Sunday, December 21, 2008

Where is Bonaire, anyway?

Jane and Russell of Ta-B, on their way to Curacao. See ya later!

Alex, hero of hurricane Omar, on a calmer day.

Richard at his restaurant. Dock is gone thanks to Omar, and he's still smiling!
Apres dinner with Frank and Tanja.

The crews of Idyll Island and Anemos. Good friends!

Bonaire doesn't call its airport "Flamingo International" for nothing!

Its a moray.
Off to another great dive site!
At the salt ponds.

Cruisin' in the clear blue...

One Fin Cathy!

Making friends at Washington Slagbaai National Park.
Jim, in typical underwater pose.

At the slave huts. A bit small.....

It was another great dive!

Jim and Jeannie relaxin' after a hard day's diving.

Derek and John restringing the trampolines. Not all play, even for our guests!

Not all work either....


And another great dive!
Spanish Waters anchorage, Curacao

Cathy and Tristan relaxing at a Willemstad terrace cafe.

Floating bridge in the background

Sailing back to Bonaire

Finger pickin', good....

B&C of the ABCs


Here we are back in Bonaire for Christmas – with our son, Tristan! It’s been a while since out last update – like 3 months. This cruising life is a busy one - visiting with new and old friends, diving, exploring new places, figuring out where to buy even basic food and supplies, boat maintenance and even a bit of sailing.

When we left you last, we had just had a lovely downwind spinnaker sail to Bonaire from the Venezuelan offshore islands of Las Aves. Here are some of our stand-out memories of Bonaire:

  • Our first 6 days diving and six nights partying with good friends, Russell and Jane of Ta-B, who stayed in Bonaire long enough for us to catch up, after having met in St. Maarten in May. Jane introduced us to
  • Snorkeling along the sea wall in front of our moorings and seeing a truly amazing diversity of creatures, moray eels, soap fish, tarpon, bonefish (huge ones cruising along where you’re not allowed to cast a fly!), stonefish, eagle rays, sting rays, permit, little damsel fish aggressively guarding their algae gardens, sergeant majors guarding their purple egg masses, tiny little blennies hiding in holes in brain coral, colourful little crabs, peacock flounder, goat fish, hog fish, many types of parrot fish, even fish fish.
  • Waking up at 1:00 am as the wind starts to blow at 35 knots from the west, turning our protected mooring into an exposed lee shore, with our stern hanging 50 metres from the beach where the surf is crashing in. Sitting for 3 hours at the wheel with engines running in case the mooring lines break and we have to get outta there.
  • Cathy taking the “kick-off” to the Bonaire Regatta a bit too literally and breaking her foot when she went off an unseen curb – before having even a single a rum punch! Only discovering her foot was broken after 4 days of pain and then the old school Dutch doctor who put her into a huge rough plaster cast. “Don’t get it wet, and we’ll have a look in 6 weeks to see how it’s healed”. Right.
  • Taking Idyll Island into the marina to shelter from the approaching hurricane Omar and as the lovely woman from the neighbouring boat who took our lines saw Cathy’s foot in a cast, she told us her name was Tanja and her husband Frank was an orthopedic surgeon! Turns out Tanja is a physiotherapist. We became great friends with them and their two boys, Vincent and Joshua, who make up the crew of “Anemos”. Frank provided a modern, professional second opinion on the treatment for Cathy’s foot and the cast was off after only a week (not without some difficult moments with the old Dutch doctor back at the hospital!). Between Frank and Tanja, they had Cathy walking, snorkeling and diving (with one fin!) within a couple of weeks. Derek and Frank got out diving half a dozen times and we had some good snorkels with the whole crew and many fun evenings with lots of laughter.
  • Alex, the dock manager at Harbour Village Marina, working from dawn to well after dark to get every boat into their protected moorage the day before Omar hit. Always cheerful, always professional.
  • Meeting Richard of Richard’s Restaurant here on Bonaire, who when we showed up to return the key to his truck which he had lent to Russel and Jane, said, “Keep it – use the truck whenever you want.”! And that was just the beginning, he went waaay beyond that with his hospitality. We’ll never forget the night of hurricane Omar when he showed up on the dock at the marina, absolutely soaked in the driving rain to tell us that we couldn’t come down to his place by dinghy to get the truck the next day (so Cathy could go to the hospital to get her cast off!), because Omar had completely destroyed his dock and he would be at the marina to pick us up in the morning! And, he had a bag of fresh baquettes for us. Cathy named him Prince Richard.
  • Meeting up with the crew of Tyee III; John, Lucie, Theo and Simi, from Revelstoke. Derek was able to help get Lucie back to SCUBA diving after a gap of several years, while John took his PADI course, then they all dove together several times in Bonaire’s warm (30 degrees C), crystal clear, fish and coral filled waters.
  • Meeting Mark, Jeannet and Greg, skipper, chief steward, and engineer) from the super yacht Eladrea, who provided unlimited water while our watermaker was not working (again!), and invited us along to a great dock party.
  • Meeting Kylie and Mike of the gorgeous little restored wooden yacht “Meggie”; a young couple out for adventure going small, simple and now!
  • And a whole bunch of other new friends we met while in Boniare who collectively made our stay so interesting and fun, including the crews of “Monkey Feet”(with 3 great boys), “Revid”, “Eleanor”, “Scott Free” and “Worldwide Traveller”.
  • Wifi from Anna, who provides a free signal just because she likes cruisers.
  • Seeing the recovery both above and below water after the deveastation of Omar. Thankfully the reefs look to be in much better shape than we initially feared.
  • The visit from Jim and Jeannie, who were with us for a couple of diving and fun filled weeks. Jim finding a little reef octopus, minutes after arrival, in an area we had snorkeled dozens of times. But then he is an expert on octopus, having just had his book on the Great Pacific Octopus, accepted for publication! Jim getting eaten alive by the viscous little no-see-ums that seem to proliferate with all the rain after Omar. Driving though the cactus forests and lunar landscape of the Washington Slagbaai National Park – taking lots of pictures.
  • The visit from our friend John, who was also with us for another couple of diving and fun filled weeks. Unfortunately, it was not the classic, ssunny trade winds weather and we had several days of rain, though it was still 30+ degrees! It had been more than 10 years since John had done any SCUBA diving and he jumped back into it with much enthusiasm. We were surprised and happy that our “A” type friend was able to slow down and relax underwater where he got into looking at all the small stuff and the fascintating fish behaviours.
  • Great dinners that both John and Jim and Jeannie treated us to.
  • A great sail from Bonarie to Curacao with John. Downwind, though without a spinnaker, ‘cause the snuffer wasn’t snuffing. On the way, hooked into a marlin (a good 5’ long) that exploded under my lure 40’ behind the boat! Then he took off and almost spooled me before jumping for a 3rd time and breaking the line.


