Tuesday, November 2, 2010

New Blog Address!

Hi all,

Please go to www.syaspen.blogspot.com for our latest blogs.

We changed the name to make it easier to type!

Sail on sail on Aspen...

Steve and Maria

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Australia Walkabout

S/Y Aspen – October 14, 2010 – Log #52
Position: 11 degrees 45' S 128 degrees 26.0' E (UTC +9.0 Hours)
At Sea

Australia was one of the highlights of our journey so far. We stopped
in Darwin at the Top End of Australia for 2 weeks to prepare for our
onward trip and to take a walkabout. A walkabout is an Aborigine word
for, simply, a vacation!

During our time at the Top End of the continent we rented a 4x4 vehicle
and toured Kakadu National Park and Litchfield National Park last week.
We saw Aboriginal rock art that included hundreds of nearly 20,000
year old paintings on the desert rocks. The colors that they used in
their paintings was vivid and bright, reflecting their attitude on life.
We have come to understand the meaning of Dreamtime that is part of
the Aboriginal culture describing how they came to live on this
continent. Their neighbors, New Zealand and Polynesia had highly
developed cultures, fierce warriors and the ability to travel thousands
of miles across the ocean. Aborigines, on the other hand, are nomadic
people that did not develop villages or singular places to live. They
simply moved with the ever changing seasons to find food, water and shelter.

When Captain Cook arrived in Australia he offered the Aborigines that
met him on the beach trinkets as tokens of friendship. The Aborigines
simply ignored the gifts and turned their backs on Captain Cook and his
ships, pretending that they didn't exist. That is just the Aborigine

Their indigenous music comes mostly from the didgeridoo, the oldest
musical instrument in the world, as well as two short sticks stuck
together like a drum to create the beat. The didgeridoo is made from a
hollowed out tree limb that is eaten by termites. This is then
decorated to create both an interesting sound as well as a multicolored
piece of art. Of course we had to buy one but it is too long to carry
around on the boat so we had to ship it to Colorado. Look for the
release of our CD coming to your store sometime soon!

Australia is a very young and modern country with very few people. We
traveled 1,600 miles along the east coast and found hundreds of miles of
coastline without any people, services or anything except wilderness.
Cell phones are useless because there is nothing there at all. In all
of Australia there are only about 19 million people - about the same
amount of people that live in the Los Angeles area! But the Australian
people are scattered amongst a huge continent!! It is pretty amazing.

The Aboriginal people are included in that population number. In the
past and even today they tend to wander far and wide, taking walkabouts!
They are also adapted to the intense heat that exists here at the Top
End of Australia, much better than we are. We are suffering in the 100
degree daily heat and 100% humidity. It is oppressive to say the least
and we are lucky that this is the dry season!

The most common expressions that everyone uses here are "no worries" and
"no dramas". They like to end their sentences with those all the time.

Yesterday we lifted our anchor (by hand because the trusty electric
windless decided to quit) and we are now sailing toward Indonesia. Our
next stop in 4 days will be Kupang, Indonesia, an entirely different
culture than anything we have ever experienced.

Sail on sail on Aspen...

Monday, August 23, 2010

New Blog Address!

Hi all,

Please go to www.syaspen.blogspot.com for our latest blogs.

We changed the name to make it easier to type!

Sail on sail on Aspen...

Steve and Maria

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Land Down Under

S/Y Aspen – August 16, 2010 – Log #48
Position: 20 degrees 36’ S 149 degrees 1.0’ E (UTC +10 Hours)

Around midnight tonight, with a spectacular meteor shower streaking above our heads, we will arrive in Mackay, Australia after 10 magnificent days out on the great blue sea.

As the story goes, Today the sun is shining, the sea is flat and the winds are gently caressing Aspen's sails. Maria is sitting in the cockpit, sipping champagne and munching on Italian olives, French cheeses and assorted seafood delicacies with a dessert of Belgium chocolates. Captain Steve is sitting at the helm, with his captain's hat on of course, steering Aspen with full sail on a glorious 7 knot downwind sail behind Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Dolphins are leaping across Aspen's wake as whales breech in the distance creating quite a show. Ahhhh, isn't this just grand? But maybe reality is just a little bit different?!?

