Happy New Year from Bonaire!
The wind has howled and rattled through the rigging for 6 weeks now with barely any let-up. Getting our sails back on after we had removed them in Spanish Water to repair a bent foil on the roller furling system (farmer style of course, a bit of wood, some rope and a bit of winching saved us $600 for a new one) and we also repainted the plate that the forestays attach to for good measure. With no break in the wind, not even over night or early morning, we hoisted both sails and furled away in 25 knots of very gusty wind at anchor. No problems thank god. We were fed up with waiting, desperate to leave the security of Spanish Water with the many boats that arrive and also find it difficult to leave, our neighbours had been there for 16 years – anchored in the same spot.
So we lifted anchor at last and moved on to the fuel dock at Curacao Yacht Club to top-up with some cheap fuel, the wind was so strong we were pinned to the small dock which had a motor boat moored at one end and a rocky shallow breakwater the other. With plenty of fenders and a bit of help from the dockmaster, we used our ropes to spring Joy’s bow out and motor off the dock, hoisted sails and sailed out of Spanish Water around lunch time. The first couple of hours were glorious, sailing as close to the easterly 20 knot wind as Joy allows, then tacked back towards the low lying south eastern point of Curacao. Sea conditions worsened and it was a bumpy wet ride putting in long tacks until we reached the south eastern point of Bonaire, once in the lee of the island the sea state calmed making the last couple of hours a wonderful sail. After 13 hours we approached the mooring field at Kralendijk and slid silently along the moored boats looking for a free mooring, it was 2.30am. We could only spot three that were on the inside row closest to the shore and to Karels Bar. Motoring back to get up close and personal in the dark with the moorings to check out space, we confirmed that they were not suitable for Joy’s size as we would end up clashing with other boats. So we entered the small sheltered marina and berthed on the fuel dock for the night, the marina office is closed overnight and the security guard waved and went back on his rounds so we knew it would not be a problem. At least we could get a couple of hours sleep before first light and then maybe another boat would be leaving their mooring in the morning.
We left the fuel dock just before 8am and returned to the moorings, spotting Beyzano mid-way along the outside row, we had met and played dominoes with them in Curacao Marine. They shouted that they were just leaving and the boat next to them was moving onto their mooring so we could have theirs. It was such a shame to have missed them, they were going back to Curacao for Christmas, and they kindly cut their morning coffee short to vacate the mooring for us.
The mooring was perfectly suitable for Joy despite being a Helix mooring, a large screw driven into the sea bed with just a foot showing in the water to which the lines are tied. The original moorings consist of two or three large blocks of concrete which look so much more substantial than the screw, but the screw is supposed to be very strong and has less impact on the sea bed. After a day of cleaning Joy and washing our salty clothes we caught up with our friends on catamaran Amaris who did the Atlantic crossing at the same time as us. It was nice to see so many familiar boats that we have met before, and Casa Tu arrived the day after us from Spanish Water.
Cactus in bloom!
The wind may be howling but the water is beautifully clear and swimming or diving off the boat is always rewarding. We went back to our favourite dive site, Eighteen Palms, twice after finding a beautiful Seahorse there on the first visit. My Gopro memory card had just flashed full on our way back to the dinghy at about 30 feet when Jez spotted him, all we could do was hover and stare at this little marvel – a perfect brownish-red 6 inch Seahorse. It’s moments like these that I thank God for everything we are experiencing. It’s a pity he can’t stop the noise and vibrations of the cruise ships arriving and departing this little gem of an island. Under water, a mile from the cruise ship manoeuvring, the noise is almost mind-dumbing, the vibrations rock your body and the coral around you. The sea life, however, continue with their busy activities as if nothing is amiss whilst their human scuba friends try to adjust to what feels like the end of the world.
