1st – 5th December
Our whole week has been dominated by Silent Wind and the continuing vibration in the mounting post. Every day we have tried a new remedy and every time we remount the blades we are hopeful but that doesn’t last long as the vibration returns – it’s only in low wind conditions but it’s very, very frustrating. We are going into Curacao Marina next week to sort out our anti-fouling (damaged in places after our encounters with mooring buoys and fishing nets off Trinidad, and now susceptible to weed!) so we will have a safe environment in which to dismount Silent Wind totally and start again. Taking mechanical things apart over water is a nerve wracking business at the best of times and in the choppy Spanish Waters we haven’t dared risk it.
The winds have been fairly ferocious on occasions this week – as predicted – and on Wednesday we stayed on board all day as gusts of 30+ knots blew through the anchorage. However, we weren’t bored as we had some spectacular wind surfing displays we could watch. Much as we appreciate the jumping skills of kite-surfers we still feel that a windsurfer is more graceful and more fun as a spectator sport (but it could just be that we are biased!). James’ big success this week was finding someone who could manufacture a new stopcock handle for us. In one of his regular checks of the stopcocks, the plastic handle on the head’s inlet pipe (water for the loo to any landlubbers reading this!) broke. After searching every possible chandlery and hardware store in Bonaire for a replacement with no luck we were beginning to wonder if we would have to lift the boat and replace the whole stopcock. On Monday he went on a final mission to locate a replacement handle and came up absolute trumps. The large hardware store had a ‘we can fix anything’ counter - which they couldn’t! – but there was someone there who recommended a workshop in another part of town where he might be able to get a handle made. The only problem, how to get there? While James was standing on the pavement pondering the dilemma a very smart Lexus pulled up with an elderly couple inside (must be old if we think them elderly!) who asked if they could help. James explained his problem and they told him to jump in and they would take him there! Brilliant. What’s more the workshop came up trumps and James was promised a new handle which would even be delivered to Fisherman’s Wharf (where we all tie up our dinghies when we go ashore) on Wednesday at 5.30pm for the princely sum of NAF100 (£30 but cheap when you consider the price of a new stopcock, haul out etc!). He then went outside and stuck out his thumb and was promptly given a lift in a truck all the way back to the dinghy dock. We love Curacao, everyone is so kind and helpful. The new handle was delivered on Wednesday evening on time and it fits perfectly. Hooray!
We have managed some socialising too – well there’s a surprise! We’ve had sundowners –which proved to be a delicious light supper too – on PR2 and we’ve been to The Pier for the Cruisers Social and Supper. Our favourite watering hole so far is The Pirates Nest where there is excellent WiFi and the staff are really helpful and happy. The music’s pretty good too.
6th – 16th December
Our wedding anniversary was a lovely day and one we will always remember because of the impromptu tea party on Santa Barbara beach with OCC Rally friends. The cake just about managed to hold together long enough for the photo before the butter cream filling started to melt and the top layer slid off! Didn’t spoil the taste though and the sticky sweetness went well with the bubbles. Even the tame iguana enjoyed a piece.
On Monday we weighed anchor early and headed up to Curacao Marina for our lift out. It was a bit of a last minute decision but the Marina said they had time and room to take us so we made the most of the opportunity. We wanted to repair the damage to OR’s antifouling before setting off on the Belize Rally and we wanted to take Silent Wind‘s head off the mounting post and remount it (always safest over dry land!) to see if we could finally eliminate the highly alarming vibration. It was a lovely sail down wind and then a fun entry into Willemstad through the pontoon bridge. The bridge was swung with minimum fuss – just for us - and we slipped through and headed up the river to the Marina. Our lift out was amazing as the Marina have a trolley lift and not a travel hoist. ‘Rocky’ the operative was excellent and we watched OR being slowly lifted out of the water on the trailer and then driven to her ‘parking slot’ by tractor. We were chocked and ready to go by lunchtime. A quick sanding down of the damaged parts of the hull by Fabien and we were all set for the next morning’s antifouling session. James took off the propeller and cleaned it up, changed the anodes and then reassembled everything. Not a quick job but one that was well worth doing.
