Au Revoir, Martinique.  Hello St. Lucia.

Time to giddyup.  The weather window popped open, so we were off to St. Lucia.  Had reservations for a slip beginning on the 15th, but figured that 2 days early was no big deal.  Emails to the office went unanswered, and our phones were acting up by not acting at all.  Arriving at Rodney Bay Marina in St. Lucia, we found that there was “no room at the inn.”  Oops.  Elton, the Dockmaster worked his magic and put us at the “Big Boy” dock, where Alizann nestled in among the 100 and 200 footers.  He even got us a U.S.A. power supply.  Livin’ large in the expensive seats (at the cheap seat price).  He said that we’d probably have to move over to the “poor side of town” as soon as a spot opened up on the other dock.  So, I’m doing the post passage engine room check, and there’s some dried salt on the floor of the generator compartment right under the raw water cooling pump.  Sheesh!  My handy dental mirror and flashlight reveal that there’s also a trickle on the underside of the pump.  I knew that it was going to be there, but I like to delude myself now and then, preferring to think that everything’s O.K. when it’s not.  I know the drill.  There’s a spare pump on board.  We’ll get another spare when we’re home at Christmas-Ka-ch$ng!  Continuing the inspection, there’s a puddle of dried rust on the sole where the generator exhaust passes through the engine room bulkhead.  Hmmmh.  It’s directly under a stainless-steel elbow which is bright and shiny.  Mirror and flashlight reveal a different story underneath.  Clean rust trail off with emery cloth-shiny, no worries.  Tighten hose clamp, repeat delusional thought process.  Run generator for 10 minutes-no leaks.  Finish engine room inspection-all good.

Over the next few days, we get The Girl dressed up for Christmas with outdoor lights, etc.  In the meantime, we meet up with Kim and Zim (s/v Someday-St. John’s and Grenada), who are here for the start of the ARC Around the World Rally.  Theresa, Randy and the boys from Pilot’s Discretion are here too.  After being on the megayacht dock for a few days, we figure that they’re not moving us.  Meticulously get all the chafing gear on the lines, double-tie, get down extra fenders so that we can leave the Girl over Christmas.  Kiss of death.  Next morning, Sean, the marina manager comes by to tell us that we need to move.  Grrrhh.  Meanwhile, the elbow is nagging me.  Pull hose on other side of bulkhead to check inside of elbow.  Looks good, but the elbow is made from SS tubing, not pipe which is thicker.  Google, Google, Google.  Okay, the experts say that the fittings should be SS pipe or fiberglass/polyester.  We better have a spare.  Call Krogen-Gregg says that he has a new Stainless elbow that he can ship.  Thinking, thinking.  Hmmh, if it does start leaking, and I have to replace it, why not use fiberglass, which will never corrode.  Kill a half day online.  Order fiber elbow to be delivered over Christmas.  Sheila, just add it to the pile of boatstuff that’s accumulating in your guest bedroom.

“Oh, you’re leaving your boat in the marina for ten days with no one onboard?  You need a Temporary Importation Permit.”  Are you kidding?  The Customs cha-cha all over again.  (Why can’t I just keep my mouth shut?)  Customs needs a boat inventory before the officer can come to do a boat inspection before we can get our permit to leave.  Ka-ch$ng!  Okay, most of our stuff (spares, tools) is enumerated on spreadsheets, but it’s not a bad idea to have a list of all our goodies for insurance purposes.  We ended up with 5 sheets, single-spaced, 2 columns for our boat inventory.  When we gave it to the Customs officer, his eyes nearly popped out.  We made it about halfway through the first page, when he said he’d take our word for it.  He had an icy drink, signed our papers in triplicate, and was on his way.  (They DO love their paperwork down here in the islands.  Suz and I believe that they comprise 90% of the world market for carbon paper.)

Kurt picked us up at Noon on the 18th, for our hour-and-a-half drive to the airport.  Fourteen hours later, Suzanne’s sister, Sheila, picked us up in Asheville, North Carolina.

-Later

Bonjour,

Ah Martinique.  Great food, wonderful grocery stores, cheap French wines, great food, good roads, lots of hiking trails, great food, many sights to see.

Soo…..  Our plan was to anchor out in Martinique.  Then, we thought we’d get a mooring ball so that we could be close to the marina.  Then, maybe we should rent a car (John and Paulette had one).  Well, let’s see if they have a berth at the dock so we could have easy access to the car.  Long story short, we rented a car for 2 weeks, and Le Marin found a spot on the dock for us, on the condition that we left in a week.  The marina holds around a thousand boats, but was jammed full.  We figured that things would work themselves out as long as we just hung loose.  Okeey Dokey.  Time to Med-moor between our neighbors who were about 19 feet apart (our beam is 17.5).  I’m backing the Girl in from the pilothouse, totally blind.  The monkey working the controls while the Admiral is in the stern whispering commands into my headset.  (We prefer this routine to my driving from up top, as I can step out of the pilothouse to the bow easily).  The dock guy is in his tender, holding the bow mooring ball sorta out of the way, as I’m backing between the our neighbor’s stern  and the ball.  All’s going well until we’re sideways without a lot of room to maneuver.  “Oops, I meant stern to starboard, not port”.  It was gettin’ on towards dusk, and cloudy, but I could see the dock guy’s eyes, as big as pies as the Girl slid past his tender before he disappeared below my line of sight.  No crunch, no foul.  We got ‘er straightened out without a go-around, Suz got stern lines on with the help of the young lady next door, and our Dude, now visibly more relaxed, got the bow attached to the ball.  We jammed some fenders between the boats, and we were home.  Our neighbor lady, Elodie, had just single-handed from France in the Mini Transat, a race which had ended for her the day previously.  (The Mini Transat is a race for 6.5 meter-that’s 21 feet, folks- boats that starts in France, and ends in Martinique around 17 days later.)  We didn’t see much of her for the first few days as she was laying in the cockpit of her Uncle’s boat next to us, catching up on her sleep.  Our neighbors on the other side?   Let’s just say that we locked up tight whenever we left, even for a minute.  Not judgin’-just sayin’.  The always colorful life on a boat!  We solved the European shore power problem (partially) by wiring up an adapter to allow us to bring 220V, 50Hz into the Girl.  We charged our batteries with one of our chargers which would accept 50Hz, while running the boats’ AC appliances off of a different inverter.  The only appliances that we lacked were air conditioning and the washing machine, as our inverter doesn’t put out enough voltage to run these guys, and they don’t like 50Hz frequencies.  (Okay, tech geeks, I tried to keep the explanation simple)

The hikes on Martinique are plentiful.  There are kilometers and kilometers of reasonably marked trails covering much of the island.  Suz and I knocked off the south end of the windward coast in several day-sized pieces, as well as a few in the interior.  There’re still plenty for our next visit.

There are plenty of other attractions to visit:

The banana plantation, Habitation Balfort, where we toured the fields aboard a little train.  We were taught us everything that we needed to know about the cultivation of bananas.  All of the fruit exported from Martinique goes directly to France. 

The Habitation Clement, a restored sugar plantation, gave us a taste of what life was like on a 19th century sugar plantation.  (It was also the location where George H.W. Bush and Frances’ Francoise Mitterrand met following the First Gulf War).  Several buildings and an old rum distillery were available for a walk-thru.  At the end of our tour, we had a real bonus!  Rum tasting-with samples of all of Clement’s current products.  The pourers weren’t in any rush to chase us out.  I had the feeling that we could have tasted all afternoon, but we had to drive home in the now torrential rain.  It was raining so hard that there was a guard at the bridge over the raging creek to show us the way to drive over the now-submerged, railingless(?) plank bridge. 

We were a bit disappointed after driving all the way north to the sugar refinery, only to find that they were closed until a few months into the dry season when cane would again be harvested.

The ruins of the Chateau Dubuc  on the Caravelle peninsula were extensive, and the setting was stunning, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean on the windward side.  Another rainy day, but as we walked along on our self-guided tour, we stopped to seek shelter for our brown bag lunch (baguette, French cheese and meats, of course!).  We had planned on hiking another segment of the shore trail after our tour, but were foiled by the pouring rain.

Another day took us to Jardin Balata (Balata Gardens).  Even though exotic species of plants from all over the world were displayed, Balata wasn’t your typical botanical garden.  Instead of groupings by species, the garden was designed to be a work of art, blending different colors and textures of plants to create scenes pleasing to the eye.  Every time that you rounded a turn in the serpentine path coursing through the property, you were confronted with another Kodak moment.  Very cool.

The Anse Cafard memorial was very moving.  Erected on a prominence overlooking a bay where a slave ship grounded on a stormy night in 1830, killing most on board, it features fifteen modern art stone sculptures.  Depicting slaves, the figures are oriented so that they face the African’s homeland of Ghana, thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean.

The childhood homesite of Josephine (Napolean’s wife) is worth a stop, if for no other reason than to say that you were there…Nowadays, only the foundation of the main house and the ruins of the sugar mill are visible.  A small museum is also on the grounds.  (You may know that both Martinique and St. Lucia claim to be her birthplace)

La Savanes des Esclaves is a reproduction of a typical slave “village” that would be found on plantations during the 18th and 19th centuries.  Although the guided tours are in French, a self-guide brochure, printed in English, allows you to fill in the blanks if your French is “iffy”.  Very easy to spend a couple of hours there.

Martinique is a country where daily life revolves around lunch, much like France.  Businesses close between Noon and Two P.M., and there are no two ways about it.  We fell easily into the habit of taking our main meal at lunch time, and our days of exploration were punctuated by lunch at some great little restaurant that someone had recommended.  I could name names, but the places will probably be different by the time you get here.  Don’t be long!..........tick,tick,tick.

Do the French like their wine?  As my pal Dick would say “Does a chicken have lips?”  I’ve never quite figured the simile, but it rolls off the tongue well.  Yeah, French wine is inexpensive here, but mores so when you shop at Pomal wholesale distributor (Thank you, John and Paulette).  This is where the retailers shop, and we felt fortunate to escape with only 6 cases of red and white pop.