Big enclosed lagoon, Spanish Water, provides a protected anchorage. Instead of Bonaire’s clear blue water under our hull, the water is a murky green. But the phosphoresence at night is spectacular! The upside is lots of facilities for cruisers and …. shopping - real supermarkets! As well as a public bus system, there are shuttle buses to several supermarkets/shopping centers. It’s a way more developed island than Bonaire, with a population of 150,000 plus, versus Bonaire’s 14,000. The main town of Willemstad has very Dutch looking architecture painted in bright Caribbean colours along the entrance to the main harbour with a 100 metre swing bridge floating on classic barge boats, contrasting with the soaring span of the modern Julianna Bridge in the background. But it’s really all about the people and once again we found great people in Curacao. Especially our friends aboard “Anemos”, “Monkey Feet” and “Ta-B” who were waiting for us in the anchorage when we pulled in. “Anemos” and “Monkey Feet” delayed their passage to the San Blas to spend a last night with us – we shared a few drinks and lots of laughs! And the next night, “Ta-B” showed up for a last supper before heading north to Puerto Rico. Having said fond farewells to “Anemos”,“Monkey Feet” and “Ta-B”, we reconnected with Val and Lloyd on “Puddle Jumper” from Toronto and enjoyed several shared shopping trips and the odd drink or two. Have to say that David and Barry of Watercraft Watermakers were excellent guys who provided us with very professional advice as we tried to sort out our non-functioning system. They are also good fun at the bi-weekly happy hours at the local sailing club! And finally, there we were at the Curacao airport meeting our 19 year old son Tristan, who has been doing his first year at Camosun College in Victoria. He is joining us for a well deserved and much anticipated Christmas visit. He has been coping wonderfully with many challenges; creating his own summer job, finding accomodation, shopping, cooking, getting back into school after a year off, qualifying as a lifeguard and getting hired at the Commonwealth pool. And by the sound of it, having some good times with his good friends and family! We are very proud of him.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Island Images

No catch and release this time. And very tasty he was too!

Cathy, the Polar Beer Girl. Having a cold one for breakfast on the beach at Los Testigos.