Or perhaps the story could go something like this: We left Vanuatu with a weather window that said the winds should be just right for sailing. Fortunately we did leave Vanuatu as there was a 7.5 magnitude earthquake the next day that created a small tsunami in the harbor and some minor damage to the boats there. Unfortunately the forecasters forgot to mention that 30-40 knots of winds are really too strong to be comfortable. We could have experienced the strongest winds and highest seas we have encountered so far on our journey. The seas may have been over 20 feet at times, looking like mountains as Aspen surfed down their slopes at over 11 knots. We sailed before the wind with our strong little staysail emblazoned with the Leadville Trail 100 mountain logo propelling us forward.

It could have been that our faithful generator, used to give Aspen electricity, failed after the first day out. The third day out, during the ferocious winds, the engine alternator decided to quit charging our batteries so we would run out of power to run the autopilot, GPS and instruments within 24 hours. The refrigeration was shut down to conserve power and we had to throw quite a bit of our food overboard when it began to smell funny. Oh, it's not over yet!

As the story continues, the dreaded prospect for both Captain Steve or Admiral Maria staying awake for 7 days while hand steering Aspen in the midst of the towering waves and nearly gale force winds was not very appealing. Desperately, Captain Steve spent many many hours with his feet sticking out of the engine compartment as he tried to find a solution to the electricity issue while replacing part after part with little success.

Two days away from the Great Barrier Reef the massive storm relented and the wind dropped, enabling four boats full of our Blue Water Rally friends to find the proverbial needle in a haystack and rendezvous with Aspen in the middle of the ocean. Rafting up in mid-ocean, the sailing vessel Enchantress passed Aspen two of their precious batteries. Drenched in sweat and not being an electrical engineer, Captain Steve managed to find the correct wires and restore power to Aspen within minutes of certain drifting before the rather large, featureless Pacific Ocean toward Antarctica, or at least somewhere as cold and miserable like that in a small sailboat.

With power now restored, hot showers, cold beverages and even a vienna sausage or two were enjoyed by Aspen's crew with our friends sailing close by in case we needed assistance again. Entering the intricate passage through Australia's Great Barrier Reef was a sight to behold as the five sailboats sailed together under sunny skies with dolphins playing in our wake and whales breaching in the distance.

We trust that each of you will know which story is true.

Sail on sail on Aspen...

Saturday, August 7, 2010


S/Y Aspen – August 8, 2010 – Log #47
Position: 17 degrees 44’ S 168 degrees 18.0’ E (UTC +11 Hours)
Enroute to Australia

We had a nice stay in the country of Vanuatu. We made landfall in 38 knots of sustained wind at Port Vila, Vanuatu on their independence day. Fireworks streaked into the air and covered the sky in front of us as we sailed in. We thought they were just happy to see us!

There were bands playing in the harbor as we gained shelter from the beating we had taken getting here. The sheltered harbor a very enjoyable place to be at 12:30 in the morning.

One of the many highlights of Vanuatu is to visit the live volcano on Tanna, a neighboring island. We went with a group of our British friends from the Rally. Vehicles can drive within about 300 yards of the summit of the active volcano Mt. Yasur so all you have to do is hike up the loose ash to the crater's rim. From there you can look down into the bowls of the simmering beast. Well, it really isn't simmering, it is shooting lava, boulders and steam higher than the rim we were standing on. The volcano is in a constant state of erupting!

We stared, mesmerized, at the fury beneath us as we stood on the crater's rim. Then darkness settled in around us, leaving only the brilliant red hot lava spurting into the air. Each eruption occurred less than a minute apart with some eruptions much larger than others. The bigger eruptions created an air blast that pushed us backward, away from the crater, followed by a roar that was deafening. The ground shook under our feet and the volcano tried to build the crater rim higher and higher. Luckily none of the flying lava came in our direction but we were constantly aware of where the projectiles were in relation to us.

We were the last ones to leave the rim of the volcano that memorable night after witnessing the ultimate power of nature. We would not have been able to get within 20 miles of a volcano like this in the US, that's for sure!

Once back on Aspen we had the usual preparations to make before our next passage - onward to Australia. There were welcoming parties to attend, trips to the grocery store, repairs to complete on Aspen from the bashing she took to get to Vanuatu and Steve even had time to run a half marathon that was staged on the island.

Runners came from Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia, Samoa, Marshall Islands and the other islands of Vanuatu to compete in this international race. Maria came along as Steve's cheering section and watched the field of 45 runners sprint out of the only stadium in Vanuatu, toward the countryside. Steve ran with a pack of runners who were barefoot or in socks, no shoes. It seems that the locals are not accustomed to wearing shoes and do not wear them when they are running either. This is a poor country by most standards and shoes are pretty far down the list of essential items. Steve even saw one runner who must have been given shoes by the race sponsor, take the shoes off at the 2nd mile and hide them in the bushes so he could pick them up after the race.

