November is here!
A lovely start to the month anchored in Monos. Although Sunday is a really busy day for party-loving Trinidadians we weren’t unduly disturbed by the party boats – the only one left the anchorage at 7.30pm so we had a peaceful night. The day itself was leisurely – although Claire did go off ‘noodling’ again with Anne (Freya of Clyde). A great form of exercise for all muscles and limbs, jaws included! Early afternoon there was an amazing thunder storm and downpour which chased away all but the most hardy day trippers. We sheltered under our new canvas and yet again congratulated ourselves on our investment. In the evening we went across to Freya and had sundowners with Anne and Alan. After an evening swim with wonderful phosphoresence we headed to bed and so ended our break away from Chaguaramas.
Monday morning we headed into the anchorage at Chaguaramas and were lucky enough to pick up a mooring buoy. Once ashore we discovered the package from Silent Wind had arrived in customs and it was only a matter of days before we would be able to remount the head! In the meantime we caught up with our jobs and friends. We had a great sundowner World Series celebration with Honey Ryder after a swim at Coral Cove’s pool – even drinking our bubbles from blue glasses! Well done The Kansas City Royals! On Tuesday, we had a ‘Nereid’ get together with Silent Annie, N’Oubliez Jamais and Freya at the Roti Hut. Lovely to catch up with them but far too short to cover all that has happened in the time since we left the Rally in French Guiana – or Guyana in Freya’s case! Thanks to Jean's skills with her fishing rod we enjoyed an amazing Wahu steak - the fish was far too big for her alone and she very generously divvied it up between us all. In fact we had two meals from the wonderful piece we were given.
On Wednesday we had real cause for celebration as Silent Wind was put back together and started to generate power for us. We had a problem with the blades (two were given back to us damaged!) but luckily we were carrying spares. James spent a long time balancing the blades and we now have a very silent Silent Wind (much better than before) and we have lots of power! A great relief. In the evening we had sundowners on Ocean Rainbow with Robert and Carla from Moody Mistress. They are also planning to go on the OCC (Ocean Cruising Club) Belize Rally in the New Year so it was great to get to know them a little better. They may also be travelling with us on route to Curacao – our start point for the Rally.
Now, with a day in mind when we leave Trinidad it is a case of stocking the boat for the trip, for Christmas and for the New Year! Long term stores planning always helps when you get to new places and find that the shops are not so well stocked – or the prices are ridiculous! So, the tinned and dry goods are on board; the meats will be loaded on Friday and gas cylinder sent to be filled – we’ll also be going to our last jam session for the time being; vegetables will be bought at the market on Saturday morning early and we hope to weigh anchor just as soon as we have Puddle on board having collected our replenished gas cylinder, due to be delivered by midday.
Who knows when we will be updating our diary next, we’re off for another adventure.
It’s 10 days since we wrote up the diary and, as can be imagined, a lot has happened! First we didn’t get the gas replenished – the cylinder wouldn’t have been back until Monday not Saturday! We did attend the musical jam session and we did weigh anchor on Saturday morning after the vegetable run and headed for Scotland Bay where we swam (Hooray!), cleaned the oily mess left by the anchorage waters off the side of the hull and James changed the propeller anode again! He’s getting very good at underwater changes, this time it only took a matter of minutes as he could see what he was doing! Then, after a quick lunch, we set sail in the company of Moody Mistress heading for Los Roques.
It was a great trip. We did have a bit of a delay en-route while we re-threaded the main sheet and tried all sorts of combinations to reduce the twist. We think the new arrangement is better but not totally convinced! The first night we had squalls with thunder and lightning all around us which made for a bit of excitement and then the second night was a little frustrating as we had to stooge around waiting for daylight before entering Los Roques from the north. That’s the trouble with a fast passage – you arrive too early and have to wait for daylight to negotiate the reefs and find a safe anchorage. Rather than go into El Gran Roque we anchored off the island of Francisquis. The waters were a wonderful turquoise colour, the sand on the beach glistening white but there was a lot of wind so the snorkelling was cloudy. Moody Mistress had caught a wonderful yellow fin tuna on passage and invited us over to join them for supper. Tuna accompanied by our Bretagne potato dish made a veritable feast. We also met the crew of Harmonie – a French catamaran – who will be sailing with us on the Belize Rally. We made the decision that, as we were only able to spend a few days in the islands we would ‘pass through’ Venezuelan waters rather than ‘stay’ so we didn’t go through all the customs and immigration formalities which can take 3 hours checking in and the same again checking out – and that’s on a good day. It doesn’t sound very long really but our consideration was the fact that the check in and out could only be done on El Gran Roque and we were heading west of there and would be unable to come back to check out (wind and weather were against this) so in effect we would go through all the formalities for the shortest part of our proposed visit to the islands.