A man and his boat.

Night sailing from Los Testigos to La Blanquilla. So beautiful you never want to get there...

Cruisin' along under spinnaker.

Anchorage at La Blanquilla. Not tooo crowded...

Exploring at American Bay, La Blanquilla.

Even cooler snorkeling underneath!

Coral fossils at La Blanquilla.

View from the front porch on Idyll Island, tucked in behind the outer reef of Los Roques.

View from the back porch. Sunset over the island of Gran Roques.

You want good light for navigating the passes through the reef. Electronic charts for this area are off by about 500m, about what the ship in the background appears to have missed by....

The new rod casts nicely, I'm sure it will play a fish well too - some day!

A flying booby.

One year old green turtle at the Los Roques Turtle Research and Conservation Foundation on Islas Dos Mosquitos. Just about ready to be released into the ocean.
Local fishers...

Where to next?

Island hopping - Grenada to Bonaire

October 25, 2008

Well, it’s been a while since we left Grenada on September 12th. Lots of adventures, exploration and above all, great people along the way. Some of the high points:

A calm overnight passage (not enough wind to sail but an easy, comfortable 12 hour motor – engines worked great, thanks to Mike at Palm Tree Marine in Grenada!) from Grenada to Los Testigos where our friends Chris and Kelly on Verna Breeze welcomed us over the VHF while we were still 10 miles away. Nice to hear a friendly voice as you’re coming into a foreign anchorage! Caught a barracuda on our approach to the islands. This one we kept, and it was delicious!

Hung out in Los Testigos for the two days we were allowed by the Venezuelan Garda Costa. Busy little place; the week long Festival of the Virgin was just wrapping up and it looked like it had been a very big party with lots of visitors from the mainland camping out on the islands. Only store we found was a “beer bunker”, as it was referred to by Cathy. Just a cinder block building 10’x15’, ½ full of Polar beer. We only bought 2, as it wasn’t yet 10:00 am – Cathy seemed to actually enjoy sipping on an ice cold breakfast beer as we walked along the beach!

Left Los Testigos around midnight and had another wonderful overnight passage of about 100 miles from Los Testigos to La Blanquilla. Bright moonlight and calm seas with 10-15 knots of breeze from astern. As soon as it was daylight, we hoisted the spinnaker and sailed idyllically for the next 8 hours – at one point accompanied by a dozen dolphins playing around our bows - all the way into the anchorage, arriving about 4:00 pm. The Garda Costa had just finished checking the boats at anchor, and waved cheerfully to us as they left to head back to the port (4:00 pm quittin’ time). We took the wave as our official clearance so we just relaxed and enjoyed another couple of idyllic days. La Blanquilla is a low, flat island about 12 miles across, covered in cactus scrub. The beaches are fantastic, cool rock formations, good snorkelling, and hardly anyone there.

After 2 days it was time to head for Los Roques. Another calm, overnight passage of about 100 miles, with not enough wind to sail. Arrived Los Roques about 10:00 as planned, so the sun was high enough to allow us to see the tricky entrance through the reefs and the clear channels once inside. This was a good thing as our electronic charts were up to 500 m off and absolutely not reliable. Los Roques is a plateau of mangrove islands inside a protecting reef about 25 miles across. There are shallow mud flats and innumerable coral heads and reefs studding the vast miles of shallow sandy sea. It was a bit buggy while we were there, so we tried to anchor far away from the mangroves, just inside the fringing reef. Some of them still found us. We spent 6 days in Los Roques; snorkelling, exploring, and hangin’ out. Unfortunately, where we snorkelled, the coral was mostly dead and the visibility wasn’t that great. Los Roques is reputed to be a mecca for bonefish (spectacular fighting game fish, or so legend has it…). Derek finally broke out his fancy saltwater fly fishing gear, and caught a few small and miscellaneous in-shore fish, but no sign of a bonefish. Visited the turtle research station on Dos Mesquitos islands. As well as the turtles, there were lots of pelicans and other bird life. And mosquitoes. Our last couple of nights were spent at Isla d’Agua, where we were welcomed to the anchorage over the radio by Doug and Wendy of Mustang Sally, another Canadian Voyage catamaran. Amazingly, the other 4 boats in the anchorage were also Canadian – a floating enclave. On our second night, just at dusk we were treated to the most spectacular display of lightning we’ve ever seen. Huge explosions, across the whole western sky, often half a dozen at a time. It was just after sunset, so the flashes mingled with the last rosy rays. It was “down weather” to the west of us so we didn’t feel threatened, only awed for the couple of hours it lasted. At about 1:00 a.m. we were treated to a surprise encore right overhead as the storm had moved towards us instead of away. Accompanied by westerly winds of up to 30 knots (potentially nasty, as boats often anchor with a reef in front of them to protect them from the prevailing easterly trade winds – a westerly puts the reef right behind you, and if your anchor drags….) with buckets of rain. We had lots of room in the anchorage and our trusty 73lb Rocna anchor held roc solid, so no worries. Next day we visited our first flock of flamingos out on a little sand bar.