Luckily for Steve there were rain showers throughout the race, cooling things off a bit but also increasing the humidity. It was hot! The course was an out and back route where you simply run far away to the turnaround place and then head back to the finish. The turnaround place seemed a little short to Steve. Running back toward the stadium and with the stadium in sight captain Steve was directed to turn around and do the out and back again! Geeze!!

Normally this would not have been a long distance to run but since captain Steve had not run for the past 7 days while sailing, the distance was taking it's toll. There were aid stations every 3 miles with local water and coconuts. Drinking the water in Vanuatu is not the best thing to do so Steve just got dehydrated instead.

After the 2nd out and back part of the race the stadium was now welcoming the runners home. Watching Steve cross the finish line admiral Maria, with our friend Donald who is also in the Blue Water Rally, stood there with many of the local population cheering and clapping. Captain Steve may not walk properly for some time now he thinks.

The sail to Australia should take us about 10 days and we hope the weather is nice to us this time!

Sail on sail on Aspen...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

One Gale & One Knockdown

S/Y Aspen – July 30, 2010 – Log #46
Position: 17 degrees 44’ S 168 degrees 18.0’ E (UTC +11 Hours)
Port Vila, Vanuatu

The forecast was not the best but it promised to be a tolerable sail to our next stop, Vanuatu, as we departed Fiji. We stocked up on some great Fiji drinking water and sailed out of Musket Cove and our protected marina located behind the reef that encircles Fiji.

The wind was blowing 20 knots and it helped push us merrily on our way westward. This leg is a 520 mile passage and we expected it to take 4 nights and 5 days. Nearly the entire Rally fleet was with us so it was fun keeping in contact as we sailed near one another.

On our third day at sea Fiji issued a Gale warning for our area. A Gale means we should expect winds in excessive of 30 knots. Unfortunately Fiji was a day late with their warning since we had the gale on our second night! Geeze!!

At night we always reduce our sails for safety, just in case something like this happens. In this case we had reduced them even further because the winds were very strong, gusting up to 48 knots now and the seas uncomfortable, to say the least. Yet we felt secure with our nighttime preparations as we sailed into the night.

At about 7:00 pm one of the larger waves came hissing alongside Aspen and it decided to see what the other side of Aspen looked like. Instead of just peeking around our stern this rather enormous wave made a path right over the top of Aspen, dumping it contents of sea water right on top of us! Water poured in through our companionway and even through the dorade vents that are designed NOT to let water into the boat. That was not nice!

Maria has some choice words to say about this, as you might imagine!!

We then closed the companion way top and even put a board in place, something we have never had to do before.

It was so rough and uncomfortable that we decided not to go out into the cockpit for our watches but to stay below, popping our heads outside every 20 minutes to look for other ships. Again, safety first for the crew.

Our trusty autopilot had control of Aspen as we sailed through the blackness, steering us far better than either of us could in these foul conditions. The wind began shrieking through the rigging with a high pitched scream, as huge seas hurtled themselves against the side and stern of Aspen, trying to throw Aspen off her course but to no avail, luckily. We were now setting records with our speed, topping out at nearly 10 knots with very little sail up!

At the darkest hour of 11:20 pm, on Maria's watch of course, Aspen sailed beside the trough of a large wave and leaned normally toward her left side to take the force of the wave that would come at us. This wave must have been a monster because it immediately threw Aspen violently in the opposite direction causing Aspen's right side to became parallel with the sea as we lost all forward motion and control and stopped instantly. Water poured in through the little opening in our companionway as things became abnormally quiet inside of Aspen where we were huddled. That is called a knockdown!

It seemed like an eternity that we laid on our side but it was in fact no more than 5 seconds before Aspen proudly rose up from the sea, shook herself off as she seemed to sneer at the cascading waves all around before continuing strongly on her way westward carrying her precious crew with her.

We arrived safely and without any damage to Aspen in Port Vila, Vanuatu early this morning.

Oh yes, Maria and Steve are fine too!

Sail on sail on Aspen...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Fiji Fun

Happy Birthday Maria in Fiji!

Captain Steve drinking Kava.

Paul, a sailor on Jackamy didn't care for the Kava.

