Off to South America

Written by Jon:

Leaving behind the ABC islands and heading to Colombia means a new continent for Itchy Foot and her crew.

Once Mia’s mum and dad left Curaçao we weren’t inclined to stay around much longer ourselves. We had the lovely company of Maple and Gaia while we waited for a weather window. The first chance to leave come too soon and then we had a long period of too much wind, followed by too little wind and it was at the first glimmer of suitable conditions we left.

Early on Monday morning we motored out of Spanish Waters and headed up the coast of Curaçao under engine. Not enough wind to sail but with some light cloud cover the passage up the coast to the bay of Santa Cruz was uneventful. We anchored in nice quiet little bay, which we had to ourselves, and spent the afternoon swimming and snorkeling.

Tuesday morning we got up late with time for coffee and quick snorkel unsuccessfully looking for turtles before departing westwards towards Aruba around at 9am. The light wind we had died completely when we were about half way to Aruba and we ended up motoring for a coupe of hours until it came back. The afternoon was filled with a lovely audio book of ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ read by David Tennent. Just after dinner and sunset we caught a fish, sadly a little too small a tuna and a little too late to start the process of cleaning and filleting , so back he want. We also agreed to stop in Aruba for the night, figuring we would arrive around 11pm. We don’t normally like to arrive in the dark, but with OK charts, good buoyage and a full moon we decided to give it shot. Picking our way down the west coast we were motoring between the coast and the oil tankers anchored a little farther off shore. The brightly lit hotels and casinos made it very hard to see other yachts and their anchor lights but finally we managed to spot a boat on AIS and found it with the binoculars, picking our way towards them we found a good spot to anchor for the night and were all asleep by midnight.

Wednesday morning started fairly promptly as we weren’t really allowed to be in Aruba without clearing in with customs and immigration so we didn’t want to dawdle. A quick dip, coffee and bagels to start the day before lifting anchor and heading past the oil tankers and fishing boats towards Colombia. Thankfully the sailing conditions today were perfect, 10-15knots of wind, downwind, following sea, clear and perfect. We’ve made a steady 4-6knots and the day was spent doing boat school with Teo, reading, listening to music. A few nights earlier we’d watched Finding Nemo again, and Mia thinking back on this asked me today if I thought they didn’t put Dolphins in the movie cos they don’t actually exist! It seems like since coming over to the Caribbean we just don’t see them anymore. As if on cue, there they were, a pod of about 20-30 of them joined Itchy Foot for a couple of hours of paying on our bow wave and jumping out of the water. They stayed with us until after sunset and provided quite the show!

The rest of the evening was not quiet so enjoyable, as in the middle of dinner the gas bottle ran out. No problem I’ll switch to the second one, only that didn’t work. So, cold food for us and no tea/coffee until we get to Santa Marta. There is the option of heading into a bay we will be passing early Thursday morning to have rest, relax and swim before heading onto Santa Marta the next day… maybe even fix the gas valve!

We shall see.

The night watch is beautiful. Teo and Mia are sleeping. The wind is warm and coming from the right direction. The sea is mostly calm and comfortable. The moon is full and the sky is clear. One of those nights where you take the Bimini down, which I just did.

Bon dia Bonaire!!

Written by Mia:

The obvious reason to love Bonaire is the WATER – the color, the crystal clear clarity, the amazing and abundant fish that live there and the perfect temperature. We simply cannot get enough of the water in this place! It was the first thing that grabbed our attention and I don’t think we were tied up to the mooring a full 5 minutes before Teo dropped the swim ladder, ripped his clothes off and jumped in. Our three day passage from Grenada was enjoyable and even though it was the longest we have done just the three of us, it was smooth and uneventful and we were grateful to arrive. The crew from Maple came out and met us by dinghy and directed us to the last vacant mooring and helped us get tied up. Teo was super excited and immediately made plans to visit his friends.