One of the drawbacks of Curacao Marina is the lack of an on-site restaurant. You can purchase deep fried snacks at the bar but nothing resembling a meal. We did have a wander in the evening and found a little bar for a beer but didn’t fancy the walk into town for proper food so our supper that night was very unhealthy - deep fried goodies …. but rather fun! Tuesday night we ate a rather more nutritious meal on board! Mind you we were starving after a really hard morning doing the anti-fouling and then the afternoon spent with Whizz. The new blades had arrived so we were able to fit them at the same time as checking the mounting – big success, we now have masses of power and no vibration. Long may that last. We were ready to go back in the water. Next morning, Rocky turned up with his trailer and we were back in the water by 0930 – brilliant. The only problem was the laundry which hadn’t turned up but Melissa in the front office phoned the company and within the hour the laundry had been delivered and we were on our way.
Our exit from Willemstad was in the company of other boats so the pontoon was fully opened which made life very simple. We raised our sails in the mouth of the river and then set off into the bumpy seas for the trip back to Spanish Waters. The winds gusted just over 30 knots but the waves weren’t too high so we made good progress up wind despite the lack of a staysail as we were carrying the dinghy on the foredeck; we arrived back at the anchorage in 2½ hours. The next couple of days were spent getting ourselves ready for Team ACE’s arrival, including making the Christmas Cake, and then it was time to weigh anchor again and move around the corner to anchor off Jan Sofat No 160 – the apartment that they were renting. It’s a couple of minutes in the dinghy to their dock so couldn’t be more convenient. It’s wonderful to see our little granddaughter (voted best baby on the KLM flight by the cabin crew!) and have a chance to see her for more than a 10 minute Skype call. She is a totally captivating, smiley little person who wriggles and squirms in your arms like a slippery eel and then moves like greased lightning once on the ground. A full time occupation looking after her! Emily is not taking to the sea quite as quickly as Pelicans but we should get there with a little perseverance! She’s not keen on sand either which is great as it means we won’t be having sandcastles building up in the cockpit from little sandy feet!!!
So far we have been out to Zanzibar Beach Resort and visited Willemstedt. The other days have been on the boat which everyone enjoys and Emily has no problem with the continual movement of the boat in the high winds. She has the makings of a great little sailor! We are hoping that the winds may drop a little so that we can go sailing (hopefully to Fuik Bay) but at the moment it would be far too rough for the trip to be enjoyable.
Well here we are, on Boxing Day, back in the official Spanish Waters anchorage after the most wonderful family time with Andrew, Claire and Emily. Truly a Christmas to remember, although we could have done without the squalls and torrential rain on Christmas Day!!
On Saturday 19th it was Claire's big birthday - it was a truly lovely day starting with a highly embarrassing rendition of Happy Birthday sung over the VHF just after the Cruisers' Net had finished! Hmmmm! Then Team ACE came over with croissants, fresh orange juice and lots of lovely cards that they'd brought with them from family and friends in UK. What a treat. A trip into town for lunch at an amazing restaurant with a terrace that hung out over the sea. It was wonderful to eat a delicious meal and watch the spray on the rocks below .... and a bit of spray on us as well! Then it was off to find an ice cream before returning home for a bit of a rest before Andrew produced a firm family favourite for supper - scrambled eggs and bacon. Needless to say the food at various stages was washed down with the appropriate beverages - lovely french champagne and french wines. A day to remember and a great start to Claire's 7th decade.
While we had a car we went off to see something of the island. A much larger island than Bonaire, it has more green before you hit the dusty, arid, cacti strewn coast. We decided not to subject Emily to the numerous different areas that make up the National Park on Curacao. Instead we went direct to the Shete Boka (Sea Turtle Sanctuary) where we had been told there was a magnificent blow hole. We were not disappointed. The Boka Tabla was on fine form in the high winds and blustery seas – Emily loved it. She really enjoys being in the wind (definitely a plus when considering her Yorkshire roots!) and the spray didn’t fuss her either. We then moved on to the Boka Wandomi which is a natural bridge and again a spectacular sight. The geographer in Andrew was definitely working out how he could use some of his photos in future lessons at school!
