon.com (www.LT100history.com)

Friday, February 19, 2021

Still in Colorado during winter!

 

Our updated book, “Voyage Into Hell”, with a new Introduction and Epilogue describing what became of the sailboat Quest. The FREE update (PDF) can be found here:  http://www.voyageintohell.com 

 

Finishing our crossing of the Atlantic Ocean and completing the circumnavigation, while making landfall on St. Lucia in the Caribbean.  Admiral Maria looks fresh and relaxed while Captain Steve seems to be rather weathered from the stormy crossing.

S/Y Aspen – February 18, 2021 – Log #173

Aspen Position: 39 degrees 31’ N, 105 degrees 18’ W; Elevation 8,200 feet

Elevation 8,200 feet in Pine, Colorado

 It’s been ten years since the sailing vessel Quest and her crew of four sailors/our friends, Phyllis, Bob, Jean and Scott, were captured and killed by pirates off the coast of Somalia in the Indian Ocean, February 18, 2011.  Ten years ago, wow.  They will always be in our hearts.

I just updated my book, “Voyage Into Hell”, with a new Introduction and Epilogue describing what became of the sailboat Quest.

If you already have a copy of the book or eBook, the update is FREE!  Simply go to the website http://www.voyageintohell.com and download the PDF file shown at the bottom of the page: 10thAnniversary_Update.

The 2021 sailing season for Maria and I is still on hold, with the pandemic raging throughout the world.  We were extremely lucky by getting both of our vaccinations!  Well, being older surely helped too.

Maria does her online Jazzercise exercise classes every day, from the warmth of our house.  Yes, our heating bills are astronomical as temperatures have been well below freezing and even below zero these winter days in the Colorado Rockies.

Steve is running as usual, but with a face mask, not because of the virus but because his lungs prefer to stay warmer on the frozen trails.

Aspen seems to be waiting patiently in Puerto Rico for our return.  Not a day goes by when we don’t dream of those Caribbean little latitudes, hot weather, sandy beaches and tropical trade winds.  Ahhh, but soon or so we hope.

Sail on, sail on Aspen…

 

1. Our updated sailing book, Voyage Into Hell, is available at Amazon.com (www.voyageintohell.com)

2. And the new book, Leadville Trail 100; History of the Leadville Trail 100 Mile Running Race is also available at Amazon.com (www.LT100history.com)


Friday, June 5, 2020

Back in Colorado!



Here is a movie showing how we felt after three airports and two long flights and making it back home to Colorado.

 Escaping from St. Maarten with the dreaded bridge over Captain Steve's left shoulder!

 Maria enjoying the freedom of the US Virgin Islands!

Francis Bay, St. John, USVI and the sailboats at anchor with us.

Puerto del Rey Marina, Fajardo, Puerto Rico.  Welcome back to the USA!

Maria doing laundry the old fashioned way during quarantine.

Aspen on land again at Puerto del Rey Boatyard, Puerto Rico.

It is great to be home in Colorado again.

S/Y Aspen – June 6, 2020 – Log #171
Aspen Position: 39 degrees 29’ N  105 degrees 23’ W
Pine Junction, Colorado

Back in Colorado!

Our journey home from the Caribbean started amidst the most restrictive lockdown among all the islands of the Eastern Caribbean, in St. Maarten, where we happened to be on Aspen when the virus struck. 

Captain Steve misinterpreted the words “indefinitely shut down”, as Maria emphatically reminded him daily.  Who would have thought?
 
Enduring a brutal ten week lockdown, we escaped by sailing to the welcoming beaches and trails within the USVI.  Our future plans remained uncertain until we received a surprise and most welcome email from the Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources: “Permission granted!”  We were allowed to sail to Puerto del Rey Marina in Fajardo, Puerto Rico. 

Aspen was safely put away for hurricane season before we caught flights to the majestic Rocky Mountains of Colorado and back to our Pine Ranch.  Flying 3,000 miles in the midst of a pandemic is not something anyone should ever, ever attempt.  Yet it was time to come home to family and friends where we wait for things to creep back toward a semblance of normal. 