As we began to explore this place, we fell for it more and more. We love the Dutch vibe and the laid back island feel. We have eaten amazing food at Bobbyjan BBQ, empanadas at the upstairs lunch bar, devoured the ice cream, internet and air con for boat school at Luciano’s and Gio’s and enjoyed wandering through town which seems to have everything you could need, plus it also boasts cool land wildlife in the form of donkeys, iguanas and flamingos!  Bonaire have secured themselves as a diver’s paradise and that means respect for the sea and the creatures that make it their home, especially the coral. Bonaire rightfully protect their environment and have forbidden anchoring so all boats use the moorings provided. These moorings are in the center of town, albeit the sleepy one of Kralendijk. We spent lots of time on the boat and around it in the gorgeous water surrounding us and time just floated away. We loved watching the sailing school sail the little boats that resemble ducklings, and our breakfast entertainment often included the swim team practice or the water polo tournaments, complete with goals and whistles. And we met a lovely couple who are currently building a house here and we are envious. This would be an amazing place to retire…so we are hoping they share their experiences with us. Hanging out with them gave us some perspective on our lifestyle and some thought provoking chats which we always welcome.

We joined the crews of Maple and Element for a couple of days of car rental so we could explore this island properly. There is unfortunately no public transportation system so renting a car is the way forward. We visited the Washington Slagbaai national park. At the entrance to the park there is a hands on open-air museum which was perfect to give us a little insight to the island. And then we started on the longer of the two drives and it was incredible! We were impressed with all the cactus we saw, the proper ones that look like the ones from the cartoons which they even use to build fences, but they do this very carefully with special tools! We were all impressed with the rugged, lunar-like coral covered windward side with its blowholes, pounding surf and dramatic views. Everyone loved lunch at the dramatic beach with body surfing and shady coral overhangs. In the afternoon the highlight was the sighting of flamingos which really are as pink as the plastic ones you find in yards in Florida. They are awe inspiring creatures and we just stood and watched them, I would have stayed for hours. On the way back through Rincon, the other major town of the island, we stopped at a very cute distillery called Cadushy, where the owner creates small batches of yummy brews to honor all the Dutch Caribbean islands, and the royal couple even came to visit and gave a wink of approval. The guy behind this gem really loves what he does and he uses ingredients from the island, like cactus. We got to test taste them at their adorable bar. No car trip is complete without some provisioning and we stopped at the luxury that is Van den Tweel on the way home.

 

On day two we explored windward beaches, with gorgeous coral and shells. To our delight there were more salt plains with more flamingos and so we lingered and took lots of photos. The nearby slave huts are still intact to remind us of the bleak history of the Caribbean in general and this island in particular. It’s an important part of the history and we have been touching on it in various places along the way. I felt I had to pinch myself as we ate a relaxing picnic lunch in the shade of a lighthouse. As we came around the corner we saw lots of different colored pools where they harvest salt and explored the area around the salt pier where the ships come to load salt. The whole area is a crazy rainbow of color, light and flying foam and there were giant salt crystals to harvest. Bonaire has 86 dive sites with 57 species of soft and stony coral and 350 species of fish, so no day out is complete without a peek under the sea. Many of these sites are delightful for both diving and snorkeling, and they are marked by rocks painted yellow with the name written in black. We dragged ourselves out of the sea and headed on a donkey search. We got lucky and on our way to the Donkey Sanctuary, we had our own up close donkey encounter on the side of the road. Looking into their eyes, it seems you can sense their calm and wise souls. We made one last stop for a swim in a huge, waist deep bay in a place that begs you to come back with a bbq and a lot of time. Bonaire had another great treat in store for us and two flamboyances (the perfect collective noun) of flamingos flew over. They look stunning with their black tipped feathers and distinctive black beaks. It was breathtaking!

