Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Day

The cannons are all quiet today...

A Sailor's Christmas

A Sailor’s Christmas

Sail on the horizon got a landfall rendezvous
The captain steers a well-known course he steers her straight and true
As he trims the sheets and sings the songs he learned on boats and bars
These sailors spend their Christmas in the harbor ‘neath the stars

They’ve traveled through the doldrums, shallow lagoons and hurricanes
They’ve logged several thousand soggy miles with water on their brains
But Christmas ‘tis the season better suited for dry land
They’ll tell some lies, meet some spies and dance barefoot in the sand

These sailors spend their Christmas in the harbor on the hook
Panama’s hot so no work today,
And let’s shelve the old logbook

The mast and shrouds are filled with lights
‘Neath the waning of the moon
There is an air of celebration within the realm of King Neptune

Christmas is a time that’s filled with music, rum and cheer
The waterfront is reveling - the season has begun
These sailors spend their Christmas in a harbor having fun!

The continents keep drifting but the children sing and play
‘Cause nothing really matters, after all it’s Christmas Day

(with apologies to Jimmy…)

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all our friends, wherever they may be!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Shelter Bay Marina

Maria with some of the Mola artwork

Hiking through Fort Sherman

Fort Sherman and the old housing area

Shelter Bay Marina docks

The view from Fort Sherman of the ships anchored outside of the harbor

The ships behind Steve are waiting to transit the Panama Canal

This is the breakwater that protects the harbor. The ships pass through the opening.

The entrance to Shelter Bay Marina s to the left of the big post. A reef is to the right!

Maria standing on the breakwater with the harbor behind her

Panama - Marina Life

S/V Aspen – December 15, 2009 – Log #22
Position: 9 degrees 22.1’ N 79 degrees 57.0’ W
(Cristobal/Colon, Panama)

It is the dry season, finally, in Panama. That means that the deluges that are called rain only occur less often than every day, as in November. The temperature hovers around 95 degrees with 98% humidity though. Remember, we are only 9 degrees or about 550 miles north of the equator.

Aspen is tied onto a nice floating dock here in Shelter Bay Marina, Panama. This is in the middle of the abandoned US Army base that used to be the vast expanse of Ft. Sherman. Now this area is a huge national park and the jungle has reclaimed most of the land around us.

The wildlife here is impressive: parrots, monkeys, snakes, el gato solo (some weird looking cat-like creature), leaf cutter ants, wild pigs, capybaras (very large rat-like things), birds, panthers, and even salt water crocodiles.

We walk throughout this area without worries because there are heavily armed Panama military guards that surround the perimeter of the old base. It seems that Panama doesn't want any more destruction of what is left here.

The old base is lost in a time-warp. The buildings are crumbling and abandoned while the jungle reclaims the land at will. After the US gave the Canal to Panama on December 31, 1999, the local governments fought over the land and since no one could win they just looted everything in sight.

So here we are, in the middle of the jungle, aboard Aspen, with strange creatures all around us, connected to the internet. Isn't this great?!?

Steve runs on the abandoned roads far and wide. One of the roads heads north and west to the river called Rio Chagres. This river was the richest in the world long before the canal was built. The Spanish explorers used the Rio Chagres to transport Inca gold and silver from the Pacific side to be loaded onto ships that waited on the Atlantic side, bound for Spain. Billions of dollars worth of gold flowed down this river. Even gold from the California Gold Rush came down this river headed for New York.

At the Caribbean entrance to the Rio Chagres stands a fort named Fort San Lorenzo or Castillo de San Lorenzo that dates back to 1592. It was built by the Spanish King Philip II only 100 years after Columbus arrived. The run up to this fort is spectacular!!! The old army road winds through the jungle with monkeys screaming from the tree-tops and unseen things making noises in the jungle all around. The fort sits atop a high bluff and guards the river entrance. It was at this spot that pirates like Sir Francis Drake and Sir Henry Morgan fought the Spanish for control of the riches flowing from Panama.

The run to the fort is nearly 7 miles one way but the rewards are without equal. Standing on the same spot that the conquistadors and pirates tread was humbling. Even today the mighty Rio Chagres is vital to Panama as it provides the Panama Canal with the necessary water to open and close the huge locks!

We are awed by the historical significance of Panama. The ghosts of The Camino Real, Portobello, Balboa, and even Bolivar are forever linked to this strategic country.

