Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

The Siguaw, Singletary and Shoemaker families

This is what happens when we spent too much time on a sailboat - Maria is working on an addition to our house. I want to put a cannon in the turret!

S/Y Aspen – December 23, 2011 – Log #79
Aspen Position: 36 degrees 51’ N 028 degrees 16’ E (UTC +3 Hours)
Steve and Maria Position: Pine, Colorado USA 39 degrees 29' N 105 degrees 23 min W (UTC -7 Hours)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of our friends and family!

May 2012 be a safe and prosperous year.

We will return to Turkey in March to sail Aspen once again so keep checking this blog for the latest on our travels!

Sail on, sail on and sail safe, Aspen

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Rocky Mountain High

Captain Steve and Maria accepting the Rock of Gibraltar Crystal presented by the skippers and crew of the Blue Water Rally at the final farewell party in Marmaris, Turkey

S/Y Aspen – June 22, 2011 – Log #78
Aspen Position: 36 degrees 51’ N 028 degrees 16’ E (UTC +3 Hours)
Steve and Maria Position: Pine, Colorado USA

We arrived back in Colorado to be greeted by clear blue skies, warm temperatures and white capped mountain peaks shimmering in our western sky. It was a long way from Turkey to Denver and a long time to hang in the sky too, as a friend once sang.

We are getting settled into our Rocky Mountain home once again - getting the water turned on, electricity to power the refrigerator, satellite TV and DSL for the computers. All three cars started right away so that was nice, and they didn't even have flat tires!

We had a really nice visit with our families in Joliet, IL after setting foot on US soil once again. Chicago style hot dogs, pizza, poor boy sandwiches and corn fed beef was a welcome treat after the fare we had been eating.

Before we left Turkey there was one final farewell dinner with all of the skippers and crew of the Blue Water Rally. Excelsior Tours, one of our Rally boats, organized a spectacular party overlooking Marmaris harbor as well as looking toward our transport ship, the mv Palmerton that rested peacefully against the dock with all 20 Rally boats onboard. It was an enchanting evening where we bid fair winds and calm seas to each other as our journeys continue but not together as a Rally any longer. The evening was highlighted by a poignant, fond and moving toast to Phyllis, Bob, Jean and Scott of the sailboat Quest.

Captain Steve and Maria were presented with the highest award possible by the skippers and crew of the Blue Water Rally - the Gibraltar Crystal. We were shocked to say the least! The Gibraltar Crystal is a glass Rock of Gibraltar presented to the Blue Water Rally at the beginning of this Around the World Rally by the Gibraltar Government. It was passed from boat to boat before every significant passage throughout the rally, with the crews ensuring the safety of the precious Gibraltar Crystal at all times. We accepted the award in the spirit it was given, by fellow sailors who endured incredible hardship and unfathomed joy throughout the nearly 2 year circumnavigation of the planet.

Sail on, sail on and sail safe Aspen…

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Marmaris, Turkey and USA

Aspen arriving safely in Marmaris, Turkey aboard the mv Palmerton. Aspen is located near the stern, the 2nd mast on the ship's starboard side.

S/Y Aspen – June 14, 2011 – Log #77
Aspen Position: 36 degrees 51’ N 028 degrees 16’ E (UTC +3 Hours)
Marmaris, Turkey / USA
(Steve and Maria Position: Joliet, IL visiting family!)

Aspen has been unloaded from the transport ship and is resting comfortably on land in Marmaris, Turkey. She safely arrived after negotiating the pirate waters off Somalia and the Red Sea, thanks to captain Igor who commanded the transport ship, mv Palmerton. Yes, Igor is from Ukraine! At 6 feet 5 inches tall Igor takes no prisoners during his command.

Aspen was offloaded the first day in Turkey and softly touched the clean waters of the Mediterranean, ridding herself of the dust from Oman and safely gliding away to the marina. It was such a nice feeling to be in safe waters again!

The captain and Maria just arrived in another country, the USA. What a fantastic place this is!

Now it is time to recharge our mental batteries (and the savings account) as we enjoy being home once again. As Dorothy said, "there is no place like home, there is no place like home, …").

Sail on, sail on and sail safe Aspen…

Friday, June 3, 2011

We arrived in Rhodes, Greece!

The ruins at Lindos on Rhodes, Greece - in the background.