Dinghy Races in Tonga

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

More of Fiji

Wild captain sailing between the reefs!

The village is above water at low tide but at high tide it can get a little wet!

The Copra Shed Marina at Savusavu, Fiji

Aspen didn't go to the marina but took a mooring ball. It seemed safer (see the picture above).

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Kava, Birthdays and Reefs

S/Y Aspen – July 20, 2010 – Log #45
Position: 17 degrees 46’ S 177 degrees 11.0’ E (UTC +12 Hours)

Kava, Birthdays and Reefs

The sail from the Cook Islands to Fiji took us 4 days with tolerable winds and seas and we passed the international dateline. Passing the date line means that we are now in the eastern hemisphere and we are a day ahead of the rest of you. So if you want to know the future just ask us!

With about 70 miles to go before we entered Fiji, in the dark of course, Captain Steve noticed a blip on the chart plotter that indicated a ship coming directly at Aspen's bow. As he analyzed the approaching target he activated the radar and again plotted the position of the ship - on a collision course with Aspen and moving fast. Our electronics enables us to positively identify an approaching ship and in this case our target was called EOS. It was a 305 foot sailing ship and making 17 knots right toward our bow.

Captain Steve used his not-so-friendly voice as he called EOS on the radio. EOS answered quickly and after several minutes of discussion EOS was persuaded to look at their radar to identify Aspen directly ahead of them. EOS thanked Aspen for contacting them and asked for passing information. Captain Steve said we will pass port to port, knowing that EOS would be forced closer to the reefs than Aspen. EOS agreed, without looking at their chart, and the game was on! Eventually as EOS passed Aspen port-to-port they again called Aspen and announced that they would have to change course in order to miss the extensive reefs directly in their path. Duh, they finally decided to look at their chart!!! EOS now became very interested in Aspen's travels and we talked for quite some time as we eventually bid each other a pleasant voyage.

After some research on the internet we discovered that EOS is the 2nd largest private sailing vessel in the world and is owned by Diane Von Furstenburg, the famous fashion designer. Maria was disappointed that she didn't throw us a care package of clothes as she passed.

Arriving in Savusavu, Fiji we were warmly greeted by the village elders. A Kava ceremony was organized for the Blue Water Rally and representatives from all of the countries in the Rally were requested to share in a toast with the head of the village. Captain Steve represented the USA. The other countries present were the UK, Sweden, Holland and Canada. However, there are sailors in the Rally from Ireland, Scotland, and Iceland but they are females and a Kava ceremony is restricted to men it seems.

In time honored tradition the visiting sailors sat alongside the head of the village and were offered a cup of Kava, one representative at a time. Kava is a non-narcotic, non-alcoholic drink made from the Kava plant. It is made from the root of the Kava plant and mixed with water in a large wooden ceremonial bowl. A half coconut is dipped into the ceremonial bowl for each representative. The first cup should make your mouth numb and after many cups of Kava your body is supposed to become numb. You must drink the entire half coconut full of Kava in one drink and clap your hands together three times afterward. Captain Steve's turn came all too soon and as he drank the pale brown liquid he could only think of dirty dish water, that is how it tasted to him. As Captain Steve successfully drank the entire amount everyone clapped three times signifying their pleasure. Captain Steve's mouth did not turn numb nor did any other part of his body!

After the ceremony everyone had a chance to try Kava. Admiral Maria thought it was disgusting and agreed it tasted like dishwater.

Both Maria's birthday and Steve's birthday were celebrated this month. Steve's was first with a nice party that Maria arranged on Tonga at a local restaurant. Steve's birthday fell on Sunday, July 4th and everything in Tonga is supposed to be closed on Sundays by order of the King since it is a religious day. However, rules can be broken and a very friendly local restaurant called the Giggling Whale opened for the Blue Water Rally celebration. Maria had a nice cake ready for Steve and the party was well attended. Some of the British in the Rally conveniently had trouble remembering the significance of July the 4th in the USA :) The party lasted into the night until the local police came by and had a talk with the owner of the restaurant complaining about the excessive noise. It was a nice end to a great day!

Maria's birthday was celebrated at the Copra Shed Marina in Savusavu, Fiji. Once again the Rally sailors showed up in time for happy hour and were treated to a fantastic chocolate cake that a local lady baked for Maria. The birthday song was appreciated by Maria and included an extra verse that the British use when they sing the song. Maria also enjoyed a 1.5 hour massage as her present and the massage was rated excellent by Maria. The local price for a massage is $15 US and no tips can be accepted because it is rude to tip in Fiji! Happy Birthday Maria!