Maria keeps Aspen in great shape for the sailing adventures that lie ahead. Grocery shopping is always an adventure as you could imagine. There is a shuttle bus that departs twice a day from the marina that takes sailors to the nearest grocery store, about 30 minutes away. The store is well stocked and the prices are the best we have seen in the Caribbean. There are even lots of US brands to choose from. Knowing Spanish really helps when you are ordering meats from the meat counter! We found that our Spanish is pretty rusty but we are getting lots of practice using it again. The real adventure is getting the groceries back to the marina and aboard Aspen.

The road to and from the store passes next to and across the Panama Canal via a very small one lane bridge. This bridge is moved out of the way when ships are using the locks. Ships have priority so we can sit at this little bridge quite a while waiting to cross. At least we see the huge ships go by as we wait.

The bus that transports us is a small model that holds 25 people. Once you leave the grocery store to return to the marina, you have the same 25 people inside PLUS lots and lots of groceries. The bus also transports sailor's gas cans, propane cylinders and diesel jugs back to the marina. You can probably imagine what this bus looks like careening through the jungle on horrible roads loaded with gringos who are guarding their precious food and leaking fuel containers! The driver is oblivious to all the chaos going on behind him as he tries to avoid running over the snakes and animals that are trying to share the road with him. Every day is an adventure down here!

There are more pictures posted on the blog if you are interested.

Sail on sail on Aspen…

Steve and Maria

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Where we are and where we have been...

View S/V Aspen in a larger map

Shelter Bay Marina, Panama

The view from our dock at Shelter Bay Marina, Panama

There are lots of boats here in Panama (that is Maria walking the dock)

Aspen resting in her slip at Shelter Bay Marina, Panama

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cristobal/Colon, Panama

S/V Aspen – December 1, 2009 – Log #21
Position: 9 degrees 22.1’ N 79 degrees 57.0’ W
(Cristobal/Colon, Panama)

We sailed west from the San Blas Islands for 10 hours to an anchorage 62 miles away called Isla Linton. This is a fair anchorage with quite a few boats anchored around the bay. We anchored between the island and the mainland of Panama so this was our first time so close to the isthmus itself.

On the small island of Isla Linton there is an abandoned house with a place you can tie your dinghy up and go ashore to explore. It seems that there are many monkeys on the island and they like to visit with you when you dock your dinghy. However, they expect food and if you don’t have any food or you run out of food while feeding them they become aggressive and will attack you. These are some really nasty monkeys!

So with that in mind, we decided to stay on Aspen and get some sleep instead!

The following day we sailed to the Panama Canal Zone and the city of Cristobal/Colon. One mile from the massive Panama Canal breakwater we announced our intention to the authorities at Cristobal Control that we wished to enter into the man-made, continent-sized harbor.

Our conversation with Cristobal Control went something like this:
Aspen: Cristobal Control, Cristobal Control this is the sailing vessel Aspen, over?
Repeat this 6 times and finally someone answers…

Cristobal Control: Sailing vessel, please state your position and intention

Aspen: This is the sailing vessel Aspen, we are 1 mile from the massive breakwater with the enormous waves crashing over it and we intend to enter the channel.

Cristobal Control: Sailing vessel Aspen, you may proceed through the breakwater and enter the channel but be advised there is traffic in the area

Aspen: Thank you. I will follow the gigantic cargo ship, Chilean Reefer - who is directly ahead of me, through the breakwater as I am surfing down these huge waves

Cristobal Control: silence

Admiral Maria: Not silent – Captain Steve, why are we going behind that big ship?

Captain Steve: Because he is bigger than us and I am letting him go first

Admiral Maria: $*&%$#, do you have to get so close to the breakwater?

Captain Steve: Yes because I am trying to avoid the very big ships that are trying to run us over

Admiral Maria: %&^@*#$!, well can’t you go any faster???

Captain Steve: No

Following that experience we were safely behind the massive breakwater and once again in calm water, motoring through the hazardous anchorage area where they keep the really nasty ships that carry explosives, oil, gas and nuclear waste. Arrrrrrrh!

Shelter Bay Marina is our destination, on the far western side of the harbor and within the boundaries of the previous US Army Base called Fort Sherman. The Marina sits within a vast national park, now that Fort Sherman has been abandoned (by Jimmy Carter). But we will once again have WIFI and temporary shelter from the storms that sweep through this part of the Western Caribbean. Welcome to Panama!

Sail on sail on Aspen…

Steve and Maria

Sunday, November 29, 2009

San Blas Islands, Panama

King Crab for dinner

Where are we???

