Monday, February 23, 2015

Sexy Bones, Rainbows, Mountains and Boat Boys

Stunning Dominica and the Cabrits ahead of Aspen's bow, sailing in from Iles Des Saints.

A view of Portsmouth, Prince Rupert Bay, Dominica with Aspen anchored far below.

One of the tall ships that love to visit during our time here.

 Aspen is in the center of the picture, along with just a few fellow sailors.

A hermit crab using a nice hole in the rock to hide and rest.

A trail high in the Cabrits, the fort area on Dominica.  Notice the abandoned relics at the end of the trail too.

Maria enjoying the peace and solitude of the trails.

The restored fort area has places to rest and relax too.

Cannons litter the jungle around the fort.

An obstacle in the middle of the trail.  You never know what you will find!

Just a few spikes on a tree that you don't want to land on.

Brianna having lunch in Kalingo territory.  She is dressed so colorful!

 The cave high on the ridge with a secret passage leading to the sea in Kalinago Territory.  Yes, it is from my book.

S/Y Aspen – February 23, 2015 – Log #128
Aspen Position: 15 degrees 34’ N  061 degrees 27’ W
Dominica, Caribbean

Dominica, where nature rules your life.  Wave after wave of warm tropical rain showers blanket the landscape creating an island paradise so enchanting and welcoming that Maria and I pinch ourselves to make sure it is real.  The rain lasts only 10 minutes before the sun blazes through the clouds creating rainbows against lush green mountains in front of Aspen's bow.

Then there are the boat boys called PAYS.  These island ambassadors have organized on Dominica and created an environment that is welcoming to sailors as they meet every passing sailboat far out at sea and entice you to stop and visit their island. 

Some sailors remember days gone by when it wasn't safe to stop at the harbor in Portsmouth, Dominica.  Yet today, things are much different.  PAYS provides security in the harbor, arranged for trips up the famous Indian River and around the island and generally take care of every sailor.  Then, once a week on Sunday night, there is the BBQ.

The BBQ brings anchored sailors together for an evening of fun, food, music and strong rum, creating an atmosphere of community for both sailors and the people of Dominica.  It just doesn't get much better than this on any of the Caribbean islands.

Maria and I hiked and explored the Cabrits and the restored fort with many ruins still hiding in the surrounding forest.  The trails on Dominica range from those in the Cabrits to the island-long trail called the Waitukabuli Trail, the longest trail in the Caribbean.

Then there was Sexy Bones, the shaman I talk about in my book, Voyage Into Hell.  It was fantastic seeing him again.  And this time I was able to give him something, a copy of my book.  Sexy Bones was surprised I had written about him.  He was so pleased that he would not stop giving us gifts in his appreciation when Maria and I stopped at his humble house, high in the mountains in Kalinago Territory. 

Maria and I also met with Lennox Honychurch, the archaeologist who restored the Cabrits fort.  He told us Sexy Bones constructed a Kalinago hut inside the museum at Roseau, the capital of Dominica.  It seems that Sexy Bones is very well respected for his Kalinago heritage.

Nearly two weeks after we arrived in enchanting Dominica it is once again time to sail away.  The winds are forever pushing us onward and we hope they are gentle as Martinique glistens on the southern horizon.

Sail on, sail on Aspen…

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Running with Goats

Running with goats in Iles des Saints, Guadeloupe, Caribbean

From the top of a hike in Iles des Saints, Guadeloupe, Caribbean.

Sailing out of Deshaies, Guadeloupe on Aspen

Cat Tales, a catamaran, sailing with us early in the morning before the Trade Winds kick in.

The spectacular harbor at Iles des Saints.  Aspen is toward the left of the picture in the center.

Carnival in Iles des Saints, Guadeloupe.  It was small but very enthusiastic!

Just a lunch stop along one of the beaches on Iles des Saints.

Maria waiting for us at the top of the climb and she is barely out of breath!

A dinghy dock on an adjacent island in Iles des Saints.  The hike here was fun too!

This is Aspen in the center of the picture, on a mooring ball (very civilized) in Iles des Saints.

The Cat Tales crew (Laurie & Dawn) and Maria enjoying a beach in the Saints.

A view from the Saints hike with Guadeloupe in the distance.

The natural setting is stunning around every corner.

Enjoying the shade above an old military battery in the Saints.

S/Y Aspen – February 12, 2015 – Log #127
Aspen Position: 15 degrees 52’ N  061 degrees 35’ W
Iles des Saints, Guadeloupe, Caribbean

Iles des Saints is a magical place.  French?  Oui.  French food?  Oui.  French Language?  Oui, but Captain Steve is fluent in English so no one can really understand his few words of French except for Euro and chocolate.  Maria is happy when he returns from his run with a still warm baguette for breakfast of course!