We loved this place both on land and in the sea. One day we joined Maple to 1000 steps, a favorite dive site, where the snorkeling was incredible. The soft corals were gorgeous and we hung out with a baby turtle for a long time. Teo and I really enjoyed swimming in the divers’ bubbles which look gorgeous and tickle like a jacuzzi. And upon returning to our mooring I even got the chance breathe through a regulator which allowed me to stand on the bottom of the sea-what a peaceful, surreal experience! One day we took Itchy Foot to Klein Bonaire for the day. We sailed both ways and enjoyed a wonderful day of snorkeling and empanada lunch. We enjoyed the sailing for the sake of it and we returned with a Boat.lad of happy faces. Jon managed to check a few boat jobs off the list while Teo and I had the pleasure of joining Ad Astra on two occasions. They generously open their boat to a collection of people wanting to dive. These days were lovely to see new places to dive, meet people, and to share lunch or dinner together. It was fun to hang out with the divers and even though we were just snorkeling, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement as the prepare to descend. The sense of community in Bonaire is really lovely and it is a good thing we had a good reason to leave because otherwise it would have been hard to pry ourselves away.

Bonaire trip – day two.

Written by Jon:

Everyone was a bit sleepy today. Teo woke early as he was hungry for staying up too late, and then couldn’t get back to sleep. And Mia and I aren’t into a new sleep pattern yet, I suspect we’ll just get into a rhythm when we arrive, as is the way with short passages like this.

Other news, the sailing has been good today, enough wind and a nice downwind run for most of the last 24 hours. The only squall was earlier this morning and wasn’t much more than 20 knots of wind and some rain. We all had a lazy kind of day today, I tried a little fishing without luck, Mia was fixing clothes with needle and thread and Teo watched a bit of educational TV and listened to an audio book.

Just after dinner the wind died and we had to start e engine, so currently buzzing along on a calmish sea. We’ll see how long the wind is down for, according to one forecast it could be most of the night unfortunately.

Looking over my shoulder I can see the green starboard light of our buddy boat, also motoring tonight. Other than spotting the odd oil tanker on AIS some 40 miles away we’ve not seen any other boats. Which, given the neighborhood, we’re ok with.

That’s all for now.

Grenada to Bonaire – day one.

Written by Jon:

It was only a coupe of weeks ago that we realized this would be the longest passage we’ve done as a family of three. Everything to do with crossing the Atlantic we had at least one extra adult as crew. But we felt good about it and we’re looking forward to the three day trip.

Grenada to Bonaire is about 400 miles, and if you draw a straight line you end up passing right through the middle of some Venezuelan island – Los Roques. Having heard how lovely these island are we were very tempted to stop for a few days on the way to Bonaire. From the cruisers we know who have visited, despite Venezuela falling into dictatorship, these quiet little island far from the mainland are safe and welcoming. Then in the last few weeks I spoke to a cruiser friend who was stuck on the islands for a day or two as the navy wouldn’t grating them permission to leave. It would seem that all pleasure boat travel has been banned in the country and these cruisers were stuck in the confusion. They were allowed to leave I the end and no harm was done, but it left us feeling that we had missed our opportunity and should skip it for now.

Once we were more or less ready to leave we were lucky enough to find a buddy boat going the same way, a nice couple on a boat named Slowdown. And with a good weather window open until Saturday we decided to rush preparations and leave Tuesday noon. And after dealing with immigration and filling up with fuel we managed to leave more or less on time.

The wind was a little light until we got out of the shadow of Grenada but just before the sun set the conditions became good for sailing and are still nice as I write this shortly after midnight. The moon just came up, the sea is fairly flat and we have 10-12 knots of wind sailing dead downwind with a poled out genoa. This gives us and easy if slightly wobbly way. Mia is sleeping and Teo crawled into bed with her a couple of hours ago, he tries to keep pappa company but I managed to pursued him to go get cuddles from mamma.

I’ll wake Mia around 3am to rake over as I sleep until hopefully 8 or 9 in the morning, on sofa as it is very comfortable and within shouting distance if Mia wants help. At which point Mia will have a bite to eat then go crash out for a coupe of hours. I’ll usually get a coupe of hours nap in the afternoon too. And so it goes for the next three days!

No photos of share as we are sending this via Satellite phone. Sorry!