More langousta for dinner

Grocery shopping in the San Blas Islands

The view from Aspen's bow

Nice anchorage for Aspen

BBQ island

Langousta for dinner

The Kuna Indians visiting Aspen

Scenery in the San Blas Islands

Our own little island

Enjoying the beach

Aspen is the sailboat farthest away

Sailing to Panama

Maria resting after her watch

Sailing on the Caribbean Sea

It was a little lumpy and bumpy at times

The Leadville Trail 100 sail was working well

It was hot out!


S/V Aspen – November 29, 2009 – Log #20
Position: 9 degrees 35.3’ N 78 degrees 40.6’ W
(San Blas Islands, Panama)

We are finally rested from our non-stop, 1,200-mile sail from Trinidad to the wilds of Panama. Sailing in the middle of the Caribbean Sea was nice because we picked a very nice weather window. The following seas and winds made this notoriously rough passage easy for Aspen. There were still the midnight squalls and sail changes that always occur but they were manageable during the trip.

Along the way we made friends with hundreds of dolphins who played in our bow wave. The flying fish were everywhere, skimming across the tops of the waves on their daily adventures. We even had a bird visit us one afternoon. The small bird sat on our lifelines to catch it’s breath before moving south toward the horizon.

It was quite a challenge for Maria to cook during the passage. Aspen would rock and roll from side to side with the never-ending swells. Maria was juggling pots and pans on the stove and trying to keep the food inside of them, instead of on the floor where they wanted to be! She served up many delicacies, among them were macaroni and cheese, pasta, seared strip steaks and even a nice shrimp pasta dish.

Maria was on the 10 pm to 2 am watch and Steve took over at 2 am. Once the sun rose Maria handed out the hard boiled eggs that really tasted great! During the day we would both take naps but one of us would always be watching for ships. Sleeping below in the main salon was very similar to sleeping in the middle of an amusement park. There were noises coming from everywhere and they were not soft! Clanging, banging, crashing and shrieking sounds came from every possible location you could imagine. Maria tried to soften the sounds with expertly placed towels and cushions but it did little to suppress the deafening crescendo.

But sleep we did. No amount of noise kept us awake. Exhaustion tends to do that to a person.

We had other ships for company out on the sea as well. One fine day off the coast of Venezuela a super tanker decided to approach us on the same course we were headed towards him. Our AIS system displayed the amount of time we had until impact, about 8 minutes, as he hurtled toward us at 21 knots. Our trusty AIS system also gave his vessel length in nautical miles, instead of feet because he was so large. As he entered our 2-mile danger zone, alarms started going off to warn us of his approach – duh! He was quite a sight and right ahead of us coming fast. Captain Steve calmly called the super tanker on the VHF radio and asked him his intentions. After several calls the super tanker finally answered his radio and advised that we should pass port-to-port. Well, we wanted our port side to be way far away from his port side so we angled Aspen to the north to put more distance between us and his steel hull. We passed within about 200 yards of him and even then the distance seemed too close!

As we got closer to Panama the ship traffic increased. Most of the ships were heading toward the Panama Canal and the Pacific Ocean. We were going about 100 miles south of there to the enchanting San Blas Islands.

We needed good light to enter the small passes that lead through the reefs that guard the San Blas Islands. We timed it well and entered our pass at 8 am with the light behind us, allowing us to see the reefs on either side of the channel. We had just entered the Eastern Holandes Cays of the San Blas Islands after sailing a total elapsed time of 10 days and 3 hours. Another 25 minutes would bring us to an anchorage where we anchored in clear waters behind a small cay. To our east was a reef that protected us from the huge swells that sweep through the Caribbean. A welcome calm engulfed us as we slid our anchor over the side and Aspen seemed to smile too.

The San Blas Islands are comprised of 365 islands, about 36 of which are inhabited. We are in Kuna Yala territory and the locals are called Kuna Indians. The Kuna are part of Panama but are also fiercely independent from Panama. They govern their own islands and have their own language. The Kuna language is not Spanish but the schools now teach Spanish to the young children. Kuna Yala is still part of Panama with the Kuna islands stretching more than 232 miles in length along the northeastern coast of Panama.

The Kuna are friendly and gentle people who use dugout canoes as transportation about their territory. It didn’t take long before they spotted us and came for a visit. They paddled and sailed up, offering us lobsters, fish, Molas and bracelets to buy. The lobsters were sitting in the bottom of the small dugout canoe, thrashing about. We simply pointed and picked out two nice sized ones. That cost $10. The next day another dugout canoe appeared with a Kuna that we had met before. He sold us 5 lobsters for $6. The prices are getting better! Then the next day another Kuna came by with a large King Crab that we had requested. It was huge and cost $3. So we aren’t starving out here! The Molas are another story.