There are reefs everywhere in Fiji hidden amongst the 322 sun-drenched tropical islands. The guidebooks that we have are 20-30 years old but our electronic charts are accurate. Even so, one of the Rally boats managed to collide with a reef going 5 knots. Luckily they are a steel boat so they worked themselves off the reef after about 5 minutes and continued on their way. They have now joined the Reefers Club!

Sail on sail on Aspen...

Monday, July 12, 2010

Fiji Photos

Captain Steve anxiously awaiting his turn at the Kava coconut cup.

Sea grapes to eat

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Rocks, Kingdoms, Pigs and a Farewell

S/V Aspen – July 1, 2010 – Log #44
Position: 18 degrees 39.0' S 173 degrees 59.0' W (UTC +13 Hours)
Kingdom of Tonga

Niue was our landfall after we left Rarotonga, Cook Islands. The Cook
Islands are well-known as a tourist destination for New Zealanders and
they flock there for their vacations because of all the nice beaches,
snorkeling and nice people. Niue on the other hand is not on the normal
tourist route. Niue has less than 2,000 tourists in a season, other
than yachts that visit there.

Niue is a flat limestone rock in the middle of the ocean with nothing
around it. The anchorage area is not very protected and it can be
uncomfortable. However, Niue is a nice way to break up the long,
difficult and bouncy sail to Tonga so we decided to stop and have a
look. It was also nice to get out of the large seas too!

Wow!!! The water around Niue is the clearest water in the world. The
Niue Yacht Club lays out moorings to attract the passing sailor so we
tied to one that was in 120 feet of water and could easily see the
bottom below us. Because the island is limestone there is no sediment
to run into the ocean to cloud the water. Also, because the water is so
deep right up to the shore whales spend their time here playing among
the moored yachts. We didn't see any whales because we were about a
month too soon. Oh well.

The island welcomed us with open arms. The locals were extremely
friendly and the Yacht Club could not do enough for us. The commodore
even drove us around in his ancient Mercedes car showing us the sights
of Niue. The really really disappointing thing that we encountered here
was that the island had run out of beer. Yes, the island had no beer!
The shipping terminal screwed up the last order and forgot (?!?) to
order beer for the island. The next supply ship is not due to arrive
until about the middle of July with their next supply. There might be
an uprising by then.

The island is riddled with caves, caverns and arches to explore. Hiking
on the jagged limestone was interesting but the rewards at the end of
the trail were well worth the effort.

The landing for our dinghy was very strange because there is no place to
put the dinghy to get ashore. Well to fix this, the islanders built a
crane with a cable that we grab and attach to the dinghy while it is
floating in the water. Then the entire dinghy is lifted onto a concrete
dock area and we leave the dinghy there. When it is time to return to
our boat we simply hoist the dinghy up with the crane again and plop it
in the water as we scramble into it and roar away. What an experience
that was!

After too short of a time on Niue it was time to sail to Tonga.

It took two overnights to reach the Kingdom of Tonga, the smallest
Kingdom in the world. Yes, a monarch still rules this land where 170
beautiful islands are sprinkled among a shallow azure sea. Tonga is the
first country in the world to usher in a new day. Yes, we crossed the
international date line now so we are a day ahead of all of you! I
guess we can see the future so if you want to know what is going on just

The Tongan people are Polynesian in origin and speak Tongan, along with
some English. The harbor where we anchored is called Neiafu, Vavau,
Tonga. This anchorage does not roll and is entirely protected from the
seas and winds. We can finally sleep at night here!

There are many reasonably priced restaurants just a short dinghy ride
away, run by New Zealanders, Australians and Canadians. They really
appreciate the sailors who arrive here because we provide 98% of the
income for the town. The food is pretty good with burgers, pizza, and
lots of fish dishes. Internet is supposed to be available but as usual,
the system seems to have become non-functional at the moment. Geeze.

We attended a local church service on Sunday and the singing nearly
lifted the roof off the old building! The reverberated amongst the
hillsides for miles around the village. It was quite spectacular to
hear them sing the Hallelujah chorus.

Captain Steve is able to run on the roads again and dodging the many
pigs is a challenge. Pigs run loose everywhere here, throughout the
villages and around the countryside. They are fast little things so you
have to watch out not to stumble over any of them at times!

