For those interested, we had our vaccinations last week, having Yellow Fever, DTP and obtaining a week’s supply of malaria tablets to keep for jungle treks in Guatemala. Rob also had Hepatitis A. The process was a little long winded as we first visited Joey Van Slobbe at the Public Health Office so he could go through what we might need in all the countries we were visiting and send a request for a prescription to the Doctor down the road. This was free, took about 15 minutes each and we didn’t need proof of what we had had in the UK. We couldn’t remember exactly which jabs we’ve had before nor when so had to go on informed guesswork instead.
Then we walked to the Doctor’s office and picked up the prescriptions, took them the mile or so along another road to the pharmacy and waited there for about an hour. We needed ID as well. Then we paid for the inoculations and malaria tablets (cost 242 pounds for both of us) and took them back to the nurse for them to be administered at a further cost of 36 pounds. The process took a whole morning. Then to close the loop, as the Public Health Office isn’t told whether or not their advice is taken, we went back to Joey to have his stamp added to our new International Vaccination Certificates. We may well need to present these in certain countries after we leave Colombia, as yellow fever is present there.
Sadly we heard from our friends Eric and Lynne on ‘Amarula’ that they had been boarded whilst at anchor in Taganga, the bay just north of Santa Marta in Colombia. 5 men with guns and knives arrived during the night with the sole intent of robbing them of everything they could sell, presumably to fund their drug habit. Eric and Lynne were tied up and hit but mercifully were OK, despite all their valuables and sentimental items being stolen. I try to imagine what it must be like, having your home invaded, being afraid of violence and having to watch whilst these criminals take your prized and essential possessions. The inconvenience of being abroad without cash, credit cards and computers is bad enough but sourcing parts to enable the boat to continue sailing can also be a nightmare. We all hope that it never happens to us but for Lynne and Eric it just did and seems a world away from that happy night earlier this month when we were all at the Venezuelan evening in Bonaire and smiling for the camera.
On a happier note, around town all the shops and bars have Christmas decorations up and the main street has lights on all the lampposts, a big tree near the square and several other festive displays. We witnessed the first big celebration of Christmas last weekend when a couple of decorated tugboats and a flotilla of supporting vessels full of excitable children sailed past the moorings, waving. The Sinterklaas or Saint Nicolas parade took him to the dock and their tradition states that naughty children would be collected in his sack for a bumpy trip to Spain. In Holland they no longer allow his helpers to take part for fear of racism claims, as the ‘Swarte Pieten’ as they are called, are people painted black wearing curly haired wigs. In Bonaire they still have them and display pictures of them in the shop windows and on the front page of the local paper. We have encountered this a few times in the islands, where things are done and said which would be a criminal offence in the UK as being deemed totally un-‘PC’. Maybe it’s the climate and chilled out way of life that enables people to have different values but it is either shocking or refreshing, depending on your viewpoint.
The weather is still making life difficult and we see no good window for heading to Santa Marta in the coming 10 days. In hindsight we should have left last week with Jake and Jackie from ‘Hokule’a’ as they reported a great 2 and a half-day passage straight from Bonaire to Colombia but we didn’t want to spend 7 weeks in the marina and are still hoping for another weather window to make the trip before Christmas. It is due to get very windy this week but we are safe in Bonaire and have plenty to do. We need to find a welder to repair the generator’s stainless steel exhaust as, despite Rob’s valiant efforts with special tape and gunk, it is still leaking a little salt water and we can’t use the generator until it is fixed. Not a huge issue, as we have the solar panels and engine if required but it would be good to get it done.
We do have our new outboard prop though and that was a saga as well. We ordered the first from Budget Marine, the only chandlery on the island. It was to be shipped from another branch in St Martin and would take 10 days. Their computer showed just 1 in stock so Rob asked them to call up St Martin and check it was there and being sent. The lady in the Bonaire branch said she would telephone to check and email if there was any issue but the following day we went back anyway to double check and all was well, it would be delivered within 10 days. In the meantime we ordered another 1 as a spare from West Marine in Miami to be shipped via eZone, located in the DHL office a short walk from town. Even with shipping costs it wasn’t much more than the Budget Marine price.
So, 10 days later we went to Budget to pick up the prop and they were moving branch so unable to check any boxes or the computer system. So, 4 days later we returned to be told that it was not there and they were still unable to check the computer system. At this point Rob had a sense of humour failure and suggested it would be good if they telephoned St Martin to see what was happening. Bad news, it wasn’t arriving at all, never had been in stock and was never being shipped. Poor service all round and a total lack of communication. As our dinghy is our car, gets us to the shore, to customs etc, it is essential. We could have been delayed leaving Bonaire waiting for the prop and then been likely to chance worse weather, so yes, it is important for us to get things we’ve been promised on time. Luckily, eZone were brilliant, we could view the tracked package from the moment it was dispatched and we received several emails with progress updates. Pity we didn’t order 2 from them instead!
We had to keep the dinghy afloat over the past few weeks whilst we borrowed Jeff and Di’s outboard and the bottom was very green with weed but nothing more. The best way to clean it is to flip it over in the water and sit on it but it is a slippery and smelly task and my turn this time. Bonaire has exceptionally clean water and not a thing grows on the boat’s antifouled hull with the sergeant major fish eating anything you arrived with.
Meanwhile we have been socialising with our fellow OCC Rally boats ‘Moody Mistress’, ‘Oystergo’ and ‘Balance’ and enjoyed a lovely evening on ‘Badger’s Sett’ with Ken and Judith where we met ‘Dorothy Ellen’. If we can’t make Colombia before Christmas, we may see Ken and Judith again in Spanish Water. Otherwise it could be a few years until we cross paths again, a sad thought as we have seen them annually since we first met in late 2012 and spent a lot of time together.
I started making my Caribbean Christmas cake this week, known as ‘Black Cake’, by soaking lots of dried fruit, nuts, glace cherries and soft prunes in plenty of rum, brandy, port, cassis, angostura bitters with a touch of vanilla extract, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. After simmering the mixture for 15 minutes, it gets left in the fridge in a lidded box for a week, stirred sometimes and then the final ingredients are added and the cake is baked slowly for 4 hours. Just in time for a couple more additions of alcohol to moisten it before Christmas. We have a jar of mincemeat to make muffins or mince pies but other than that we don’t have any traditionally British fare this year. Still hoping to be celebrating in Santa Marta if we are lucky and joining in with their traditions.