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...

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