The Kuna society is matriarchal. Women are the breadwinners while the men fish and grow crops. Molas are the cash crop for the Kunas. A Mola is an embroidery work that is used as an appliqué` on women’s blouses. They are extremely colorful and the more intricate ones are collector’s items. A different dugout canoe had a woman sitting in the middle who is holding up Molas. Maria was on a shopping tour now and was delighted in seeing so many choices of things to buy! We ended up helping support the village this day.

The following day another Kuna approached Aspen. This time it was a master Mola maker named Venancia. Venancia had several 5-gallon containers containing his Mola art. After inviting him onboard, he began displaying his work in the cockpit of Aspen. His Molas are spectacular! Within minutes Aspen’s cockpit is awash in color with Molas hanging everywhere. Once again Maria goes shopping and helps support another Kuna village.

Yes, Venancia is a man. It seems that even in a matriarchal society some males take on more feminine characteristics and enter the Mola crafting profession.

There is a small cay at the head of our anchorage near Banedup Cay called BBQ Island by the gringos. That name is easier to say than the actual Kuna name. The small cay is filled with palm trees and surrounded by pure white sand beaches. A large reef protects the island from the deep Caribbean Sea. Turtles nest on the island and there is even a sailing couple that makes sure the island is litter free. Yes, Reggie and Debbie live on their sailboat anchored off the island as they have for the past 8 years, tending and nurturing this little island. They even have a lawn mower on their vessel that they use to trim the underbrush!

BBQ Island is exactly ? mile around. Captain Steve knows this because he runs around and around and around this little island every morning for his workout! Luckily the Kuna have not spotted him yet to offer their impression of the crazy gringo.

There are no grocery stores, no markets and no fueling stations in the San Blas. Everything comes here by local boat where they tie up to your vessel and offer you fruit, vegetables and fish for sale. We are running low on fuel and meat so we will head to Colon, Panama next to refuel and re-stock with these essentials before heading back to Kuna Yala for the holidays.

Sail on sail on Aspen…

Steve and Maria

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Land Ho!

Hi all. We made it to the San Blas Islands, Panama after 10 days, 3
hours and 25 minutes of non-stop sailing from Trinidad. It was great!
But we did run out of wind the last 2.5 days so we had to motor then. We
arrived with 14 gallons of fuel left! Luckily we still have jugs with 40
more gallons that we can use.

We are anchored in a place called the Swimming Pool in the Holandes
Cays. It is a calm and sheltered area between several small islands and
reefs. It is really calm and beautiful here. The islands are uninhabited
and the local fishermen came by yesterday selling lobsters ($5) and fish
and the women paddled by selling Molas. There are 10 other boats in the
anchorage and it is pretty deserted. Nice! The snorkeling is excellent.
I saw lots of fish and even a stingray yesterday when I dove on the
anchor. The other sailors here are also very friendly.

Maria is enjoying sitting still and not rocking and rolling when she is
cooking or taking a shower. What luxury!

Sail on Sail on Aspen...
Steve and Maria

Monday, November 2, 2009

Trinidad Breakfast

Chaguaramas, Trinidad, West Indies

Sailing Again!

S/V Aspen – November 3, 2009 – Log #19
Position: 10 degrees 41.0’ N 61 degrees 38.0’ W
(Chaguaramas, Trinidad)

It is time to go sailing! Hurricane season is winding down, the Christmas season in Trinidad is in full swing and the islands are calling us. Besides, my Trinidad interpretation project is on hold until the new data arrives at the beginning of the new year.

Aspen needs to feel the warm Caribbean Sea swirl around her hull and the tropical trade winds push her on a new journey.

Leaving the easy marina life is always a challenge but out onto the ocean we will go. Our next stop lies to the north at Grenada. Then we will point Aspen’s bow to the west and chase the setting sun.

Maria says, "I cannot store one more object on this boat. The lockers are full of food and Steve has lots of M&M’s stored onboard. The rain gear is ready and I have my belt next to the stove so that I can cook while we are sailing. We have been saying goodbye to all the other cruisers who are not ready to leave yet. Most of them are waiting for parts! We attended a party the other night with lots of Canadians and Brits. We tried to teach them to speak English. The Canadian woman, who wrote the book Embarrassment of Mangos, brought some interesting foods to sample. Several local Trini couples also attended and they too had food for us to taste. There was also some rum! We hope Aspen still floats with all this added weight and can get us there quickly and safely."

