Saturday, March 24, 2012

She Still Floats!

Aspen is in the water, floating and getting ready for more adventures.

Marmaris Bay - where Aspen and her crew are now.

There she goes!

Moving Aspen to the water is always exciting!

Captain Steve polishing the hull. Yes we could hire people to do this but that takes away from the fun?

Aspen is sandwiched between 2 mega-yachts at the Marmaris Yacht Marina

The date of our launch is written on the rudder (23/3/2012). The rudder needs some scraping too!

The admiral making sure that the workers are careful with Aspen. Yes, we will be using the little red lift and not the monster blue lift!

Our rental car uses Euro Diesel. That is the cheapest fuel and it only costs about $8.10 per gallon!

The hot springs and baths used by Lycians at Sultaniye.

The Aegean Sea along the coast south of Marmaris

"But officer I don't speak Turkish". We have been stopped 3 times so far so that our papers can be checked. Showing them a Colorado driver's license always amazes them!

The theater of Xanthos, the capital and grandest city of ancient Lycia

Columns and decorations lie everywhere.

The necropolis at Xanthos with the Lycian tombs scattered about.

Hiking among the ancients at Xanthos

Patara - another historical Lycian ruins that was the birthplace of St. Nicholas (of Santa Claus fame).

Log #82
We launched Aspen into the clear cool waters of the Aegean Sea and she floated! That is always a good way to start out on a new journey after being on land for 9 long months.

Right now there are over 2,000 boats waiting to go into the water at Marmaris Yacht Marina. Then there are another 1,000 boats in the water here. Amazing! We are at the leading edge of an incredible rush to the sea for the summer sailing season. There were only 4 sailboats launched the day we went into the water. That number will increase to a flood of boats beginning in about 2 weeks.

Now the work of cleaning the Omani dirt and dust off Aspen begins in earnest for us. We replaced 4 batteries that went dead for some strange reason. We just bought them in Australia and they were supposed to last about 7 years. We guess that is Australian time because they only lasted 1.5 years in American time! Hauling 70 pound batteries up a rickety ladder in the Marina and descending the same ladder with the old 70 pound batteries was quite a workout.

Then it was time to take the sails in for repairs. Our Jib sail desperately needed fixing and because it is so big and heavy, Captain Steve thought it would be easiest to lower it on a line down to the ground while Aspen was still on dry land. Admiral Maria was in charge of the line onboard Aspen as the brilliant captain stood on the ground underneath the sail that was dangling 20 feet over his head. Looking up, Captain Steve suddenly thought it wise to quickly take 10 steps backward and to his amazement the monster sail came rocketing to the ground with Maria holding the remaining line in her hand and looking down in suprise. Now that was exciting!

It is really good to be back onboard Aspen with even more adventures waiting on the horizon.

Sail on, sail on and sail safe Aspen…

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Driving Turkey

Crossing from Europe to Asia at the Dardanelles

Next stop was the ancient ruins at Troy and the Trojan Horse of course

Our hotel in Bergama was having construction problems. We had to find another one!

The Church of the Devil (Red Basilica) in Bergama

Captain Steve looking for the legend at the Red Basilica (Church of the Devil). It seemed like such a quiet neighborhood...

Just a typical road sign on a major road. We somehow managed not to go into the water here.

So this is Ephesus!!!

Ephesus in the early morning - Truly amazing!

Typical harbor street in Ephesus. The water is now about 3 miles away!

The Ephesus ruins are really well preserved

My new haircut at Ephesus. I wanted to look like the ancient warrior carved into the column.

1,200 year old mosaic at the Terrace Houses in Ephesus

Ephesus temple with Maria admiring the stone work

The throngs of tour groups at Ephesus arrive later in the morning

Posing at the Ephesus library

The huge theater at Ephesus. It had seating for 25,000 people not including the gladiators, lions and other nasty creatures.

The famous latrines (bathroom) at Ephesus

Ephesus brothel rooms with the doorways just the right height for Maria.

The Virgin Mary's house that is heavily guarded by Turkish soldiers

Statue of the Virgin Mary high above Ephesus

Tomb of the Apostle John

Having a feast after walking for hours around Ephesus!

Crossing the river and going to the Tombs and ancient Kaunous

The ancient Lycian Tombs carved into the granite walls at Dalyan

The view of the Tombs from our hotel

Ancient temple at 3,000 year old Kaunous

Closeup of the ancient cult temple with Maria at the center of this magical place

Climbing high above Kaunous

More Lycian tombs high above Fethiye

Captain Steve climbing into one of the tombs

The spectacular view that the ghosts from the past had from their tombs high above Fethiye

This is my 'office' in Fethiye. I re-configure the internet connections at the hotel and things work just fine!

We did it - we managed to navigate our rental car out of Istanbul! Whew, that only took about 2.5 hours. We had these nice directions from the internet printed out with distances and street names but it seems that the Turks don't like to mark the streets or highways very well. We kept getting in the wrong lane and traveling across the Bosphorus from one Bridge to another, seeing Europe then Asia then Europe then back to Asia and finally back to Europe again.

Thinking quickly, Captain Steve pulled out his iPhone and touched the Locate feature. Instantly we saw our position on Google Maps as a nice blinking blue dot! Then Admiral Maria typed in our destination and a bold solid blue line appeared routing us to the place we wanted to go.

