Friday, January 3, 2014

We had a fantastic 4 day downwind sail from Carriacou to Bonaire.  No really rough seas and the wind behind us.  What a ride.  We were making 7-8 kn most of the time.  A few light showers from time to time and 2 big ones that gave us enhanced winds up to 30 kn but only lasted a couple of minutes.  All in all you couldn’t ask for better.
About Bonaire: what a beautiful island with pristine, crystal clear water.  Not only could you see the bottom but you could identify every fish and ripple in the sand.  They have strict laws, no anchoring so we must take and pay for a mooring which was ok but it does keep you from staying too long.  Bonaire is famous for its diving and snorkeling.  It is an island that has been elevated by tectonic plates rising up from the sea floor so it’s a fairly flat island with small hills but it is basically a giant reef so at about 100 feet off the land under water it drops like a cliff to the level of the sea floor, hundreds or thousands of feet deep.  The fish swim at the edge of that cliff and the coral is actually still alive.  It’s one of the few islands in the world that can boast about that.  Diving sites are about every half mile around the island and snorkel sites are everywhere.  Since Harry and I are not divers we snorkeled many of the sites and had a fantastic experience.  I have never seen so many fish on any island, any time.  At any site they might swim by you in large schools.  You might see thousands of all different species.  The icing on the cake was a spotted eagle stingray with a 10ft tail and a wing span of probably 6 feet.  We were very excited to be able to swim with it as he gracefully floated along.
The island itself is quite interesting as it takes on a desert appearance at the top with tons of cacti everywhere.

Bonaire is all cactus top and bottom, alot like Arizona
 The south end of the island is almost completely salt flats with many flamingos swimming in the ponds.  Salt production is the major industry for Bonaire.  Sea water floods the salt flats and is then left for the water to evaporate, leaving salt.  As the water evaporates it becomes red (due to bacteria in the water) and foam forms all along the sides of the salt flats.  It is quite fascinating to see.

Thouands of flamingos everywhere (my friend Kathy would be in heaven)

Salt flats with the red water (their version of snow)
We were anchored right downtown in the capitol, Kralendijk (the island is Dutch).  The town is small but very cute with brightly colored buildings and especially clean.  There are some upscale stores for the visitors coming off the cruise ships and really cutesy restaurants.  We stayed 7 days and almost every day at least 1 or 2 cruise ships came in.

Picture from our boat, with cruise ship 500 ft from us

We are anchored about 100 ft from Karl's Bar and the really cute downtown.  This was taken from our boat
Distillery that makes liquors out of cactus.   They were so delicious, I bought one

The fancy car we rented to drive around Bonaire.  None of the windows close and the inside was falling apart.  Cheap though
We happened to moor right next to 3 boats that we had met back in Puerto Rico.  2 guys and 1 lady, all single handed sailors.  They are party people so we had a great time.  We spent Christmas on John’s 65 ft Gulfstar and partied hardy.  Then the last night we were there, they felt they needed to throw another party for us.  So the party continued.  We do hope to see them down the road in Columbia or Panama.

John's boat for the party with Inga and her son.  They are Dutch and live in Bonaire
Party time on Christmas.  Bev who is in the middle standing is the single handler.  She is amazing and lots of fun

These little guys just wonder all over the island
We had just finished snorkeling on this gorgeous beach.  Unbelievable amt of fish
Slave house used back in the 1800's.  Thee poor people could barely stand up and almost no room to sleep

Slave house from outside.  The Dutch were huge slave owners.  We never realized that

Donkeys everywhere.  They were brought to the island as work animals, then multiplied, then cars and trucks came so no one wanted a donkey and they were left to roam around and starve

So leaving Bonaire was sort of a mixed bag of feelings.  We loved the island but time to go to get moving on.  We did a fantastic downwind day sail to Curacao, which some people say: “Why would you want to go there. “  Well, clearly they have their heads on backward because it is a fantastic island.  This island is very upscale with million dollar homes and a downtown city that is one of the prettiest cities that we have ever been in.  Willemstad is a very Dutch city with brightly colored buildings and couldn’t be cleaner.  A very old pontoon pedestrian  bridge  is the highlight of the downtown.  We happen to be there when 3 cruise ships had come in so there were hundreds of people all over.  Lots of outdoor cafes on the waterfront and you could shop til you drop.  Unbelievable the amount of stores and outside activities on the streets.

Picture of downtown building and how clean the city is

Pontoon bridge, you can't see well but look down in the water to the right and you can see the pontoons holding it up

Just another picture of the Dutch buildings
  Bonaire and Curacao are both Dutch but most everyone speaks English.  The fun part is in the grocery.  Huge supermarkets, equivalent to anything you see in the US, except Walmart.  The fun part is everything is in Dutch.  Luckily, you can see through most jars, packages etc so you know what it is but spices were fun.  I needed Tarragon and could not find it.  It is dragon in Dutch, so now I have a bottle of Dragon!   The people are super friendly, bus is $1 to go anywhere and there is a free bus for the sailors who want to go to the grocery.  You can’t beat that.  The anchorage is very windy but free (Bonaire was $10 a night).  Last night one of the local restaurants offers a super discount for the sailors so about 30 of us showed up.  We partied and ate and had grand old time.
Our weather man has told us that the weather is good for us to head to Columbia so tomorrow (Sat) is the big day.  We will stop in Aruba for about 4 hours to take a nap and then off we go.  So unfortunately, we won’t be visiting Aruba.  I do feel badly about that since our friends back in Florida love it so much they go every year but we can’t take the time.  The sooner we get around the extremely windy capes of the Columbia coast the better it will be.  I will post this while I have good internet.  The next time will be February when we can tell you all about the trip and Columbia.

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