The Rally yachts sailed together to another bay for a Tongan feast one
night. A long table with palm fronds was filled with every local fish
delicacy you could imagine. Along with the fish we had chicken, pig of
course, and many many types of fruit. The local people performed their
native dances for us and these included the fire dance before the feast
began. Every meal includes Kava which is the local traditional drink.
It is made from some kind of root and it is a type of alcohol. It
tastes like dirty dish water we thought!

The whale season is about to begin in Tonga and there should be more
boats arriving to watch the spectacle of whales breaching and splashing
about. For us it will be time to leave for the islands further to the
west, Fiji!

This is a journal of our experiences as we sail around this big blue
ocean. My Mother enjoyed reading our entries and passing them along to
her friends. She will be missed. The light from the full moon danced
around the waves as Maria and I sailed in the southern ocean towards the
island of Tonga. But something didn't seem right that night of June
25th. The sea was confused and even though the moon was full it's light
was not as bright as it usually is. Something was wrong. Steve's mother
passed away that night...

Sail on sail on Aspen...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

And Even More of Niue

Niue Yacht Club - the nicest Yacht Club in the world!

Nice walkway

Fellow sailors on the walkway

Another sailor out of the water

More of Niue

Exploring caves on Niue

Hiking on Niue

This is how you park your dinghy on Niue - using a crane!


Caves on Niue

Great water in the caves too

Just nice and clear water

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


S/V Aspen – June 15, 2010 – Log #43
Position: 20 degrees 22.0' S 161 degrees 39.0' W
Sailing toward Niue

In the blackness of night they steal across the heavens as they hide
amongst the stars, waiting to vent their fury upon the sea.

Maria woke me for my watch at o'dark thirty as she wedged herself
against the lee cloth that secured her bed. No ships were around and
things looked good, she said as I went into the cockpit for my 4 hour watch.

We always reduce sail at night for safety and tonight was no exception.
Looking at Aspen's speed I was disappointed. 4.5 to 5 knots. That was
too slow if we wanted to arrive at Rarotonga, Cook Islands our next
port, in daylight. But the wind was blowing nicely, right on our beam -
the perfect place for Aspen.

I quietly unfurled more of the genoa and Aspen responded immediately.
6-6.5 knows now and nicely making way. That's more like it, I said to

The lights of the chartplotter instruments softly glowed in the cockpit
as I settled in to watch the moonless sky full of stars in the southern

With the iPod playing in my ears and Aspen floating along the night was
mine to enjoy.

Watching the Southern Cross I noticed a change. The stars were
disappearing, 2, 3, 4 at a time as a puff of cold air startled me. Too
late! The squall hit Aspen like a freight train. Aspen heeled hard to
starboard as her speed shot up past 8 knots. I grabbed for the genoa
sheet so I could furl the huge sail before it shredded itself in the
wind. Without a word Maria appeared in the cockpit clawing for the other
genoa sheet.

Then the rain hit, wow! Within seconds we had our evening shower. The
deafening sound of the flailing genoa was no match for the scream of the
wind through our rigging.

Aspen's bow pitched high before burying itself deep into the wild seas
that had suddenly appeared.

I pulled on the genoa furling line with all my might and nothing moved.
I pulled again and again, still nothing. As the adrenalin took hole I
pulled once again and gained one small inch. Progress! Only 18 feet left
to go, I thought to myself.

With the rain pummeling into the cockpit Maria worked the sheet tension
as I inched the genoa around the furler, saving our precious sail from
certain destruction.

The thunder from the flogging sail was gone and in its place the roar of
the rain and wind continued. Wisely we let the autopilot steer Aspen as
we dashed below, soaking wet, into the safety of the cabin.

The squall lasted 30 minutes before the start reappeared and the wind
abated, letting Aspen to continue bouncing amongst the waves of the
Pacific Ocean.

Maria subtly reminded me about reducing sail at night as I climbed back
into the wet cockpit for the rest of my watch.

Sail on sail on Aspen...

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Bora Bora, French Polynesia

S/V Aspen - June 4, 2010 - Log #42 and Video
Position: Bora Bora; Bora Bora Yacht Club, French Polynesia

Hi all! Aspen and her crew have been enjoying French Polynesia for the past 6 weeks. The French wine and cheeses have been fantastic and the sailing is some of the best in the world. However, all good things must end so it is time to hoist the sails and push further westward, toward the Cook Islands.