All in all, the two weeks flew by.  Yes, on day 7 we were awarded a reprieve of 3 more days.  On day 10, the Dockmaster appeared at our stern and informed us that we “must leave right now”, as a boat was coming in to this, their reserved slip.  No worries.  He moved us to the “Big Boy” dock for the remainder of our stay.  John and Paulette’s 58-footer looked like a dinghy compared to the other yachts berthed there, so you can imagine how lost Alizann looked.

It would be really easy to get sucked in to life here at Le Marin.  The dockage is inexpensive, and there are modern conveniences here on Martinique (In absolute contrast to Dominica and St. Lucia, around 30 miles or so to the north and south, respectively).  Fresh baguettes every morning, loads of great little restaurants, good roads, nice beaches, a real shopping mall………….

We may be back.

-Later

Hellooo….

So, let me say a few words about Marigot Bay.  This is an extremely sheltered, nearly round bay surrounded by tall headlands rising to nearly 600’.  The narrow channel leads out to an anchorage which has a few mooring balls, and room to anchor.  The inner harbor has many mooring balls and a dock running along the shore with room for about 25 boats to Med-moor (stern-to, bow tied to a lead line away from shore).  Both the moorings and the dock are owned by Capella Resort, which is adjacent to the bay.  The good news is that as a marina customer, you have access to their two swimming pools and spa.  Dockside power is European (240V, 50Hz), but they had a small converter which allowed limited power for 2 or 3 North American boats (220V, 60Hz).  This allowed us to keep our batteries charged, and run the A/C in our stateroom at night.

Day two dawned bright and sunny.  The Admiral went for a ninety-minute massage while I chilled at the boat, taking care of some odds ‘n ends.  John’s brother and sister-in-law flew in from England for a 3 week visit on board Seamantha.  The afternoon had me peelin’, slicin’, and dicin’, while the Admiral handled the skilled job of prepping food for our Thanksgiving celebration the following day.  Aboard Seamantha, Paulette was continuing her preparations, which had already been in process for a few days.  Later in the day, the rest of the U.S. Thanksgiving gang cruised in.  Randy and Theresa, along with their two boys Ryan (12 years old) and Ronan (10 years old) docked their 54’ SeaRay, “Pilot’s Discretion” down the way.  John and Paulette had met them a couple of years before when docked in Grenada for the Summer.  Randy is retired from American Airlines after serving stints as Bob Hope’s, then Clint Eastwood’s private pilot subsequent to a stint in the U.S. Coast Guard.  Theresa is an attorney on sabbatical, as they have been cruising for 3 years.

It wasn’t Thanksgiving with the family and Detroit Lions football on the tube, but it sure weren’t bad.  Appetizers and sips started at Noon, and we pushed away around 16h00.  John started us out with some French white pop.  Smoked salmon (brought by John’s family from Scotland), Paulette’s homemade Spanakopita, and steamed shrimp got the party started.  Then the real fun began.  I’ll just give you the list:  Roast beef; Turkey; mashed potatoes (of course!); roasted vegetables; roasted Brussel Sprouts; roasted Sweet Potatoes; Onion casserole; Cranberry and Orange sauce; gravy and stuffing, all washed down with a red(?) Sancerre.  Dessert put us over the top:  Pecan pie, Chocolate cheese cake; ice cream; and stewed fruit with whipped cream were all on the menu.

We didn’t waste a minute during our weeklong stay at Marigot.  The day after Thanksgiving, John and Paulette arranged for Curt Joseph (a.k.a. Island Man) to take us on a tour of St. Lucia.  He picked up John, Paulette, Michael, Wendy, Suzanne and I at 09h00, and we didn’t return until after dark. We visited Tet Paul Nature trail first.  There, our guide took us along an easy trail, identifying local plants and trees along the way, culminating in a spectacular lookout which overlooked The Pitons (Gros and Petit), two extinct volcanic cones, which are St. Lucian geologic icons.  Next stop was the Diamond Botanical Gardens, where we spent a couple hours strolling the paths.  Our guide did a superb job of identifying and describing the uses of the myriad of plants there.  We took a late lunch at “Fedo’s” restaurant, located on one of the back alleys of Soufriere.  We never would have found it on our own, but Curt said that he wouldn’t eat anywhere else.  After lunch, we could see why.  Then, it was off to the Soufriere volcano.  We were the only tourists there, as it was late in the day, so we had our own personal guide.  We walked the boardwalks over pits of boiling mud through tendrils of sulfur-laden steam which had bubbled up through the Earth’s crust.  Cool.  Afterwards, we visited the “Volcano Museum”, which provided some rudimentary facts.  At sunset, we walked the beach outside the town of Soufriere, viewing Gros Piton one last time, from a different angle.  It was a long, sleepy ride home.  We all agreed that Curt was the man.  He picked us up early enough that we were ahead of the busses filled with cruise ship passengers, timing lunch so that they could pass ahead of us, and finished our tour after they were on their way back to their ships-perfect!  The next morning Theresa and the boys led Suz and I on a hike that almost literally went straight up through the forest to a 630’ peak overlooking Marigot.  As we were scrambling up the path, at times aided by ropes strung along the side, and starting mini slides of loose stones, I have to admit I was worrying about how we’d get back down.  The view from the top was well worth the climb, and a different path, this one winding down another face of the peak took us back down.  We enjoyed pizza and a few sodas while the boys played pool at “Doolittles” before taking the little ferry boat back to our side of the harbor.  That evening, Suz and I had dinner at “Masala Bay,” an exceptional Indian restaurant located right at the marina (the Seamantha and Alizann crews managed to wedge in 2 lunches there during the week too).

It’s funny how inertia can grab ahold of you.  When Suz and I are on the move, we can’t wait to see the next anchorage.  When we pull into a marina and stay for a while, it gets tough to move along.  I guess that we just get used to the routine……… Anyway, it was time to get on up island.  On Tuesday morning, the crews of Alizann and Seamantha pushed off for the 5 hour hop to Martinique.

-Later

Bon jour

Reluctantly, we upped the anchor in Chatham Bay, Union Island at 09h00 on the 15th of November.  An hour later, we entered the anchorage at Salt Whistle Bay on the north end of tiny Mayreau (population 250), another island of the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines archipelago.  It’s a very popular, but small anchorage on the northwest corner of the island.  If it was full, we planned to head a few miles south, and toss down the hook in Saline Bay, at the south end of Mayreau.  That wasn’t our first choice, as the ferries and small cruise ships use the commercial port there.  As luck would have it, a boat was just dropping a mooring ball as we entered the harbor (it also happened to be the one that we would have chosen if the whole mooring field had been empty.  Our “Boat Boy” du jour, “Fifty Cent” guided us in and took our lines, helping us to secure the Girl to the mooring.  (Of course, we could have very easily secured ourselves, but the Boat Boys plying the anchorages in their little pangas really need the work on these islands where there’s very little opportunity for employment.  They really hustle-good for them!)  The bay was separated from the Atlantic by a low, sandy spit covered by palm trees.  We had a nice breeze, but virtually no waves.  We brought the dinghy to the sandy shore and anchored it in 3’ of water.  Crossing the spit, we had a nice mile-and-a-half walk down the deserted sand beach on the windward side.  The remaining few hours of the afternoon afforded me the perfect opportunity to give the Girl a good bottom cleaning.  Two hours, and one broken putty knife later, her backside was smooth as a babies…  The next day, it was time to stretch our legs.  We walked the island loop, which took us over the top and down into Saline Bay.  High above Saline Bay, we stopped at the Catholic church.  On the walkway looping behind the church, we were treated to a beautiful view of the Tobago Cays, some seven miles distant.  The first part of our walk was on pavement (although we never saw a vehicle).  The way home took us past the island dump to the windward (and uninhabited) side of the island.  The trail wound along the coastline, meandering through grassy highlands, rocky shoreline and mangrove groves.  Not a well-travelled path, we backtracked several times to find our way, and bushwhacked through deep growth, finally ending up at the end of the beach that we had tramped the day before.  After 5 miles in the hot sun, we lolled in the knee-deep water off our anchorage’s sandy beach in bathtub calm, 85-degree water.

After two days at Mayreau, we were off to our old stompin’ grounds in Port Elizabeth, Bequia (another island in SVG).  We were looking forward to meeting up with our friend, Donnaka (See hiking in Bequia from April or May 2017).  We also had a load of swim suits and goggles for the Bequia swim team which we’d hand off to their coach, and our friend, Tyrell Olivierre.  Well…..the four days in Bequia went quickly.  We met up with Donnaka, who regaled us with stories from his recent two-month walkabout in South America.  It just fanned our already simmering fires to spend some time there next year.  Our friend Ken (“In Dreams”-from Grenada) arrived, so we spent some time bangin’ around with him.  We did a couple of dives with “Dive Bequia,” enjoying a couple of surprisingly nice sites, accompanied by James, our boat driver, and Max, Divemaster.  The morning dive, it was just Suzanne and I, in the later dive, just another guy and his daughter.  Max and I speared a dozen-and-a-half Lionfish, giving us enough for a nice dinner, leaving a dozen for Max.  I say that the dives were “surprisingly nice” because I had read a review online that said that the reefs here were disappointing.  Not so.  The corals appeared to be as vibrant and healthy as any that we’ve seen here in the Windwards.  The number of lobster that we saw was off the charts.  We met up with Ty and the swim team and they were delighted with their new goodies.  Ty confided that the girls especially were embarrassed at their competitions, as they didn’t have (couldn’t afford) proper racing suits.  Well, they’re gonna be stylin’ now.  Suzanne picked out the most colorfully patterned Speedos that she could find, in a variety of sizes (Ty sent us size requirements in an email during the Summer).  Four days went too quickly, but it was time to get on up to St. Lucia to join Paulette and John (aboard Seamantha) for Thanksgiving.  We had the turkey in our freezer, so our absence would’ve been noticed.  Before we left, I got out the pressure gauge, and handheld tachometer, and got our recalcitrant hydraulic oil cooler into spec.  (It wasn’t).  I figured that the next leg would be a good test.