The next hour or so we just tried to keep the blue dot on the blue line without much success but still making progress. Finally we got out of town and onto the correct highway (going illegally through a couple of automatic toll booths along the way - nobody told us about getting a toll card before getting on the highway).

We then traveled through the WWI battle fields alongside the Dardanelles where the Allied Forces of England, New Zealand and France fought and lost to the Turkish Forces. There are remnants scattered everywhere from the fighting in the fields and on the sea. Monuments mark so many places that echo in our history books detailing those who fought and died on land and on the water.

We took a car ferry over to Asia, crossing the infamous Dardanelles. The ride lasted a total of about 10 minutes and we were in a small town called Canakkale where we went aboard a mine-sweeper from WWI before spending the night.

Now that we were in Asia we started driving further south and away from the rain, snow and cold of Istanbul. Troy, where the trojan horse was used, was a fantastic stop along the way. The ruins here are incredibly old and date from 3,000 BC. We climbed a replica Trojan horse, walked among the ancient ruins and gazed out at the plains of the Troy battlefield, never once seeing Brad Pitt.

At our next stop, Bergama, we walked inside the Church of the Devil (the Red Basilica), one of the 7 churches of the Apocalypse. History was at our feet as we wondered how these ancient stories emerged and endured throughout time. Ghosts from a time so ancient literally lay upon the walls of this monumental ruined temple.

We continued on to Ephesus, the ancient city that seems to be on everyone's bucket list of places to see. We arrived at 8:20 AM and were the only ones walking through this once thriving metropolis of 250,000 people. The preservation of the temples, city and monuments is one of the wonders that we can see today. But the tour buses arrived within the hour, giving a sense to what a throbbing city this must have been with the modern day throngs making their way along the marble streets, sitting in the immense outdoor theaters, library and wandering through the old latrine and brothel area. The city was once next to a harbor but today the Aegean Sea is now almost 3 miles away. So much for global warming and rising sea level!

In the pine forest high above Ephesus is where the Virgin Mary lived during the remainder of her life. Her house is considered sacred, having been visited by no less than 3 Catholic Popes. The Turkish military keeps an incredibly heavy guard around the house day and night. We managed to visit the very small house alone without any tour groups around. That is a true miracle in itself!

Ephesus and the surrounding area seemed very biblical to us. We stood at the tombs of the apostles St. John (the divine) and St. Luke, walked in the footsteps of St. Paul at Ephesus and finally stood inside the house of the Virgin Mary. These were very mystical places for us to visit.

Still going south we visited yet another ancient city called Kaunos that was built by the Lycian people around 3,000 BC. This is also the location of the famous rock tombs that were carved into the granite walls that overlook the Dalyan River and our hotel for the night.

The port city of Fethiye is where we are now. The skies have opened up with the March rains and it might be 60 degrees outside. We are looking out over 12 Islands Bay adjacent to the Aegean Sea while Maria enjoys grazing her way through breakfast. Breakfast for her consists of fresh arugula, cilantro, salads, black olives, green olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, cheeses, yogurt, nuts, fruit, figs, several types of bread, fresh squeezed orange juice, tea and even a hard boiled egg. Captain Steve has a little cheese, some bread and a couple pieces of strange lunch meat since he doesn't like to graze.

Sail on, sail on and sail safe Aspen…

Monday, March 5, 2012


Captain Steve and Admiral Maria exploring Istanbul

If only I were a king or a prince or a sultan or a sailing ship captain?

Serpentine columns are used in the splendid Aya Sofya

The inside of the Aya Sofya

The massive Aya Sofya built in 537 AD. Once it was the greatest church in Christendom until the conquest of 1453 when it was turned into a Mosque.

Our breakfast view from the Tan Hotel in Istanbul

Turkish Bath House where he had separate baths and massages

The Grand Bazaar

Roman aqueduct in the center of old Istanbul

The spice market

Can you guess why it is called the Blue Mosque?

We are visiting the cradle of history - Constantinople or Istanbul, whichever name you prefer. The name was officially changed in 1923 so most of us don't remember this change? It is still the place where the continents of Europe and Asia meet.

The city has monuments, artifacts, buildings and enough history to make our heads spin each time we leave our hotel. Where else can you see the actual Rod of Moses and the sword of the biblical David hanging on a wall in an ancient palace called Topkapi?

The Aya Sofya and the incredible Blue Mosque are magnificent sights to behold as well. But it is not all about splendor or old things here. Sure the Grand Bazaar is ancient but the shops inside are full of anything you could possibly want to buy: like Turkish rugs, handcrafted dishes, stained glass, swords, clothes, perfumes and even belly dancing outfits or sultan's turbans. Three hours after entering the Bazaar we emerged from the labyrinth with a backpack full of things we must have needed, according to the merchants inside. Luckily that are ATM's everywhere!

Then there are the rare times when Maria and Captain Steve have a difference of opinion of sites to see. For example, today Maria really enjoyed wandering through the Spice Market with barrels of spices, nuts and exotic foods from around this part of the world. Captain Steve preferred a simple thing like visiting the ancient Harem inside the Palace. Unfortunately the Harem was empty!

On the roof of our hotel we eat our daily breakfast, looking out over this ancient city and the Bosphorus Sea where tankers, ferry boats and huge cargo ships spew their wakes upon the shores of Istanbul.

Tomorrow our rental car is schedule to arrive and we will begin challenging the Turkish drivers on our slow journey southward. We just hope we can make it out of Istanbul's traffic maze without getting too lost!

Sail on, sail on and sail safe Aspen…