S/Y Aspen – June 3, 2011 – Log #76
Position: 36 degrees 24’ N 028 degrees 15’ E (UTC +3 Hours)
Rhodes, Greece

It only took 3 different airlines, with 8 take offs and landings in 3 different countries to get to a friendly country!

The flights were Salalah to Muscat, Oman. Muscat to Doha, Qatar. Doha, Qatar to Athens. Athens to Rhodes. The airlines we took (Oman Air, Qatar Airlines and Aegean Airlines) were all very nice. They all served food, even the shorter flights. There was even free liquor on the long flight from Doha to Athens!

Waking up to our first view of the Mediterranean, right outside our window, was surreal. It only took us over 3 months to get here.

Right now it is warm and sunny with lots of friendly people everywhere. Even the food is great!

Tomorrow we will take the fast 50 minute ferry to Marmaris, Turkey to wait for our ship to arrive with Aspen onboard. The ship is transiting pirate waters as I type this, escorted by NATO warships. Let's hope they all make it through safely.

Sail on, sail on and sail safe Aspen…

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Aspen is Loaded!

The mv Palmerton - our transport ship!

Looking up Aspen's mast while we are floating in the water, trying not to hit the big yellow bar! We had a few inches to spare.

Looking up where we will be going and the big yellow crane that will lift Aspen.

Aspen loaded on the deck of the Palmerton with one of the really big sailboats going in right beside little Aspen!

Captain Steve working hard to secure everything on Aspen. It is really really hot!

This is how the crew swings the boats onboard. This is our friend's boat, Blue Magic.
The end result - Aspen loaded on the mv Palmerton in Salalah, Oman. This is the very exhausted crew.

S/Y Aspen – May 29, 2011 – Log #75
Position: 16 degrees 56’ N 054 degrees 00’ E (UTC +4 Hours)
Salalah, Oman

The big ship arrived in Salalah, Oman. Her name is the Palmerton and she is a sight for tired eyes.

Several days before her arrival were filled with port logistics and meetings. Two loading masters came and went before one arrived who wanted to stay and work on the project.

The first day in port, the loading process started at 1:15 pm and three boats were loaded, with Aspen being the 3rd boat! It took 4 tries to get the big crane properly positioned for Aspen's lift out, pulling her 50 feet into the air alongside the big ship. The crane then rotated over the ship, swinging Aspen into place near the stern of the Palmerton.

2 hours later Aspen was securely welded onto the deck of the Palmerton - not Aspen but the steel supports that are holding her.

It was like a giant black cloud suddenly dissipated all around us as we realized what had just happened. Aspen, our home for the past 28 months, was sitting securely onboard a ship that will take her away from the most dangerous waters in the world. Aspen is safe, as are her owners.

Marmaris, Turkey is Aspen's next destination. We will go by way of Greece with a short ferry ride to Marmaris when we know our ship is arriving.

Sail on, sail on and sail safe Aspen…

Saturday, May 21, 2011

We gotta get outta this place!

Oasis Bar and Grill happy hour; Salalah, Oman

S/Y Aspen – May 21, 2011 – Log #74
Position: 16 degrees 56’ N 054 degrees 00’ E (UTC +4 Hours)
Salalah, Oman

"We gotta get outta this place!", lyrics by the Animals

Yes, we are still in exile in Oman. The port security guards challenge us as we drive through the gate on a daily basis, on our way to the nearby hotel so we can shower. The guards ask to see passports, visa and port permit. We roll down the dark tinted window of the rental car to let the stifling desert heat engulf us and say in English, "little ships".

The guard immediately opens the gate to let us pass, ignoring our papers as he smiles warmly. He knows we are in exile and is sympathetic to our plight.

Hardly a day passes without a report of another pirate attack very close to the Oman coast near us. The Oman coast is crawling with pirates and the Oman Navy and Police are powerless to stop them. The Somali pirates are ruthless and rule both the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden. The constant stream of warships into our port attest to the dangers that lurk outside this protected harbor.

We keep writing this, but, our ship is still heading this way. When it will arrive is still a mystery it seems. We receive daily updates talking about delay after delay while we sit and wait in the stifling heat aboard our little ships. It does cool down at night to nearly 90 degrees with no breeze!

Every day we prepare out boats for the upcoming journey. We scrape waste from the waterline, clean anchor chain of debris that has become entangled and scrape the dinghy bottom of the hundreds of barnacles that cover every inch of the fiberglass and rubber.