Sail on, sail on Aspen…

1. You can track our location using this: https://us0-share.inreach.garmin.com/SYAspen
2. Our sailing book, Voyage Into Hell, is available at Amazon.com (www.voyageintohell.com)
3. And the new book, Leadville Trail 100; History of the Leadville Trail 100 Mile Running Race is also available at Amazon.com (www.LT100history.com)

Monday, March 16, 2020

Sint Maarten, Oh Boy! Also, Star Struck!

 Maria admiring our new solar panels!

Hiking with our friends on Tarentela (Al and Michele).  Now we know where the aliens landed too!

Maria and Michele on the trails on St. Maarten

Dinner with our friends on Watoosh (Loonie and Rita) and Cloud Street (Joanna and Bill) on St. Maarten

Dinghy tour around the Lagoon on St. Maarten/St. Martin

The unguarded border between the Dutch Side and the French Side of St. Maarten

Al (Tarentela) and Captain Steve with the Carnival Queen in Grand Case, St. Martin

Our good friends from Holland, Jan and Ida at their apartment in Philipsburg, St. Maarten

Rita and Steve at Carnival in Grand Case, St. Martin

Carnival parade in Grand Case, St. Martin

Yes, I Captain Steve is star struck.  Right down the dock from us is the famous sailor, Jon Sanders: Jon Sanders was the first man to circumnavigate Antarctica solo, circling the continent twice in 1981 – 1982 in his yacht, the Perie Banou. Now 80 years old, he has successfully sailed around the world 10 times.  This will be his 11th.

Jon Sander's sailboat

S/Y Aspen – March 16, 2020 – Log #170
Aspen Position: 18 degrees 02’ N  063 degrees 85’ W
Sint Maarten, Caribbean

How quickly things change, even for sailors out on the wild blue.

The news we hear from our friends and family up North is not good, as you obviously know.  Down here in the islands, we feel more isolated while quarantined in our own watery world.  Luckily for Maria and me, St. Maarten is one of the best places to be, in times of a global pandemic.

The infrastructure on the island has recovered on the Dutch Side, where we are located, so there are supplies of food, electricity and running water.  Aspen is berthed in a secure marina which obviously makes things easier and safer.

The winds of change are still swirling everywhere as we try to adjust to the flow.  Beginning tomorrow, the island of St. Maarten will not allow any flights into or out of the country.  Those tourists already here must wait until the end of the month before returning to their lives again.

With all public gatherings prohibited, we are left to enjoy the many beaches, abundant sunshine and more boat work on Aspen.  Yet St. Maarten doesn’t have any cases of the Corona virus.  We hope it stays that way!

Our thoughts go out to our friends and families so far away, hoping you stay safe and ride out this storm.

As Jimmy once sang my favorite lyrics:
“I’d rather die while I’m living than live while I’m dead.”

Sail on, sail on Aspen…

PS: Just after I posted this blog, our friends from Australia told me Jon Sanders was in St. Maarten.  The last 2 pictures are of him! "Jon Sanders was the first man to circumnavigate Antarctica solo, circling the continent twice in 1981 – 1982 in his yacht, the Perie Banou. Now 80 years old, he has successfully sailed around the world 10 times.  This will be his 11th."

1. You can track our location using this: https://us0-share.inreach.garmin.com/SYAspen
2. Our sailing book, Voyage Into Hell, is available at Amazon.com (www.voyageintohell.com)
3. And the new book, Leadville Trail 100; History of the Leadville Trail 100 Mile Running Race is also available at Amazon.com (www.LT100history.com)

Friday, February 14, 2020

Guadeloupe, Antigua and on to St. Maarten/St. Martin!