Oh yes, we received 2 out of 3 of our packages. What a surprise that was!

So for now,
Sail on sail on Aspen…

Steve and Maria

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Trinidad Style

Maria handing out treats to the ghosts and goblins on the dock in Trinidad.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Another HHH Run in Trinidad

The Hash House Harriers are known worldwide as a drinking club with a running problem. Steve likes the running problem part of the club! The runners, also known as hashers, meet every 2 weeks and run on trails throughout the countryside. The route is poorly marked prior to the start by the hares and it is a challenge to even find the start of the trail.

The jungle run on Saturday had about 150 people who took nearly 15 minutes of running to find the actual beginning of the route. Then things got much worse.

There was mud, rocks, trees with thorns that protruded half an inch that would impale many a stray hand, cliffs, bottomless holes in the trail and of course the ever present oppressive heat and humidity of Trinidad.

Wisely, Maria stayed at the start where the beer was.

Steve, unwisely, went running through the jungle with the harriers. Scrape, crawl, slip and slide through the jungle would be more accurate than constant running.

Here are some of Steve’s muddy thoughts about the run:
There was a local hand painted sign posted on one of the trails, “Beware, lots of snakes”. Steve saw the sign behind him after he had already come off this trail!

There was a cliff with a rope to hold on to as we plunged down into the depths of the jungle. The rope was 25 feet long and the cliff was 75 feet long – it was a long tumble and slide down from the short end of that rope.

At the end of the slip/slide down the cliff were huge trees to catch my wild fall. The screams ahead of me didn’t really warn me of the half-inch thorns that stuck out of the trees. At least the blood mixed well with the mud and sweat that soaked my body.

A well-placed log with several thin strips of nailed wood helped us cross a gorge where we could not see the bottom. The log creaked and bent but luckily did not break. The sticker bushes at the far end gave us a good handhold too.

All of this was within the first mile of the run!

After more than an hour, the runners struggled into the finish area looking for sustenance – beer of course! Well, there was also rum if you didn’t like beer. The fish stew didn’t really appeal to us so we didn’t eat any of that.

Afterwards, Steve and Maria talked with a virgin hasher about the run and he said, “Ah helped two of dem across de tree. We scatter in da mud, push through bush. Den we walk through some suspect mud. Da river water looked merky and dark stink. All dem hashers skipped, jumped and danced on da rocks to avoid de water. It looked like stuff flowing from pig pens. At one part, we see pork skin floating on da water.”

We think he was saying that the run was great fun!

Maria says she prefers the air-conditioned gym to a hash run.

ON ON!!!!!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Where is the Mailman?

Or better yet, where is our mail?

Steve needed a software update for his geophysical work. Aspen needed a cable that is not available in Trinidad for her navigation hardware.

Let’s use the computer, go online and arrange to have these things sent to Trinidad! No problem mon. Steve has his software sent from Houston and the hardware cable is sent from Connecticut. Then we receive the bad news…

The items have been shipped via USPS, 5-day delivery. What?!??? But they were supposed to be sent FedX! Emails sent to the companies verified that they shipped them the cheapest way to Trinidad. Calmly, Steve explains that there are no post offices in Trinidad. Well, at least none that really function.

Hmmmm, both companies say, but the USPS says there are post offices in Trinidad. Steve replies, yes there are post offices but they do not actually work. The USPS says they send packages all over the world but cannot actually track the packages once they leave US soil. Oh boy.

10 days later we are still wondering were our packages might be! We will keep you updated on our USPS mail saga!

Sail on sail on Aspen…

Steve and Maria

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Tropical clouds over the Northern Range in Trinidad

Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season

S/V Aspen Log #17
Position: 10 degrees 41.0N 61 degrees 38.0W
(Chaguaramas, Trinidad)

We are safely sitting below the normal hurricane area in the Caribbean. Most insurance companies require sailboats to be out of the hurricane area between June and November. So we sit way down here in Trinidad, watching the tropics on the satellites. So this year guess what? There is hardly a ripple on the ocean out there! We love climate change!

We still have our daily tropical deluges here on the boat. By noon you had better be where you want to be for the next couple of hours or be prepared to swim back to the boat! No one even notices when we get 7 or 8 inches of rain in a day here. The locals still go about their work as usual. No problem mon…

As long as the power stays on we are nice and comfortable on Aspen. But the power does go off, quite often. Then it is time to start the generator so Steve can continue to work and, most importantly for Maria, she can have her AC and TV! We both need the AC because without it we would surely die!