The anchor was shipped by 05h35 for our anticipated 8-hour trip to Marigot Bay on St. Lucia.  On the way, the Girl got a nice salty coating from short period, 2’-4’ seas on the starboard bow.  We caught a little (24”) Blackfin Tuna along the way.  More importantly, we had NO hydraulic system overheats.  Maybe we’ve got it licked (knock wood).  At 14h15, we backed into our Med-moor slip between Seamantha and another vessel, under Paulette and John’s watchful eyes.  After a quick washdown of boat and crew, we joined our pals for sips and stories, as it had been nearly 7 months since we had seen each other.

On to Thanksgiving……….

-Later

Time Flies.

We glided into Clifton Harbor at 13h25 on the 7th of November.  Within minutes, we were at “our spot” in the northeast corner of the anchorage near “Kiteboard Beach.”  Well…. not exactly “our spot,” as there was a rather ratty-looking catamaran parked right over our old GPS fix from the previous Spring.  As usual, Suz was driving, I was handling the ground tackle on the bow.  I came inside to confer with the Admiral on the next best spot to drop the hook, when Suz said “Did you see that?”  “Yeah, those guys are right in “our sp……”.  Really?  None of the four guys sunbathing on the deck had a stitch on.  After a quick conference, we decided to drop our anchor at their midships so that The Girl would lay well off the German Nature Boys’ stern (their boat).  We tidied up the boat and got the dinghy deployed about the time that the Canadian couple on the sailboat behind us returned from shore on their tender.  After an animated discussion between the two of them, he came out to his bow, pacing in an obviously agitated manner.  Uh Oh.  I went over for a chat, and was informed that I was anchored on top of his chain.  When I asked him how much chain he had out, he growled “40 meters”.  One hundred twenty-five feet in ten feet of water?  Seemed rather excessive to me.  We had fifty feet out, anchored in a sandy bottom, behind a sheltering reef.  I told him that I really didn’t think that we had a problem, but that I’d be happy to swim his anchor, then mine to make sure.  As he glowered from his foredeck, I did just that.  Our hooks were around fifty feet apart, neither upwind of the other.  Somewhat mollified, he semi-stomped back to his cockpit.  Time to clear Customs, so we stopped at their boat to introduce ourselves and ask them if they needed anything from shore.  Curt “No thanks,” no names.  Sometimes it’s just that way, even here in paradise.

Over the next five days, we resumed our kiteboard lessons, graduating from the shallow waters off Kiteboard Beach to the deep water off Frigate Island.  The first and second days, we progressed nicely.  Suz took the third day off to rest.  I thought that I had some catching up to do, as she was learning quicker than me.  BIG MISTAKE!  I was tired too, but didn’t realize it.  I backslid bigtime.  By the end of the session, I was totally ready to quit.  (I’m not sure that I’ve ever quit at anything).  Next day, Suz had a morning lesson.  She had the deep water starts perfected, and was going well in one direction, pretty good in the other.  I was happy that she was progressing so well, but had to tell her that I was more than a little bit jealous, and pretty upset by the difference in our progression.  We had lunch on the shore with a bunch of younger boarders, as well as the owner of the school, Jeremie.  They all praised Suz for her accomplishments, and offered me some “buck up” anecdotes (they had all been watching our lessons for the past few days).  I had determined that I was done with the boarding thing, but hadn’t told anyone yet, when Jeremie (the JT Pro Kiteboarding owner) took me aside.  He shared that it took him a long time to get going at first (probably a lie).  More importantly, he told me to just relax.  He related that men had a tendency to use too much muscle and try to overpower the kite and board, but that women learned much faster because they just “went with the flow”.  Okay, I could see that.  I’d seen that learning how to snow ski at age 32.  I was still in a funk, and was going to quit anyway, when a French guy who was doing aerials, and all kinds of tricks earlier gave me the talk too.  He said that his wife was up and boarding in three lessons, whereas after his eighth, he was just starting to get up on the board.  Well, with all those folks in my corner, I couldn’t just walk away.  Zen kiteboarding won the day.  Everything suddenly got easier, and we ended the afternoon in smiles.  I don’t look pretty (but then again, I never have), but I’m driving the board in both directions, and we’ll be back.  Suzanne and I think that our instructor, Butter, and our boat driver, Marlin, are the best.  Jeremie, we’ll be back.

It wasn’t all work and no play in Clifton.  Onshore, we went back to “Yummy’s Bakery” for Rose’s Roti, and Zoey’s (Jeremie’s wife) “Snack Shack” for a wonderful lunch.  The open-air market supplied us with fresh fruit and veggies.  Cocktails happened a couple of evenings at the “Anchorage Yacht Club”, and “Bougainvilla”.

On the 15th, we moved up the west side of Union Island to Chatham Bay.  What an idyllic anchorage.  A crescent-shaped beach rings the bay, and there is good holding for the anchor throughout.  We dropped the hook away from all other boats (there were 8 in an anchorage large enough for 70, easily).  Soon enough, we were approached by a guy in a panga hawking his restaurant on shore.  He also told us that we’d be getting some swell during the night if we remained anchored here.  He motored on, and after a bit of discussion, the Admiral and I hauled anchor.  Seckie reappeared, and led us up to a spot in the northeast corner of the bay, and indicated a good spot to drop the hook.  Uncharacteristically, he didn’t hang around for a tip, just motored back to shore.  Long story short, we radio’d him on the VHF, ordered two grilled Red Snapper dinners, and headed in to the beach an hour later.  We met Seckie’s girlfriend, Vanessa.  In her small kitchen(?), she cooked the sides, while Seckie grilled the fish over an open hearth.  Their power was supplied by a generator, as there were no power lines down to this isolated bay.  The food was delicious.  As it turned out, Vanessa was a jewelry artist, creating necklaces and bracelets from beach glass and sterling silver.  Suz picked out several (it’s almost Christmas), and asked Vanessa to hold them until we could come back tomorrow with more $$$.  Nope.  She said take them and come back tomorrow when we get here.  Next day was a hike day.  We got to shore and hit the trail after a false start which took us down a rutted, muddy road.  Elton, a local fisherman, called out to us, and directed us to a path through the bush that would take us out of the wet lowlands and up a steep trail through the bush to the peak of the mountain.  He did want a tip, and wasn’t shy about asking for one.  We scrambled up a mile-long trail that rose some 600 feet.  On the way up, we met “Shark Attack”, who was walking down to his shack on the shore of the bay.  For the next twenty minutes, standing on the steep trail in the middle of the rain forest, we had a spirited discussion on the politics of SVG (I guess I should say that we mostly listened while he talked).  As we broke out of the bush onto the paved road, we continued on our 5-mile jaunt, which took us up to the Digicel tower, the village of Ashton, and out to the point overlooking our bay, (where we met “Bushman”, another local figure along with “Shark Attack”, about whom we had read in the cruising guides), eventually ending up back on the beach, where our dinghy was tied to Seckie’s dock.  As I crab-walked down the steep, gravel-strewn trail form the tower, I rubbed my hand against a piece of plant lying on the rocks-oooh!, that kinda burned.  When we got to the bottom, Suz reported that she had brushed her leg against some brush with the same result-thought that she’d been bitten by a bug.  After a half hour or forty-five minutes, the burning subsided.  Even though we were on a paved road, we never saw a motorized vehicle.  Another trail took us on a circuitous path back down to the bay.  We walked the beach to Chatham resort at the south end of the anchorage.  It’s a secluded, exclusive resort, with a total of 3 little guest villas, all made of stone.  With a small swimming pool and the beautiful beach, the resort would be the perfect “get away from it all.”  We had ulterior motives.  After 2 Cokes, we had secured the WiFi password, giving us coverage on the boat.  Alas, we were too far away to connect, even though we could “see” the network.  The $10 glasses of Coke tasted good all the same.  Walking the beach back north, we passed the dinghy, heading to Shark Attack’s shack to inspect his collection of wood carvings that he was selling.  He is really quite talented, but the boat will only hold so many knickknacks.  More political commentary ensued, and we learned that the 15 or so people living on the beach were all squatters, and that sooner or later, the government would probably sell this gorgeous waterfront land, and give them the boot.  BTW, we showed Shark Attack a picture of the nasty plant that we had encountered.  He identified it as “Burn Bush”, as he had ministered to many crying young victims over the years.

Lotsa talkin’

-Later

Morning, Morning.

Hurricane season is over!!  Doesn’t mean that there couldn’t be any more storms, just means that our insurance company will allow us to move back up into the “hurricane latitudes”.  Yesterday, we left Port Louis Marina in St. George, taking a short shakedown cruise around the south end of Grenada to Woburn Bay.  The short trip allowed us to try out the Girls’ systems which have all been asleep for the past months while at the marina.  Everybody but the weather station at the top of the mast behaved well.  We can live with a funky wind speed indicator.  We spent the night in Woburn, picking up our last meat order from Gilles, the butcher/owner of Whisper Cove Marina and restaurant.  Our order was short a couple of pork tenderloins.  Gilles said that if we could stay until Friday, we could get our tenderloins, as he was “killing the animal” on Thursday.  We’ll survive without-grabbed a couple of cutlets instead.  This morning, we were off the hook by 07h14.  By 08h15, we were at the dropoff on the windward (Atlantic) side of Grenada, heading North with 2 lines wet.  So far, (at 10h00) not a single nibble.  On the bright side, we’ve had no hydraulic overheats, and all systems running well over 2’-4’ beam seas.  The plan is to stop at Ronde Island, near Kick ‘Em Jenny (the underwater volcano) for lunch.  If the anchorage isn’t too rolly, we’ll stay the night.  Otherwise, we’ll continue north to Carriacou.

