Sunday, December 21, 2008

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.