Wanting to make sure we met up with our friends Russell and Jane of Ta-B, before they had to leave Bonaire, we left Los Roques on September 24th, headed for Las Aves, a short 30 mile passage, once again with no wind, so we motored – again! Spent one night in Las Aves – lots of bugs. Cathy did see many of her long sought after blue-footed boobies there though, so worth the stop. Next morning it was off to Bonaire. A bit of wind this time, so got to fly the chute once more – great romping reach up the lee side of Bonaire in 15 knots of breeze and flat water. Then time to take the chute down, but the snuffer jammed, so had to do the old standard leeward takedown, except we weren’t flying a mainsail to blanket the wind. Got it all down with no problems then headed to the mooring field off the town of Kralendijk to find a mooring accompanied by a small pod of welcoming dolphins! We were then welcomed by our friends Russell and Jane on “Ta-B” who came out in their dinghy to help us tie up. It was great to see them!

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Having a cool one at the Grenada Yacht Club before heading out into the heat for Carnival.

Dancin' in the Street!
Grenada, West Indies

We are in Grenada! In fact we’ve been here for 6 weeks now and are loving it. This morning at 10:30 the air is 32 degrees Celsius, the water is 28 degrees and the wind is light. We worked outside until we got got too drippy, dove in for a cooling drift under the boat (between the hulls) where we discussed what we needed to do today on our last day in Grenada – we’re leaving at midnight tonight for Bonaire via the Venezuelan offshore islands.

Our sail down from the Tobago Cays was brilliant. Fine weather, good breezes and moderate seas of 4ish feet. First stop was Petit Martinique, (not related to the well known French island of Martinique) – must have been a low inspiration day in this area of many repeated names. It is a tiny island surrounded by open reefs and sandy beaches to anchor behind. We found a modest selection of decent rum, wine and beer at quite low prices and loaded up with 2 cases of Chilean wine, much Heineken and a big jug of Mount Gay. Later wished we had bought even more! (Not because we drink a lot – just because it was so much cheaper than Grenada). A walk around turned up just the usual little rum shops on the first floor of people’s homes, one or two with big banks of speakers facing the dirt road, and no resorts or businesses except for the friendly grocery/wine store. The islanders were building a traditional wooden schooner of about 70’on the beach and we stopped for a while to watch.

Sailing from the north, the check in for the new country of Grenada is on the pleasant island of Carriacou, where we enjoyed the smart little town of Hillsborough (well, smarter than it was when we last visited 12 years ago…). The second town is Tyrrell Bay where preparations were in full swing for the Carriacou Regatta the following week. One race course is for the local fishing boats and the other is for cruising yachts. The last of the local boats were being painted and polished while several of the others were practising by sailing through the bay using the anchored cruisers as a slalom course. It was a little nerve wracking until we realized that they were in full control despite the volunteer crews off visiting boats.

Idyll Island made a splendid spinnaker run from Carriacou to Prickly Bay at the south end of Grenada. The 15 knot wind from astern pushed us joyously along at 8-10 knots for the entire 5 hour trip. We passed several smaller islands noted for their spectacular geography and scooted along the verdant Eastern coast of Grenada. We reclined in the shade of the spinnaker on the trampolines and ‘steered’ by the remote controller. Just doesn’t get any better! Actually, catching a fish would be even better, and just before arriving, Derek did, though is was just another baracuda. We released it but later found out that there is no real danger of ciguetterra poisoning in this area, particularly with fish under 2’. And barracuda are reputed to be particularly tasty. The next one won’t be gettin’ away!

Grenada is a lush, mountainous island with extreme greenery everywhere, friendly people, wild bus rides and at least a few of the amenities that we were hoping to find. With a population of nearly 100,000 tropical souls, it is a little modern and a little not.

There is much to do and see and the cruisers here are very sociable. We have hiked into several waterfalls including the Seven Sisters, where after a hand over root climb up to the top we jumped, dove, back flopped down each of the falls as appropriate to depth and location of the safe, relatively rock free spot to aim for. The final jump was over 30 ft –gulp, but we all made it with only a few bruises and scratches.