Speaking of running, eventually there had to be a story about this in our blog.  Well, on Isles de Saints and most places on Guadeloupe Steve's morning runs are nothing short of brutal.  Everything here is straight UP.  Running up Hope Pass in Leadville is extreme but these roads and trails will challenge any runner.

And that is just on the roads.  Running on trails is fantastic but with the same up, up and more up.  Only goats can climb these things and a few crazy runners.  Goats seem to have the right of way and it doesn't really matter since they bolt our of the way at lighting speed.  Steve climbs the intense inclines so slowly the nimble goats just brush him aside in their quest for a daily meal.

The French trails are well done and easy to follow, even if they cross deep streams, wind through dark forests or climb straight up a mountain.  At least the paths are well marked so no one gets lost, usually.

Maria enjoys the hikes that we take because she gets a good workout.  You've heard the expression, life is about the journey?  Well for Maria the DESTINATION is the goal.  One hike in particular went up a walking path so long and steep that even the goats needed to stop and rest.  They didn't understand that once Maria gets going there is no stopping along the way.  Through the waterfall of sweat cascading into my eyes I could barely see her ahead in the distance, grinding away forever upward and waiting on the top for those who decided to take pictures or admire the rocks near the route.  I guess her workout classes in Colorado really helped her!

We have been spending our time like most sailors down in these little latitudes.  Lunches onshore, snorkeling the nearby reefs, rocks, and sunken wrecks, French pizza for dinner and happy hours on friend's boats.  Doesn't this just make winter pass so nicely?!?  The only skiing down here is in liquid water, not frozen white stuff that seems so plentiful back in the USA.

Now it is time to sail to Dominica, land of lush tropical forest, rain and of course, home to Sexy Bones the shaman.

Sail on, sail on Aspen…

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Different Island, Different Cultures

Montserrat, the most active volcano in the Caribbean.  As seen from the sea of course!

The volcano is just spectacular!

French dinghy dock in Deshaise, Guadeloupe.  Well, it is mostly finished.

The palm tree kind of makes this place unique?

Redonda Rock.  This is on the way to Guadeloupe and these rocks are not shown on my navigation charts!  Besides, the Rock was over 1/2 mile mis-located.  Never trust your instruments!!!

Parrots on Guadeloupe.

The botanical garden on Guadeloupe (and some red flowers).

Maria beneath the banyan tree!

Sailing next to Redonda Rock.  Don't get too close!

The volcano on Montserrat with the active vents.

Grand Anse beach on Guadeloupe. 

Steve Job's yacht waiting to greet us in Sint Maarten.  The top deck resembles and iPhone while the next lower deck is shaped like the iPad.

Visiting our friends villa on Sint Maarten (Don and Donna).  That is Donna and Maria in the picture and not Don.

 This is something you never want to see.  The little dinghy is towing a mooring ball (something that you attach your boat to so that it stays in place).  The mooring ball decided to float away, along with the boat that was tied to it.  Luckily the captain saw the problem, found a new mooring ball and towed this one to shore and out of the harbor.  Geeze, there is always something to worry about!

S/Y Aspen – February 3, 2015 – Log #126
Aspen Position: 16 degrees 18’ N  061 degrees 47’ W
Guadeloupe, Caribbean

We sailed from Sint Maarten/St. Martin and briefly stopped at the small island of Nevis for a quick rest before continuing at sunrise to Guadeloupe.

The French islands are always fun to visit because Customs/Immigration consists of filling out a form on a special computer and the person behind the counter stamps it.  No questions, no long waits and the French really don't care where you have been or where you are going.  If only it were that easy everywhere.

Of course we missed the Superbowl because the French don't televise it or really care about American football.   But since the Broncos didn't play we weren't really disappointed and spent the day at the beach.  Awww, that is a shame since it was snowing hard in Colorado!

There is so much to do around here.  Today we hiked about a mile straight uphill (in the heat) to visit the botanical gardens.  Wow, the trees, flowers, wildlife and plants were amazing.  The collection is from all over the world and is probably the best in the Caribbean.  Most of it is lost on Captain Steve because he only knows frangipani trees (well maybe those).

Now we are further south and it is getting even hotter everyday with lots of rain in these lush surroundings.  Guadeloupe has all the French restaurants, wine, rum and beautiful flowers that are found on the larger islands down here.  This will keep us busy for a little while until we move further south.

Sail on, sail on Aspen…