Saturday, March 27, 2010


S/V Aspen – March 28, 2010 – Log #35
Position: 03 degrees 0.0' S 98 degrees 00' W
Pacific Ocean


Where is the wind? Aspen is searching for the legendary trade winds to
fill her sails for the journey west. But we have no wind! We are in
the Pacific Ocean, 5 days at sea and there is not enough wind to sail.
Instead we have the engine on, using precious fuel to help us on our
way. Arrrrrrh!

Oh well, we really don't need the refrigerator running anyway, right?
Admiral Maria doesn't agree with the captain on that one so we will
conserve fuel in order to power the refrigerator and keep the food edible.

Speaking of food, what do we eat onboard Aspen when we are at sea, you
might ask. Well, for the first 3 days we ate chicken soup and some
crackers. That was it.

It usually takes us 3 days to get used to the rocking and rolling of
Aspen before we feel much like eating. We don't usually get sea sick
but instead we just don't feel like eating. But after the 3 days we
once again get our appetites back and EAT!

Last night we had curry chicken, mmmmmm! Then we had salty corn beef
hash with tabasco sauce for breakfast. Lunch followed with hamburgers!!
So you see, we are eating pretty normal as long as the refrig keeps

The routine at sea is never the same. Each night brings new surprises.
Squalls, wind changes, lack of wind, rain, beeping alarms, you name it
and it usually happens at night.

During the day we have a roll call with the other Rally boats. This is
when we give our position and weather. We also see how the other boats
are doing and if they have wind too. So far, 2 boats have turned back
to the Galapagos because of engine failures. A third boat has lost
their autopilot self steering but are continuing to head west.

Last night we had a quiz night with the Rally boats. One boat acted as
moderator and you were asked 10 questions. The boat who answered the
most correctly won. We answered 1 question correctly, duh. Well, it
seems that the questions were all about England and historic and current
events there. We failed pretty badly at that! We think next time we
should get to ask the questions.

How is the night sailing? Well, when you see the Southern Cross rising
in the southern sky, all seems right. A guiding light is what we need
when the darkness descends upon our little world. The bioluminescence
sprays in our wake and the dolphins still come close, but the starry sky
helps the time pass until the next dawn.

Sail on sail on Aspen...

Steve and Maria

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Wild Places and In the Footsteps of Darwin

The remnants of a volcanic spatter cone

Lava fields

Sea turtle

Walking on lava

Colorful crab!


More Iguanas

Crabs too!


Crabs (in red) on volcanic tuff

A baby seal

Friendly tortoises

Land Iguana

Giant tortoises area everywhere!

The spectacular scenery of the Galapagos Islands

Crossing the equator ceremony!

Equator crossing outfit for Neptune!

S/V Aspen – March 22, 2010 – Log #34
Position: 00 degrees 47.0’ S 90 degrees 05’ W
Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos Islands

Aspen is anchored at Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos, Equador. This is one of the two places that we are allowed to anchor within all of the Galapagos Islands. However, since we landed at Puerto Ayora, now we are not even allowed to go anywhere else with Aspen without a very expensive and long permitting process. Yet our entry permit only permits us to stay here 20 days before we must leave so getting another permit is not possible!

Instead, we signed up on one of the small cruise ships that travel throughout these island and took a 5 day trip and visited 6 different islands.

There are few truly wild places left on Earth. The Galapagos Islands are definitely one of them. We were not sure what to expect when we arrived here but what we have seen has easily surpassed our wildest dreams!

Active volcanos are everywhere! In fact there are 14 active volcanos in the Galapagos Islands, more than anywhere on earth. The Galapagos Islands are very young islands, less than 2.5 million years or about a blink of an eye in geologic time. We walked among spatter cones, lava tubes, on layers of tuff, Pahoe-hoe and Aa lavas and slid on the slopes of cinder cones. Captain Steve filled his memory stick with photos of these landscapes. Maria also enjoyed hiking to the top of the calderas, peering at Darwin's Lake where Charles Darwin himself sat mesmerized by the grandeur that is the Galapagos in 1835. Luckily the volcanos were quiet this week as we wandered amongst them!

Charles Darwin set forth his Origin of species while visiting these islands. We visited the exact place where his ship, the Beagle, anchored while Darwin explored the wildness that defined evolution. Darwin's revolutionary book, Origin of Species, was written while he was sailing and visiting in the Galapagos Islands.

Since these islands are very recent in origin, the observation and study of the animals above and below the earth's surface was done prior to the impact of man. Even today, these islands are severely restricted and travel among them is extremely limited.

That is the reason we were able to walk right next to giant tortoises, huge iguanas, brilliant red crabs, swim with sea lions, seals, penguins and sharks as well as watching blue footed boobies, pelicans and finches darken the skies. Killer whales played in our wake as we sailed by. The variety of life here is staggering, especially considering that life in the Galapagos began with creatures swimming, floating or flying here from the distant shores of South America and Central America.

The Galapagos Islands today truly are one of the wild places to visit on Earth.

But our time here is limited as we said. The winds want to fill our sails and push us westward to the magic islands of the South Pacific. This week we will lift our anchor and ride the winds westward toward the setting sun.

Sail on sail on Aspen...

Steve and Maria

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


S/V Aspen – March 9, 2010
Position: 0 degrees 00.0' S 88 degrees 43' W
(At the Equator)


It began as a dream of mine so long ago: sail to the equator on my own
sailboat. But ahhh, the dreams of youth. How many of them are soon
forgotten and never fulfilled? Too many to count, I believe.