Here I am, a couple of days later.  The anchorage at Ronde Island was really pretty.  There was a fair bit of swell coming around the corner, but it wasn’t anything that the flopperstoppers couldn’t handle.  We ran up to Sandy Island, off Carriacou the next morning.  We’ve been on a national Park mooring ball here for the past two days, our bow pointed toward the town of Hillsborough, some 2 miles away.  The prevailing winds have us positioned beautifully.  Sunset off the back porch, with the full moon rising over the bow shortly after.  Off to our port lies Sandy Island, its’ white beach 400 yards distant.  There are only 10 mooring balls here, and anchoring is not allowed.  Besides ourselves, there have been 3 boats here every day.  The other 6 balls turn over daily.  It’s really nice to be out of the commercial harbor and into clean water.  We were able to run our watermaker for the first time in months.  We held our breaths as we awakened the slumbering beast, and to our relief, she purred along smoothly.  Chores have been held to a minimum, although I’m trying to reclaim the lines that ran off Alizann’s bow to the submerged mooring in Port Louis.  Even though we had the divers scrub them monthly, they came up covered in soft and hard growth.  We soaked them in buckets of bleach solution for two days, then trailed them off the back of the boat after scrubbing them a foot at a time, and scraping the barnacles off.  Another bleach bath, and they still smell DISGUSTING!  They’re hanging in the sun now-we’ll see.  Ed on “Slowdown” says that he just throws them away after a season-now I know why.

On Friday, we walked on the beach, relaxed, and started to get reacquainted with life on the water.  Yesterday, we had an early morning snorkel off the northeast tip of the island, finding a nice patch of healthy coral and a diversity of fish and invertebrates.  In the afternoon, we took a dinghy ride over to Hillsborough and booked a 2 tank dive with “Deefer Divers” for tomorrow morning (Monday).  We’re hoping to get a few of our new favorite dinner fish (Lionfish).

The dive with Deefer Divers was a “Red Carpet” experience.  They were expecting a dive club from Illinois the next day, booking their boats for the rest of the week.  As such, the full staff was with us (for 6 divers), I assume to get them all on the same page before the arrival of the twenty-some-odd divers from the States.  We had the divemasters from Deefer, the divemaster and new manager from Arawak Divers (Deefer’s sister shop in Tyrell Bay), two boat captains, and one of the owners of both dive shops.  Suzanne and I dove with Mike, the new manager of Arawak (soon to be Carriacou Divers), and his mate, Bob.  They both turned out to be super “spotters”.  In addition to bagging a half dozen Lionfish, we saw uncounted lobsters, 9 Manta Rays (groups of 2, 3, and 4), several Stingrays, a field of Garden Eels, a Nurse Shark, a school of Squid, a few free-swimming and hidey-hole ensconced Moray Eels, and the usual suspects of coral reef habitats

We had planned to head out after the morning dive, but it was a beautiful day, so we just hung out on the Girl and enjoyed the post-dive “glow”.   Midafternoon, “Exclusive” (everybody in the islands has a nickname) and his twin boys came by with fresh lobster.  Sure, why not?  The tail went on the grill with a couple of steaks.  No red pop on board (we’ll wait ‘till the French islands to restock), but the Champaign washed it all down satisfactorily.

Morning came soon enough.  We dropped the dinghy, headed in to town and cleared out with Customs and Immigration.  We walked the streets a bit, and checked out the grocery stores, deciding that this definitely was not a provisioning spot on any return trip.  We’ll certainly be back for an encore with the dive operation here, though.  We’ve heard that Sister’s Rock is a primo dive, so we’ll try to time our stop to coincide with a Neap tide, as the current out there is ferocious during a Spring tide (it was a full moon this weekend).

Off to Union Island in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).  JT Pro Kiteboarding Center is calling us back.

-Later

 

Good Morning,

Our last 2 weeks in Grenada passed quickly.  We woke up the propulsion engine and generator after everybody got new impellers in their raw water pumps.  The watermaker remained an unknown, as there was no way that we’d run it in this commercial harbor with its many chemical and biologic pollutants.  We were now texting and emailing Clarke every day, with very little progress being made on our awning.  One night, while we were at Grenada Brewing Company with a bunch of other cruisers, Clarke’s name came up.  Oooooh Boy!  Lotsa vitriol.  Seems that he used to do a great job, but as of this year, we heard the same story from 4 other boats-delays, excuses, and projects not delivered to agreed-upon specifications.  All the stories ended the same way, with his customers threatening to trash him on social media, and feeling anger instead of satisfaction.  Let’s just say that we got an awning a few days before our departure.  We’re in the process of modifying it so that it’ll work.  Unfortunately, our sewing machine took a hike after the first seam, so the 2 of us have been sewing by hand.  Somewhere down the line, we’ll find a professional to remake it properly.

One night, a bunch of us went to “Patrick’s” restaurant.  We enjoyed Momma’s cooking, served family-style.  Will served us 13 different Grenadian dishes, including Green Papaya salad, Green Banana salad, Mashed Pumpkin, grilled Breadfruit, curried Goat, Cucumber fritters, Lambi (Conch), sweet & sour fish, etc. and etc……….., so we all had a nice “taste of Grenada”, even tho’ Manicou (Possum) and Iguana were not on the menu that night.  Another evening, the crew of “Alizann” hosted a “Goodbye” cocktail party for Dan and Melissa (“Slow Dancing”) for a dozen of their friends before they departed for Bonaire.  Suzanne just had to cook one more dinner for Ron.  He requested Shepherd’s Pie.  In 88 degree weather?  Really?  Poor guy came down with a bad cold, so Suz delivered his comfort food to his boat.  I have to admit, the Pie was good (With the air-conditioning cranking, and an NFL game on cable TV).

We got our last delivery from “Fast Manicou”, a.k.a. John Hovan.  He came to “Alizann”, picked up our empty propane tank, SodaStream CO2 bottles, and returned them to us full, as well as bringing a couple of cases of Coke (diet and otherwise), and a case of French Champagne (for $25EC/bottle), all at considerably lower prices than we could find around town.

Soon enough, all was made ready and it was time to go.

-Later

Good Day,

Sooo…. Grenada has a very active chapter of “Hash House Harriers”.  (The H3 is an international group of non-competitive runners, commonly described as “drinkers with a running problem”.  The group originated in the Federated Malay States in 1938 by some British colonial officers to combat post weekend hangovers).  Anyway, instead of avoiding this group, as we had been sagely advised (by one who had dislocated a shoulder, and another who had broken an ankle while Hashing with this group), we decided to join them in celebrating the Grenada chapters’ 1,000th Hash.  We took a cab up to the north end of Grenada, found the location, and signed up for the course that was right in the middle of the 7 trail choices of varying difficulty.  Our trail led us up and down through the tropical rain forest.  In places, the trail was so steep that you had to pull yourself along on brush growing alongside the trail(?).  In others you had to hold on for dear life as you slid downhill on Teflon-slick mud (which covered the trail from start to finish-Hey, it’s rainy season, and we were up north).  The trail crossed several streams, and in the muddy lowlands, many a shoe was sucked off the unsuspecting participant.  After a couple of muddy, sweaty hours, we finished unscathed, except for a bit of mud (especially our backsides).  The beer was cold and cheap (3 for $12EC).  Afterwards we enjoyed the festivities, including music and fun with the nearly 400 other participants.  Unfortunately, they ran out of tee shirts in my size.  Suz was able to score one, though.  The hour-and-a-half ride home was looonnng!

We continued to check boat projects off the list, while enjoying the company of our fellow cruisers at Port Louis.  Suz and I fell into a routine of heading over to the salt water pool in the early evenings to get in some much-needed exercise swimming laps.  Of course, it helped us cool off after the hot, humid days here in Grenada.  Our awning project remained unfinished, but hey, we had a few more weeks ‘till departure.

Saturday, the 14th of October.  We were headed over to Eco Dive with our friend, Ron by 08h00.  This was the last day of the first annual Dive Pure Grenada week, a week-long celebration of scuba diving in Grenada.  We headed out to the reefs up north to hunt Lionfish.  These beautiful, but nasty little guys are the bane of reef fish from South America all the way north to Maine.  They are an invasive species, native to the South Pacific, and have no natural predators in this hemisphere.  Voracious eaters, they can wipe out whole populations of reef fish, especially the juveniles.  Our mission, along with divers from eight other dive operators here is to bag as many of these bad boys as possible.  We’ll take our catch to Coconuts, a restaurant on Grand Anse beach, where Pat’s crew will cook them up for our dinner tonight.  We dropped over the side, and as we passed through 95 feet, we realized that maybe were in the wrong spot, as the reef was supposed to be at 45’-50’.  After this inauspicious start, the boat dropped us in the right spot.  With Suzanne doing the spotting, Ron and I speared around 15 fish.  The second dive site was much more productive for us-25 fish.  As I was jamming one of my victims into our carrier, I caught one of his spines in my thumb.  Didn’t hurt much at first, but as the venom spread, the feeling of intense heat spread down to my second knuckle.  Yeeouch!!  After an hour or so, it subsided with no ill effects.  (As a protective mechanism, the Lionfish has some 18 venomous spines, located in front of their dorsal, pectoral, and anal fins.  They don’t attack with them, but if one happens to catch you, it’ll really get your attention.  If you mount an allergic reaction, it can be fatal) When we surfaced from the second dive, the wind had come up and whipped the sea surface into a froth.  It rained sideways all the way home, and for a change, we were all cold.  The weigh-in told the tale-our six shooters had netted a little over 80 pounds of fish.  All told, the 9 boats participating took 401 pounds of tasty Lionfish.  That evening, we were joined by other divers at Coconuts for the closing presentations of the first annual dive week.  The assistant minister of tourism gave a short talk, declaring the week a success.  Awards were given to the winners of the underwater photography contest as the photo entries streamed along on a large screen.  Afterwards, live music was provided by a local band, “Solid.” The chefs prepared the fish as a curry, baked with butter and garlic, as a Creole stew, and breaded with panko and deep-fried.  Our table ordered all styles and shared.  The light, white filets lent themselves well to all the preparations, and washed down well with Rhum Punch.

On Monday morning, Dan, Melissa, and Margrite joined us on the number 1 bus to St. George to visit the fort .  Besides changing hands (France and Great Britain) several times in the 18th and 19th centuries, the fort has 20th century significance.  It was there, in 1983, that the Prime Minister, Maurice Bishop, and seven others in his government were executed by the military and other factions of his party, precipitating the intervention by the United States.  Of course, after touring the fort, then the Grenada National Museum, we had to drop by the Chocolate Museum for chocolate shakes.  It was really hot outside!  We got a line on lunch from a local kid, who said that “Rin’s” had good, cheap Roti.  We found the place, but peering through the locked door, it didn’t look promising-basically a 7’x10’ space with a card table in the middle.  No signage, but we suspected that someone might show up at Noon, 10 minutes away.  Sure enough, at around ten after, a couple came down the sidewalk carrying a couple of insulated boxes.  After unlocking the door and plunking the boxes down, they were open for business.  The fare included Chicken, Veggie, Beef or Fish Roti.  Suzanne and I both ordered Chicken.  We wandered down to the water and found some picnic tables in a square by the cruise ship dock.  Eating the Roti was a challenge, as bones were included, but for $10EC ($3.70US), we felt like we did okay.

