Our time is up on Bonaire

Sun 16 Nov 2014 20:49
Our last week on Bonaire was a busy one, finishing off our winter maintenance jobs on Joy and provisioning for the next couple of weeks. Our friends Steven and Shawn on catamaran Amaris arrived on Monday from Curaçao, so we also spent some time with them and we went on a couple of dives with Steven and another American couple on a yacht called Somewhere who had just arrived on the island.

We had intended to leave early Friday but when we went to see customs the afternoon before they couldn't get hold of immigration and therefore we were told to return the next morning. Friday morning was a very wet one, lots of squalls dragged their feet over the island and so we decided to check out and leave Saturday am instead, giving us time to get a few other things organised and squeeze in a last dive off the back of Amaris which was first class. I also had fun feeding the sergeant majors around our boat some stale cornflakes, I have discovered over the weeks that they also love bananas, yoghurt and off-milk. The surface of the water bubbles in a feeding frenzy as they fight for breakfast, breaking the surface and brushing past my toes.

Our friends and neighbours on Hooligan left at midnight heading for Panama, we followed at 6am heading in the opposite direction, hoping to tack our way to Aves and Los Roques, Venezuelan Islands to the east of Bonaire. The two things that greeted us into the waters of Bonaire 3 months ago appeared as we left, squalls and dolphins. The crashing of our bow into the waves made the dolphins soon scatter, unfortunately the same could not be said for the squalls. For the first half of the day they hit us every half an hour with torrential rain falling so hard it flattened the sea and stung our faces. We changed headsails reducing from the large genoa to the inner jib as each squall brought an extra 15 knots of wind, and for a brief moment my mind wandered back to 18 months ago sailing in the Solent before we left the UK, I thought these conditions reminded me of then. At that moment I glanced down dripping with rain, and realised I only had my bikini on underneath my waterproof coat, seems I have a short memory. Despite the conditions it was still good to be back out to sea again and we were soon back in the swing of things. The port tack bashed us into the swell, a few items on shelves launched themselves off onto the floor in protest. A mid morning snack reminded me of how much I hated the fridge on a starboard tack, as everything lands on top of me despite opening the door gingerly, I simply do not have enough hands and feet to stop things flying out and then getting them back in and closing the door is another story. Our fridge is totally not boat worthy and will be our next replacement before we do another ocean crossing.

Lunchtime brought us nicer conditions for an hour or so, the sun came out and helped charge our batteries and dry our coats. We caught the sun too. Then the squalls re-appeared with renewed vigour and we copped an extra 20 knots on top of our mean wind speed and even harder rain and for longer. We arrived at a small group of islands called Aves de Sotavente a couple of hours after dark, and found that our depth sounder was not giving us a reading as we came into shallower water. So we decided for the first time ever to hove-to and wait offshore until the morning before finding a spot to anchor as there are a few reefs and rocks about and it is vital we can read our depth. We cooked the fish we had caught earlier in the morning, and ate dinner as it poured with rain and blew and blew outside. It did mean we had to keep watch all night in shifts, but we tacked back into shore in the morning and found a safe spot off of Round Island to snorkel and clean the transducer. After a bit of fiddling inside the bilge we got the depth sounder to work again and moved in a bit closer to shore and dropped anchor.

Things I will miss about Bonaire - The diving, clear waters, friendly people, watching the ospreys hunt for fish along the shoreline, tasty cheese (Dutch of course), the baby blue tangs that had taken up residency in the bow thruster, looking for the Bananaquit (a small bird) tapping in to the granulated sugar on the supermarket shelf!

Things I will not miss - Mosquitos (the last few wet days has caused an explosion of the damn things), noisy fisherman, noisy bikers (I know, that makes me sound old), wake from dive boats, paying $10 per day for a mooring.