We stayed in Francisquis for two nights before moving on to Crasqui with its magnificent white icing sugar beach. We didn’t snorkel as the waters were quite churned up and, having swum the anchor chain, we’d only seen starfish but we did see several small rays in the shallows off the beach. There’s also a little restaurant on the beach where we could have had lobster but we decided that we would head off early the next day to Aves de Barlovento – Booby Paradise! – so after a walk, when we left our mark on two of the cairns, Moody Mistress took us back to Ocean Rainbow in their very speedy RIB.
Aves de Barlovento was a 52nm downwind sail from Crasqui. We arrived in the afternoon and dropped an anchor close to Moody Mistress in the third bay on Isla Sur which was highly recommended by ‘Gabrielle’ for its wonderful snorkelling. We met Doug and Kim (s/y Gabrielle) over sundowners on Moody Mistress and were able to benefit from Kim’s vast knowledge of the area and her love of fish. On Saturday morning we collected Robert and Carla in Puddle and went off for a wonderful snorkel in waters that were really clear despite the waves and wind. The only disadvantage to the bay was its exposure to the wind which was gusting 30 and causing waves and the sensation of “sailing” as the boats moved around their anchors.
As a result we decided to head over to Bay 2 for our second night. This anchorage was much quieter in terms of waves but the wind stilled howled and the bird life was very noisy as Boobies and Frigate birds swirled overhead. In the late afternoon we took Puddle to the edge of the mangroves and had a wonderful drift watching the babies and juveniles in their nests. The birds really didn’t seem perturbed by us. We then had sundowners on OR with Moody Mistress (James providing the taxi service).
Sunday was a really busy day! After our little morning service we decided to have a hair cutting session. Then it was time to go snorkelling so we collected Robert and Carla and went off to the outer reef. The waters were again very clear despite the waves but the fish varieties were not quite so abundant. It was a fabulous snorkel all the same and we were well and truly wrinkled by the time we all scrambled back into the dinghy. Then it was time for our lesson! Robert had volunteered to show us, on our boat, how he set up his boat for downwind sailing. This involved our spinnaker pole – not Claire’s favourite bit of kit!! After some very clear instruction we rigged our pole and mentally prepared ourselves for poling out the jib and ‘goose-winging’ with our main on a preventer for our trip to Bonaire. Any seasoned sailor reading this will probably wonder why we have never poled out the jib before. The reasons are really threefold: Claire hates the spinnaker pole; Claire thinks the spinnaker pole is too heavy to handle in rolling seas; Claire broke her wrist on the Atlantic crossing because of the spinnaker pole!!!! Robert’s method doesn’t involve any manhandling of the spinnaker pole while underway. All the rigging is done in advance and even jibing the pole once underway is done in a controlled and easy fashion. We are now converts! After our lesson we needed a rest, but that was short lived as we decided to relocate to Bay 1 so that we were nearer the entrance to the reef for our planned departure for Bonaire. Having anchored in the bay we dinghied across and collected Carla and Robert for walk on the shore and then a dinghy drift in the mangroves (which were extensive) to see more Boobies than we thought possible! The big downside to this bay, the water was awash with guana so not good for swimming! However, it set us up for our early morning departure with no need to worry about avoiding shoals in the dark.
Our sail to Bonaire was amazing. We tipped 10.2 knots at one stage as we surfed down the waves with our goosewinged sails. Ocean Rainbow performed beautifully, as always and so did Humphrey who, despite the yawing, rolling and surfing, managed to hold us on course with only minor blip or two. Very impressive.
17th – 22nd November
Our welcome to Bonaire couldn’t have been better. On arrival, we saw so many cruising friends from whom to glean information! Beyzano (Rob and Rhian), Oystergo (Jon), Silence (Andrea and Kai), Horizons (Diane and Jeff), Badgers Sett (Judith and Ken), Hokule’a (Jake and Jackie), Casa Tu (Kate and Doug), Resolute of Thames (Colin and Gill) and Pfat Kat (Laurence). We took our time to get to our mooring buoy as we were chatting to so many folk along the way but when we finally got to a free mooring buoy we were very grateful to Robert and Carla who had managed to make themselves secure and launch their dinghy in time to help us.
