Sunday, 30 November 2014

Bonaire October/ November 2014

Bonaire October/ November 2014

Unfortunately our night on the town left me (Rowena) with a bit of a dicky tummy. Six of us ate and drank the same but just two of us got the lurgy, strange.  Still, I managed to drag myself ashore for sundowners again with several others boats, mostly old friends which was rather nice.
Sponges Spooring

Richard had a dive with Dave on the Sunday and they saw the tunicates sporing! I had my first dive on Monday, just off Galene and saw the big brown leathery sponges sporing, so then I did not feel too cheated.

Galene from the reef

We started water aerobics again just four of us at first, but gradually increased to 7 or 8. So Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings got off to an early start. This all culminated in a lovely brunch on Exit Strategy on 14th November, celebrating Roses birthday as well as our last class before we all left for our various destinations. Great exercise and good fun chatting with the “girls” at the same time. (Perhaps more chatting than exercise!)

Ladies who Brunch!

We soon dropped back into the regular Bonaire rhythm. Shopping bus to Van Der Tweels Tuesday and Friday, laundry at Mageros, who always kindly collect and return us to the Marina. We often went as a group so this became a little social event too, although most of us tended to make use of their free wifi to catch up on emails, etc. Van Der Tweels publish their own magazine, mainly recipes, which I really like. It is Dutch, of course, but I can understand enough to use them. So part of the fun there is trying Dutch cuisine – they use a lot of capers, red cabbage, beetroot, anchovies and radishes among other foods I rarely use, so now we have a nice new repertoire of meals, many of them quick and easy. 

Wednesday was still ½ price burger night at Bistro de Paris at the marina where we caught up with all the cruisers we had not seen during the week. Another favourite meeting place, just across the road from Karels was Divers Delight, formerly known as Paradise Moon – the sign is still up!- where they serve pints of draught Heineken for $3 during happy hour. They also have a good $10 menu. Of course, you always bump into someone you know when you tie up your dingy at Karels. Bobbejans ribs are as good as ever, too.

The Venezuelan Consulate had a cultural evening, so we went along. There were various food stalls and a small table of “crafts”, but not very interesting. Ladies and girls in national dress wandering around, a few speeches, and a movie running all the time on one wall showing magnificent scenery (no sound) interspersed with what appeared to be various Indian tribes showing how they prepare something which we took to be cocaine! As afterwards they all went into trances or started manic dancing. Very strange.  They had a big orchestra playing lovely music in the background all the time. Not at all as Spanish as I expected. They had nice pamphlets to hand out, showing all the Venezuelan tourist attractions, but all in Spanish, one had a few paragraphs in English. A good idea, but since we believe all the airlines have stopped flying into Venezuela, you have to wonder who this publicity is aimed at.

Diving was as always FAB. One of the most memorable was when we went to Cliff. We saw a reef shark down in the depths – of course I was spooked – and then another, and another and I could not deal with any more, so we made a speedy exit. Of course, it was only the one shark, they are not usually in groups, the others were just huge Tarpon, but by then I was too spooked to look properly!

Honeycomb Cowfish
While there, I got a new Scubapro reg, for not a lot more than it would have cost me to get my Poseidons serviced, as they now need new hoses as well. The other thing is that I can’t get them serviced out here, so it means dragging them back to the UK each time. Took a little bit of getting used too, I have had my Poseidons for over 10 years now. They have a little switch so you can regulate the airflow to suit yourself which is nice. Richards dive computer also died, so he got a new Zoop as well.

Getting ready for the clean up dive
On Saturday 18th October we took part in the quarterly clean up dive arranged by Dive Friends. The object is to pick up rubbish from around South Pier at the commercial dock, so the Harbourmaster stops all boat movement for the morning- not that there is usually a lot! We all meet at Dive Inn and get a free tank of air. It is a great dive under the piers, reminiscent of Salt Pier, with amazing sea life in amongst all the rubbish. They asked us to leave the old rubbish, which is becoming part of the reef, just bring out new stuff.

Octopus trying to hide!
 We saw an octopus living in an old tyre, sponges and corals growing on what look like old engines and various fish using all the junk as hidey holes, so not all rubbish is bad! It was a weird feeling swimming under big ships and looking up at their props, thinking if they turned them on we would just be sucked straight into them. 117 divers took part and we collected 1034 items including 4 towels, 4 pairs of sunglasses, 2 locks, 1 chair and a pair of underpants! We even got a group photo in the local paper. That evening we were all invited to a Barbeque at Hamlet Oasis – Dive Friends providing one drink and the meat. We each brought a salad or desert. A fun evening.
Baracuda on clean up dive

Then, I got an ear infection, so no diving for about 10 days. Very frustrating as during this time we had lovely calm weather, just  perfect for going over to Klein Bonaire, so that delight is for another trip. After I got the infection, several people told me to make a mixture of 50% rubbing alcohol and 50% white vinegar and spray my ears after each dive. If only someone had mentioned this before! I have never had an ear infection before, so it was totally unexpected. Anyway, the alcohol vinegar mix seems to work as no more problems, but I will keep it up, for sure.