Since Moorea we have visited Huahine (the savage island), Raiatea (the sacred island), Tahaa (the vanilla island) and Bora Bora (first born). Each one offers a glimpse of French Polynesia as varied as the wind.

Raiatea is etched in our minds as the island that launched a civilization. All of Polynesia: Hawaii, the Cook Island, Tonga, Easter Island, and even New Zealand's Maori originated from Raiatea. All of the long distance Polynesian sailing canoes were launched from one Marae on Raiatea called Taputaputea. Whenever a new Marae was built in the Pacific it always contained a rock from this most sacred site.

But Polynesia is now very French! Hmmmm. It seems that the missionaries descended upon Polynesia, drove the Polynesians from the mountains, abolished the tattoo, banned dancing and the wearing of flowers, prohibited the exposure of skin and converted as many of the native peoples as possible in the early 1800's. About 50 years later, the queen of Polynesia, Queen Pomare, aligned herself with the French and the rest is history!

Today, dancing has returned, flowers are worn everywhere, the tattoo is a national tradition, and the people are welcoming and friendly once again. Ooh la la!!!

The Blue Water Rally will soon depart these fabled islands, with Aspen heading out tomorrow for Raratonga. Tom on the S/Y Island Kea put together a nice video of Aspen and her travels around these islands. Just click here to see it:


We have more pictures posted on our blog as well, in case you would like to see them:

Sail on sail on Aspen…

Steve and Maria

Monday, May 24, 2010

View S/V Aspen in a larger map

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Moorea Scenes

Polynesian Blue Water Rally Goddesses!

Large Marae (Ceremonial Site)

Hiking in Moorea on the Ancients Trail

Cycling on Moorea

A view of Tahiti from Moorea

The rain quit!

Cooks Bay, Moorea. Aspen is in this group of anchored boats.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Society Islands - Moorea

Cooks Bay, Moorea, French Polynesia. Aspen is between the trees in the background.

Polynesian princess...

The parade to the mayor's residence

Sailors from Fiji aboard a Polynesian canoe

Drummers greeting the Polynesian sailors

Tahitian dancers

Polynesian long distance sailing canoe returning from their trip to New Zealand

Marae Tiki!

Not Steve or Maria...

The flowers smelled good.

Aspen in full dress on the Quay in Papeete, Tahiti

S/V Aspen – May 17, 2010 – Log #41
Position: 17 degrees 30.0’ S 149 degrees 45.0’ W

Tahiti is a typical French Polynesian island. Flowers float by in the water as we sail and the hustle and bustle of the island is everywhere. The old mixes with the new as people paddle their outrigger canoes that they now use to race each other in competition.

We toured the island and saw where Paul Gauguin lived and painted. The setting is nestled among the hibiscus trees and Australian pine trees. The warmth of the people emanates from everyone in the countryside and it is easy to see why Gauguin was inspired with his painting here.

Throughout Tahiti there are Marae, sacred sites guarded by Tikis that can be visited. We were warned that these are still sacred sites and it is forbidden to climb on them. The Marae are the roots of Polynesian society and have existed since these islands were populated over 1,600 years ago. They are the link between God and man and man and earth. It is upon these sites where one obtains Mana. Of course human sacrifice always gave the society Mana but we didn't see any of that during our visit!

We had a nice reception with the mayor of Tahiti and the Tahitian dancers put on a great show for us. We don't think that dance lessons will help us dance as well as they did!

During our stay the traditional sailing canoes made landfall at the Quay, where we were berthed. They sailed in from New Zealand, tracing the routes of their ancestors. The sound of drums filled the air and the dancing girls welcomed the wayward sailors back home. It was quite a sight!

We stocked up on French wine, cheeses, baguettes, and pate before it was time to sail onward to the next island, Moorea. There was another pass to sail through to arrive in Cooks Bay and we only took a little water into the cockpit on that entrance.

Now we are anchored at the head of Cooks Bay, named after Captain Cook of course. Moorea is vastly different from Tahiti; the pace is much slower, the island has far fewer people and the soaring peaks dominate the skyline.

Here we have Wifi on the boat and a calm anchorage so that Steve can work on both the boat and his geophysical projects. Maria learned how to make a Polynesian crown of flowers, and also learned how to tie a pareo, the typical dress in French Polynesia.

Polynesia is the birth place of tattooing and the chiefs and high priests were highly decorated with these works of art. Steve and Maria haven't taken their place among high society yet!