When Steve gives the weather forecast in the mornings the maximum temperature rarely varies. It will be 96 degrees with 90% humidity every day. Sweltering is a good word for this! This isn’t our typical dry heat of Colorado weather that’s for certain.

This past week the government decided that since the island revenues were down due to the global recession (natural gas exports are down) they needed 2 new holidays, both of them last week; one on Monday and the other on Thursday. So that pretty much shut the island down for 9 days. Then if you add the day before and the day after, it was a 11-day holiday week! You gotta love this attitude!?!

The sailors are starting to return to Trinidad after spending the summer back home. We are seeing more and more new faces every day and the boat yards are hoping additional boat work comes along with the new people.

We have to warn everyone about something. Steve is getting another haircut. He promises not to post any pictures this time.

Sail on sail on Aspen…
Steve and Maria

Monday, September 14, 2009

New Sail

Maria with the new staysail and Leadville logo

Steve adjusting the new staysail for Aspen

Crews Inn Marina Again

We launched Aspen at the boat yard and guess what, she floated!

We were very happy to get back on the water. It then took us nearly 10 days to get all the dirt, grime and bird droppings off of the boat. Now we have A/C, power and sometimes the WIFI works again.

We still have breakfasts of Doubles that are sold by the side of the road outside of the boat yard. A Double is made of two pieces of Indian flat bread, chic peas, curry and hot sauce. They cost 50 cents each. Eating the local food here can be very reasonable.

For lunches we sometimes have buss-up-shut. This is like a roti but it is all busted up on a plate. The chicken buss-up-shut is our favorite but you have to specify boneless chicken or you will get lots of bones. Chicken with bones is common here but the yachties prefer no bones. Of course it comes with hot sauce.

The hot sauce here is burning hot so just a dribble is enough to light your mouth on fire. We use it with everything. It probably kills everything it touches too.

In the grocery stores we can usually get brands imported from the US. They are all labeled FOR EXPORT ONLY. It seems that the items from cereal, chips, etc. are all rejects from the US. But they are fine for the rest of the world! There is definitely a difference is quality for these things. For instance, the chips are all mis-shapen, the M&M’s are lacking in taste, and the bacon can be a mixture of thick or thin – all within the same package. You just never know what to expect.

The local products do not have the same quality control measures as in the US. For example the canned green beans still can have sticks mixed in with them. Cans of coke are either from Trinidad or Barbados. Maria thinks that they taste much better than in the US. It must be the ingredient called Caribbean cola, according to the label.

The cruisers information network on the radio each morning has a new person on Mondays. She is Scottish and her brogue is very thick. She talks for about 30 minutes and afterwards we ask each other what in the world she said. It is pretty comical!

At least the weather is broadcast in American since I give it!

Sunday afternoons are special here. It is dominoes time! Quite a few sailors get together and play for about 3 hours. The winner gets the traditional award – nothing, of course. But it is a nice way to socialize and meet other sailors from around the world.

Sail on sail on Aspen…

Friday, September 4, 2009

This is our view from the boat yard where Aspen was hauled out. Notice the drilling rig in the distance.

Working on the bottom!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Workin’ in da Boat Yard Blues

S/V Aspen – September 1, 2009 – Log #15
Position: 10 degrees 41.0’ N 61 degrees 38.0’ W
(Chaguaramas, Trinidad)

It is hot hot hot AND humid in tropical Trinidad - so it must be hurricane season!

Aspen is out of the water and we are working on getting her bottom painted and fixing several other tings while we are in the boat yard.

The boat yard is a hot, dirty, smelly and generally a miserable place to be. We climb nearly two stories up a shaky ladder and enter inside Aspen where the temperature resembles a very very hot sauna. We work as fast as snails, it seems, and only last about 30 minutes before we race back down the ladder and into our air-conditioned room as we try to avoid heat stroke. We repeat this process as often as we can before the early evening darkness engulfs our tropical home. Arrrrrrrrrr…

We are scheduled to get Aspen back into the water on Wednesday so we are really looking forward to that! We just hope Aspen floats with all of the new equipment we purchased while we were back in Colorado. Thanks to all of the nice curb-side check-in people in both Denver and Miami, our 8 overweight bags flew free and actually arrived with us.

Besides keeping FedX and UPS busy when we were back home, we had a great time at the wedding of our son Zach to Heidi. We now have a new daughter-in-law and instant grandson. It is amazing how things change so quickly in life.