One day we were invited on ‘Yachtsman’s Dream’ to go and dive Salt Pier. We had dived it as a shore dive when Ian and Louise were here in July now we were doing it from a boat (a lovely big catamaran). The dive was as good as before despite a long swim from the mooring. 
Picking up the mooring at Salt Pier. Note where you store your cyliners on a cat!

The sail there and back was also interesting as we had never sailed on a cat before. There is no sense of the wind, or speed, the boat doesn’t heel over! You just have to keep looking at the instruments to see what is happening.  Thanks to John and Lela for a lovely day out.
Occi at Salt Pier

While here we managed to do some boat jobs as well, the teak toe rail and rubbing strake were in need of a coat of teak oil so we managed to do this in between dives. Working on the boat is very difficult as the diving is a great distraction, two moorings away from us was a yellow frogfish and on a small boat mooring just inshore of us was a pair of seahorses. The seahorses could be seen while snorkelling as it was very shallow. You just have to look at these things every day!
Our seahorse

The big job was mending the petrol generator. This had been broken for several months and there was no means of obtaining spares in the Caribbean. The fault had been diagnosed as an ignition problem.  On our visit to the UK the repair agent suggested it could be one of three components that had failed, we ordered all three to be safe and were going to change them in order of probability of failure (and ease of replacement). Guess what, the most likely fault was the one we had and with a new ignition module installed and a clean spark plug the generator ran as new. Brilliant we now have 240v electricity and plenty of battery charging in no wind conditions. Very useful as the wind died at night and we needed to charge the batteries up every morning.

The varnish brush came out again as we varnished the companionway entrance and the cockpit  table, the binnacle got a coat of paint as well so ‘Galene’ is looking a bit more loved!
Our stern gland continues to leak when we are running the engine so we always have to manually pump out the engine bilge. This is a problem we will get to the bottom of!
Checking the mooring

The moorings here are beginning to empty as boats are beginning to move on. Most are going west to Columbia and Panama, some through the canal others on a circumnavigation of the Caribbean. We are waiting for a ‘window’ to go North, the plans are to get to the Virgin Islands in one go. The Hurricane season looks to be over so we will be off at the first opportunity. All we want is gentle South easterlies for a few days, who knows we may even get what we wish for!

Yachties leaving and these monsters arriving!

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Curacao and Bonaire October 14

Curacao and Bonaire October 14

We arrived back in Curacao at 20:30 local time on 30th September. The hire car we had booked with Jansen Car hire arrived as scheduled and we drove to The Happy Turtle apartments, which was to be our home for the next few nights.

On the veranda 'Happy Turtle'
The apartment was quite basic but had everything we needed and a few little luxuries – television (with quite a few channels), wifi and an air conditioner in the bedroom which meant a cool nights sleep with no mozzies! We had brought tea, coffee, powdered milk and cereal in our luggage so we could have a late night drink on arrival and breakfast before heading off to check on Galene.

We had breakfast on the back verandah overlooking the lovely garden watching hummingbirds hovering  in the Bougainvilla and other flowers.  There was a pool too, but unfortunately we never got a swim as it closed at 7pm and we got back after dark each evening. 

We had been in email contact with Curacao Marine and had been assured that all was on schedule, but there is always a little doubt. It was great to see Galene back in the lower yard, ready and waiting. The new cutless bearing had been fitted, the sides were being polished and Rocky, the manager, said his guys would be ready to paint the bottom as soon as we gave them the paint.  We still had 2 tins from England and decided to use them.  Anti- foul is very expensive out here.
In the Yard

We were going to change the anodes and service the seacocks, so while Richard started on seacocks I got on with anodes – the easier job. However, the big pear shape one near the prop shaft would not undo.  Painting continued and was completed, while a series of screwdrivers , wrenches and pliers failed to undo the bolts -  they had corroded nicely together. The tops were in the bilge that filled with seawater when the rudder began to leak on the Atlantic crossing and we obviously did not clean up vigorously enough.
WD40 and vinegar were tried while Richard continued with the seacocks. Rocky was called in and eventually it was decided that the only thing to do was to cut the bolts and fit new ones if we wanted to be launched on Friday as scheduled. Except, the chandlers out here do not have those rods! Luckily we had brought a spare anode with us, as they did not have them either. Something else to add on our next UK shopping list. Fortunately, there is a welding shop just over the road and they were duly ordered. Minimun charge of $50 US! 

We finally got the bolts at about 2pm on Friday with launch due at 4pm, the last of the day. So they went on sharply and we just hoped that an hour would belong enough for the sealant to go off. We were expertly splashed at 16:00 as scheduled and we could spend the weekend on the boat. We had checked out of the apartment in the morning, but arranged that we could come back if necessary. They were very understanding –no problem at all. We could stay on the boat on the hard, but it is very hot and dusty and because the fridge is keel cooled we cannot use it on land, so life would be quite hard.

