Trinidad and Bonaire

JJMoon Diary
Barry and Margaret Wilmshurst
Wed 2 May 2007 03:23
Joy and Alex never got away from Trinidad so we took a small diversion and went down to Chaguaramas for four days.  On approaching the coast we sailed through a huge flock of pelicans on the water.  Mags had got friendly with three of their relatives in Antigua but this number was awesome. 


An evening barbecue


We think our friends were pleased to see us, being so terribly frustrated by mechanical problems and defective replacement parts sent in from abroad.  For our part we were delighted to spend some time with them; we had been planning to meet up the other side of the ocean ever since we realised that we were going to cross within twelve months of each other.  Also, I was very interested to see Chaguaramas, it is so well known among yachties as a place to lay up safely during the hurricane season with all necessary facilities close at hand.  The bay was not altogether how I had imagined it but full of interest and we had a most enjoyable time, including a trip to the large local mangrove swamp to watch the scarlet ibis, national symbol of Trinidad, flying in to roost at dusk – they are truly an astonishing colour.  The taxi journey to the bird sanctuary was not so good though.  Traffic in Port of Spain is worse than that on the North Circular at 5.00 pm on a Friday.


Scarlet Ibis coming home to roost


We now made a determined attempt to make some westing and sailed 400+ miles to Bonaire, one of the Dutch “ABC” islands about 35 miles off the coast of Venezuela.  We had a strong current under us and had to slow down during the second night to avoid arriving at a strange place in the dark.  Slowing down in a brisk breeze is not as easy as one might think.


On the first night out at about 10.00pm we were visited by a large bird (he certainly looked very large in the dark), who circled round for a time before settling down on the rear edge of our bimini sun awning but not before using the canvas extensively as a “bathroom” as our American cousins would so irritatingly put it.  What is more he had clearly been gorging himself on a large quantity of bad fish.  He shuffled about for an hour, bending down every now and again to see what the large animal in the cockpit was up to but eventually put his head under his wing and slept.  He flew off just as the sky was turning a paler shade of grey.  So far so interesting but we were really quite startled when at 10.00pm the following night the bird, or another identical one, was back.  He spent ten minutes swooping around checking us out before alighting on the very same spot.  However, the wind was now over the quarter and he likes to roost head to wind so the rear support of the bimini was no longer quite convenient.  He tried to settle down on the canvas but there was nothing to grip so after a frustrating hour he flew off for five minutes, circled round a few times and came back to perch on the life sling for the rest of the night.  Could it have been the same bird?  We were about 100 miles west of our position when he left us on the first night.


 Bonaire salt mountains - first sighting of land



Bonaire is a delightful spot with very friendly people; we have had more little encounters and chats than anywhere else; everyone from the laundry lady, shop keepers, bar staff, passers-by in the street and fellow yachties seem more ready to be helpful and outgoing than elsewhere.  The little bar and restaurant at the end of the pontoon is as good as any we have seen for location, ambience, food and good natured friendliness of the owner and staff.  Not that life has been entirely free from risk and danger.  Mags has done another dive – she did one in Grenada, too – and is building up skill levels and confidence.  As we were walking into town from the marina to check in with customs and immigration we were on the edge of the road with Mags about 10 metres behind.  A small truck belonging to a dive company overtook but shed a dive bottle about opposite Mags.  The cylinder bounced and hurtled directly towards me. Mags yelled a warning and I started to turn round but a local man walking the other way spotted the danger, grabbed hold of me and waltzed me out of the path.  Phew!  The bottle rolled to rest some twenty metres up the road and we got the impression that the dark and taciturn local saviour was not impressed with the shame-faced girl who walked back to pick up her equipment.


A colourful Bonaire house - To Let!


We should have left here yesterday but - more trouble.  It is quite frequently necessary to change the engine oil, oil filter, diesel filter, diesel pre-filter, air filter; clean the sea water filter, check the sea water pump impeller, stern gland and drive belts; top up the freshwater coolant and so forth, particularly if longer passages are due.  Following most of this work I ran up the engine to distribute the clean oil.  All tight and smooth running.  But now what?  It wouldn't stop!  I turned the fuel off and spoke to Bill in Kingsbridge as soon as I could wake up the following day.  He gave me some advice but, like a small boy who takes apart the kitchen clock, when I came to put it together again I had a small spring left over which I fitted in the wrong place.  I also lost a washer into an inaccessible part of the bilge and had to fabricate another.  Now the engine would not start or stop.  Another early morning call to Bill, a call back following consultation with his diesel pump expert and away it went ..... and stopped (by design).  Hooray!  However, yesterday was the Dutch Queen's birthday and today is Labour Day. So, no labour in the office. Huh!  So we cannot leave till Wednesday.  We are not too sorry as we have been as contented here as anywhere we have called.


There's a bit of nervous tension in the air as we gather up our skirts for the next part of the trip.  We may go to Cartegena, Colombia (about 500 miles) for three or four days and then to Colon at the Caribbean end of the canal.  Humph.  Take one day at a time.