Sailing Blog

Caribbean S2 - Part 2 Bonaire

Dec. 2017 - Mar. 2018

We launched BnG on the 9th of December and spent the weekend in the spillway of the marina so that we could put up the sails and give the boat a bit of a clean up before we headed out.  Woburn Bay, where the marina is, is not a great place to anchor the boat for long periods of time, because of the spilloff from the Rum Factory.  The smell can be overwhelming sometimes not to mention the amount of growth that appears magically on the boat bottom in just a couple of days.  So once the sails were loaded and systems checked, we said our good-buys to the marina and headed over to Grand Anse Bay, just outside of St. Georges.

We spent a couple of days here watching some of the Christmas festivities and preparing for our three day passage to Bonaire.  Just after 10am on December 13th, we pulled anchor and departed Grenada.  After 385 uneventful nautical miles, we arrived in Bonaire just after 10am on the 16th, 3 days to the hour.  

We knew some cruisers that were already there when we arrived, and they advised us on what to do for tieing up to a mooring line.  There is absolutely no anchoring in Bonaire, the entire island is a protected marine park.  Another cruiser was out in his dinghy when we arrived and offered to help us tie up.  I loved this place already!  We then made our way by dinghy into Karels Restaurant on the water, where we parked for a short period of time so that we could walk over to the customs office to check in.  As Canadians, we are allowed a maximum of 3 months (Americans are allowed 6 months, which I found a little unfair), and we planned to take full advantage of our stay here.  After checking in, we walked over to the marina where we registered with them for the mooring we had tied to.  At only $10 per day for the mooring, it would be easy to stay here for the full 3 months.

Bonaire is an island in the leeward Antillies.  It is part of the Dutch ABC’s (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao).  Located about 80km (50 miles) off the coast of Venezuela, and generally speaking, outside the hurricane zone.  In our somewhat limited opinion, it is the best diving location we have been to thus far.  Needless to say, we fell in love with diving all over again!

We definitely took more pictures under water than above water while we stayed in Bonaire.  With over 90 named or numbered offical dive sites, the challenge would be how many we could do while here.  We got a good start on Christmas Day, when our friends from catamaran Wind Dancer IV called to see if we wanted to join them for a dive at the Salt Pier.  Then on Boxing Day, 11 of us got together for a dinner reservation at La Terrazza, which was a very interesting experience.  At this restaurant there are no menus.  The server asks us of anyone is allergic to anything, or has any really strong dislikes.  Once the details have been shared, then the meal commences.  Every course is $5 and if you would like it paired with wine it is $10.  They simply keep bringing courses until you tell them to stop.  The courses are not big, but each one comes with a story along with the history and region of the paired wine.  After 5 courses I could not eat another bite, but Robert ventured on to the 6th before stopping.  We both agreed it was an amazing dinner and a wonderful experience.

We closed out the year 2017 at Coco Beach where they had a big beach party with musical entertainment and, of course, fireworks at midnight.  We soon discovered that the New Years fireworks were only the beginning.  For the next two weeks there were more fireworks of every variety, and at all times of the day and night.  The people on this island really love fire works!

The mooring that our boat was tied to was directly in front of the Yellow Sub Dive Friends building, which was very convenient.  We do have our own dive compressor on the boat, but we found that with their prepaid program it was so inexpensive to get our tanks filled, so we never used it.  We were also able to rinse and hang our dive equipment right on thier site, so we didn’t have to drag it all dripping wet back to our boat.  We would drive in by dinghy, put on our gear, pick up a couple of air cylinders and head out to the next dive site on our list.  Then after another amazing dive, we would take everything back to the Yellow Sub shop, rinse it out in their large tanks, return the empty air cylinders, hang up our equipment in their secure locker room for the night, and head back to the boat.  Next day, repeat!  Since the mooring field is also right over a reef, whenever we were onboard the boat it was not unusual to hear the sound of bubbles coming up from divers that were swimming by.  Robert sometimes liked to dive in with just his mask, no scuba gear, and see how long it would take the scuba divers there to notice that we wasn’t breathing air, just swimming amongst them!

Karel’s Restaurant, right on the end of the pier in the main town of Kralendijk, and also lay at one end of the row of moorings, was a good place to eat, or simply have a drink on Sunday while watching whatever sports match might be showing on their TV’s around the bar.  It started out being a great place to tie up the dinghy when we wanted to go ashore for groceries or whatever, but after only a couple of weeks there, they decided that they didn’t want all the cruisers tying up their dinghys there, so they started charging a $5 fee, unless you were staying to eat.  I don’t really blame them for this, but I felt that most of us were already feeling some obligation to eat/drink at the restaurant on occasion since we were parking there.  You see, the one problem that exists for cruisers in Bonaire is where to park the dinghy.  There are so few options that it makes it very difficult to go ashore to spend money!  This is something that I think the tourism unit in Bonaire need to seriously address.  Even the area designated for dinghy parking in the marina was so small, that often you could see people struggling to walk through other peoples dinghys just to get tied up.

On Fridays, we found a great place to have date night, just a couple of kilometres (just over a mile) down the road from the marina. It is a resort called Buddy Dive which had an all-you-can-eat buffet starting at 6pm, with free rum punches served from 5-6.  Then around 8pm there is live music and dancing.  We made this a regular event after our initial discovery, which happened totally by accident, as we tried to get a reservation for dinner at the very fancy place next door, and couldn’t get in. Our win! 