We were looking forward to a dive on Christmas Day before settling in for a late afternoon dinner, but woke up to grey skies and heavy rain almost all day. A walk along the promenade to clear our heads from the Christmas Eve drinks on board Badgers Set blew away the cobwebs but left us a little soggy from the downpours, two out of our three Christmas’s in the Caribbean have been very wet ones.
The locals are obsessed with fire crackers and fireworks, setting them off any time of the day or night all week, even whilst cars and pedestrians are walking by.
On Boxing Day the wind had died a little in the morning so we thought we would whizz in the dinghy over to Klein Bonaire to another of our favourite dive spots, The Forest. When we arrived on the southwest shore of the island and attached ourselves to the dive buoy it was as expected, very choppy, making kitting up in the dinghy a challenge. I went in first and lost a fin which was taken away very quickly by the surface current and wind, swimming off to retrieve it I noticed a strange looking Jellyfish, then another and another. The visibility was quite poor too, and they were floating in from all directions upon me before I could avoid them, so before Jez could get in I abandoned the dive and got out! Knowing conditions would be easier just around the corner, we continued to circumnavigate the small island until Mi Dushi which looked lovely and settled. It was a good dive with thousands of fish and beautiful coral – and not a single Jelly - we saw the largest school of Scrawled Filefish we have ever seen, even more spectacular when they joined a school of Blue Tangs in a feeding frenzy on some coral. The bash back to Joy from Mi Dushi was a little painful, the wind had got back up to mid 20’s creating a nasty chop between Klein and the main island. It was worth it though.
On New Year’s eve we had dinner on board and then went off into town with Kate and Doug from ‘Casa Tu’, surprisingly most places were closed and we were pleased to see Divers Diner open with a few customers. They were closing at 10pm though, so we outstayed our welcome and just on the off chance asked one of the owners if there were any parties going on. He directed us to the Cuban bar at the other end of the high street for live music and dancing, so we walked through a very quiet and deserted town to the Cuban place. It was busy with a band playing Latin American music, a great atmosphere and lots of happy people. Midnight came with a small firework display in the square outside the bar, and after just the four of us linking hands for a dodgy rendition of ‘Auld Lang Syne’, we danced until about 3am. Luckily for us it was anything goes on the dance floor and Jez soon adapted his ‘starting the lawnmower’ move to fit in with the fast-paced beat. I had to supress his urge to twirl me on the packed dance-floor as this is something we haven’t ever seemed to master (and I have a bad toe!), especially fuelled by many rum and cokes. Dropping Kate and Doug back at their boat we had a quick nightcap on Casa Tu, but being encouraged to dance on their aft deck when Doug cranked up the tunes, Jez and I fell over mid Latin-American embrace (due to the rolly conditions, of course) and I skinned my arm on a shroud! Lucky we didn’t end up in the water and after getting up we lost our footing again, so decided to quit whilst we were ahead. You know it’s been a great night when you have an alcohol/dancing related injury to laugh about the next day! New Year’s Day brought bright sunshine and a lot of debris covering the boat from the fireworks, cardboard tubes filled with concrete and brick dust shattered all over the deck and bimini cover. We had another long walk along the seafront and through town, all the streets strewn with litter, red paper and shells from the fire crackers and empty fireworks containers.
The wind is still howling, and there has been swell working its way into the moorings after wrapping itself around the south of the island making all the boats roll. The helix screw mooring, I am pleased to report, has not budged despite having 37 ton tugging on it in 25-30 knot winds for the last fortnight. There seems to be a break in the weather next week with winds dropping although we don’t feel quite ready to leave Bonaire just yet. We still have plenty of dives we want to do, having not dived since Boxing Day as I have had an infected toe, we have plenty of tank refills left on our prepaid card to use up. The drop in wind next week will hopefully allow us to get back over to Klein Bonaire which has some of the best dive spots, so we will stay another week before the 600 mile sail to Jamaica.
Watching the sun set over Klein Bonaire on the first day of 2016, roast port on the barbecue, we look forward to the next 12 months of sailing and exploring new places.