-Later

The flight back went smoothly, arriving in Grenada at 14h30 after changing planes in Miami.  The Girl was happy to have us back, although she had been well taken care of in our absence.  Randolph and the guys from Island Dreams had kept her clean inside and out, as well as checking on the dehumidifier/air conditioning.  Brett Fairhead’s guys kept her bottom clean, diving her once a month.

The next morning, it was “hammer time”.  Our shipping container had avoided the hurricanes, and Tropical Shipping notified us that it was in the warehouse at the port.  Suzanne contacted Ricky Telesford, our shipping agent, to get things moving through Customs.  To her surprise, he said that everything was already in order, and that he could drive his truck up to the boat and deliver the next business day.  (Just lettin’ you know that this didn’t happen without plenty of effort by the Admiral.  She had emailed receipts for each and every item in the container-a hundred or so, to Ricky weeks before.  Even so, friends had told us that it might take days/weeks to move through Customs).  None of the welding had been started, even though we had met with the welder before we left.  None of the canvas work had been started.  Hey, we’re in the islands.  Problem is, the end of Hurricane Season is the busy time for these guys (which is why we gave them jobs in the Summer).  Several calls, texts, emails to each of them, and we got responses from both, who assured us that they were “just getting around to it” (more or less).  We got in a quick provisioning trip to Foodland, and joined Paul and Sue (Suzanna Aqui, our marina neighbors) for dinner at Victory’s, the marina restaurant, for Barbeque Night.  Over the weekend, we joined Ron, and his wife, Judy for a snorkel trip to the underwater sculpture park, the reef off the Grand Anse beach, and lunch at the L’Anse aux Pines resort.  Ron is the manager at Island Water World, the local boat supply shop, and has the use of the company boat, a 20’ rigid inflatable with a 60 horse outboard.  Very nice for getting from here to there.  Nick, the welder, was true to his word.  His guys showed up on Monday to get going on the welding jobs.  They got the plates for the awning supports started, and said they’d be back the following day to remove the old solar panels.  Suz and I thought we’d keep them focused on the skill job, telling them that we’d have the panels off by the time that they arrived the next day.  All in all, the welding was done well, although it wasn’t the smoothest project that we’ve ever done.  Lots of poor communication and failed deadlines, but completed by the first week of October.  (In his defense, I think that Nick is an artist, not a businessman.)  The canvas guy, Clarke, -not so much.  Lots of no-shows, then he’d show for a few minutes right before dark, take a few measurements, and promise to see us the next day, only to no-show.  (no worries, we thought, not leaving for another month)  Well……the project dragged on.  Lots of excuses (never his fault) meeting at the kids school, car broke down, lost my phone, and on and on.  Would have fired him, but had prepaid him several $K for materials and some labor.

Suz and I got the new solar panels up, and I got the worst sunburn of my life.  I just went out one morning in my boxers to take a quick measurement or two.  Five hours later, as the last panel was going up, one of our neighbors, Torie, walked by and informed me that she could see my red back from the street.  I blistered and bled for nearly three weeks-what a dummy!  We pulled wire, and Nick fabricated a bracket for our new WIFI booster antenna which I installed at the top of our mast (Yes, I still hate heights-coulda’ used a couple Xanax).

Over the next few weeks, we spent a lot of time socializing with fellow cruisers on our dock, and seeing the sights on Grenada:

Saturday is “Market Day” in St. George, and a gang from the marina usually bussed in for fresh veggies and fish.  (to say nothing of a “breakfast beer” for Ken and Dan.)

Sundays started with Mass at the cathedral (never less than 2 hours) followed by Brunch at Whisper Cove marina with any of our neighbors that Suzanne could motivate.  We usually had a bus full.  Afternoons were occupied by the NFL (yes, El Cheapo popped for cable so he could catch some football games).  On alternate Sundays, we’d head over to Eco Dive on Grand Anse for a two-tank dive, usually with Ron (Judy had to return to Florida to work-long distance marriage works for them for now.  She’ll retire next year).  Post dive lunch at Umbrellas was always a treat.

Wednesday was “Pizza Night” at the marina restaurant.

Thursday was “Chicken Night” at Whisper Cove

Suz and I had heard from several sources that Cutty’s Tour was the way to see Grenada, so we signed up, talking Rob and Cindy, aboard “Aventura”, to come along.  Cutty picked us up in his air-conditioned van, and we were off on our day-long adventure.  By the time that the day was done, we had driven nearly the length of the island, visiting Grenada Chocolate Factory, Belmont Estate, Anandale waterfall, River Antoine rum distillery (where we had lunch in their restaurant), a nutmeg depot, and stopping numerous times to identify and/or taste local fruits and vegetables.

True to form, Suzanne cooked.  For Paul and Sue one night, she created a fantastic curry chicken stew that I had been whining about for weeks (having read about it in Ann Vanderhoof’s book “Spice Necklace”).  Another night, it was stuffed, grilled avocado for Torie and Gary. Still another, a special request from Ron put Suzanne’s famous enchiladas on the menu.

I passed on the girls shopping trip, but I understand that Suz, Melissa, and Magrite did some damage in St. George.

Besides the canvas from Clarke’s Upholstery, projects were falling off the “To Do” list daily.  Oh yeah, did I mention that it’s still the “Rainy Season” so any outside activities were punctuated regularly by torrential rainfalls, creating humidity readings in excess of 90% to go along with 89 degree temperatures.

That’s enough for now (maybe too much).

-Later

 

 

So……A quick Summer synopsis, ‘cause I’m guessin’ you don’t wanna hear about our life on dirt: Alison and Ben bought a house in Ann Arbor last fall, and we saw it for the first time this Summer. Over the course of our Stateside visit, we stayed with them several times, getting back to our roots in the old college town, and helping with a few home-improvement projects. We drove to Charleston for our week at the beach on Isle of Palms for Suzanne’s family’s annual reunion. Both of our kids made it too, so life was good. (even tho’ Ali wasn’t joining in cocktail hour…..Hmmmh!). Spent the front and back sides of that trip in Asheville, with Mike, Sheila (Suz’s sister) and Casey, (Suzanne’s Mom) Found the house to be in great shape after our nine-month absence. Put 2 coats of varnish on the entire interior (White Cedar walls and ceilings). Figure that it’s the last time that we’ll have to do that, since the last time was 20 years ago. Cut up some dead trees that had fallen during the Winter. Had a new outdrive put on the 30 year old runabout (croaked immediately after launching). Enjoyed a jam-packed social calendar, nurturing old relationships with many dear friends. Bill and Lauren (Seastar- St. Lawrence and Newfoundland cruise), Mark and Christine (pals from Michigan), and the crazies from Chicago (our kid’s pals) came for sleepovers and kayaking/canoeing trips down the river. Spending time with Jody and Andy (longtime Michigan pals, and crew on the St. Lawrence and the Bahamas) was long overdue, but again, there wasn’t enough of it. On a sad note, our good friend and neighbor, Kim, diagnosed while were back the previous Summer, lost his battle with Multiple Myeloma just before our return. We had all hoped that he would make it to the Summer, when Suz and I would act as crew so that he and his wife, Cyndy could take one last cruise on their Benetau sailboat, “Endless Dream”. We make plans-God laughs. Although Kim and Cyndy have a loving and supporting family, it’s sometimes good to have some “outsiders” for a different perspective. We like to think that we helped in our own small way. Also, in the Spring, we got the news that our other upnorth friends/neighbors, married for some 30 years had split. Lots of evenings spent with Jayne and Cyndi, trying to be good listeners. We happened to be there at the right time for both of them. (of course, as a Male, I just wanted to FIX things). Hoped that just being there helped in some small way. We needed to send boatstuff to Grenada that was difficult to buy there (including new SunPower solar panels), so made a quick drive to Florida to pack a container, which would be shipped by Tropical Shipping. We packed our rental SUV with boat things- oil, coolant, another flopperstopper bird, computer, bottom paint, WIFI booster, spare parts, some favorite foods, etc. & etc. Drove down on Monday, picked up our new panels (oh yeah, they were too big for the SUV, so we had to rent a truck), packed our container on Tuesday, (container wasn’t full, so we went shopping at Walmart for hurricane-relief supplies to fill it), and drove back to Michigan on Wednesday. (Whoa! Getting’ too old for 44 hours of driving in 72). Bam! Time to go home. Back to Ali and Ben’s. University of Michigan game against Air Force. Tailgating with old friends, Gary, Lynn, Dick and Jan. Ben drives us to the airport at 04h00 to catch our plane south. Oh….That “no Cocktail” thing? The Admiral and I will be Grandparents in late February. Nash Joseph is scheduled to make his debut in late February. Whew! Makes me tired just writin’ it. -Later

Pages

Captain's Log

Ola, Amigos

The thirty-five mile or so trip from Bonaire to Curacao is an easy one.  The wind and current is always at your back, thanks to the Trade Winds.  You (almost) don’t even need to check the weather, just throw a dart at the calendar and go.  Halfway across, we passed another Krogen 48 going the other way.  Chuck and Barb, aboard Tusen Tak were headed back to Bonaire from their seasonal haulout in Curacao for the 8th year.  They went to Bonaire 8 years ago, fell in love with the island and diving, and never left.  This’ll be their last year in Bonaire, as they’ll head back to the States, sell their boat, and R.V. around North America for the next few years.  We dragged lines all the way, and passed through several patches of water that were literally “boiling” with schools of feeding Tuna, but got nary a bite-Boo!  Our destination was Santa Barbara Plantation Resort.  A spot on their quarter-mile long floating dock in the channel leading into Spanish Water lagoon would be our home for the next couple months.  As we pulled alongside, our pals, John and Paulette aboard “Seamantha” were waiting to catch our lines.  Later, they whisked us off to Willemstad, a 30 minute drive, so that we could clear in with Customs and Immigration. Locating the offices would have been akin to the search for the Holy Grail on our own.  Each was on a different side of the harbor, and located amidst a warren of alleys and one-way streets.  It sure is nice to have friends like J & P.  We hadn’t seen them since Martinique back in May, so had plenty of catching up to do.  Paulette, like Suzanne, is a “research queen” and having been on Curacao for 6 months had a ton of local knowledge for us, right down to where to take our dry cleaning.