Having the car made shopping very easy, so we stocked up a bit. We had tried to eat up as much as possible before leaving so were missing some of the basics. As usual we went to Van Den Tweel and Vreugdenhill supermarkets and a super huge one, Magero, we did not know about. Exit Strategy were in the marina too and so Rose came with us as a guide and do a bit of shopping too. The guys went off to get the propane refilled at Santa Rosa , quite a way, but they only filled Dan’s, said they could not do ours. A bit of a nuisance, but not serious as we still have some in our little blue one and another big orange one. At least we were able to fill up a couple of cans with Diesel as there is no fuel in the boatyard.
The forecast leading up to the weekend was for light winds so we decided to leave for Bonaire on Thursday. So, Wednesday was mostly taken up with the long walk over the hill to Willemstad to check out and then over the pontoon bridge to immigration in the port. We waved to Exit Strategy as they headed out, back to Spanish Water for a few days.
We slipped the marina at 10:30 on 9th October and headed out. Richard called up the bridge to ask them to open it and they said it was open. We thought this was a bit strange but carried on. When we turned into the main channel we could see the bridge and out to sea – a huge tanker was on its way in! Richard called up again and asked if we should proceed and the reply was “Yes, with all speed Captain!”  So we did, not wanting to be in the entrance at the same time as the tanker. 

Leaving Willemstad

We had a lovely sail to Klein Curacao, a small uninhabited  island to the south of Curacao. The plan was to spend the night there and then sail up to Bonaire giving us a better angle on the wind each day.  The topography is a lot like Bonaire – very deep water shelving suddenly to a shallow rubble filled shelf where we had to anchor, but quite narrow. There were several mooring buoys with tripper boats on, several small fishing boats at anchor and only one other yacht further north.  After  three attempts we were finally happy with the anchor at about 16:00 and had a drink and surveyed the scene.

At anchor Klein Curacao

We saw a few Ospreys on the way over and I watched one dive down and send a little flock of terns scattering. Too far away to see which they were or if he got anything. There was a Pelican fishing and a Caspian tern resting on a buoy. All the day boats left soon after we anchored and we got ready for a swim. Suddenly a big swell appeared pushing us around and making it impossible to get off the boat. It did not last long so we had a quick swim to check the anchor and back on board in case the swell returned. Which it did periodically through the night. A pity, as I would have liked to have a walk around the island which was very picturesque with an old lighthouse, still in use, a huge wreck on the shore and the wreck of a yacht.
At dusk a 20ft fishing boat tied onto the buoy next to us that a tripper boat had vacated earlier. A bit later a smaller one tied onto the back of him and the fisherman proceeded to clean a few fish, hopped onto the bigger boat and they had a nice barbecue on the back!

Our Neighbours for the night

At first light there was a knocking sound – the boats had turned again and the bigger boat was facing the buoy and banging on it. The smaller one had his engine on and was trying to untangle them! Richard went up and they apologized for coming so close to us. They got themselves sorted out and went off fishing.

We got up at 07:00 planning on leaving at once, while the winds were still light as it would be more to windward today. We were going to go round the south of the island to get a better angle and to see the other side. However, we were greeted by thunder and a big squall to the south.  We got ready anyway deciding we would just go north. Richard had just taken off the snubber when it began to rain heavily. So, we waited, watching the squalls go over. About 08:30 the squalls all seemed to be staying south so we set off north, putting the sails up at the top of the island. We had a glorious sail, in the right direction, for all of ten minutes when the wind died and we motored the rest of the way to Bonaire.
Squall over Klein Curacao

As we approached Klein Bonaire we were pleasantly surprised to hear ‘Vivace’ calling us on the radio. They were just arriving from Grenada and were wondering where we were. We were only a little way behind them and said we would find them after they had picked up a mooring. We were lucky to get a mooring, taking what looked to be the last available one, but with only one pickup line not two as they are supposed to have. A quick snorkel down to the block revealed a line cut off below the water so we tied our own line to it to be secure.
Bonaire is very busy as it is the end of Regatta week and they also have a fishing competition on the last day. There are boats moored everywhere, on all the buoys, in the Club Nautico marina, on the fisherman’s dock, the place has a real buzz to it.
Our dinghy was down in double quick time and we managed to make customs by 16.30, we then met up with ‘Vivace’ for a ‘happy hour’ sundowner, and as usual end up meeting other people that Dave and Leslie know but we didn’t so all in all a quick drink ended up as a whole evening out with new friends. Welcome back to Bonaire!
Our plans are to spend the next few weeks here in Bonaire, doing a few boat jobs and diving some more. It is a very pleasant place to wait out the end of the hurricane season. Then we will head North and East as soon as there is a window to do so. We hope to make it to the Virgin Islands, before continuing our trip through the island chain again.