Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Aruba

Barry's first cousins n Lucy and her husband Mark are on board with us. They arrived last Thursday and we have been having a great visit ever since.  We anchored at the north end of the airport and the day they arrived we walked the half hour to the airport to meet them. It is a very busy anchorage with planes coming and going all day.  We have seen two planes pull up on final approach and flyby to return for another pass a few minutes later. There is also an island just to the southwest of us where tourist go to snorkel, zip line and eat and drink.  It is very busy at the end of the day with the boats taking the tourists back to the cruise ships. 
Lucy and Mark have been busy with their camera so we have not taken many shots ourselves. The day fester they arrived we sailed up to the north end of the island, about seven miles away and snorkelled on a wreck up there.  The marine life is not nearly as varied as it was in Bonaire. Mark and Lucy enjoyed the R and R and soaked up the heat and the sunshine.  Yesterday we took a taxi to the grocery store and when we returned there was not much room left in the dinghy so Barry took the supplies onboard while Lucy and I went for a walk down the beach. Barry had the inspired idea of having a picnic ashore so we had BBQ'd chicken with the trimmings on the beach and then went for a swim afterwards. 

Our good friends Jeremy and Kathy on Sal Darago showed up shortly after we returned to the boat. We knew they were n the area but did not think they would show up until today. Sundowners were consumed by all and the stories of four old salts flew around the cockpit. Jeremy and Cathy are on their way to San Francisco to visit their son who is living and working there.  
Lucy and Mark will be onboard until Friday when they have a timeshare. They have promised that we can come and have a big long hot shower once they are moved in.  I guess our new bigger shower bowl just does not cut the mustard. We will be heading to Columbia once we have a good weather window. 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Curaçao

We are currently resident in the lagoon called Spaanse Water in Curaçao. It is a lovely protected anchorage, which is a good thing because the wind just howls most of the time.  We had to enter through a narrow passage way from the ocean and then it opened up into an amoeba shaped lagoon which has numerous shallow spots.  There are four different area for boats to anchor so there is lots of room.  During the day, wind surfers and sailors on little sunfish shoot around the area having a whale of a time and provided much viewing pleasure for us.  
The downtown area is a World Unesco Site so all the old buildings are protected and they are painted these beautiful lively colours.  The main harbour divides the island almost in two and the first bridge is a floating footbridge. When tankers come in the footbridge opens , it has it 's own locomoti n built into th end of the bridge. 


In the top picture the bridge is halfway open and the operator of the bridge is in the little hut at the end.  I was surprised to see that they allow pedestrians to be on the bridge when they open it.  If you are on the bridge you have to wait for it to open, a tanker to go through and then for the bridge to close before getting off. They are very civilized though and offer a free ferry service but as soon as the bridge has reconnected itself the ferry service stops and you have to walk around.  We saw this all the first day we arrived when we found Customs is on one side of the harbour and Immigration is on the other. The Immigration office is hidden away in the commercial port and you have to get written permission to enter the port and then walk past a site where they are fixing the big piers, they are welding and using big equipment to repair the docks and we had to wander past all the workers. Usually Customs and Immigration are located quite close to one another, this was truly strange. 
Yesterday we went to the north part of the island and visited a Marine Education Centre.  The former King of Holland was very interested in marine ecology and gave a bequest to Foundation here is Curaçao. They have used the money to establish a research centre for studying the life on the coral reefs and how pollution and global warming has effected the coral reefs.  They have perfected a way in which they can regenerate coral and encourage new growth in areas that die.  They also had a interesting display about sharks . To get to the centre we had to take a bus downtown, which only comes once an hour, then go across the bridge, find the bus station for the northern half of the country and take another bus.  I wanted to go and visit a big national park which is almost on the northern tip of the country but cannot face the buses again.  The bus that goes to the national park only runs once every two hours, I am sure that W would spend a good part of the day waiting on benches in the hot sun, so I think I will explore the lagoon in my dinghy today. 
We are heade to Aruba on Monday nights get.  It is close to 70 nm so rather than try and do it during daylight holidays hours we will leave here at dusk on Monday and arrive in Aruba on the morn no on Tuesday. 

Friday, March 03, 2017

Touring the island

We took a tour of Bonaire the other day, and I discovered one of the reasons we feel so at home here. There are only 18,000 people on the whole island, just the size of Yellowknife. The population swells every day when the cruise ship docks sometimes there are even two. Bonaire is all about diving with the Marine Park surrounding the island. There is a dive shop on almost every corner and the dive boats head out twice daily. Since the island is steep to, you can walk in the water off the shore to the dive spots around the island.  There are yellow painted rocks along the shore line to let the divers know where the good spots are. We spotted this sign near a popular dive spot and our driver informed us that divers are so anxious to get in the after they often don't look both ways before crossing the street. 

There is a flamingo sanctuary on the island and we were lucky to get some pictures of the ones that were close to shore. These flamingoes are really pink, the algae and the shrimp here must be really colourful. At the south end of the island there is a salt mine , the water is collected in pans and it is gradually evaporated leaving the salt to be harvested. The pans that partially evaporated water have a pinkish hue caused by the same algae that makes the flamingoes such a gorgeous colour. 