The resort hotel at Santa Barbara was our choice for the simple reason that both of our kids and their families were coming to visit us (at different times).  Our dock paralleled the sandy beach at the hotel, providing a nice sheltered place to swim.  We had 2 swimming pools and a “splash pad” at our disposal, as well as a fitness center and 3 restaurants (where we received a 20% discount).  If the boat got “too small”, we could always get a room at the hotel to overflow into.  The hotel is located within the Santa Barbara Plantation development, which covers 1,500 acres of the southeast end of Curacao.  There are paved roads with platted building lots covering a small portion of the acreage, but only 50 or so homes have actually been built.  So…….there is plenty of undeveloped “bush”, which makes for lots of hiking and mountain biking. We took maximum advantage of both opportunities.

We had a little adventure on one of our mountain bike treks.  Suz and I were heading down a dirt two-track through the bush on our way to a path we knew.  All of a sudden, a helicopter appears.  It is hovering at about 100’ of altitude, around 200 yards behind us, and sidling sideways, keeping pace with us, it’s gun door pointed toward us.  We had planned on stopping at a rifle range up ahead for a water break.  As we did, the helicopter stopped and hovered.  We figured that these military guys were just using us for practice until 3 white SUV’s roared up the track and positioned around us.  Flak jackets, semi-automatic weapons and faces as serious as a heart attack accompanied the guys that got out of the vehicles.  Hmmm.  “You guys coming up for some target practice?”  After a little discussion regarding who we were, where we came from, and why we were there, we were informed that it was “Not safe for you to be here”, and that we were to leave immediately.  Interesting.  We had been out here several times before, hiking and biking.  On the way home, we stopped at the Seru Boca marina and related our story to Robbie, the marina manager there.  Yep, he had gotten a call about us.  He told us that the military was looking for some Venezuelan illegals who had come ashore nearby, and that the troops should have told us instead of being so mysterious about it.

Besides hiking around our area, one morning we joined a local hiking group to a peak overlooking Pescaidera Bay. The hike was led by a naturalist who stopped along the way to identify and tell us about some of the local flora.  Although there weren’t many English speakers in the group, they were enjoyable to walk with.  Of course, a visit to an island without taking the guy who doesn’t like heights (Yours Truly) to the highest point wouldn’t be any fun at all.  We drove to the west end of the island to the national park there and scaled Mount Christoffel.  Most of that hike was an uphill on a reasonably wide path, but there were parts that traversed narrow (at least to me) ledges along drop-offs, ending with a short climb up the rocks at the end.  I had a hard time enjoying the view, as the Admiral scampered around the edges at the top snapping pics in a 20 knot breeze, because I was thinking about having to get down. (What a weenie!).

Shete Boka is another national park at the west end of Curacao.  It stretches for a couple of miles along the windward shore.  As is typical of the windward side, the land is very rocky and arid.  The sea can be wild, crashing in on the near vertical fossilized coral shore.  The park has dirt tracks which connect several scenic points along the shore, so each can be accessed by driving.  There are also hiking paths, so we had the chance to get around 10 km of walking in.  The wind was really blowing, and we got some good pictures at one of the bokas, where the waves were rolling in to this indentation in the rocks.  At another boka, a cave could be entered from the land, winding down to a small grotto which was open to the sea.  So much for staying dry, as every 10th wave crashed over the flimsy platform, leaving you crouching in 2 feet of water.  Another of the trails coursed inland, and up to a small promontory about a mile or so from the shore, giving us a totally different perspective.  We’d be back 2 more times, as both of our kids wanted to visit too.

Well then, that’s 1100 words, so let’s continue

-Later

 

Bon Tarde,

Here are the odds ‘n ends to wrap up Bonaire.

First, the couldabeena cruise ender.  I told you about the Ostracod night dive.  Suz and I came back to Alizann in the marina and were rinsing off our dive gear in the cockpit.  The wind was blowing offshore, and bringing with it a “chemical/electrical” burning smell.  Eagle nose mentioned it, I kept on rinsing.  A bit later….(well, let me say that the Admiral never uses that word unless seriously provoked).  I turned and saw that the electrical power cord entering our boat from the dock was completely melted where it entered the inlet.  The fiberglass above it was covered with a black plume of soot.  We hadn’t even unlocked the door into the salon, but when we did, the acrid smell was just a tad (yes, that’s sarcasm) stronger.  The back side of the power inlet is under the corner of our settee.  Also, under that space is a heat exchanger for our diesel furnace, the control for our cockpit winch, our power cord winch and its’ controls, assorted cabling for our stereo, and a 110V supply for an outlet.  I was afraid to pull off the cushions and remove the cover for the space.  When I did, I saw that the conduits and many of the wires had been reduced to a dripping mess (they looked like candle wax).  The backside of the power inlet had the consistency of that marshmallow that fell off the stick and into the fire at camp-black and easily crumbled by hand.  Soot covered everything, and the odor was intense.  The next compartments contained our non-perishable food.  Since our heating ducts pierced the bulkheads between them, the soot had permeated all cabinets up to and around the right angle 7 feet away.  We kinda lost our appetites, so spent the rest of the night trying to salvage what we could.  Suzanne pulled all the sooty labels off cans and jars, relabeling them with magic marker after washing every single one.  Every product in boxes came out.  Rice and flour went into Tupperware—You get the picture.

Now the postmortem.  We could have very easily lost our boat.  If you’ve ever seen a plastic boat on fire, you know EXACTLY what I mean.  Why did the fire self-extinguish?  All of our wire conduits are marine grade and self extinguishing (don’t cheap out with the Home Depot stuff).  I think that the presence of the cushions over the space caused the fire to oxygen-starve, as it must have all happened within seconds or less.  So, what caused this near-catastrophe and how could it have been avoided?  Okay, we all check the ends of our shorepower cords a couple times a day to make sure that they’re not warm (did that).  Routinely pull ends of cords apart to check for corrosion (do that).  Take apart power inlet to snug up screws and check for corrosion on the backside (got me on that one).  Unplug shorepower when leaving the boat.

The next week was spent ripping out old wiring and replacing, scrubbing, scrubbing, scrubbing, and applying 3 coats of paint, while the overlying, upholstered cushions lived in garbage bags containing baking soda.  Sunshine helped too.  Suz could still get a faint smell of smoke from the lockers-a 12V ozone generator from Amazon took care of the last bits.

As long as we’re on “Oopses,” here’s one for you.  Suzanne and I were doing a beach day at Coco Beach, just down the street from our marina.  It was a “No cruise ship” day, so we were nearly the only ones there.  We snagged a couple of lounge chairs under a shade and were peacefully reading our Kindle’s when I caught movement out of the corner of my eye.  I looked to my right while exclaiming to Suzanne that “That idiot is going to drive his jeep onto the beach!”  Whoa!  Nobody at the wheel.  The jeep careened over the foot-high seawall, across the 15-foot beach and straight into the water, where it stopped, hanging precariously on a rock ledge, it’s rear wheels in 2 feet of water, its front wheels hanging several feet off the bottom.  Every wave rocked the vehicle, threatening to pull it off the ledge into deeper water.  I yelled for the beach dudes working the bar.  Two of them tried to keep the car from slipping deeper, while I sent the third to fetch rope.  He came back with a clothesline.  “That’s all we got.”  “Dude, we need to tie this vehicle to the palm tree up there.  Go to “WannaDive,” they must have a longer, stouter rope.  Meanwhile, a beachwalker and a couple in scuba gear are on the scene, helping to hold the aspiring submarine.  I swear, the owner must’ve lived in his car, because life possessions, seat cushions, and last months garbage were all floating out.  Suzanne went into action, fishing crap(coke cans, bags of M&M, plastic bottles, etc) out of the water until the oil/gasoline slick chased her to the showers.  Yay!  Guy’s back with a real rope.  They get a line around the trailer hitch and we tie it to a palm tree on shore.  There’s been a guy watching the scene unfold from a distance.  A light goes on, and I walk over and ask him if it’s his jeep.  Yep.  I ask him if he’s called anyone to retrieve his car.  Well…. maybe later he’ll call a friend.  Even though I remind him of the ecological damage he’s causing, he seems unconcerned, As I’m calling the authorities, he melts away.  The cops never came, but I called STINAPA, the managers of the national Marine Park, and within a half hour they had a crew and a pickup truck on site fishing out the mess.

 

I mentioned that there’s no anchoring anywhere around Bonaire.  When we arrived, all 42 moorings were occupied, so the marina was our only choice.  (By the way, if you’re headed to Bonaire, make a marina reservation as the moorings are first come first serve-no reservations).  Many of the moorings were occupied by participants in a large sailboat rally slated to leave Curacao several weeks hence.  Nonetheless, when we passed by the mooring field on our way to dive, we would notice several new boats in the field every day.  Finally got the memo from some sailing friends that we met there.  The grapevine knows who’s leaving and who needs a mooring.  The minute that a mooring is vacated (or before if the incoming boat ties their dinghy to the mooring), the ball is re-occupied.  A few weeks in, we had met enough friends that we were now part of the grapevine.  The day that we moved out onto a mooring, we had 3 choices.  Well……. that night was an adventure.  We had a wind shift, then the wind died (unheard of), and we found ourselves literally on top of our neighbor boat.  They were very gracious, but I stayed up all night fending off their boat so they could sleep.  The next morning, we were back to the marina, but not before calling our new friends, Dennis and Karen, stuck on their sailing catamaran “Toes in the Water,” in the marina.  They popped out and snatched our mooring as they were a few feet shorter than Alizann.  It only took a day or 2 for the grapevine to get us out onto a ball with more swinging room.  And……. we could dive right off the stern of the boat.