 Hiking in Guadeloupe; near the start of a hike

  Hiking in Guadeloupe; the mud begins

  Hiking in Guadeloupe; and more mud

Guadeloupe waterfalls along the trail

Dawn from Cat Tales enjoying a tropical downpour

Maria and Dawn with a large fern umbrella

The trail used to be here

 Beach time with Laurie on Cat Tales running quickly from a typical wave

 Enjoying the Guadeloupe aquarium.  Laurie seems trapped...

Steve's favorite percussionist in Guadeloupe

Sometime you just have to explore to find the treasure

Downtown Pointe a Pitre needs a bit of cleaning up to do

Ah, Antigua and Jolly Harbour without the rain!


Maria enjoying our anchorage

Sailing to Sint Maarten/St. Martin and fisherman Maria is showing her catch of the day!


S/Y Aspen – February 15, 2020 – Log #169
Aspen Position: 18 degrees 02’ N  063 degrees 85’ W
Sint Maarten, Caribbean

We hiked so many trails in Guadeloupe with our friends, Dawn and Laurie, on the catamaran Cat Tales.  Driving on the island was fairly easy but traffic was a challenge with the sheer volume of cars, trucks, busses and people on the roads.

If you enjoy viewing waterfalls, well this is your island.  The volume of water cascading down the mountains was exceptional, not to mention the rivers of mud and water washing out the trails we hiked on.  It seems the hurricanes of 2017 destroyed nearly every trail on Guadeloupe.  What were once well groomed and carved forest trails were gone, only to be replaced by rutted, rooted and barely passable semblances of the once magnificent trail system all over the island. 

We persevered at times but rarely completed a hike to the finish because of the non-existent trails.  Ah, you have to take what you can get so our lunch breaks and refreshment stops made up for the lack of passable walks.  Of course since this is part of France, the restaurants were expected to be wonderful.  Well, that didn’t work either since in the Caribbean restaurants set their own very odd hours for serving food, if at all.  So finding places to enjoy any culinary delights was as much of a challenge as finding the forest trails!

With our exploration of Guadeloupe complete, we sailed Aspen north to Antigua where we could speak English once again.  We went into Jolly Harbour to hide from more intense winds and seas for nearly a week, while visiting with sailing friends who had also made Antigua their destination this sailing season.

Luckily another sailing weather window appeared and Aspen roared toward our favorite island, St. Maarten/St. Martin.  We had not visited this twin island nation (Dutch and French) since the hurricanes devastated them in 2017.  It was good to be back among so many island friends again.

The Dutch side of St. Maarten has and is recovering nicely with work crews everywhere, sweeping, shoveling and repairing the many hotels and restaurants throughout the Dutch side of the island.  However, on the French side of the island, time seems to have stood still, with strikes, riots and very little progress being made to recover from the damage.  It is like France has forgotten about little St. Martin and left the French side of the island without much help.  Or maybe the millions of Euros sent for recovery aid somehow disappeared and evaporated, as the locals seem to think.

But things change and good can be found all over this island, from the beach bars and restaurants lining Simpson Bay to the fun Carnival parade in French Grand Case every Tuesday night.  We also have rendezvoused with many sailing friends coming up from the south and down from the north at this sailor’s crossroads in the Caribbean.

Cheap rum, boat repairs, and well stocked chandleries are the hallmark of St. Maarten.  We are doing our best to support the local economy by working on Aspen and completely going through all her systems for the first time in what seems like ages.  Lockers have been emptied and cleaned, while we found things we forgot existed.  Aspen turns 19 years old this year so it is time for this project.

We always make time for happy hours, beaching and hiking with friends while we are here too.  There is no shortage of enjoyable activities to participate in, you can count on that.

Sail on, sail on Aspen…

Love,
Steve and Maria

1. You can track our location using this: https://us0-share.inreach.garmin.com/SYAspen
2. Our sailing book, Voyage Into Hell, is available at Amazon.com (www.voyageintohell.com)
3. And the new book, Leadville Trail 100; History of the Leadville Trail 100 Mile Running Race is also available at Amazon.com (www.LT100history.com)