We have posted more pictures on our blog too (see address below).

Sail on sail on Aspen...

Steve and Maria

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

French Polynesia Sailing


Captain Steve with the yellow fins - something is watching him!

More sharks

Swimming with the fishes

Lots and lots of fish!

Typical resort in Rangiroa


A nice view!

Notice the sharks around Maria

Going snorkeling

Blue Lagoon, Rangiroa

Speedboat across the lagoon before the big waves started

A black pearl area

Typical hotel in Rangiroa

Rangiroa lagoon

Dolphin in the pass at Rangiroa

Entering the pass at Rangiroa

Aspen sailing into Daniels Bay, Marquesas, French Polynesia

S/V Aspen – May 11, 2010 – Log #40
Position: 17 degrees 30.0’ S 144 degrees 30.0’ W

The Dangerous Archipelago - Tuamotus

5 days of ocean sailing brought us to the atolls of the Tuamotus, home to beautiful turquoise water, calm anchorages and black pearls. We decided to enter the lagoon of Rangiroa, the second largest atoll in the world, to have a look around.

Entry into an atoll's lagoon involves either battling your way against a current that is stronger than your engine or shooting through the pass faster than your boat has ever gone before. That is what makes these atolls a challenge now that GPS has identified exactly where they are. In days of old, the location of these 78 now drowned islands was a mystery and the number of wrecks strewn against their shores is legendary. This is the largest group of atolls in the world.

In case you were wondering, an atoll is unique in geological terms. There was once a high volcanic island surrounded by coral reefs. Then the island sank beneath the ocean leaving the ring of coral that once surrounded the island to protect the island that has sunk in the center of the coral. Where the island disappeared is now a lagoon full of clear water, more fish that in an aquarium and little villages perched on the coral rising about 3 feet above sea level.

The blue water reminded us of the Bahamas Islands with their spectacular colorful water. But here the amount of sea life is beyond description. Fish of every shape, color and size swim freely about in the lagoon and in the passes of the Tuamotus. Dolphins, some over 15 feet long, jumped all around Aspen to welcome us as we entered the lagoon. They had plenty of time to jump and spin around us since a baby could crawl faster than we could go against the raging current!

Once inside and anchored we were amazed at how peaceful life is inside the lagoon. We tied the dinghy to a small mooring and snorkeled with thousands of colorful reef fish and the ever present black tipped sharks. The coral was alive and healthy, something we have not seen in a long time.

One day we decided to take a trip to the other side of the atoll, in an organized excursion. The small open boat zoomed across the waves at breakneck speed, flying high into the air as we shot off the tops of 5 foot waves. And this was inside the lagoon! It was a ride that took an hour to get to the other side to a place called the Blue Lagoon. We were drenched and pretty beat up when we finally arrived. We were then able to wade ashore with black tipped sharks circling us as we went.

The Blue Lagoon was a lagoon within the main lagoon. Palm trees swayed in the gentle breeze, live polynesian music filled the air and the scent of open air fires cooking our lunch wafted past us. We waded in the warm water, snorkeled amongst the coral and just enjoyed a peaceful day in a spectacular setting. All too soon it was time to feed the sharks, literally, and then wade back to our speed boat for the hair-raising trip back across the big lagoon. And we paid money for this trip!

Black pearls come from the Tuamotus. They are carefully grown and cultivated inside the lagoons of these atolls. It takes care and luck to grow a black pearl but the end result is a piece of art. Maria is still searching for the best ones!

Over the horizon Tahiti called us. We needed to fix some important things on Aspen like the generator and battery charger. Trying to properly time our exit from the lagoon and through the pass was a challenge. But we managed not to hit any coral and literally shot out the pass at 8 miles per hour, surfing with the waves until we were engulfed by the huge seas waiting for us on the outside of the pass!

So after too short of a time in the Tuamotus we sailed the 200 miles to the vibrant capital of French Polynesia, Tahiti - land of tall mountains, fragrant flowers, enchanting culture, friendly people and of course French restaurants!

We are now in Marina Taina, hooked up to electricity and able to use our air conditioning for the first time in many months. It is wonderful to actually feel cold again! There is a huge French grocery store just down the street and a McDonalds with a waterfront view and french desserts outside the marina. Lunch at McDonalds costs a little over $20 for two burgers! Ahhhhhhh, this must be paradise.

Sail on sail on Aspen...