Cheshire Cat in the ABC's

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

We found this attractive little street just off the waterfront

Bonaire was a refreshing change from Venezuela and the Caribbean - clean, calm and safe, with pristine water and pretty fish. There is a thriving tourist industry and also a salt exporting industry. There is good diving here and there is a very popular surf beach on the windward side of the island.

These small islands belong to the Netherlands Antilles and Dutch is spoken. We were not allowed to anchor on the coral but tied on to one of the mooring balls very close to the shore and the island’s water front and where there was little reef; the boats probably looked very picturesque to the tourists. We were charged 5.00 US a day, but just as we left the price doubled. From our vantage point we could see attractive houses and several restaurants. We enjoyed coffee in outdoor cafes, found a supermarket with food we recognized, and took advantage of happy hour with other cruiser friends in a convenient bar on the sea front.

Vegetable Market

The open air vegetable market was right on the front near the dock used by the cruise ships and fresh produce arrived regularly from Venezuela. We discovered the prices were better on the days that the cruise ships weren't visiting, although the quality was excellent at all times.
We also found a couple of good hardware stores - always an important item on our agenda in port - we seem to need 'stuff' to fix 'stuff' all the time!

There was a healthy motorbike rental business - I don't think I've seen so many Harley's in one place before. Straightforward Harley motorcycles thundering past, Harleys with sidecars, Harleys with passengers, 3 wheeler Harleys; scooters and pedal cycles were also available but the Harley's were definately most popular.

There was a children's carnival and I got some cute pictures from sea Fever. Obviously everybody enjoyed themselves that day.


Curacao - we anchored in Spanish Waters: really nice and I would have liked to hang around a little longer there. We very quickly found the local cruiser bar, Sarafundi’s, which also had showers, laundry and a restaurant (what joy, clean bod, clean sheets and somebody else to cook and do dishes!!)When we went into town we found a lively market and again like Bonaire - clean
streets and lots of excellent shops. We really didn’t have time to explore much as we had to check in and out with customs and immigration - something we do in every new country we visit. As we were standing on the roadside waiting for the bus with Paul, Sam and Joe, a local couple gave us a lift right to the police station (which was also the Customs office).

This cruise ship tied up to a wharf near us

How nice! We then had to find immigration office and waited while the police discussed exactly where they thought the office would be. The town wasn’t really big and one might have thought that the police at least would know where the immigration office would be. They made suggestions and after some hours of walking in the hot sun we eventually found the place - on the opposite side of the river tucked away in the cruise ship terminal area.
Riverfront in Curacao

An unusual street clock

We had a pretty uneventful sail from Bonaire to the San Blas Islands off the coast of Panama. This was particularly gratifying because we had heard that the stretch of water (between the Netherland Antilles and Panama) can be one of the 4 or 5 worst areas in the world, especially in a certain season (that being December to May). The seas can get very big as the wind sweeps around the coast of Colombia gaining momentum en route.

This was also our first real experience of downwind sailing - the wind behind us all the way. Cheshire Cat proved she was a true lady once again and performed very well. We had company along the way - Jasp, with Amanda and Paul, with their sons Sam and Joe on board; Sea Fever with Wendy and Rob - and kept an informal net where we would gather somewhere on the airwaves and discuss weather, routing options and advise each other of our specific latitude and longitude.

It was very roily - waves coming from behind and lifting and rolling the boat, so the motion was difficult to get used to and I personally arrived with sore muscles and some bruises. The wind was fairly constant, generally about 10 knots to begin with, and around 15 knots later in the trip. One night it blew around 20 knots, and I did have to ask Mike to furl in the jib sail at that stage - I was getting rather nervous as I was on a night watch and we were doing 7/8 knots in speed consistently; our average speed for the trip was 5.5 knots - very quick for us, so you can see why 8 knots may have been worrying me.

We would like to have had a bigger foresail up, but I haven't quite finished stitching the old one we acquired in Trinidad so we had to make do with what we had, the high cut yankee sail. We did try setting up the pole to one side so that the small sail would catchy more wind from behind, but broke the pole!! Ah well! Our wind vane self steering worked very well downwind - a nice change as we anticipated that we might have some problems. Our Pur water system failed to make water after we left Bonaire, but we to have fixed the problem with an alkaline flush. (The problem continued and we eventually received a replacement membrane from PUR)
All in all we had a very agreeable passage - and the timing was good because we soon heard that the weather window had disappeared.