Thanksgiving was closing in on us fast, so Suz got a feast organized.  She and Karen from “Toes in the Water” started working on the menu while we decided on the guest list.  We ended up with Karen and Dennis, Dan and Roseann (our morning water aerobics pal) from “Exit strategy”, and a couple of their friends who we had over for dinner but never saw again so don’t expect me to remember their names.  The Admiral/Chef outdid herself.  Roast turkey, mashed potatoes (of course), homemade bread, cranberry/citrus salad, sweet potatoes, ambrosia, pumpkin pie and Hooch (yeah their was a bit of alcohol in it) pie.  Wine from Martinique (France) helped wash down the goodies from apps to the main course, while liqueurs chased dessert.

Okay, that’s it-off to Curacao.

-Later

Hey There

So…..Whadja do on Bonaire?

You got the diving part-lots of it.

After dives on Klein (Little) Bonaire, accessible only by boat, we’d stop at the sandy beach there.  I’d drop the Admiral and our beach shelter on the shore, take the dinghy out to a mooring and swim in.  Did I mention that anchoring anywhere around Bonaire or Klein Bonaire is strictly forbidden?  Well, it’s a good thing.  Keeps the reefs from being destroyed by anchors and chains.  Picnic lunches, reading, napping and floating on our swim noodles was the extent of our activities on Klein.

Flamingoes are a big attraction on Bonaire, which fulfills all of the requirements for an ideal Flamingo breeding habitat.  About 2,500 of the Southern Caribbean’s 50,000 Flamingoes reside on Bonaire.  The population can rise as high as 7,000 as the birds fly regularly between Curacao, Venezuela and Bonaire.  Flamingoes are the only filter feeders in the bird kingdom.  They stand in shallow water, tilting their heads upside down while stirring up the mud on the bottom with their feet.  This they draw into their mouths where their tongues, acting like a plunger forces the muddy water through lamellae on the bill, filtering out small edible bits of plant and animal matter.  We spent a fair bit of time, both on the North, and South ends of the island, where salty ponds supported flocks of these colorful guys.  By the way, the adults are pink from the betacarotene in the animals that they eat.  The juveniles start changing from white to pink as their diet transitions from herbivorous to carnivorous.  The Papiamento word for Flamingo is “Chogogo.”

The Yellow Shouldered Amazon Parrot is a bird whose habitat is primarily in Bonaire and Venezuela.  The population of these birds on Bonaire has been decimated by poaching (they’re beautiful birds, and in high demand as pets) and loss of habitat.  Fortunately, it is now illegal to own Yellow Shoulder’d’s in Bonaire.  Echo Bonaire is a facility dedicated to “Conserving the endangered Yellow Shouldered Parrot of Bonaire through conservation management, local community engagement and research.”  Suzanne and I visited the facility and received a tour from its’ director Julianka.  We visited the cages where injured and confiscated birds were being rehabilitated-over 75 parrots and 100 Brown-Throated Parakeets have been returned to the wild.  She also showed us their nursery, where plants are grown to reforest areas of the island as parrot habitats.  Some 85 acres have already been created, and fenced off to keep invasive herbivores (feral pigs, goats and donkeys) out.  We told Julianka that we’d be at the northwest coast the following Saturday where more trees were to be planted.   If you want to know more, check out www.echobonaire.org.

Okay, so let’s talk about the donkeys of Bonaire.  They were originally left here by the Spaniards who visited the islands briefly in the early 1600’s, before moving on to the South American mainland in their quest for gold.  (In fact, the Spaniards labelled these the “Islas Inutiles”- The useless islands, as they lacked any sources of gold).  The feral donkeys have become a real problem, as they are responsible for wreaking havoc with all edible vegetation.  Car/donkey confrontations are also a real problem.  Enter “The Bonaire Donkey Sanctuary,” whose “primary objective is to offer a sheltered, protected life to all the donkeys of Bonaire.”  The sanctuary covers around 400 acres (I think) near the airport on the south end of Bonaire.  Sick and wounded donkeys are brought there from elsewhere on the island.  They are then nursed to health and housed for the rest of their lives.  The Sanctuary also participated in a program to castrate males in the wild to control population (Until the “animal rights” folks got involved and put a stop to this humane way of controlling the population-ed.)  We visited the Sanctuary by truck.  Driving through the habitat with a bag of raw carrots provided for some interesting pictures.  Want more?  https://donkeysanctuary.org

Ever drink a cactus?  The Cadushy (cactus) Distillery will give you a chance to do so.  This small distillery formulates several liqueurs from a sustainable crop (they collect cactus on the roadside).  Their distillation apparatus is TINY and looks like it could have come straight from your uncle’s place in the hills of North Carolina.  It took about 10 minutes for the tour, a half hour for the tasting.  I think that the stuff is an acquired taste, but hey, we were here, we hadda do it.

Alleta has a goat farm in the middle of the island where she raises milking goats.  She makes and sells feta cheese, goat milk, and goat milk yoghurt.  What started out as a hobby has morphed into a full-time (although definitely on a shoestring budget) business.  We had a chance to milk goats and play with some babies which had been born several weeks earlier.  They were the cutest, and we got some good pictures.

We decided that we needed a quiet “Beach Day.”  Remembering “Sorobon” resort from our outing at Lac Bai, we figured that renting a cabana on the beach there would be a perfect way to chill on the water while staying out of the sun.  (Neither of us can afford a lot of time sunbathing these days.)  At Sorobon, a small exclusive resort, the pamper factor is high.  The palm-thatched bar afforded cold drinks and a delicious lunch while the windsurfers on the bay provided entertainment.

Regatta week in Bonaire brings sailors from all over the islands to participate in the races.  It also creates a mess on the reef that parallels the shore road in Kralendijk.  The Monday after the festivities ended, we joined around 100 other divers for a reef cleanup.  In all, we pulled a bit more than half a large dumpster of bottles, cans, and other assorted trash off the bottom.  “Thanks for the help” came in the form of a barbeque dinner at “Dive Friends” resort.  Suz and I won two reuseable grocery bags in the raffle-Wahoo!  

Every couple months or so, (I really never figured out a schedule, think they do it when the spirit moves) a park ranger leads a hike which involves climbing Mount Brandaris, the highest peak on Bonaire.  The hike is timed so that the sun is setting just about the time that you reach the summit.  The view for 360 degrees is nothing short of incredible.  Being that the first half mile down would be a scramble down a scree-covered face and a foot-in-front-of-foot on narrow ledges, Yours Truly who doesn’t really care for heights was just a tad concerned as the sun went down.  As I crouched low and sweated every step, Admiral Mountaingoat nursed me along.  It was pitch dark by the time we got back to “Jason” our trusty little Toyota Hilux truck.  It was an incredible experience, and being in the park after closing felt like a taste of forbidden fruit.

The majority of the slaves on the island worked on the salt pans in the south.  You may be aware that salt was the major (sustainable)  export from Bonaire for many decades.  In fact thousands of tons are still exported by the Cargill Corporation to this day.  Production goes like this:  seawater is pumped into huge holding ponds where it is allowed to evaporate, leaving sea salt behind.  Back in the day, this salt was harvested and transported to waiting ships by slave labor.  As you may imagine, this was back-breaking work, and the sunlight glaring off the snow white salt often resulted in blindness for the workers there.  Nowadays all operations are mechanized.  After working 6 days in the pans, the slaves made the 8 mile trek to Rincon, where many of their families lived, to receive their weeks food rations at the King’s warehouse there.  After a day off, it was an 8 mile trek back to the salt pans for another week.

The King’s warehouse now contains a cultural museum which is well worth the stop.  After visiting the museum, Suzanne and I returned on the last Saturday of the month for the cultural market.  Not many tourists, but the locals turn out in force for food, music and activities for all ages.

Okay, that’s it for now.  More adventures…..

-Later

 

HiYa,

I’m always torn when it comes to subject matter for these missives.  Do I do a travelogue, boating technical stuff, or what?  I guess we’ll just keep on layin’ it down as we have been for the past few years until a better idea comes along.

The diving in Bonaire is super easy.  The island is surrounded by a reef which begins 50-75 yards offshore at a depth of around 7-10 meters.  This opens up the sport to those without watertaxis, because nearly every dive site on Bonaire is accessible from shore entries. We probably dove 2 out of 3 days that we were here.  We did a couple of boat dives with Wannadive, the scuba operation next door, but mostly dove from our dinghy, ranging a couple of miles both north and south, with frequent trips to Klein (Little) Bonaire.  Four days after the full moon, we did a night dive to look for ostracods.  These little guys are crustaceans, some 20,000 species in all, averaging around 1mm in diameter.  After the full moon, this particular species bio luminesces(?) for about a half hour after night falls.  We laid on the sandy bottom waiting for the show to start.  True to form, shortly after nightfall, the lights came on.  We felt like we were in the middle of the Milky Way, surrounded by a galaxy of stars.  Very cool.  We fell into a nice rhythm with our diving.  Heading out around noon assured us of good lighting for photos and our choice of dive sites, as all of the dive boats were back at base for lunch.  There are mooring buoys at every site, so it makes for a secure feeling when leaving the boat while diving.  Drop in the water, do our dive, then back in the dinghy easily (thanks to our new ladder).  Stop at Wannadive, drop off our empty tanks and pick up the 2 that we had left the day before (now filled).  Sweeeeet!  Boy, what’s not to like?  

Suzanne felt like she had maxed out her photo quality with her waterproof Nikon, so she picked up an Olympus TG5 camera, a serious little point-and-shoot, and an underwater housing.  In my humble opinion, she’s taking some great shots-we’ll do an all-scuba gallery soon.  I’m still just doing video with our GoPro Hero whenever we see a good “action shot.”

