Saturday, November 4, 2006

Los Aves and on to Bonaire

November 1, 2006 Wednesday
Isla Sur, Aves de Barlovento, VZ        Sailed 45 NM, 7.25 hours, average 6.21 kts
11.56.711N, 67.26.393W

Anchor was up at 6:00 this morning so that we could complete the 45 mile passage and arrive here at our first stop in Las Aves about 1:00 p.m.  This area is full of coral heads and the entries to the anchorages are a little tricky, so you want to arrive here with the sun full overhead.  This enables you to see the shallow spots and reef and coral heads. 

Passage here was again uneventful; had to motor most of the way because what little wind there was happened to be directly on our stern.  There were 6-8 foot following seas.  A very pleasant passage considering that there was so little wind.  We thought about putting out double headsails, but decided that it wasn’t worth the effort of dealing with the two poles.  So we just motored.  We certainly aren’t purists when it comes to sailing.  If the wind won’t push us along at least 6 knots, then we turn on the engine.

We saw two freighter ships today; first ones we have seen since we worked our way through 17 freighters when we left Puerto La Cruz.   There is a lot of freighter traffic in that area picking up crude oil, so we have been a little surprised that we haven’t seen any of those freighters since leaving that area.  Guess most of them head back across the Atlantic rather than through the Panama Canal.  If they were going through Panama then we should see them as the places we have been during the past week are on that route.

After it cools down this afternoon we will take the dinghy and explore this area.   There are supposed to be thousands of red-footed boobies living on these tiny islands.  Birds don’t particularly interest either one of us, but it gives us something to look do.

November 2, 2006      Thursday
Isla Palmeras, Aves de Sotavento      Sailed 24 NM
12.01.2378N, 067.41.0207W

This morning we took the dinghy into the mangroves and explored that area of Aves de Barlovento.  There are indeed thousands upon thousands of red-footed boobies living in the mangroves.  They showed absolutely no fear of us and let us approach very closely in our dinghy.  None of them took flight as we neared except when we got too close to what appeared to be baby birds.  These “baby” birds were coated in pure white fuzzy feathers and had a black beak instead of the blue beaks of the adults, but these “babies” were about the same physical size as the adult boobies.  We know nothing about birds, but all this was interesting and we are glad that we ventured into their territory for a short sight-seeing trip.

A fishing boat anchored next to us just as we were pulling anchor to leave our first stop in the Aves.  This area is mostly reefs with only a few tiny islands, and there were only three boats including us.  Each of us anchored well away from the others, so it was like having a bit of paradise all to yourself.

We took the long way to our second stop in the Aves, simply because the sailing was so great.  So we went from the south side of the Aves de Barlovento anchorage and entered from the north side of the Aves de Sortavento.  It was a beautiful sail.

November 3, 2006   Friday
Haven’t moved.

We decided to stay another day and make the passage to Bonaire on Saturday.  It is very peaceful here and we are the only boat present.  This time we truly do have a piece of paradise all to ourselves, at least for the moment.

We took the dinghy and explored around a bit.  Not much to see; there was a tiny shrine on the next island over from where we are anchored.  Then we decided to haul anchor and move an even prettier spot where we could swim off the boat in 15 feet of crystal clear water.  Bill snorkeled over the nearby reef.  Judy had too much sun during our passage yesterday, so she opted not to snorkel today.  Late in the afternoon another boat arrived, one we had seen back at Cayo Herradura.  We don’t know them.

Just before sunset we set up our downwind poles because the passage to Bonaire tomorrow should be entirely downwind.  Henri Amel designed these marvelous articulating poles for downwind sailing.  They are much easier to handle than a regular spinnaker pole, and they fold down and clip to the inside of the liferail when not in use.  We can use one of these poles to hold the genoa out so that we can sail downwind in winds up to 20 knots.  We can also use our forward ballooner on the opposite side and have two headsails, one on either side, if the wind is directly behind us.  If the winds increase to more than 20 knots, then we can furl both sails by the touch of a button within 15 seconds.  This is a really cool design!

Also just before sunset another boat arrived so we no longer have this piece of paradise all to ourselves; knew this wouldn’t last (sigh).  Glad we moved to this different anchorage so we are at least well separated from them.  We last saw this boat in Cayo Herradura, but we don’t know them.

