Bonaire - The Tour, and don't mention the watermaker!

Mike and Liz Downing
Mon 11 Jan 2010 03:54
Away from the capital Kralendijk, Bonaire is quite barren. In the south it's all salt pans in a very lunar like landscape. In the north it's full of cactus plants - almost forests of them. We hired a car to have a look round. Actually it was quite a big pick-up that can go off road (they have quite a lot of tracks here). It's the fist time I've driven on the right since Madeira, over a year ago, and it felt a bit like driving a tank on the wrong side of the road!
All the number plates are like this.
The west coast showing the shallow shelf that goes all round the islands. It's always windy at this time of year. 
One of the many salt pans - the water is quite pink, coloured by the brine shrimp. Flocks of flamingoes feed here, but too far away for the camera.
One did come to see us!
The road round the salt pans in the south.  The Caribbean sea is to the right and salt pans to the left.
Being Dutch you wouldn't be surprised that there were quite a few of these.
Lac Bay on the east (windward) side is perfect for windsurfing.
Cactus everywhere in the north - it's even grown to make fences.
Donkeys run wild across the island (and are easier to photograph than flamingoes!)
I suppose we had better just mention the watermaker! It decided to spring a leak and we found that the automatic diverter valve had fractured. We don't have a spare for that. It was something that we never expected we would need to replace, along with a quite a few of the other components of the watermaker. So more spares have been ordered (at great expense!) and are being shipped to Shelter Bay marina in Panama for us to collect. Actually, Steve on S/Y Aspen, who is in Shelter Bay, has already collected our fridge spares (which only took 3 days from the States) and now he'll pick up the watermaker spares, which according to the tracking system, have left the UK (despite the snow) and are in the States. We've just got to make certain that we get to Shelter Bay by 8th February when Aspen leaves with the Blue Water Rally. In the mean time I have made a repair with a combination of araldite and epoxy putty (the repair is on the dump side, so not the bit that sends water to the tank). We hope that will keep it going until we can make a proper repair when we have the spares. Steve has reported that Shelter Bay marina in Panama is good. The berths are proper finger pontoons and the water in that part of the bay is clear and clean, but you can't swim in it due to the local residents - salt water crocodiles! 
We finished off the work on our deck yesterday, putting in the final few deck plugs (teak dowel plugs to cover the screws holding the deck down) and it's the first time for several years that we don't have a single screw showing. I don't suppose it will last for long - there are hundreds of plugs in the deck (if we ever finish work and have nothing better to do, I'll count them!) So now it's time to get the last things ready for the next passage. It's about 680 miles and as we hope to leave this week we've been watching the forecasts very closely. It should take 4 to 5 days and if our timing is spot on we might get away with one bad night (25 to 30 kts) and get through to calmer conditions for the last day. However, it's just a forecast and every time I've worked out a passage plan of where to be and where not to be, they change it! We tend to use Passageweather and NOAA most of the time when we have Internet access, and Grib files when at sea. So we hanked the storm jib on the cutter stay this evening (just to check it's all still okay), the trisail will go on its dedicated track and be ready, the drogue is out ready to trail and the para anchor gear is ready, just in case!