Once organised Carla and Robert came on board to help us celebrate our great run from Isla Sur to Bonaire. Jon passed by in his dinghy and hopped on board for a couple of beers, a chat and info about the island – top tip, don’t try and cycle around the south of the island you’re always against the wind!! Rob and Rhian came past and invited us to join them and other OCC members for supper at Bistro de Paris for the jazz session. It was a fun evening with delicious food. The same restaurant also hosts a burger and beer night on Wednesdays aimed at cruisers ($8 for a burger and two beers) but we gave this one a miss as we had been invited on board Silence for a farewell dinner. Andrea and Kai are on their way north in search of their favourite kite-surfing beaches so Wednesday night was our last chance for a get together this season. We always have so many laughs with them and this occasion was no exception. We had a delicious dinner (they are both very good chefs) on their immaculate catamaran. All too soon it was over and we bade them farewell – although we did get up on Thursday morning at 6am to wave them off and wish them fair winds and safe passage.
This flat island lends itself to travel by bike so we have been making very good use of our bikes again. The normally tedious chore of laundry has been done in complete luxury with so many machines there’s no possibility of having to wait your turn, TV showing English programmes, internet with enough bandwidth to download films as well as skype and plugs so that you can charge your laptop and iPad at the same time! Brilliant. Add to this the luxury of free WiFi in the local superdooper supermarket Van der Tweel and, all of a sudden, those normal chores become a little less painful! Actually Van der Tweel is so superdooper it’s hard to make up your mind what to buy so our first visit had a remarkably small checkout bill.
The town itself is very touristy, geared to the diving fraternity and those people with lots of money. Some of the houses are brightly coloured but then the area they’re in is a bit run down and the roads are a mix of potholes and smooth with no obvious reason why one area is potholed and the next the road is well maintained. The supermarkets are 15 to 20 minutes walk outside the town so a ‘re-supply run’ needs a car, bike or you can take the shopping bus that goes twice weekly to Van der Tweel.
On Saturday 21st, Christmas officially started in Bonaire with the arrival of Sinten Klaas! He was brought in to the main harbour on a tug with a second tug following and a host of dinghies, motor boats and sailboats. It was a very pretty parade with so much noise we just had to go and find out what was going on! Sinten Klaas’ little helpers were all dressed in velvet finery with black curly wigs and blackened faces but Sinten Klaas himself was a very pale white with long white curly hair.
On Sunday we went on a bike excursion to Sorobon in the south. James had already done a recce of one road while Claire was doing the laundry and declared it unsuitable for bikes so we went the ‘long’ way around to the Lac Baai to watch the windsurfers. We were surprised to find that almost the whole beach had been sectioned off into various ‘Clubs’. One Club was charging $5 for access to their little bit of sand and $10 for a sun lounger! … whilst the Jibe Club’s beach access was used by the windsurfers entering and exiting the water so no chance of sitting and building sandcastles! As for the bike ride, we cycled through acres of mangrove swamp with nothing to see despite the numerous warnings about wild donkeys. (The flamingos were on the road that James had previously recce’d, so we shall go and see them another day when we have a car!) We did stop for a swim and snorkel on the edge of the Lac but the waters were too shallow to do anything but get cool. We sat for a while on a discarded packing crate watching the windsurfers before deciding to make our way home. Hmmm, and that was a mission! We took the road that cuts across the centre past the Donkey Sanctuary – straight as a die through scrubland with nothing to see until suddenly 3 donkeys appeared on the side of the road. And then, it was more scrubland until eventually we hit the road that runs along the western coast. The beaches at this point are quite rocky with a swell that makes swimming a little challenging but there are lots of dive buoys off the beach where you can moor your dinghy and snorkel. We rounded off the day meeting up with fellow OCC cruisers at Gio’s and enjoying a well-earned ice cream.
We have been off snorkelling with the dinghy but so far the best snorkelling we have found has been under our boat! Very convenient for us but also somewhat perturbing as other divers discover the fish and dive below us sending a stream of bubbles against our hull! A strange noise to say the least! We continue to hunt the tarpon with our camera in the hope of a photo that does justice to their size. In the meantime our next planned outing will be, we hope, to Klein Bonaire and we are also planning to hire a 4x4 ‘truck’ with Moody Mistress and go off in search of caves and flamingoes.
23rd – 30th November
Well, we did go by dinghy with Moody Mistress and Beyzano (Rob and Rhian) for a lovely snorkel along the coast of Klein Bonaire. The water was a little rough so visibility wasn’t as good as it might have been but it was fun. We didn’t spot any ‘new’ fish but the ones we did see were definitely well fed!