But on the bright side we have the grocery store LuLu's. It is fairly modern with a good selection of reject US products on the shelves. The Middle East seems to be a dumping ground for food that does not pass the stringent US inspections. So they send it around the world. No pork though - that is a no no here.

We buy produce from Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iran, and Pakistan. Meats are from New Zealand, India, Australia and Oman. Veiled women wearing all black abbayas sit at the check out counter and cast a mysterious eye at us through their black burka (eye slit) when we unload our cart. Under the abbayas it is rumored that the women wear French designer clothes, although we infidels will never see that!

Maybe next week we will have some better news about our BIG ship.

Sail on, sail on and sail safe Aspen…

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Salalah Port News

Fun days in French Polynesia!

S/Y Aspen – May 6, 2011 – Log #73
Position: 16 degrees 56’ N 054 degrees 00’ E (UTC +4 Hours)
Salalah, Oman

Living in a working port like Salalah, Oman is packed with fun-filled days and nights, yea right.

Ocean going cargo ships come alongside the massive docks unloading cargo from all over the world. They then load waiting containers and within less than 30 hours are on their way out onto the oceans of the world.

We watch these massive ships maneuver near us with their wakes tossing little Aspen around like a cork. That tends to wake us up at night before we realize we are not at sea but at anchor!

Ships also load gravel here and the constant roar of gravel trucks near our stern, along with the dust that coats every square inch of our boat remind us how we miss the open sea. Water is scarce so washing Aspen is rarely possible, especially to get the bird droppings off her decks as well as he dirt.

The hum of generators from the Omani military ships creates a cacophony that is not appreciated by anyone. Those sailors should be out fighting the pirates and not relaxing here we believe.

Speaking of military, we have military ships from many countries arrive next to us for re-supply and some R&R. UK, India, Korea, Finland, Japan, Turkey, Germany, Italy and of course the USA are frequent visitors. It is difficult to describe our excitement when we see a US military ship come in.

There is one bar/restaurant in the port and that is a gathering place for all of the military people. When a persons opens the door we know immediately if they are from the USA. The USA has the fittest, strongest and most literate of any of the military people we have ever seen. The sailors from the other ships who arrive simply do not have the physical presence, intelligence or focused attitude that the US military people have.

The US Navy Seals are extraordinary when they arrive. These are hardened men with a no-nonsense attitude. They are also extremely secretive. Maria always talks to anyone from the US because we have essentially no one to talk to other than the Brits, who speak a different language. When Maria greets a Navy Seal there is instant politeness toward her and a warm conversation always follows. But when Maria asks where they are from, where are they going, what did they have for lunch the Navy seals are evasive. They give no specifics and are always focused on their mission - something they will never talk about.

We also met a ship full of US Marines in March who were on the USS Boxer headed to ???. They would not tell us of course. The Navy seals we met were with them as well. The recent successful operation in Pakistan by the US Navy seals made us think. Maybe, just maybe we met these heroic people here in Salalah.

We also made quick friends with a pilot in the Omani air force this earlier week. Mark attended and graduated from the US Air Force Academy in Colorado so we had a lot to talk about. Mark flies F-16's for the Omani's and tries to train them. I asked him about what he thought about the success in Pakistan and he described his missions in Afghanistan and Pakistan where many of his friends did not return home. He was happy that Osama was killed but extremely elated that the computers and databases had been taken from the compound intact. That was the ultimate satisfaction for him because governments and sympathizers will be taken down with that information.

Nearly every day now Mark comes over in his F-16 and violates Omani airspace by flying at tree top level (if there were any trees) near the speed of mach 1 as he skims Aspen's mast in the port. The roar from that plane is deafening to say the least as he banks hard left and heads out over the endless sea.

Will we ever get out of here? We wish we knew too. Our ship is slowly making way towards us so we hope to see Turkey at the end of this month. Keep your fingers crossed. 3 months in Oman is a long time to suffer.

Sail on, sail on and sail safe Aspen…

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sailing As Seen Through Our Eyes

All of the Blue Water Rally yachts watching the Royal wedding in Salalah, Oman.

S/Y Aspen – April 30, 2011 – Log #72
Position: 16 degrees 56’ N 054 degrees 00’ E (UTC +4 Hours)
Salalah, Oman

We have a little time to reflect now, since we are still waiting for the ship to carry Aspen safely up through the Red Sea. We have been moving really fast for the past 2 years, as you know, so this is a little reflecting that we have done.