We are greatly outnumbered by British and Australian sailors here in Trinidad. Most are heading west, through the Panama Canal and into the South Pacific as soon as hurricane season allows them to leave. They have trouble understanding us (Americans) when we speak. The King’s (Queens?) English must not be the same as what we learned. There is a lot of nodding of heads with nothing being understood by anyone. Talking louder doesn’t seem to help either! Maria seems to be the only one that understands what is being said and helps us all out.

Come Wednesday, with a lot of hard work and luck, we will be back in the marina, floating, and where the WIFI works just a little bit better.

Sail on sail on Aspen…

Steve and Maria

Sunday, July 5, 2009

S/V Aspen – July 6, 2009 – Log #14
Position: 10 degrees 41.0’ N 61 degrees 38.0’ W
(Chaguaramas, Trinidad)

The Howler monkeys in the treetops shadowed my every move as I ran through the jungle just before dawn this morning. Hundreds of parrots darkened the sky shrieking their wakeup call. Even the giant ferns were gently swaying in the humid breeze sensing my footsteps. They all must know there is change in the air.

Aspen is being hauled out of the water tomorrow for a much needed rest. She will get new paint on her bottom while patiently awaiting our return. We are flying back home for Zach’s wedding, business and visits with family and friends.

Moving at a speed of 600 knots will be much different than bashing to windward at 6 knots!

Sail on sail on Aspen…

Steve and Maria

Saturday, July 4, 2009


(AP) Leadville, Colorado

Steve Siguaw, 18-time Leadville Trail 100 mile race finisher, announced today that he is retiring from this grueling high altitude trail race.

“They won’t be able to drag my lifeless body off the course this year”, said Steve who called race director Merilee O’Neal from Trinidad/Tobago via Skype.

The news spread fast.

Oprah announced on her TV show: “Oh my God, my producers and I can’t believe this is happening.”

Dr. Phil was overheard saying, “What in the world is he still doing running that race anyway at his age?”

John Elway, retired NFL Broncos quarterback offered Steve this advice, “don’t get sentimental.”

Newscaster Brian Williams proclaimed, “This is a sad day indeed for the world and the rest of us.”

Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin who just announced her own retirement as the governor of Alaska offered her observation, “I expect to see him running the trails from my window.”

Al Gore was heard to say, “This must have something to do with global warming or cooling or whatever is happening.”

Steve’s Mother exclaimed, “It’s about time!”

California governor Arnold Schwartzenegger declared, “He will be baaaaack.”

Race founder and 14 time Leadville Trail 100 mile race finisher Ken Chlouber offered, “The next time I fire the starting shotgun I’ll be thinking of Steve who needs some buckshot directed towards his butt to get him motivated.”

Maria, Steve’s ever faithful wife and crew chief said, “No more *$!?%# aid stations at 2 in the morning, hooray!!!

Steve ended his conversation with Merilee by saying,
“There are trails to run and oceans to cross - I’m not dead yet.”

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Chaguaramas, Trinidad

Hot hot hot! That is Trinidad in June. It isn’t so much the heat of 92 degrees every day but it is also the humidity that approaches 100% each day. That makes the heat index 100 degrees just before dawn and then it goes up during the day!

Steve is broadcasting the marine weather forecast in the mornings and he also is the net controller one day a week. The weather is important because this is hurricane season and we have to monitor where potential storms may form, just in case they threaten us.

The net controller position is like a radio disk jockey. The program is 30 minutes long and is broadcast to everyone within radio range first thing in the morning. Steve claims he has not talked so much in his life. Maria thinks he sounds like Walter Cronkite.

The gym is where Maria can be found every morning, working out to the sounds of the parrots flying overhead. After her workout, while Steve is hunched over his computer, Maria enjoys sitting by the pool before the temperature becomes too hot.

This also happens to be the rainy season. When it rains here we are talking about downpours! We have to keep an eye on our dinghy to make sure it doesn’t sink from all the water it accumulates from these tropical showers.

Injuries are common among the sailors here. Broken legs, arms, huge bruises and the usual cuts and scrapes are everywhere. It seems that the boats rolling at anchor and at the dock as well as the paths around the area take their tolls. Maria’s back is in bad shape after lifting the sails off the boat. Think of life on a boat as constant pilates because of the motion of the boat all the time. Arrrrr, isn’t this great!

Sail on sail on Aspen…
Steve and Maria
One of the boat yards where we will haul Aspen out for some work

Chaguaramas is a working harbor for the oil and gas industry

Aspen in her slip at Crews Inn Marina

Chaguaramas Harbor, Trinidad (Venezuela is in the background)

The jungle behind the boats is the Northern Range - created by the major El Pilar fault zone that runs through the harbor. This fault zone is the boundary between the Caribbean Plate (the jungle) and the South American Plate (the water).

