We left as planned at 0600 on Thursday and made landfall in Kralendijk, Bonaire by 1430 on Sunday. The passage was 436 miles and we didn’t get any more than a few F6 gusts, the majority of the trip being in perfect conditions of F4-5 on the beam.
Chris Parker’s forecast was very accurate, although his warning of squalls during Friday night didn’t materialise for us, fortunately. The first day was a little more ‘rolly’ with the swell slightly on the side but once we turned due west and picked up a 1.5-2 knot current, we were much more comfortable.
We called Chris every day on the satellite phone to check nothing had changed and were very happy with this service. During our Atlantic crossing we downloaded weather files but this time we saved buying a non-Apple laptop, compression software and the related packages for the sat phone, ending up with just the new SIM and 3 months of airtime plus the cost of Chris’s advice. We will certainly use the same method when returning to Grenada later in the year.
Using our SSB radio, we talked daily to friends on ‘Badger’s Sett’ and their friends on ‘Tranquillity’, who were already in Bonaire. They asked us to call them on VHF 16 when we were close and helped us onto a mooring, later on coming by to tell us the important information about the island.
I did feel queasy for the first couple of days, as we haven’t sailed for a couple of months but this happens every time and I’m used to it. I avoid dairy products and fizzy drinks and stay outside in the fresh air as much as I can. Neither of us drinks alcohol on passage either, just in case of an emergency and it makes celebrating landfall more special!
Sadly we didn’t catch a single fish, although 1 flying fish decided to commit suicide on our deck and we didn’t find it until it was stiff. The first sunset brought us a few dolphins playing alongside and taking turns to cross in front of the bow. A strange moth/butterfly hitched a ride with us, tired out.
Later the sparkling phosphorescence in the wake was magical. It looked just like someone was scattering tiny green lights on the water. The sunrises, sunsets and stars were big highlights of the trip too, amazing.
We didn’t see a single yacht from the time we left St Lucia to arriving in Bonaire but 5 cargo ships appeared on AIS and we actually saw 3 of them. One small plane swooped down low to take a look at us but it wasn’t customs! The difference between being crushed by the crowds on London’s streets back in June, to seemingly having the entire planet to yourself out on passage, is quite extreme.
Bonaire is very low lying and although the northern end showed up a few miles off, the southern tip remained invisible until quite close in. The lighthouse is very tall, so the first thing we saw. No dangers on the way in as the water is very deep until close to shore. They say the passage up to Kralendijk is one of the best, in calm seas and high winds and we certainly were glad we had a reef in the main. We flew up to the mooring field and with Lee and Cindy’s help, got tied up onto the double lined moorings. Ours is fixed to a sand screw and as there were only a couple left, we are outside the bar, what a shame!
Customs was open on Sunday afternoon but Immigration had to wait until Monday morning. Very simple forms and friendly officials. No charges at all! Next, to explore, obtain some US dollars, get our diving gear and settle into life here.