This voyage has not only been one of discovery but also a life changing event for both of us.

Things we never knew about a circumnavigation:

- We used to think that a 36 hour sail in the Caribbean was a long way. Now anything less than 12 days is short
- 25 knots of wind on the nose is a common weather pattern for us
- Local unlit fishing boats that block your way in the middle of the night are just something to make our watch exciting
- Fishing nets, old lines, fish traps, plastic bags, and large logs will stop your boat quickly
- Government officials in Indonesia and Malaysia are worse than anything in South America
- Running on the beach at the home of Komodo dragons is life threatening
- In Australia if a creature moves it can kill you
- Dirty diesel that stops your engine is everywhere but especially so in the Galapagos
- Anything remotely expensive on your boat will break
- Anything designed not to break on your boat will break
- Your boat will break because it is abused 24/7 for months on end
- A knockdown is a common word based on experience now
- Weather forecasts are just as bad at sea around the world as they are at home
- Stinger suit is a garment we would not like to wear again
- Data sim cards are not simple
- WIFI is not free
- Mexican restaurants are few and far between
- KFC, Coke, Pepsi, McDonalds and all groceries taste much different even though they are US brands
- Sea water will find every tiny opening and penetrate inside your boat
- Permanent rust stains mysteriously appear on every item of clothing
- Flip flops actually wear out
- Expired food items are still edible
- Finding strange pieces of metal or plastic on your deck indicate something is about to break
- Yamaha dinghy engines only last 5 years
- Dinghies can float away if they are not tied to something
- Niue is the friendliest island on the planet
- Bouncing off a reef is common rather than an exception
- Tsunami warnings are accurate and finding deep water quickly is necessary
- Most anchors are useless pieces of metal, except for the Rocna anchor
- You can never have too much anchor chain
- Bottom paint with tin really works
- Bottom paint with copper doesn't really work
- Folding propellers will jam
- Dripless propeller shafts will fail
- Engine service is a household expression now
- The gentle Pacific Ocean is mis-named
- The sunsets in French Polynesia are spectacular beyond belief
- The power of the sea is unrelenting, unforgiving and more powerful than anything we have ever seen
- The Marquesas Islands are mysterious, friendly and more impressive than any book can portray
- Landfall in the South Pacific makes the long long journey well worth it
- Nearly everything that lives in the sea will be seen from the deck and some things actually land on the deck
- Navigating without electronics, autopilot and battery power is a life-altering event
- Big battery banks will all fail at once
- Rationing fuel consumption is a learned skill
- Cooking gas bottles (propane bottles) wear out
- Singapore is a true oasis in a trouble sea
- New Years Eve on Patong Beach in Thailand has to be seen to believe it
- You never know what or whose clothing you will get back from the shoreside laundries
- Half of the crew will read a lot of books
- Half of the crew will watch a lot of DVD's
- Half of the crew will have no time to read books or watch DVD's; they are reading repair manuals
- Ordering parts, Christmas gifts, shower gifts and birthday gifts while at sea is an acquired skill
- Satellite phones don't always work when you want them to
- Computers don't like salt water
- The Southern Cross is ablaze with light in the darkness of the southern seas
- Electronic and paper charts are not always accurate
- Brits and Americans are separated by a common language, according to Churchill, and as we have found
- Silver jewelry tarnishes at sea
- The Middle East deserts are really HOT!

Sail on, sail on and sail safe Aspen…

Monday, April 18, 2011

Dubai Trip

Camels and sand in Salalah, Oman

Enjoying a day at the beach near Salalah, Oman

The United States of America Ambassador to Oman (left) with a couple of sailors

Quad lift in the Dubi indoor ski area, the largest indoor ski area in the world

More of the Dubai ski area. They have a luge run inside as well.

Nearly all taxis in Dubai and new Toyota cars

Riding a bus in Dubai

Olympic sized ice rink inside a mall in Dubai

Maria shopping in Dubai mall

Billboard on the outside of a building in Dubai picturing the present and past rulers

Hershey store in Dubai with shopper outside the store. Yes, the woman is facing the camera.

Atlantis Hotel, Dubai

Our favorite mall in Dubai

Typical street in the business district of Dubai

Cargo for the Dhows along Dubai Creek. These refrigerators are destined to Pakistan, India, and elsewhere around the Red Sea.

