Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cochin, India

The passage from Sri Lanka to India

This is a Tuk Tuk. 125 cc engine with 3 wheels.

Ferry/fishing boat

Ferry terminal; 8 cents for a ride!

Fishing village in the harbor

Aspen in the marina

Customs in India with some very old papers!

Sailors filling out form after form at customs and immigration

Chinese fishing nets - Cochin, India harbor

Where the convent/orphanage is located

Maria at the convent/orphanage with sister Emily

Talking on the cell phone at the convent/orphanage

Cochin town

S/Y Aspen – February 1, 2011 – Log #63
Position: 09 degrees 58’ N 076 degrees 15’ E (UTC +5.5 Hours)

Ok, you are probably tired of hearing this but we had another horrendous passage. This time it was from Sri Lanka to India. Aspen was surfing along at over 8 knots with 40 knots of wind pushing her toward the subcontinent. Wow, we were flying for 2 days until we got into shelter behind India. Other Rally boats lost sails overboard, torn sails, rigging failures and huge water into the boats.

Arriving in India we were able to gather together at the only marina in India! It is at the Bolgatty Palace, built in the 1700's by the Dutch and later used by the British when they owned India. Today it is a hotel adjacent to the city of Kochi on the southwest coast of India. The local tour boats cruise by the marina and we are constantly waving as the locals snap our pictures.

The Indian curry food here is really good! Just don't drink the water!! A couple of dollars buys you an entire meal that is really tasty.

Captain Steve runs through the streets early in the morning to avoid the masses of people, buses and took tuk tuks that ply the town. People greet him with strange looks, probably because they are not used to seeing a white guy running for pleasure he believes. Even the many dogs seem startled as he runs by.

Maria had a massage at the Palace. She said it was interesting because she was lying on a huge, solid, highly polished mahogany table as they poured oil over her. The oil made the table very slippery and she felt like a billiard ball being pushed all around the wooden table as she was massaged. That is an Indian oil massage!

The grocery shopping is very limited here with virtually no western things to buy. There are fruits and vegetables of course but not much else. Coca Cola is not available, just Pepsi, because it seems that Coca Cola was rumored to give some people headaches so they banned the drink!

Of course we had an adventure in Kochi town. Since 1952 Maria's mother has been helping a nun in India by sending clothes and some money to help her with a small convent/orphanage. We learned that the convent/orphanage was located in a town called Kochi - the same place we are! Well, we spent several hours riding around the dusty dirty streets of this old town in tuk tuks, spending upwards of 75 cents doing so (transportation is very cheap!). Finally we stumbled upon the convent/orphanage. Talking our way inside Maria sat beside a nun but not the nun that her mother had been helping for all these years. That nun was out of town!! The sister called the wayward nun and Maria talked with her on the cell phone. Oh well, at least we found the convent/orphanage!

The sails we have ahead of us will be a challenge. The Somalian pirates have expanded their target area eastward, nearly to India now. Yesterday the Indian Navy sunk one of the pirate mother ships. They are saying to the pirates that they will not survive if they come this way. We just hope the US warships will take the same attitude when defending us as we depart India! Then there is Egypt with the revolution there. Transiting the Suez Canal in Egyptian waters will be another interesting adventure. So stay tuned.

Sail on sail on Aspen…

Friday, January 21, 2011

Sri Lanka

Formal dinner at the famous Hill Club on Sri Lanka

Some of the Rally group at the top of Lion Rock, Sri Lanka

Tea covered hillsides

Majestic views on Sri Lanka

Close encounter with the elephants!

What is that behind you Maria?

More of the elephant herd with a 2 week old baby elephant

Elephants bathing and getting a cool dip in the river

Watch out for the elephant crossing the road.

Tea plantation on Sri Lanka

Even the Monks like the view from the top of Lion Rock

Maria getting a massage at the spice plantation. Hugo is making sure it is done correctly!

Monkeys are everywhere!

Maria and Steve from the top of Lion Rock. It was quite a climb!

A big Buddha!

Another big Buddha

More Buddhas everywhere!

Another Rally birthday party! Happy birthday Pete on Fai Tira.

Cycling in Sri Lanka - not for the faint hearted!

Native dancer

Fire walking - hot hot hot!

They really like their fire in Sri Lanka!

Dancers in Kandy, Sri Lanka

Welcome to Sri Lanka! This is on a geophysical company work boat - they must have known captain Steve was coming!

Rescue Tape (red) to the rescue!!!

The captain working to fix the leak

Pounding our way across the Indian Ocean in 30 knots of wind. The horizon is not straight because Aspen is heeling a lot!

Sailing in Thailand

Incredible Thailand sailing vistas

S/Y Aspen – January 21, 2011 – Log #62
Position: 06 degrees 00’ N 080 degrees 13’ E (UTC +5.5 Hours)

It was a really rough passage from Phuket to Sri Lanka. Actually a tropical depression developed on our route as we sailed westward. We only had 35 knot winds which were really bad but the yachts behind us got even worse weather, right on the bow of course!

It took the boats that were behind us 5 extra days to make port due to the nasty conditions. The Indian Ocean is a difficult body of water to sail in!

For us the winds were nasty and the fishing boats were in groups of 50 or more, right in front of us at night, 2 days away from Sri Lanka. It was at this time that we began taking on water. The bilge pump was cycling on and off so it was time to investigate. Captain Steve searched everywhere for the leak and finally opened the engine compartment to see a geyser like Old Faithful erupting from the back of our trusty diesel engine. It was a miracle that the engine had not already stopped.