November 4, 2006   Saturday
Kralendijk, Bonaire                  Sailed 43 NM
12.08.903N, 068.16.68W

Bill was awake by 6:00 a.m. and decided that we just had to leave right away; not sure exactly why.  It was a downwind sail for the entire 43 miles, just as predicted.  Got to love these weather faxes and weather predictions that we receive via SSB email daily.  Chris Parker’s predictions were spot-on today for our part of the Caribbean.

We poled out the genoa on the port side and the mizzen on the starboard side.  We did not use the mainsail for most of the trip.  The wind was about 10 degrees off the starboard stern instead of directly behind us, so we didn’t try flying the ballooner too.  Actually, Judy was just being lazy and didn’t want to bother with it.  That sail would probably have worked just fine with the wind at that point, but we were doing 6 knots boat speed in only 8-10 knots of wind; and that was fast enough for this short little 43 mile passage.  Why go to the trouble of digging the ballooner out of the sail locker and unpacking it, flying it for only 3 hours and then having to repack it again.  Like stated, Judy was just being lazy.

Bonaire still exports a lot of salt.  The southern half of the island is totally flat and full of salt.  The wind on the western side of that portion is at least 8 knots stronger than on the eastern side of the island; land breeze is created by the heat of so much salt.  There are huge mounds of this salt piled near a conveyor belt system that extends a short way out from the shore.  The water is so deep right up to the edge of the island that ships can pull right alongside this conveyor and the salt is loaded directly into the ship.  Neat.  They have these tall bright orange obelisks in several places on the southern side of the island.  In the old days they would fly different colored flags on top of these obelisks to let the anchored ships know which one should next approach the conveyor.  Don’t think these obelisks are still in use for this purpose since all ships have radios these days, but these bright orange obelisks are still in place.

Chuck from S/V Helen Louise saw us arrive and jumped into his dinghy and assisted with our mooring lines.  That was a huge help!  You must pick up two mooring balls at the bow here in Bonaire instead of the normal one ball.  So having someone in a dinghy to hand up the mooring ball pennant or to run our bridle lines through the pennant eyes was a huge help.  We are moored next to a woman who has a local reputation of being very difficult.  Her boat looks like it hasn’t moved in years.  She told us when we got on this mooring that she does not have a working engine and will be running a very loud generator that is placed on top of her deck.  She said she will be running this generator for hours tomorrow.  Maybe we will run our generator at the same time and do our laundry and enjoy air conditioning and stay closed up inside rather than have our boat open and listen to her noise.  Chuck said that another boat moored just past S/V Helen Louise will be leaving on Tuesday; we will likely move to that mooring when it becomes vacant.

Bill is certain that our batteries are getting weak.  We hope to purchase new batteries here.  If they are not available here, then Curacao is our last hope.   Our batteries will be four years old next month, so it is time for them to be replaced.  We need thirteen GRP 31 Freedom batteries.  That will be our shopping on Monday morning.  Bill sent an email yesterday to a battery shop here in Bonaire asking if they had these batteries in stock; if they could be delivered to a marina; and if we could pay someone to install them.  The answer we received back via email was, “Bonaire is a very quiet place.”  Now just what that means, we have no idea.  Didn’t answer our questions at all.

We walked around town a bit after checking in with Customs and the Police Dept (Immigration is closed on weekends and the Police Dept handles clearing in).  During our walk we found Watta Burger and just had to stop for a burger.  Those readers from Texas will recognize the name semblance to a Texas burger chain named WhattaBurger.  So, of course, we just had to stop and have a burger.  These were definitely not like the WhattaBurgers back home.  Today’s special was a French style Watta Burger.  It had brie cheese and mushrooms and loads of lettuce, tomato, grilled onions, pickle and fresh sliced cucumber.  Different, but very good.  We also saw a Brazilian restaurant that served enchiladas.  Definitely will be going there while we are here in Bonaire.  Judy is having enchilada withdrawal; haven’t eaten any since we left Houston last April.

 Bonaire looks like a place we will enjoy.  Sailing on the west side of Bonaire is a sailor’s dream; lots of wind and totally calm waters.  Bill hopes to do a bit of diving this week.

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