Life is easy in Bonaire, surrounded by friends to socialise with and tied up to quiet moorings. We get uninterrupted sleep and wake up to the cool of the morning, the best time to go running along the waterfront or just read the paper and drink coffee in our case.
One morning I woke before 0600 to see a vacant mooring next to us, one with more swinging room for our boat’s draft and length and one we had used last visit. It was raining though and the dilemma was whether or not to wake Rob up to cast off the lines and take the better spot our neighbours had just vacated. So I woke him up, we dropped the 2 mooring lines plus left the extra safety rope we had added on the seabed, to be retrieved later.
Once we were attached to 1 of the moorings I had to jump in the water to thread through the second line and as I was already wet, we decided to get our dive gear on and have an early morning dive and pick up our rope at the same time. Fish are incredibly interesting characters and I often laugh at their antics. Early morning they seem extra busy and abundant, perhaps the dawn bringing them out for breakfast when the night hunters have slunk back into their holes. Whatever the reason, we had a great dive, watching them all feeding on algae along the reef and even found a sailfin blenny hiding in a pipe shaped sponge just under our boat. They are tiny, just a couple of inches long and we found a dark brown male out of the sponge so we could see his big foredorsal fin fluttering in the current.
As soon as he saw me he headed for cover as they are very shy but I waited until he peeped out of the sponge, then ventured a little further out and I was rewarded by seeing him completely again. Wish I’d had a camera!
We dived (or dove as the Americans say) for almost an hour and a half, took our tanks to be filled to the nearby Yellow Submarine dive shop where we have a 21 tank fill card and used their water to rinse the gear off and shower to save our water. By 0900 we were sitting in the cockpit having coffee.
We try to dive every other day and either jump off the stern of Beyzano or dinghy to any of the marked dive sites around the island. If the weather is calm enough we can dinghy over to Klein Bonaire where the water quality is stunning. Well we can once our new dinghy outboard propeller arrives, hopefully on Friday. We ordered 1 via the chandlery here and a spare via West Marine, a US based chandlery. The DHL office has an eZone facility, where you sign up and are given a special address so the shipment comes via Miami to Bonaire for us to pick up. It was the same price as using the chandlery including shipping.
Been too lazy to start polishing the stainless steel but did manage to erect our bow awning to keep the boat cool and allow us to keep the hatches open in any rain. It has rained a couple of times much to everyone’s relief. Rob fixed the small holes in the generator exhaust with 2 coats of special ‘gunk’ and once they had dried he wrapped the exhaust with special tape soaked in a hardening solution. We bought it in the car parts shop next to Budget Marine. Then it was just a matter of fitting it back onto the gen and with bated breath, starting it up. Thankfully it worked and Rob couldn’t see any more leaks so he was happy. Then we could try our watermaker whilst the gen was running and again, since it hadn’t been run to make water since June, we kept our fingers crossed. It also worked first time and we were amazed and very relieved. We haven’t left it that long before without using it, so the weekly self-flush clearly works well in keeping the system maintained.
Other than that we have been socialising again. Colin and Gill arrived on ‘Resolute of Thames’ and we haven’t seen them for a year, since Trinidad, so it was good to catch up again before they head for Haiti or Cuba and we go west. There are now 6 boats here flying the OCC (Ocean Cruising Club) burgee so a party is definitely required. Jeff and Di on ‘Horizons’ kindly hosted 9 of us for a chilli evening and Rob baked salted caramel brownies for dessert. Saturday was drinks on ‘Badgers Sett’, Sunday was ice cream at Gios, then the chilli night, Monday was the open air cinema and the latest James Bond movie, Tuesday was shopping and Wednesday burger night once again.
One of the issues with Bonaire is where to leave the dinghy. Karel’s Bar just at the south end of the moorings has very kindly allowed cruisers to dock their dinghies there for years but this year the new manager has asked that we only leave them in the inner pool. Unfortunately the swell can force a dinghy under the dock there and once the tide rises a little, damage results. The safest place is the Harbour Village marina at the north of the moorings but this only offers a small space, the rest of the dock being taken up with larger boats. Another option, when the cruise ships aren’t in, is the customs dock. This is very safe and has a strong bar to lock the dinghy to. Failing that, we use the fishermen’s dock and lock the dinghy to a cleat. The wind seems to push the dinghy off the dock so we haven’t suffered any damage there. It is a problem as even the dive docks are very high, with a dodgy ladder normally and needing plenty of TLC and you can only use them whilst you get your tanks filled. Bonaire could really do with a new, well designed, dinghy dock so cruisers can get ashore safely without risking live and limb and our ‘car’ whilst we spend money in their shops, restaurants and bars.
Whilst the cruise ships have been in the town has had a lot of visitors of course. We feel half local and half visitor so sit and watch the new arrivals. 5 ships came in last week and we took the opportunity to visit the stalls that suddenly spring up around the cruise ship dock, if you can call it that. One lady was selling lovely cotton dresses for only 20 pounds, so I bought a bright blue one as Rob had won 100 pounds on the premium bonds that very day! There were stalls selling photographs framed with driftwood, local products with salt and aloe vera plus hot sauces and very hot sauces. Good to see the lack of t-shirts made in China with ‘Bonaire’ printed on them.
Not wishing to sound prudish but …. I saw one passenger walking down the main street in town with the tiniest thong on under nothing more than a string vest type mini dress, one with very large holes in it that left nothing to the imagination. She might as well have been naked! I was quite appalled to be honest and what the more conservative local people thought I dread to think.
Locally, politics is in the air due to a referendum being held next month on whether or not Bonaire should become autonomous. At the moment The Netherlands supports the island but unlike the French islands, the islanders don’t receive the same benefits as their Dutch counterparts at home. Some here believe the island can fund itself, like Curaçao but from what we have seen the latter has huge docks, a good tourist industry and much larger population with associated services. Interesting times both for Bonaire and the UK as they decide their futures.
We are now starting to watch the weather more carefully and have signed up with Chris Parker for a detailed 2-day forecast from Curaçao to Colombia. A couple of tropical waves have come through, bringing unsettled windy weather and the hurricane season isn’t over yet. Our next passage is said to be one of the 5 worst in the world, akin to crossing Biscay and we need to be extremely careful. The area to the west of Aruba is very shallow and the seas can kick up hugely in a high wind. Complicated by the topography of the mountains of Colombia, winds can suddenly increase and the whole area gets dangerous. So, we are waiting for a good long settled spell of 3 days to even attempt the 400-mile passage. We also need to prepare the boat for heavy weather downwind sailing and this means stowing our dinghy differently. If we keep it on the davits there is a danger of it filling with water if a wave catches us downwind and the weight could break the dinghy free. So we have to work out a way of sailing with the dinghy on the stern but resting on a side tube with the bottom of it facing out behind us. That will also make us feel more protected.
Today I took my Olympus Tough camera with me on a shallow dive, as it is good for 10 metres under water without any special housing. I was lucky enough to see a couple of lovely male yellowhead jawfish cleaning out their burrows and got some reasonable photos given the camera and photographer were moving about a lot in the current. They hover above their burrows and retreat backwards when they get scared but bravely reappear soon after. They spit the sand quite a long way from the holes so you can easily see them then. One of my favourite fish is the smooth trunkfish, odd shaped and a bit like a clockwork toy when they swim along. Another find today was a fish having its gills cleaned by a shrimp, a symbiotic relationship giving food to the shrimp and clean gills to the fish. The fish waited patiently during the process, keeping one gill open whilst the shrimp delved inside. Have to take the camera more often!