26/09/2014, Airport Anchorage
We left Santa Cruz Bay at 6.45am & had a slow & uncomfortable downwind sail to Aruba. We were seriously checked out by the Coast Guard plane & a military helicopter as we approached Aruba (they both circled us for quiet a while) it is very close to Venezuela & drug running is a problem. We arrived into the anchorage & had our anchor down by about 5pm. We had a couple of beers as we watched the planes come & go - the anchorage is right at the end of the runway - not too noisy though. There are only 2 other boats here. It is a nice anchorage, calm & wide with lots of wind to keep us cool. Good holding too.
Thursday we attempted to check in. We were sent to the airport & then directed to the cruise boat dock.... no luck! So Ange did a bit of shopping & had a walk while Steve read on board & then did some laundry. Thursday afternoon was a bit of a rest & then dinner and an episode of 'Downton Abbey.'
Today we attempted to check in again & had more luck. We radioed the Aruba Port Control who told us to bring our boat to the commercial dock. Immigration & Customs met us there... that's never happened before... except in Morocco. We filled in our paperwork & they returned our stamped passports & customs schedule as we finished our cuppa. A very easy & very friendly check in. We have to do the same again tomorrow when we check out. After returning to the anchorage we took the dinghy to the marina & then caught a local bus to the closest large supermarket. It had everything we needed & we stocked up on a few things we may not be able to get in Colombia - the San Blas Islands are in mind. This afternoon Ange has cleaned the boat & prepared dinner for our overnighter tomorrow while Steve went back into town & did some clothes washing.
Cruisers always say Aruba has nothing & should be avoided. We have enjoyed our time here. Yes, it is a holiday island & there are plenty of shops & duty free places around, but we have found it to be friendly, lively & very colourful. The anchorage has plenty of action around to keep you interested (& you can swim) & then main town is only a 5 minute dinghy ride away. It has been refreshing to be a tourist & not just constantly talking and thinking sailing & boats!
Tomorrow we head for Colombia after checking out.
23/09/2014, Santa Cruz Bay
Thursday was a quiet day getting PANNIKIN ready for our trip to Curacao (Koo-ra-sow) & then to Aruba. Just picked up a couple of things that we needed & tidied up a bit. We also said goodbye to Andrew & Claire on EYE CANDY - not double we will see them in the Pacific next year.
Friday morning was Steve's last dive with Jeremy & Susie at Kalli's Reef. After lunch we had a game of dominoes over a few drinks & then a farewell dinner of ribs from Bobbiejans. A couple of tears were shed when we said goodbye to the crew from JOY, but we know we'll see them again someday, somewhere. They've been wonderful friends & cruising partners & we will miss then terribly. Take care Jeremy & Susie!
Saturday we were up early & on our way to Curacao. We started with the spinnaker & had great fun racing across the bay (9 knots) until we had two round ups & decided it should come down! We continued to Curacao under headsail & arrived into Spanish Waters around 4pm. We anchored in the lagoon - it is a tight squeeze with lots of boats anchored in the 2 designated areas & had a beer.
Sunday we went into Willemstad (the capital) to check in with Immigration & Customs. Willemstad is a colourful town with plenty of history & wonderful buildings. We spent a while wandering around & then caught the bus back to Spanish Harbour.
Monday we jumped on the free bus that takes cruisers to the Vreugdenhil Supermarket. It was plenty big enough with heaps of variety - even had its own bakery & butcher. We did a couple of days worth of provisioning & had a quiet afternoon on PANNIKIN.
Tuesday saw us back in Willemstad to check out & then we sailed 25nm up the west coast to a lovely bay called Santa Cruz Bay. It has a small beach with a restaurant (we think) & a great little anchorage with clear water. It provides a great spot to start our sail to Aruba tomorrow.
Bonaire is truly a diver's paradise - 89 named dive sites! We have spent the past week sailing to a different dive spot just about every day - Bachelor's Beach, Carl's Hill, Something Special, Just A Nice Dive, Small Wall, Hilma Hooker & 2 dives off the back of PANNIKIN - one being a night dive. The fish life is abundant & coral diverse. The water is warm & crystal clear.
We have spent a lot of time with Jeremy & Susie as we won't see them again after we leave for Curacao on Saturday, unless they make their way through the Panama Canal & across to OZ in 2016. We've had some fun nights out - in particular a ribs night at a restaurant called Bobbiejans - lots of ribs -very cheap & very tasty. We've had plenty of dominoes matches & afternoons sitting on PANNIKIN drinking beer & chatting.
Last night we attended the 'Burger Night' at the Harbour Village marina with around 12 other cruisers. It was a great night - good food & cheap drinks. We have finally caught up with Jane & Russell on Ta-B who we met in Gibraltar. Russell is a Kiwi who likes to give us Aussies heaps. We are having sundowners on their catamaran tonight!
Only 2 more days for us in this lovely part of the world. We will miss Bonaire, but are looking forward to the next part of our journey.
The last few days have been active which is unusual for us, there are so many dive site to check out plus a new island to explore and old friends to catch up with which has filled our days in nicely. There is a bus that takes us to the supermarket on Tuesdays and Fridays for free so we can buy all the naughty stuff we had trouble getting in other places so we went on Tuesday and filled the nibbles cupboard.