So…….The Caribbean Journal just ran a piece on the fantastic dining choices in Bonaire.  I’m here to tell ya that we didn’t have a bad meal while on island.  Here we go:  “Bistro de Paris, Zazu Bar”-our marina restaurant.  Super fresh ceviche, good burgers (especially on burger night), Happy hour from 17h00-19h00 featuring 2 for 1 beers and wines.  A nice place to chill after a busy day.  “La Terrazza”-a 3-time favorite for us.  (2 wine tastings-4 courses with 2 wines for each course with audience participation, moderated by owner, Gabi).  “Foodies”-kind of out in the sticks south of Kralendijk on the other side of the salt pans.  We stopped there for an early dinner on our way home from a beach day at Lac Bai.  They had just opened, so we were the only diners there when we arrived.  Great service, cool setting.  “Cappricio”-Just like it sounds.  Fresh Italian cooking in an upscale modern venue with both in and outdoor seating.  “It Rains Fishes”-right on the shore road in Kralendijk.  Upscale outdoor dining featuring you guessed it.  “Posada Para Mira”-just outside Rincon.  This open-air thatched roofed restaurant features local cuisine-goat stew and iguana soup being just 2 of the features.  The commanding view and steady breeze contribute to the ambience.  “Mezze” for Mediterranean.  “Sebastian’s” for oceanside seafood with an Italian bent.  “Captain Don’s,” an all-inclusive dive resort just north of our marina boasts a multi-level outdoor dining area abutting the ocean.  Very cool vibe.  The menu is typical of North American tastes.  “Between Two Buns” was our go-to for a savory lunch-great salads, specialty sandwiches.  “Donna and Giorgio’s”-Italian in a funky setting.  “La Creperie”-a favorite morning hangout for cruisers.  Their savory crepes are super tasty.  And…….let’s not forget the “Street Food” genre.  Lisa had a stall in the market featuring Indonesian food.  After buying finger-food from her several times, we got her to cook a traditional Indonesian meal for us, which we carried home.  Yhanni has a little palapa on Coco beach where she makes killer Arepas.  After a couple of post-dive lunches with her, she shared her secrets and recipes with Suzanne, who now makes these incredible Venezuelan treats.  

“Dash” food truck is only open on weekends, but their fried chicken on homemade biscuits with spicy slaw are worth the wait.  Their donuts look incredible too. 

 It’s amazing that I got out of Bonaire not a pound over a buck ninety-five.  Guess I can thank the diving for that.

“Jason,” our super-ratty, but trusty Toyota Hilux pickup truck took us on adventures all over the island.  From the salt pans in the south to the sunset hike up Mount Brandaris, he kept on keepin’ on.  We off-roaded the windward side of the island, hiking down into every boca (little inlets in the rocky coast, often with a small pebbly beach).  I don’t think that we saw 3 other vehicles all day.  Along the way, we visited a cave with pre-columbian drawings on the ceiling.  Massive wind generators dotted the shore on the northern end of our trek.  We returned to the road(?) at the gate to the National Park.  The park was an adventure for another day.  When we returned the following morning, it was an all-day hoot.  You are not allowed in the park unless you have a four wheel drive vehicle or truck.  Yep, 2 mile-an-hour roads (ummmhhhh….make that washed-out ruts).  We visited every boca, beach, dive site and vantage point in the park, enjoying a picnic lunch along the way.  After lurching and bouncing along all day, 600mg of “Vitamin I”, then happy hour soothed our aching backs.

Well, let’s pick up more of Bonaire…

-Later

Hola, mi Amigos

Here we are in Bonaire.  Alizann was really jammin’ on the way here from Grenada.  Following seas and a half to full knot current pushing us along, we shaved around 5 hours off our ETA.  That was the good news.  The bad news was that we arrived around midnight.  New harbor (for us), no entrance lights, narrow entrance, and the night was darker than the inside of a pocket.  Had a slip number, but had no idea where it was.  Another boating “DON’T,” but here we were.  Well…. It wasn’t as bad as it sounds.  We “What’s Apped” John on Seamantha.  He knew the marina, and told us where our slip was.  The radar and chartplotter were spot on, and the water depth here is in the hundreds of feet up pretty close to shore-all good.  We crept up within spotlight range and spied the opening, glided in.  We backed the Girl in between a finger pier and a 62-foot sailboat, and it was time for sips before turning in.

So….I’ve been pretty mum on the fish wars.  That’s because the score was edible fish 4, Alizann 0.  Not anything that I wanted to brag about.  We lost around 4 or 500 yards of line and 4 of our best lures.  ‘Nuff said.

Visits to Customs and Immigration were on the docket for Friday.  The mile-and-a-quarter walk should have taken 15 minutes, but morphed into a 2-hour ordeal as we fought the elements, walking in the steady rain, then dodging for cover as the squalls sporting 25+knot winds rolled through.  Three quarters of the way there, we said “The heck with it” and took cover in Julian’s Café for a late lunch.  We were soaked to the bone by then, so sat in the covered patio as the rain misted in-just a couple of loco touristas.  But…we did help them save their patio umbrellas which were turning inside out in the near-gale force wind.  No English speakers here, but their thank you’s were easily translated.  I had forgotten that even though this is a Dutch island, there is a preponderance of Spanish speakers here-shoulda brushed up on ours.  Actually, many of the folks here speak 4 languages-Dutch, Spanish, Papiamentu and English.  We got the job done with the authorities late in the afternoon.  No fees or taxes and super easy.  On the way home, we dodged ankle-deep puddles and scoped out some shops along the main drag.  Pretty evident that the local economy is tourist-based.  Shops catering to cruise ship passengers, and a dive shop on every corner, as well as restaurants of every ilk lined the downtown streets.

Sheeiit! How can you get a month behind in two weeks (or so it seems)?  1. Writing is super painful for me. (as a science geek) 2.  Time flies when you’re having fun.

So… Here’s the short version:

                Already went through Customs.  Super easy, with gracious officers who actually seemed happy that we were here-Check.

Dive shops.  One on every corner.  I think that CVS and Rite Aid took their business model from these guys-if you leave your door unlocked, there’ll be a dive shop up and running in your space the next morning when you get up.  This island is set up for below the water activities.  If you need the toys, you can find them here.  Also-kudos to the internet.  Prices of equipment are very competitive, in fact, many shops will honor or beat an internet price for the same doodad.  We’re looking for an underwater camera and housing for the Admiral, and finding prices very competitive-especially when you figure in shipping costs. -Check

Food.  Grocery shopping is a real pleasure-even better if you can decipher Dutch (thank you, Google Translate!!)  Instead of going shopping and setting our menu based on what was available in the store, we’re back to creating menus, then shopping for what we need.  Reminds us of Martinique.  Better than Martinique, every Tuesday and Friday, there’s a free bus to VanDenTweel, the “Gucci” supermarket for your provisioning pleasure.  Eating out is also a pleasure, with multiple, not wrong choices.  In the 3 weeks that we’ve been here, we’ve eaten at everyplace from local holes in-the-wall to food trucks and kiosks, to fine dining.  So much for losing weight!  I’m loathe to recommend particular venues-ask around to decide what sounds good for your tastes.  You already know that we like fine dining as well as the funky stuff, so iguana soup, goat stew, and tripe casserole may not float your boat.

Diving.  What superlatives are left to be said?  The reefs have certainly changed from our last visit, around 30 years ago, and not for the better.  At that time, the dive guide listed 14 dive sites.  Now, the newest edition lists over 100.  That being said, the diving is still superb.  After two weeks for me to shake off the “Grenada Cough,” we have been diving nearly every day from our tender, “White Star,” who recently received a dive ladder, courtesy of “Yours Truly’s” monkey work, under the tutelage of the Admiral.  Oh…..diving.  We participated in a dive “cleanup” of the harbor after the Bonaire Sailing Regatta, which left plenty of human-made trash (translation-bottles, paper cups, and assorted crap on the bottom.)  100 divers pulled up around half a dumpster of crap off the bottom.  There, we met Marije and Bart, a young Dutch couple taking time off from life to backpack around the world.  The post-dive appreciation barbeque at Hamlet Oasis, hosted by “Dive Friends”, was an enjoyable evening.  The next afternoon, drinks on Alizann with Marije and Bart proved to be very enjoyable.

The Girl.  Well, she has certainly become a “Marina Queen.”  After anchoring out almost exclusively for the first 3 years, we have kinda settled into the “tie up, plug in, drop off the bikes, rentacar, and keep our lives cushy routine.  The whole setup here in Bonaire kinda pushed us in that direction anyway:

  1.  You can’t anchor anywhere on Bonaire (reef protection) There are a finite number of moorings here (less than 40) You need to “know somebody” to get one, as they’re “first come, first serve”, and when a boat is leaving, they have already been in contact with someone who will slip onto the mooring the second that they’re off.
  2. We have internet coverage here in the marina.  Good for streaming American football, Skyping our kids, and downloading Netflix.
  3. It’s easy to put our bikes on land.
  4. The rental car’s right here.
  5. Maybe we’re getting older, and like to step off the boat onto land without schlepping in on the dinghy

Touring.  We started with an all-day “Island Tour” with our driver, Therese, so that we could get our bearings and see the high spots.  Subsequently, we rented a Toyota HiLux pickup for a couple of weeks.  “Jason” our truck, has a high ground clearance, super-torquey gear ratio, the ability to jump boulders in a single bound, and a propensity for conquering deep water has served us well, and so far, has taken us over 8 hours of off-road touring through and over some of the most uninhabited regions of the island.  Tho’ the trails are “lower back and vehicle undercarriage challenges,” they  are well marked.  The extreme diversity of geologic (?) features is mind-blowing.  Every two minutes, it’s an “Oh, my God, or This is incredible!”  The Cadushy Distillery in Rincon makes several liqueurs and a vodka, based on the distillation of the local Kadushi cactus.  It’s worth a visit, with expectations kept in check.

Fellow cruisers:  Well…….the Dutch are wonderful people.  The rub…..they take a long time to warm up.  We’ve been next to a Dutch couple for three weeks now, and in spite of us asking them at every juncture if we can help with their boat chores, pick them up something at the grocery store, lend tools, or whatever…we’re still just neighbors.  There aren’t a lot of North Americans here in the marina, so last night, we went to one of the “all inclusive” scuba resorts, and met some friendly Americans.  Only trouble is, that they’ll be gone in a week.  Oh well, the Admiral will just have to put up with my company exclusively ☹.

-Later

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