Dubai Architecture

More Dubai futuristic buildings

Dubai marina and buildings along Dubai Creek

Dubai skyline

More Dubai buildings and another marina

The Burj Al Arab hotel is built on an island in the Arabian sea and the only 7 star hotel in the world.

Another view of the Burj Al Arab hotel. It is designed in the shape of a sail of course!

Aquarium in the Dubai mall

Tallest building in the world, Dubai

Archaeology site near Salalah, Oman

Bowling night with the Blue Water Rally sailors in Salalah, Oman. Maria is watching their technique.

Another beach near Salalah, Oman

Lobster anyone?

Just our footprints on the beach

On the beach with other Blue Water Rally sailors

Deserted beach near Salalah, Oman

We need the umbrella for shade!

The beach at the Hilton Hotel, Salalah, Oman

Captain Steve ready for the desert

Oman geology!

More sales people in Salalah, Oman

Lunch time at the beach

The Hilton Hotel in Salalah, Oman. This is where we spend our days looking out at the port and enjoying the pool.

Frankincense market in Salalah, Oman with two of the Blue Water Rally sailors and the sales person.

Khat, the Somalia narcotic that was littered all over the captured cargo ship. The pirates are high all the time on this stuff while holding a gun to your head 24/7.

The chief officer from Bangladesh who was held captive aboard the cargo ship by pirates for 7 months. We were allowed onboard the ship when it docked in Salalah, Oman.

A just released cargo ship that the pirates kept for 7 months. It is arriving in Salalah, Oman, next to us.

Cruise ship that stopped in the port at Salalah, Oman. Notice the razor wire around the back of it to deter pirates!

S/Y Aspen – April 18, 2011 – Log #71
Position: 16 degrees 56’ N 054 degrees 00’ E (UTC +4 Hours)
Salalah, Oman

Oman said we had to leave the country! Well, not because we did anything wrong but just because our tourist visa expired and we were only able to renew it for a total of 2 months. So we had to leave the country, stay someplace else and then return to get a new visa.

We contacted our friendly US Ambassador and he said we would have to leave as well. Even the British, who once owned Oman, had no luck getting an extension.

Dubai, UAE is the closest place for us to go so we flew there. It is possible to drive from Salalah for something like 1,000 miles across the desert but it is not recommended because of sand storms, stray camels, high speed trucks and the chances of breakdowns with absolutely nothing for miles and miles across featureless desert.

Dubai - what a contrast to Oman! Dubai is the financial capital of the country UAE (United Arab Emirates). Dubai is a city within the UAE where sheikhs hold all the power. The sheikhs are descendants from the tribes who once roamed this region. They settled in what is now known as Dubai in the 1800's when they came from Abu Dhabi, the largest city in the UAE. The British claimed the states of what is now called the UAE as part of their world-wide empire not so long ago. However, the Brits left Dubai in 1971, not realizing what riches lay under the ground - OIL. The rest is history as Dubai flourished with staggering oil revenues.

There was actually things to do in Dubai like see the most modern skyline in the world and visit world-class hotels, shopping and restaurants. This is where movie stars, rock stars and the billionaires come to invest their money amongst the wealthiest nation on earth. Even the Saudi's come here for R&R, spending their oil money on investments in buildings.

Dubai has the largest mall, the tallest building, the only 7* hotel in the world, the largest and most man-made offshore islands and more modern buildings per square foot than anywhere in the world. Anywhere. Wow, we were impressed as you can see by the pictures on the blog.

It is in Dubai where oil revenues made a country and now foreign investment and tourism is sustaining the country. Today in Dubai there are $305 Billion in construction projects being built. Only 17% of the population of Dubai are natives. The rest are foreign workers! Imagine that, 83% of Dubai isn't even from here, they just work here and send money home. The workers are mainly from India, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Thailand, Pakistan, Russia and even some x-pat US and British. It is quite a melting pot where cultures meet, work, play and there is no crime. What a concept!

We will leave Dubai on Wednesday and fly back to Salalah, Oman (with our new visa) where we will wait for our transport ship to arrive. It looks like Aspen will be shipped out sometime during the first part of May for the voyage to Turkey. The date is still a moving target with ships being coordinated from all over the globe to provide equipment, manpower and the necessary big ship to bring Aspen safely onboard and on her way out of here, along with us too.

We will keep you posted!

Sail on, sail on and sail safe Aspen…