That afternoon J & S climbed aboard PANNIKIN and we sailed across the bay to a dive site which was recommended to us by Andrew from EYE CANDY where Jeremy, Susie and Steve went down for a nice wall dive while Ange had a snorkel closer to shore. As Ange was swimming about a dive operator in a large dive boat approached and told her to untie PANNIKIN and bugger off. When she told him she couldn't as there were still three people on the bottom he was very rude to her and left. We checked out with various official people later and we were quite within our rights to be there, he was just a jerk!
The four of us hired a car and set off to have a look at the island on Wednesday which turned out to be a full day with lots to see even if the island is not all that large. There were iguanas, pink flamingos, Caribbean parakeets and colourful lizards to keep us entertained as we drove up to the museum at the national park on the north of the island. The landscape is rough and dry and cactus abound which made us wonder how anyone could survive in the early years here. We continued back towards town and found the only KFC on the island which also sold cold beer! This was too much for Steve so we had to stop for lunch. The next stop was a windsurfing lake followed by a drive around the bottom of the island where there is a large salt pan operation with its pink waters and huge piles of salt waiting to be loaded for export. On the roadside there were the huts for the slaves that worked the salt operation in years gone by. What a miserable existence those poor people must have endured. From there it was on to the donkey sanctuary where we had a great experience. There were hundreds of donkeys of all ages, shapes and colours and we were encouraged to get in and experience their beautiful nature.
The wind is constantly blowing which if it was anywhere else it would be unpleasant, except here it just moderates the temperature and allows a comfortable sleep at night and adds to nice feeling of Bonaire.
We hauled anchor around 10am after checking out with customs and immigration and buying an extra case of beer to use up the last of our Eastern Caribbean dollars and ventured out of Mt Hartman Bay. The breeze turned out to be a little lighter than we would have liked and directly behind which made the going fairly slow, but increased as the day went on. There was a 2 metre swell running and coming from a different direction to the wind making the ride uncomfortable, to the point where Angela was feeling quite off colour and was cuddling the bucket just in case. It did settle down after a while with the wind picking up to 20-25kts giving the boat a more comfortable motion, and after two nights we sought refuge in behind a sand atoll to get a decent night's sleep. The atoll was part of a group of islands called Isla Los Roques which are part of Venezuela and not frequented by cruising sailors very much due to the piracy and crime associated with that country. We were told about it by some other Aussies who stopped there and said that they did not have a problem, so we thought it would be worth a stop. It was beautiful with clear aqua blue water and white sandy beaches and very protected from the wind and waves so we had a good night's sleep and headed off again early the next day.
We were greeted with light winds which made progress slow and by mid afternoon we decided to put the motor on and head for Aves De Sotavento for the night, which is another atoll in the middle of nowhere. When we found a calm anchorage there was two Venezuelan yachts there and one of them came over and asked where we were from and offered us some fresh fish he had just caught - not all Venezuelans are pirates apparently.
The next day was Friday and after an early start we had a good sail to cover the forty miles to Bonaire, with the last eight miles in the lee of the island which meant no waves and a good breeze so PANNIKIN was in her element. All of Bonaire is a marine park so there is no anchoring and mooring buoys are provided at $10US per night which makes things very easy. Andrew from EYE CANDY came out to greet us and helped us pick up the mooring lines which was right next to Jeremy and Susie on JOY and then gave us the run down on the place.
Bonaire is a Dutch colony which gives a completely different feel to the previous Caribbean islands we have visited with western shops selling the things we are more used to and the supermarkets are great with huge range to choose from, even if beer is a little more expensive.
The island is a world renown dive spot with good reason, the water is clear and warm and sheltered with no monsters (as Ange says). Off the front of the boat is good snorkelling in 2-3m and off the back is good diving with a wall that drops off to 30m. There are many dive sites and they are marked with a mooring buoy to tie up to so we will be blowing heaps of bubbles here.
01/09/2014, Secret Harbour, Grenada
Friday we had a great walk to the "jerk chicken man" who has a stall above Clarks Court Bay. We met Stan & Lann and their friends Flemming & Hells at Secret Harbour & had a 30 minute walk to our lunch spot - it was great to catch up with them & and the conversation didn't stop for some time! We had a quiet afternoon reading & swimming on PANNIKIN and an early night.
Saturday morning Ange walked into Grand Anse to get some last minute fresh groceries from the IGA. It rained on & off all morning, but was still hot & muggy for walking! Steve attended an informal information session on Panama held by another cruiser/delivery skipper who has transited the canal seven times. He found it very useful & picked up a lot of ideas. We had a game of dominoes with Lann, Stan and Flemming in the afternoon & sadly said our goodbyes to Lann & Stan as they are flying back to the US to see their families for a month. It has been wonderful meeting them & we're sure we will keep in contact.
Yesterday we got PANNIKIN ready for our sail across to Bonaire, did some washing & treated ourselves to a cheeseburger & chips for lunch at Secret Harbour marina. Steve played dominoes in the afternoon & Ange had a great phone call with Lesley who is nearing the end of a holiday in Europe. Great to speak with you Mum!
After checking out of Customs & Immigration in Prickly Bay this morning we are on our way to Bonaire. Should take about 3 days we reckon!