Working feverishly the illustrious captain uttered several choice words as he was trying to stem the water flow. Luckily he used Rescue Tape that actually lived up to it's name! The water slowed to a trickle and Aspen continued on her way to Sri Lanka.

Arriving in Sri Lanka were were relieved to say the least. The Navy boarded our boat in the harbor before letting us enter the inner harbor where we were berthed against the concrete wharf. Waves of officials inspected Aspen and departed with liquor and t-shirts that they decided they needed as a remembrance!

The engine repairs on Aspen were not going well because there are really no skilled people to work on sailboats. We decided to unwind and take a tour through the countryside to see the real Sri Lanka.

We enjoyed the sights of tea plantations, spice gardens, elephants in the open fields and wading through the river, monkeys crossing the roads everywhere, and the crowded towns along the way.

Then it was back to the boat and the continuing repairs. Captain Steve was becoming more and more frustrated trying to dislodge a critical bolt and literally spent days struggling with it. Once again it was the Rally to the rescue as two of the other captains succeeded in getting the stuck bolt off! Oh happy days, we can really leave Sri Lanka and sail to India!!! We thought we might have to take up residency in Sri Lanka.

Sail on sail on Aspen…

India Ocean and Bay of Bengal?

SY Aspen and crew coming into Tipperary Waters Marina, Darwin, Australia

S/Y Aspen – January 6, 2011 – Log #61
Position: 07 degrees 08’ N 089 degrees 39’ E (UTC +7.0 Hours)

So where are the Indians, the Sioux, Arapahoe, Shoshone? I see no buffalo, no tepees. I don't hear the echo of drums in the distance. Bay of Bengal? Ha! So where are these tigers?

All around us is only water. The occasional dolphin and passage of a violent squall with threatening bolts of lightning interrupt the solitude that engulfs us as we sail further westward.

When we are sailing across the oceans of the world we have had time to reflect on a lot of things, as long as we are not repairing some part that has broken on Aspen of course! This passage across part of the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal is no different.

The storms we have had for the past three nights has set off a spark and allowed me to reflect about the passage of our lives so far away from home.

One of my perceptions of Maria is that of a nurse, continually helping others so that they might live a healthy life. To me that is pretty amazing. As I sit here looking at the rope burn on my hand, the torn skin on my other hand from the winch and the bruises on Maria from being thrown around the boat I wonder if we both could use a little tender loving care? Ah but we will heal with time.

I think back to the Leadville Trail 100 mile race. That race has defined my life for 28 years and last year I was at sea, missing it. Yet even now I can recall the distant sound from a solitary Indian drum greeting me a short distance down the trail every year in the pre-morning darkness at that race. I also jubilantly appreciated that same drumbeat as I approached the finish line of that exhausting race so many times in the darkness. For an individual to remain hidden in the forest, sitting in solitude, with only a drumbeat to communicate their appreciation of my accomplishment is very noble and very much appreciated as I now have time to reflect on that event out here on the sea.

We should make landfall in the country of Sri Lanka in about 5 days and two weeks after that, Cochin, India. Once we leave India some strange things are going to happen. Our blog will still go out but there will be no position data given. The reason for the secrecy is probably apparent to most of you - pirates. Not the Arrrrrrh pirates of the Caribbean but the all too real nasty pirates from Africa and the Middle East.

Our goal is to get Aspen to the country of Djibouti and past the pirate areas safely. Hmmm, what wild tales await us!

The photo is Aspen coming into Tipperary Waters marina in Darwin, Australia. It was taken by Sheila on Miss Tippy, a Rally boat.

Sail on sail on Aspen…

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year 2011 to everyone!

New Year's Eve dinner at Patong Beach, Thailand with Blue Water Rally sailors. We are on the right in the background.

Just a few of the fireworks as seen at anchor in Patong Beach, Thailand

S/Y Aspen – January 1, 2011 – Log #60
Position: 08 degrees 10’ N 098 degrees 20’ E (UTC +7.0 Hours)

The fireworks show on Patong Beach was similar to Armageddon. The beach, town and adjoining road stretch for about 5 miles around a horseshoe shaped bay that is lined with shops, restaurants and many many many bars. As the stroke of midnight came closer the town and beach erupted in flames, explosions and a night sky that lit up like a new dawn. This was a massive display that surpassed anything we have ever seen on New Year's Eve!

The viewing of the spectacular event was safest from the deck of our friends sailboat! On land the sky rockets are not only fired into the air but some are fired horizontally through the streets, among the thousands who are wandering around watching the fun. Firecrackers are strung from every available tree, waiting to be lit at the strike of midnight. Miniature hot air balloons are also sent skyward, powered by a flame that heats a small bag and lifting the little orange flame high into the night sky above our anchorage. There must have been a thousand little flames over our heads as the bags drifted with the trade winds.

At the stroke of midnight the roar and shock waves of the exploding fireworks was deafening from our great viewing point, rocking in the waves. The music pulsated through the air creating a scene with the shooting colors that seemed surreal to say the least.

2 AM rolled around and the displays continued unabated. It was time to try and sleep for us so we just rocked with the celebrations safely out in the bay.

Tomorrow we are leaving for Sri Lanka, a 9 day sail away to the country/island off the south coast of India.

Sail on sail on Aspen…

Steve and Maria