The only other town on the island besides the capital Kralendijk, is Rincon. It is located in a valley where in the past the residences were hidden from the Pirates and safe from the big winds which can assault the island. Slavery exist d here until 863, and the slaves worked out N the salt mines and N the plantations near Rincon.  The slaves had to walk eight to nine hours from the salt mines to their homes in Rincon, they worked five days on and two days off and during those two days had to walk home and back. There was a stop in Rincon where you could taste Cactus liqueur. An enterprising Dutchman  has been brewing this as well as a different liqueur for each Dutch Island in the Caribbean. 
A slave house with the yellow rock indicating a dive site close by. 

 The former slave houses have been rebuilt to provide a reminder of what conditions were like 150 years ago. These small houses were built by the Dutch, once slavery became unpopular, to prove that they were treating their slaves well. These small dwellings were sleeping quarters for four adult men. Once slavery was abolished the slaves were given some land to farm, but the conditions for growing anything on the island are very poor. The soil is nonexistent on this island of coral and limestone. Eons ago the water level was higher as evidenced by this former coast line about two meters above the present one. 


We learned a lot about the flora and fauna on the island.  One of the local culinary specialities is iguana soup. The first inhabitants lived here in 1400 BC and they used everything that was available . The thorns of the acacia trees were used as nails and the insides of the tall cacti were used for rope. There are mesquite trees which are still being used to make charcoal. There are mostly small scrubby trees and bushes that make up the vegetation on the island.  

The Spaniards introduced goats and donkeys to the island and they are running wild all over the island now.  There are lots of lovely birds here and I was happy to see a hummingbird this afternoon. 

We have been on five dives since we arrived. The first was with the dive company and they took us to the salt mine pier.  The long pillars that were sunk for the dock projected up through the water and it felt like I wa in outer space.  There were fish above and below us and the coral attached to the pillars was unusual and different. We saw a barracuda there that was larger than Barry!  We took our first dives on our own , taking the dinghy to four different dive spots.  The first day we had all the gear plus four tanks and we found the dinghy was just too small, so the next day we did a dive in the morning, went back to the boat for lunch and exchanged tanks then did the second dive later in the day.  It was really special to be on our own, exploring underwater sites, we saw some spotted eagle rays gliding by and I had my Caribbean Reef Fish guide out trying to identify some of the unusual species we saw.  

Yesterday we rented bicycles and made our way down to a protected inland lake at the south east corner of the island.  The ocean waves crash on a protective reef so the shallow spot makes it perfect for wind surfing.  Apparently Bonaire has some of the top wind surfers in the world and we were impressed by one fellow who was attempting and completing 540 degree turns, a full 360 followed by a 180 so we went in the opposite direction that he came from, impressive. We will probably head for Curaçao on Monday. 
An effective fence!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Bonaire


We are really enjoying Bonaire.  The water is crystal clear and there is a great feel to the city.  We can snorkel right off the boat.  Bonaire is surrounded by a marine park so there are fish everywhere. There is no anchoring allowed so we are on a mooring that was only $150 for 14 days, quite reasonable. The island is what we sailors call steep to , which means that the bottom drops off very quickly from the shore.  We are moored within a 100 meters of shore, and yesterday we snorkelled along a reef along the shoreline and it had moray eels, tangs, butterfly fish, a beautiful trumpetfish, crazy goatfish using their spiky things to dig on the bottom , nudibranches galore and so much more, it was terrific.  
We went to a talk on sea turtles last night, it was great, very informative . They have tagged them here, getting a 200 pound turtle in a small boat and applying the GPS tag is quite the chore, as you can imagine. They have data of where all the turtles have gone, and their tracks were amazing. All the way up to Cuba and all over the Caribbean basin. The presenter also told us where we could see hundreds of them popping up to breathe as they feed. 

Yesterday walking along the esplanade we saw some young men practising water polo.  I have never seen that before in the ocean. I suppose that makes sense here, why use a pool when you have unlimited warm water to practice in. Interestingly the coach was a woman. We have set up our diving while on the island.  Bonaire is all about diving, they have lots of sites all over the island. The shop we visited had a unique set up.  You were given a sheet and everything you rent is recorded on the sheet, you have to do a set up dive to ensure your equipment fits and the weights you have are correct. Then you can use the equipment as much or as little as you want. They have a spot for you to keep your stuff which is locked with a combination lock , that is so you can return your equipment after hours if you choose to dive on your own. A lot of the dives are just off the steep to shore so you could get in your car and zoom off to whatever site you wanted to go. We will have to be very careful not to overspend here. 
 Bonaire is a part of the Netherlands which is evident in some of the architecture here. They chose to not be associated with the other two Netherlands Antilles and have the U.S. dollar as their currency . There are also signs that there are factions on the island that do not want any help from the Dutch.  We here Dutch, English and a lot of Spanish spoken.  Quite a few of the stores we have been in have had Spanish speaking staff, I would assume from either Venezuela or Columbia, I guess Panama may be a candidate as well. My Spanish is way better than my Dutch, which is non-existent. 
We are hoping to take an island tour tomorrow.  There will be a smaller cruise ship in and they will speak English.  The day I asked about the tours, they were all being given in German. Yesterday there were two big ships in and it was interesting watching the one that had been behind manoeuvre to get out. 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Heading West