Grenada’s boisterous Carnival exploded onto the streets shortly after we arrived and it was great fun to be involved in the festivities – the “fancy mas” (for mascarade), or dress parade, featured different teams of wildly dressed dancers and VERY LOUD music. Each group had a theme and a story told by an announcer on a large truck mounted with massive speakers three layers high. We were near the judge’s platform and luckily got the full performance (and volume). Our hearing recovered hours later – more or less. “Panorama”, a contest between the seven best pan, or steel drum, bands in the area was held in the outdoor stadium. It was an amazing spectacle of 85 – 120 costumed musicians on stage playing their hearts out and we enjoyed it immencely. We gave the “dirty mas” a pass as it started in the middle of the night and is a raucous party where crank case oil and paint are smeared and poured over the participants. You are supposed to oil (veg oil) yourself down before arriving so that you have some hope of eventually removing the other oils. A note, something that is scheduled to start at time X should be translated into GMT (Grenada Maybe Time) by adding 2 to 3 hours.

Informal or somewhat organized events often take place amongst the ad hoc cruising community here. A few days ago we had a dinghy drift - a version of Sundowners where we tied the boats together, drank margaritas, passed appies and met newcomers as we floated around the bay. The Friday night fish fry at the fishing village of Gouyave, about an hour’s drive north, is a great local event. A group of about 25 cruisers from Prickly Bay and surrounds, piled into two taxi vans for the winding, sunset drive up the west coast to the 'Fishing Capital of Grenada' It was a hoot, with several streets blocked off and many stalls set up serving fried, steamed and bbq'd fish to all takers. The second time we went, lobster season was open - they were huge and fabulous. Clark’s Court distillery has a free, unlimited rum tasting bar and of course there is lots of music. Derek was a happy man (well until the following morning). They even managed to sauté some lovely shrimp w/o garlic or onion for Cathy. Fun to be part of the local scene.

Cathy joined some of the other boaters in tutoring Saturday morning remedial reading sessions for kids from 5 to14 years. Wonderful, lively, respectful kids; a treat to be able to help. We are finding the people to be very friendly and make our way around using the frantic little bus vans, hot and crowded (we’ve counted up to 19 passengers in a mini van), but cheap. We are on a cruisers budget now. We joined the 'Hash House Harriers' for a full moon walk/run through highland forest paths and streams, headlamps on, passing the occasional dazed goat and tiny hillside house with waving kids cheering us on. What they thought of 150 crazy locals and visitors striding (or stumbling) through the night I can only imagine. True to their motto 'a drinking club with a running problem' we ended up at a rum bar with a nearby ice cream stand. Derek reports that both the beer and the nutmeg ice cream were wonderful. Cathy even had a beer and it tasted pretty good!

We have found the Innova inflatable kayaks we had shipped in from Taiga Sports skim along at a very good speed and are manouverable and a lot of fun. Derek has discovered the sport of kayak surfing and just paddles over to the nearby point when the breakers are right – good rides, Dude.

We’ve now cleared customs, bought the last groceries and boat bits and tonight we sail for the Venezuelan islands of Los Testigos. Sad to be leaving Grenada and the cruiser friends we have shared it with – ‘Amaryllis’, ‘Bodacious’, ‘Gypsy Days’, ‘Merengue’,Cheeta II’, ‘Verna Breeze’, ‘Wildcat’, and many others Also, the many islanders who helped us including; Mike at Palm Tree Marine, who sorted out our engines; Dr. Sharon Sage, who sorted out our backs; and Cuddie the cheerful, reliable taxi man who showed us so many cool places.

With a bit of luck our next post will be from Bonaire in about a month. 'Til then, cheers,

Derek and Cathy

Grenada Pics

Fish on - well it seeeemed like a big one...

Its a big lure. As we found out after releasing this 2' barracuda, they are very tasty and no fear of ciguetterra poisoning here. We're keeping the next one!

Seven Sisters Falls hike begins....

Our cheerful and knowledgeable taxi driver and friend, Cuddie, showing us some Granada plants as we start out on our hike to the Seven Sisters ( the road became a track, then trail, then a hand-over-hand mud cliff!).
Cruisin' in the jungle.

Hang on to your suit when you go through the chute!

Leaping off one waterfall after another.

Cathy doing the Zen thing before the Big Jump...

Perfect plummeting form!