Sunday, June 14, 2009

S/V Aspen – June 14, 2009 – Log #10
Position: 10 degrees 41.0’ N 61 degrees 38.0 W
(Chaguaramas, Trinidad)

Chaguaramas, Trinidad
Chaguaramas (pronounced “shag-ger-rahm-mus”) is the sailing capital of Trinidad and perhaps of the entire Eastern Caribbean. Here you can find the best boat yards, parts stores and labor force to repair or work on your vessel.

The name Chaguaramas comes from the Taino Indian word for palm. So we are still on the trail of the Taino! This is a large protected bay on the northwest coast of Trinidad with Venezuela about 9 miles away in the mist. The Spanish, as a hiding place for their ships, used this natural harbor during the discovery years after Columbus made landfall on Trinidad during his third voyage in 1498.

The US military also recognized the value of this harbor. In 1940 the US Navy needed a base to support their ships during WWII so they leased the Chaguaramas land from Britian (Trinidad was British at the time) in trade for 50 used destroyers and built a military base on these lands. What few people inhabited this area were relocated and this part of Trinidad became home to the US Navy.

Today, because of the isolation of this area by the US Navy, Chaguaramas and the surrounding lands are a spectacular national park. This area contains original old-growth jungle and forest, abundant wildlife, scenic trails and the overgrown ruins of the bunkers and buildings from the historic US Naval base.

The exploration opportunities are endless in the Chaguaramas area and we take advantage of the trails and walks as often as we can. Unfortunately the heat is a problem here. Every day the temperature soars to over 90 degrees with 90% humidity. That is probably why it is a jungle! Even the howler monkeys hide during the day and forage at night or in the cool of the morning. Fluffy stands of bamboo, bromeliad-smothered samaan trees, citrus, cocoa and coffee all grow on the slopes of the forest. Red howler monkeys, emperor butterflies, toucans, hummingbirds, and over 430 species of birds live in the jungle that is called Trinidad.

Sail on sail on Aspen…
Steve and Maria

Friday, June 12, 2009

Sailing is dangerous work!

Crew's Inn Marina grounds

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

S/V Aspen – June 10, 2009 – Log #9
Position: 10 degrees 41.0’ N 61 degrees 38.0 W
(Chaguaramas, Trinidad)

Marina Life
Aspen is in a slip at Crew’s Inn Marina, Chaguaramas, Trinidad. So what is life like at a marina in Trinidad, you may ask?

Crew’s Inn Marina is like a country club. It is better than many of the marinas we used even in Florida. There is a pool, hotel, restaurants, stores, groceries, a gym, and 24 hour security in the marina. The jungle is steps away from our boat where the toucans, howler monkeys and thousands of birds while away their time. The hot showers in the marina are a great convenience too!

We now have regular power on the boat, internet access and a great view of Chaguaramas Bay with the coming and going of ocean going vessels, as well as hundreds of sailboats. On the other side of the harbor are more stores and restaurants that we access with our dinghy.

The marine services and boat yards are also opposite our marina. This is where we will have Aspen hauled out of the water to have some maintenance items worked on.

The local bus route is right outside the marina. We can take a local bus, called a Maxi-Taxi, to a mall, movie town, grocery stores or even the capital, Port of Spain. The bus costs 5 TT which is less than $1 US. The buses are mini-vans that are not air-conditioned and they make many stops along the way to pick people up. There are no bus stops so if you want to catch the bus you simply stand at the side of the road and when you see one coming just signal it and it will stop for you. When you want to get off the bus you clearly say stop or knock on the inside so that the driver hears you.

There are many activities for the Yachties here in Chaguaramas. They call us Yachties for some strange reason but no one is offended. The activities range from potlucks to dominoes, island tours, turtle watching, hiking, steel pan band concerts and even happy hours.

Steve is able to communicate to his clients about his geophysical projects better now that he has a faster internet connection and even a local cell phone. The boat is also more stable and that helps him interpret data on the workstation more easily than when it is rocking!

Maria uses the gym in the mornings for her workouts. Steve gets up before dawn and runs on the old abandoned roads and trails in Chaguaramas. The heat becomes oppressive once the sun comes up so it is wise to get out before that happens. We will describe Chaguaramas in our next blog!

Sail on sail on Aspen…
Steve and Maria

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Crew's Inn Marina, Chaguaramas, Trinidad

Steve walking the docks in Trinidad

Maria enjoying the marina

Trinidad landfall in the Boca de Monos