I feel as if we are on the last leg of our decade long journey. At the moment we are sailing between Martinique and Bonaire, the first of the ABC Islands. They belong to the Netherlands and are referred to as the Netherlands Antilles. They are located north of the Venezuelan coast and west of the Windward Islands of the Caribbean, such as Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, st. Vincent, etc. 
We spent a total of two weeks in Carriacou, enjoying the small town feel of the island and the anchorage. We had the sun screening I had sewn for the bimini in 2013 replaced as it had started to deteriorate. The new screening offers much better shade but not as much air flow as the old stuff. 
We visited the boat building community of Windward on Carriacou and found this unfinished large boat in the yard.  There was no one working on it but it was great to see that the traditional skills were still in use. 
There were a number of smaller craft to see, all of them exhibited the rather flat bottom that seems to be this island's style. The bright colours are another feature of Carriacou boats. We went on this trip with Carleton and Aggie a couple we met who were from Florida, they have been living on their boat full time for the last four years. 
We needed to reprovision for the next three months, so we headed north to Martinique to do some serious grocery shopping. I knew the stores there and it does not cost anything to enter Martinique so off we went.  It took us 36 hours to go about 125 miles, we were hard on the wind the whole way and had to tack the last 20 nm into Fort de France. We met up with the young German couple we had for dinner at Christmas, it was great to see them again. Most of our time in Martinique was spent shopping and hauling the stuff back to the boat. There was a good weather window two days after we got there so we left.  We are almost half way to Bonaire now. There is only 1250 nm left until we get to Golfito, Costa Rica and complete our circumnavigation. I have told myself to live in the present and let the future take care of itself. It is hard not to run scenarios about what will happen when we get back to Canada in my head. There are lots of wonderful things to see and do between here and there and I intend to enjoy them all. 
A gorgeous red sky in Fort de France. 
A group of drummers practicing for "Carnival " . They we awesome and went on for hours.  They must have been exhausted when they were finished. The fellow in the middle is the conductor, he had a whistle and would blow it to indicate a tempo or rhythm change. 


Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Back in the water

This is Edwin the yard master toggling the controls on the new travel lift. The lift in went off without a hitch, it was just three days late.  Another boat was lifted out just after us and it was put in such a position that we could not be lifted in until after he was moved.  This boat had their bottom painted by the yard and they power sanded the bottom, whereas we just wet sanded ours when it was in the sling. As a result we finished a day before the other boat was done and due to the weekend we had to live on the hard for three extra nights. I was vexed every time I had to climb up and down the ladder to go to the bathroom on the weekend. 
I used the time to paint the quarter berth lockers and their lids.  It was a challenge to find a clean flat spot on the boat to do it.  I had them laid out on the bow and then the fellow that we had been waiting all week to come and fix a connection for our lifelines finally showed up, so I had t move them, this worked and they are hidden under cushions so a perfect paint job was not required. 
There was a wooden boat being worked on in the yard by local boat builders.  They were fairly young guys and they were willing to explain to me what was going on. This is mahogany that is grown in the area that has been used to replace wood that was spongy. Watching them meticulously measure them cut and join the wood was a pleasure. 

We went for a walk up a very steep hill then along the ridge on top of the yard.  The boat facing the marine office with the red bottom is the one blocking us in. Cat's-Paw IV is facing the camera perpendicular to the red bottomed boat.  The colourful boat is a local fishing boat, what great colours. 
We are going to explore the island for the next few days. There is a luncheon planned to raise money for a local boy who was burned. We are going to attend, on Friday, with another couple and go and visit the boat building community on the other side of the island at the same time. 

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Life on the hard


Think renovations, think messy, think about having no working toilet, that is life on the hard. Usually while you are on the hard it is a mad rush to get everything done that you can while you are out of the water, so all the tools you need are left out and Voila, a mess. That big white bag on the right of the picture holds our at times indispensable flopped stopper.  It usually lives under a cushion at the back, but I needed the coveralls which we under the flopped stopper so out it came and it was time to paint so it did not get put back.  Barry is much better at putting stuff away than I am, good training I guess, not that my Mom didn't try, I will get around to putting stuff away just after I am sure I do not need it anymore. 

We put two coats of black paint on her yesterday, now she looks like a mean machine! We just have to move the chock stands and put two coats on where they were. The only thing is we ordered four cans of paint and they not got three in. We tried really hard to squeeze the rollers so we could do it all with three cans, we used 1 3/4 cans on the first coat and 1 1/4 cans  on the second coat but we still need to redo the water later ne, the leading edges, and under the chocks so we need the fourth can.  It may have shown up yesterday but the woman at the office said she would come and tell us if it came so I imagine we will have to wait another day for the paint.  $&#%€<¥
View from the deck towards the office and the facilities, so near, yet so far. 

Update: the paint came in, let the fun continue. We splash tomorrow afternoon.