On Wednesday we hired a Hilux Truck and toured Bonaire with Moody Mistress. The island is only 18 miles long so we were able to see everything of note in just one day. We started by driving up the west coast to Gotomeer where we saw flamingos and, from the viewing point, the old town of Rincon. The road to Rincon took us along the edge of the lake but the flamingos were not very cooperative as far as photo opportunities were concerned. However, it was great to see so many and to realise that the extraordinary coral/pink colour you see in photos is the real colour! Rincon is the oldest town on the island with the Cardushy Distillery. We popped our heads in and tried the liqueur – and left it on the shelf!! A great colour but a very medicinal taste. Not surprising when you think that it is made from the Kardushi Cactus. There is also tea and soup made from the cactus – those too were left on the shelf!!
From Rincon we went off to the National Park where we found that if we walked the 1½ hour trail we could enter free but if we wanted to take the truck in we would have to pay US$25 per person. You’ve guessed it – we walked! The trail took us along a dusty track through cacti to an old (140 years) boundary wall built from dead coral and on to a limescale waterwell. The trail continued on to a blowhole and then past Playa Chikitu, a beautiful, but tiny, beach where green back turtles come to nest. From this stage, the trail was over lava rock which was really sharp with the added hazard of lethal thorns from the cacti that made their way into the soles of our shoes – Ouch! We made it back to the car park in need of sustenance so, after a quick look around the lime kiln, bread oven and museum, we took off back to Rincon and a little roadside restaurant called ‘Cozy Corner’ for chicken sate, chips and salad (the only option on the menu).
Fed and rested we jumped back in the truck and set off to find the caves with indian inscriptions. What a mission. Not a signpost to be seen and all we had to go on were the dubious instructions ‘keep going until, when you look behind you, you see a mushroom shaped rock’. We found lots of caves, some with bats, all with stalagtites and stalacmites but none with indian inscriptions at least not until we had turned around and were heading back. Then Carla spotted the mushroom shaped rock and lo and behold, behind it we found a very large cave complete with indian inscriptions. Success.
Our next stop was Sorobon to see if we could get a really good photo of flamingos – and also to see Lac Baai from the ‘wild’ side rather than the commercialised side with Jibe City etc. On a weekday it was very empty and rather lovely. Then on to see the salt pans on the south west of the island. In the old days the industry was reliant on slaves who lived in the little huts, which have just been renovated as part of Curacao’s heritage trail. The salt pans are different colours and different qualities but we didn’t manage to find out which pan yielded what quality! However we did find out that in the old days ships would anchor outside the reef opposite an obelisk (coloured orange, white, red and blue) and the smaller boats would deliver the right quality and quantity of salt to them.
That was the end of our tour; we’d covered the whole island and every spot of interest indicated in the guide book so all that remained for us to do was check out the local chandlery before heading home. That evening we joined other cruisers at ZaZa for the Cruiser Burger Night …. Chips twice in one day! Not a very healthy diet but one that we did enjoy.
Thursday we spent doing all our chores before setting off for Curacao. Moody Mistress had us on board for a farewell sundowner as they are staying longer in Bonaire. We pulled our departure date forward because of some rather nasty looking weather heading our way. Why travel in the rain and blustery squalls when you can sail in the sunshine? It proved to be a really good decision as we had a great sail across to Curacao and were nicely settled in Spanish Waters when the rain, thunder and lightning hit on Saturday.
Curacao is an interesting island with lots to see and do. We have been out and about in the dinghy having a good look at Spanish Waters and checking out where Andrew, Claire and Emily (Team ACE) will be staying for their two week visit. We went into Willemstedt to check in and experienced downpours, running rivers in the streets and everywhere very empty which wasn’t very surprising given the weather. The empty streets did make it easier to get a feeling for the geography of the town which is in two halves and joined by a pontoon bridge – but more about that in another blog when we have sunny pictures and more information. When we caught the bus into town we were lucky enough to travel at the same time as Robi from PR2, the other Warrior in the bay. It isn’t her first time here so she was a fount of information. We managed to glean even more info over sundowners that night when she came on board with husband Pete.
On Sunday, after a very busy morning trying to stop Silent Wind’s vibration by realigning blades etc and cleaning out Tommy’s carburettor and fuel filter we had a very relaxing afternoon. We went across to Santa Barbara Beach as guests of Suzie Too and spent the afternoon with other cruisers who are going on the Rally to Belize. What a lovely bunch of people, we’re really looking forward to the Rally.