Friends Bob and Sarah on S/Y Rhapsody told us about the Antillies Wine Company that hosted a wine tasting on the second Saturday of each month.  A group of us got together and decided to go in February, and for only $10 you get 6 tastings and some light snacks.  We went again in March too, as we had enjoyed it so much the first time.  Between the diving and the drinking (rum or wine), we were glad that we didn’t have to worry about getting on a flight to leave!

One Sunday, we decided to go into shore and see of any of the local bar/restaurants were showing the NASCAR race on a big screen.  We did find one and ended up meeting another couple there that were renting the condo directly in front of our boat.  I don’t think we watched much of the race that day, as our conversation seemed to dominate our interests.  They were nice enough to invite us to dinner the next day at their condo, which allowed us to get some amazing pictures of our boat moored down below.

In the 3rd week of February we did a quick side trip to Curaçao for 4 day, 3 nights.  See seperate post about this.

The diving truely was spectacular and we cannot wait to return to Bonaire.  I only wish we were more experienced underwater photographers, although I still don’t think pictures would do it justice.  I did my first night dives ever in Bonaire, and it makes Robert laugh each time we reminisce about that first dive, where I clung to him like a scared child, just waiting for those underwater preditors to eat me!  After that first dive though, I felt my fears drop away, as we explored the wonders that only the darkness of night make available.  I can say without any hesitation that our favorite night dives occurred twice while we were there, both times 4-5 days following a full moon.  These are called ostracod dives.  When you literally watch nature at its best.  Ostracod are very small, only about 1 mm (0.039 in) in size, and a class of crustaceans.  The variety of ostracod found in the Caribbean are called “blue sand” or “blue tears” because they glow blue in the dark of night.  It made us think of the movie “Avatar” when you see the Tree of Life with all the lights.  You descend into the water near a coral bed around 9pm and turn off your flash light and wait.  You’ll know when it starts, because you will begin to see millions of blue lights ascending from the floor of the ocean up to the surface.  Absolutely mesmerizing!  I only wish we could have captured a picture of it.

On the second Sunday in February, we went ashore to watch as Bonaire put on their version of a Caribana parade.  The colourful costumes and beautiful young ladies dressed like princesses were fun to watch as they paraded along the main street in Kralendijk. It started at about 5pm and only lasted for about an hour, but we were glad we went in to see it.

About a week before we planned to depart, we were anxious to make sure we had taken in all that this lovely island had to offer.  So we rented a pickup truck for a few days that would allow us to explore some of the dive sites that were too far to get to by dinghy, as well as tour other parts of the island and its national park.  We came across some pretty interesting sites!  

The slave huts found near the salt ponds, were constructed back in 1850, and were used by the slaves working in the salt ponds.  They would sleep in these huts all week while they were working and only go home on weekends.  I took a picture of Robert in one of these slave huts that will show just how tiny they are.

The triangular Obelisks, pyramid looking structures, found near the salt ponds were designed to notify the ships that were coming to the island to purchase salt, of the different grades or quality of salt.  The ship would tie up near the colour associated with the quality that they desired.  There were four salt pans, and four obelisks each painted a different colour, orange, red, white, and blue representing the colours on the flag of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.  The orange one shown in our pictures is called Oranje Pan.

The Willemstoren Lighthouse is located at the southern end of the island.  It is one of five lighthouses on the island that assist mariners to navigate the coastline.  It was recently renovated in March of 2012.  Constructed in 1837, it was Bonaires first lighthouse.

We stopped for lunch on the “wild side” of the island, where the wind and waves are much more fierce.  While we enjoyed our lunch, we were entertained by the variety of wind surfers who come here specifically for the higher winds.

The pickup truck we rented was not our usual choice of rental vehicle for touring the islands we visit, but not only was it great for transporting our dive equipment, as it had a rack in the truck bed specifically designed for holding dive tanks, it was also 4-wheel drive, which we were told was what we needed if we wanted to tour inside the national park.  As we made our way through the Washington Slagbaai National Park, we quickly realized why having a 4-wheel drive vehicle was a necessity.  The roads inside the park were designed more for a jeep than a regular car.  Nevertheless, we were glad we made the effort to see it.

After leaving the park in the north east side of the island, our next stop was at the Cadushy Distillery, where they make a variety of liquors in colours like orange and lime green.  The bottles had a similar shape to the obelisks that we had seen earlier that day.  The liquors were quite tasty, the orange one reminded me of a creamsicle bar I used to eat as a child.  We decided to purchase a couple to bring back to the boat.

Bonaire is such a magical place to dive and explore.  We found that our time here had passed far too quickly.  We just weren’t ready to leave!

Unfortunately our three months were up, so on March 19th at approximately 6am, we released the lines from our mooring and started out on what we anticipated would be a three day passage to St. Croix, USVI.  We were less than 10 minutes into our passage when Robert discovered our dripless packing on the prop shaft just inside our engine room was not dripless at all.  In fact it was spewing salt water everywhere!  This was not a great way to start a three day passage.  This would have to be resolved before we would go any further, or we would have to turn around and go back.  We immediately slowed the engine and turned it off.  Now we were merely drifting, and not far enough away from the island of Bonaire to discard the possible dangers it could impose.  So we worked frantically to get the packing back in place and stop the water intrusion. It took us a gruelling 1.5 hours to fix the problem, and we were once again on our way.  Whew!  Lets hope that would be the most exciting part of the passage!


Where is BnG now?

We cannot direct the wind, we can only adjust our sails