I wrote something down over 40 years ago: dreams are the stuff reality
is made from. I don't know where I first heard this or if I made it up
but it doesn't matter. The statement rings true to me.

Today I fulfilled a dream that most, including myself, thought was
impossible to achieve. I sailed across the equator with my wife aboard
our sailboat Aspen. The song Amazing Grace played softly as we sailed.

Never stop dreaming. Dreams are the stuff reality is made from.
Believe it.

Sail on sail on Aspen...


Monday, March 8, 2010

Riding the Trades to the Equator

S/V Aspen – March 8, 2010 – Log #33
Position: 0 degrees 33.0' N 87 degrees 16' W
(En-route to the Galapagos Islands from Panama)

Riding the Trades to the Equator

It took nearly 6 days of hard sailing to finally find the trade winds
that will take us across the equator to the Galapagos Islands. Starry
night skies with the southern cross suspended ahead of Aspen's bow
pointed the way.

Crossing the equator is a right of passage for sailors. Once you have
sailed across the imaginary line you become a shellback. This time
honored tradition pays tribute to Neptune, the god of the seas so you
better do it right and not offend him! We have champagne all ready for
the honor. But how should we dress for this illustrious occasion? That
too will be preformed with abandon, according to the tradition of the
sea and to honor Neptune. Stay connected for the pictures!

We have been out of sight of land for 7 days now. We have only the
company of dolphins, sea birds who whiz around our boat at night in the
light of our masthead tricolor. There are still the flying fish landing
on our decks but they are now washed off by the waves that find their
way onboard.

Admiral Maria writes:
Aspen did well, some days much better than me. No, I didn't get seasick
because I was too busy hanging on for dear life. I have never seen seas
that big, not even in Deadliest Catch! It was difficult without getting
much sleep at night, or during the day. I started seeing things that
were not there, like my bottle of water. I grabbed at the air without
touching it - strange.

We both had bad hair days. Getting into the head (bathroom) was quite a
gymnastics feat. Once I let go of a handrail I was pitched to the other
side of the head in a big hurry. Crashing into walls was not fun and I
have the bruises to prove it! I was only thrown onto the cockpit floor
twice, somehow avoiding injury. But today we have the gorgeous trade
winds, the sun is shining again, the seas are gentle and everything is
right with our little world.

Sail on sail on Aspen...

Steve and Maria

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Day at Sea

S/V Aspen – March 4, 2010 – Log #32
Position: 5 degrees 30.0' N 80 degrees 30' W
(En-route to the Galapagos Islands from Panama)

A Day at Sea

We hesitate to call this a typical day at sea because there are no 2
days alike when you are sailing out here in the middle of nowhere.

Horizon to horizon is nothing but water and clouds. Oh yes, our little
sailboat Aspen is in the middle of all this of course! We feel pretty
small out here.

The day begins at 6 AM when captain Steve gets off watch. He has the 2
AM to 6 AM watch and Admiral Maria has the 10 PM to 2 AM watch. That is
how we stay up all night to watch for ships and things that could go
bump in the night.

At 6 AM the sun is beginning to rise and bring the steamy warmth of a
new day. We both take a look around Aspen to see if there is any
carnage from the night before. Sometimes we get flying fish who like to
rest on the deck. But by daylight they are pretty stiff and won't be
able to fly away.

Admiral Maria stirs and begins making breakfast - one of our treats for
the day. We tidy Aspen up and at 10 AM we check-in with the Rally boats
that we are traveling with using the single sideband radio. There are
29 boats in the Rally, all headed to the Galapagos Islands but not
together. We are strung out from near the equator to Panama City! We
check in to make sure everyone is safe and to hear what kind of weather
they have where they are.

Sometimes we visit with some of the boats we know via the SSB radio and
enjoy hearing from them. Afterwards we check the weather using the
satellite phone and retrieve and send emails.

Since we are both awake we automatically check around us for possible
ships in the area and adjust the sails that are constantly in need of
attention. Today we are flying all 3 sails because there isn't a lot of
wind. Our speed is 4-5 knots. Yes, you can probably walk faster than
that, but not on water!!

Out on the water we get to see dolphins leap at least 10 feet into the
air, spin around and splash down. Wow. Sometimes they play in Aspen's
wake as we sail by. Rays also like to jump out of the water and do back
flips. We hope they don't mistake Aspen for a landing area.

The admiral likes to cat nap during the heat of the day to catch up on
her lost sleep. Captain Steve plays with the sails, makes sure we are
going the right way and he works at his computer.

Contrary to popular belief, Steve still is doing geophysics for his
clients. We have to pay for this journey! He uses advanced hand-eye
coordination skills when interpreting 3D data while the boat is rocking
and rolling with the waves. Arrrrrrrrr!

At 6 PM there is another Rally check-in, followed by watching the sunset
and dinner. Showers are another highlight of the day to get the salt
glaze off us. The temperature starts to come down with the sun and that
is really welcome.

Darkness is almost complete once the burning sun disappears beyond the
horizon. Then the stars come out and fill everything around us. Our
wake glistens and sparkles with bioluminescence as we sail through the
vast sea.

Right now we have a huge moon that appears a couple hours after darkness
and makes the sea appear as light as day. This is really nice when we
are keeping watch at night because then the rest of the world doesn't
seem so far away for some reason.

Sail on sail on Aspen...