We ate our picnic in the National Park and then took to the roads again round the north of the island and on to Westpunt which has some lovely beaches. We enjoyed a couple of hours on the sand at Playa Kalki (well on a beach chair for Emily!!) and snorkelled before heading back south to Jan Sofat. We did make a detour on the route home to St Willibrordus to see an ancient church but it was shut (what’s the point of a church that’s shut?!) so we didn’t stop. We then made our way back south having enjoyed a lovely day. We also made another trip into Willemstad to see a little more of the markets and visit the Slave Museum at Hula Kulandra. The Museum had some horrendous exhibits of man’s inhumanity to man – one example was a sign that said on payment of $50 you could kill as many slaves as you want, in whatever manner you want! A sombre and thought provoking museum. Hula Kulandra itself is a quirky hotel with rooms that open directly onto the closed streets of what was the old town, it has a beautiful eco-spa swimming pool and several discreet courtyards but absolutely nowhere to buy an ice cream!! It is singularly difficult to find ice cream in the Caribbean and as far as Team ACE (well Andrew) is concerned a holiday without ice cream is not a holiday!! We did succeed in the end as we returned to the plaza where we had ‘birthday’ ice cream the previous week.
On Christmas Eve we went snorkelling at the Tugboat (our second visit). This time we arrived really early and had the tugboat to ourselves for over an hour. We swam amongst blue tang, squirrel fish and zillions of cardinal fish. Gramps was on Emily duties and did a sterling job – might have had something to do with the ‘Gramps biscuits’ (aka Ovaltine biscuits) that Emily loves!
On Christmas Day ‘Pirate Santa’ went ashore and kidnapped Team ACE for a stocking opening session on Ocean Rainbow. We then had a yummy breakfast with buck’s fizz before Emily returned to shore for a nap and Granny on duty in the Galley to make sure the Christmas Lunch was produced on time. Our lunch was delicious – “duck in a can”! Well, we started with smoked yellow fin tuna (simply scrumptious) and then the main course was duck that Claire had found in the French supermarket in St Laurent … what a treat. The roasties worked a treat but this year no brussel sprouts or parsnips, instead we had beans done in bacon fat, with broccoli and carrots. Gravy was replaced with a sharp cherry sauce. No leftovers at all!!! Team ACE then went ashore to let Emily have a rest in her own bed. After a quick tidy up we followed them ashore to spend the late afternoon and evening on dry land. We all changed for dinner which was fun and we even managed to eat the Christmas pudding – Claire having nearly burnt the flat down in her bid to ensure the pudding was alight when it got to the table!!!
Unable to find a church in our vicinity we had our own little Christmas service on-board with lots of carols. Emily loves music so we have enjoyed singing Christmas songs with her and had a truly wonderful Christmas Day Evening on the dock at Jan Sofat singing carols. With the Christmas tree in the middle of the table, a rum punch in hand, guitar and song books at the ready we ran through all the favourites finishing with Silent Night. Emily went to bed and slept the whole night through! Shame we didn’t find the formula a little earlier in the holiday!
Boxing Day dawned, Granny and Gramps went ashore to take Emily for a long walk while Andrew and Claire packed up the flat and all too soon it was time to say goodbye to Team ACE. Last cuddles with Emily and we waved them farewell. Then, it was back to OR with all the kit we had shipped ashore during their visit, a rapid stowing of stuff and we weighed anchor to return to the official anchorage after our wonderful two week very special anchorage off Jan Sofat.
What a great place we picked to anchor – right on the start line for the ‘End of Year’ race from Spanish Waters to Willemstad and back. It was a staggered start but that didn’t mean there weren’t some very exciting near misses! The finish two hours later was great fun as Island Water World and Budget Marine (these are the two main chandlers serving the Caribbean) jostled for first place – line honours were taken by IWW. In the afternoon we went to Santa Barbara for the Sunday afternoon get-together hosted by Suzie Too. It’s a great place to meet our fellow OCC rallyers and do a little bit of pre-planning.
Well the end of the year is upon us and here are the last couple of photos to round off the month.