Our first night at anchor since May was bliss. The difference between being lashed to a marina pontoon or ashore compared with floating about in the wind is huge and something we will always appreciate now. Back in the UK we rarely anchored and weren’t particularly confident in the anchor’s holding power due to lack of experience but we know better now and just love the wind blowing through the boat, the sound of lapping water, the constantly changing views and peaceful nights without squeaky ropes or fenders.
The launch went smoothly on Tuesday and we spent about an hour on the hauling out pontoon to check the engine, in gear and out, low and high revs. No leaks at all, so we were happy. The generator also started up first time, so the only major piece of equipment we haven’t tested is the watermaker. That will have to wait for cleaner water.
We walked to town in the afternoon, up the steep, short road just outside the yard entrance, to the right to go under the bypass, then to the left and down a set of steps on the right. Then it was just straight along the road to the corner where the Wine Cellar restaurant is and a right turn towards Willemstad’s waterfront. It took about 20 minutes and we passed the Venezuelan floating market, Customs and the lovely town buildings to get the ferry over the harbour. Cruise ship season has begun and a huge liner was docked just outside the town. Must have been a quiet few months and I guess a lot of people are glad the visitors are pouring back once more. The local paper listed 5 ships due in this week but they only stay a day, just long enough to visit the duty free shops and hopefully take a tour to experience some of the island’s history and culture.
At the Port Authority Office next to Immigration, where you buy the permit for 10 US$ valid for 3 months, they give you a chart with the 5 permitted anchoring areas on it and ask you where you are going to anchor so they can write it on the permit. Bit of a daft question really so I said probably section A but if it is full when we get there then maybe B or C! I checked we didn’t have to return all the way into Willemstad if we weren’t able to find space in A and no we didn’t.
After a night on the dock in Curaçao Marine, we said farewell to ‘Balance’ and ‘Joy Of Shamrock Quay’ until they join us in Bonaire and headed off to Spanish Water to anchor. We motored into the wind all the way south and then through the unpleasant narrow gap, keeping a concerned eye on the reef to our port but staying in the deep middle part of the channel. Then a turn to port to find the anchoring areas, which are all defined by yellow markers. The authorities prefer to use GPS co-ordinates in case the buoys move and we checked those as well. Area A was full, being closest to the dinghy dock but B had space and C was completely empty. We anchored in 8 metres and the anchor dug in so well Beyzano’s wheel swung round when we reversed to tug it in hard.
It can be very windy in Spanish Water due to the topography helping the winds whistle down the lagoon but it was calm whilst we were there and we didn’t get wet on our dinghy ride back from the weekly cruiser’s gathering at The Pier. Menu this week was shrimp pasta and Happy Hour is actually 1700-2000.
Friday was clearing out day for us, as we wanted to leave at first light on Saturday. We took a quick bus ride into town, then had a short walk to Customs followed by the ferry over the harbour to Immigration again. The floating bridge was just being re-installed and tested, hence the free ferries. Then we had an early night after preparing the boat for the day passage ahead. Off to Bonaire at last!
We had a far better sail than expected as the wind kept moving to the south enabling us to sail straight to the north side of Klein Bonaire without a single tack. Admittedly we needed to motor into the wind and slight swell to the SE tip of Curaçao but once the sails were up we had a glorious 6 hour sail with speeds of between 5 and 7 knots. We tacked 3 times at the top of Klein Bonaire before motoring at 3000 rpm as instructed by the engineer last week, for the last few miles to clear the soot out.
There were a few moorings free and Ken and Judith from ‘Badgers Sett’ dinghied over to help us with the 2 lines. Ken also helped us test our new SSB cable at noon with a call but due to the fast passage we were only 8 miles away by then, so not such a great test! They emailed us to say they would have to hire a Village Hall as there were so many people here waiting for us J Certainly makes you feel part of the cruising community and lovely to see friends here we haven’t seen all year.
We cleared in straight away so we could go to Gios for an ice-cream and stop by to say hello to some friends. Then a pizza ashore since the big juicy tuna we caught and fought to land for 15 minutes jumped off the hook whilst we were getting the gaff to drag it on board. The dinghy on the davits makes it very difficult to get fish into the cockpit over the top of it and we are never expecting to catch anything so have nothing prepared. Next time!