Columbia, a country of many extremes. A photo is worth a thousand words, so we hope our gallery will help give you a glimpse of our time here. The pictures are in two groups, we hope you enjoy.
Leaving Williamstead, in Curacao, we headed south (against the wind) as we needed to pick up fuel in Spanse Waters at the marina, there being nowhere in the main city to get it. Luckily it was not far as the wind was still blowing a tad and it was a bumpy ride. Then we proceeded to have a lovely sail up the coast to a bay at the northern part of the island, where we spent the weekend having a much deserved chill out. We picked a perfect weather window for our trip to Santa Marta and had a fabulous 3 day/night sail. For the first time we flew our parasail (called big red) for nearly 32 hours keeping her up overnight as the wind was steady and under 10 knots. We made great time and decided to stop just before Santa Marta, in the third bay (there are five), in the national park for our last afternoon and night. A beautiful area, but it was lucky we only spent one night there as the weather was changing. Two nights later in the marina we were getting 35 knots at night at dock, it's very windy here, with 55 knots forecast for tonight. These are not the notorious Chocosanos winds, a local phenomenon that also occur in the San Blas Islands; which normally only last about 30 minutes and come with rain during the end of the hurricane season.
They say it is easy to get stuck in Santa Marta, we now know why. At the moment every 10 - 14 days there is a day or two where one can safely leave. We were hoping to head for the San Blas Islands this week, but the weather is still not looking great . All the cruisers here are patiently waiting, some are due in Panama - yikes.
Santa Marta for us has been very frustrating, although it has slowly helped us to become more patient - not an easy lesson. We arrived on Friday 13 Feb (okay, not the best day) hoping to get some work done at the beginning of the following week. Our generator had died on us again (luckily proved to be only the old battery) and our freezer as snuffed it as well. What a saga, especially as the electrician decided our compressor was stuffed. He said he would get us a new one, but luckily it was a four day weekend (always is when you need work done) and Russ started double checking their work with the help of a supplier in the US. Compressors are supposed to be bullet proof ..... well seems ours is okay, thankfully the guy was not able to get a new one - phew! However, the controller (and maybe the thermostat) was the culprit so we are now waiting for parts from the US (can't get here) which are due tomorrow. Fingers crossed that all will be well, thank goodness Russell is such a handy man. Don't need a "professional" electrician.
You are probably wondering why we always have boat projects, maybe this is a good time to explain. If you can imagine your house being sprayed with "salt" water on a regular basis, then a mass of "fine" sand (and coal here), then being shaken around big time for four days I am sure you would have some "projects". These may only be loose wires, but they can certainly take some time to find. Here in a third world country the workman are also different to what we are used to. They "think" they know what they are doing, say they are going to arrive at 4pm and arrive (after a lot of pressure) maybe five days later. Then there is the language problem as hardly anyone speaks English, and sadly our Spanish is the same. It took us ages to find a dictionary. We were amazed in Santa Marta to find that there is only one, very small, book shop in town with no dictionaries. Did I mention parts? Well of course that is another issue, they are good at fixing things, because there are no parts. Sometimes however "things" can't be fixed and that is when we have to ship items (at great cost). We have a ton of spares on board, but occasionally not quite the one we need.
Anyway the upshot is that we have spent a ton more time in Santa Marta than planned. Not a bad thing as the longer we are here the more we learn about the country. It is warm and sunny, and we have found the people pleasant. Before Adrian left last week we went for a walk to Taganga Bay, about 5km away, with some other fellow cruisers. On the way we had to pass the refinery that sends out 50 trains a day with coal (our boat is filthy even though we hose it down every few days - keeps me busy). There was a shanty village by the rail tracks with so much garbage/rubbish the smell made me gag (dead dogs did not help). Did I mention that there is rubbish everywhere, except in the "tourist" spots? Lots of starving stray dogs too. Horrendous. Anyway past the town, as we went up the hill to get to our destination, we noticed two policemen on a bike were passing us and then stopping to check out the view. When we got to the top they confirmed that they were escorting us as we were not in a "safe" area. To be honest, Colombia although a lot better than it was, still for me has an "unsafe" energy about it. There are a LOT of police everywhere, even in the "safe" areas.
We have just come back from 3 nights in Cartagena. It is four hours away by bus and the journey was an education in itself. The Colombians are very industrious and many walk/ride around selling their wares. On our trip we had about 20 people jump on and off the bus when it was stopped because of traffic, check points, etc.. to sell their wares. Everything from water/pop, food/chips, homemade enchiladas, sweets, we even had a guy who serenaded us for about half an hour. How he managed to play the guitar on the bumpy, pot holed roads I'll never know. It was impossible to read a book and you certainly would not want to suffer from car sickness.
Cartagena was wonderful, although we found the rich and poor living side by side in Getsemani, where we stayed, difficult. There are 1.8 million people in Cartagena with under 200 thousand living in the five "wealthy" districts. We passed houses where people were sleeping on the dirt cement floors, with maybe a plastic chair or two, next to a plush hotel. Further out they live hand to mouth and there is a lot of crime we were told. Families are close, often three generations living in one room, kids playing happily with no technology. It was interesting to observe.
The history of Cartagena is fascinating and the old town great to explore, people watch and enjoy. We had a wonderful free tour around the walled city (worth the big tip given) and learnt a ton. Visited the Fort of San Felipe, good for the view, but otherwise we have seen a lot better. The navel museum was impressive, though sadly without any English so an English speaking guide/friend would have made a huge difference. There was a video explaining how the natives had devised a canal and drainage system thousands of years ago that tamed the great flooding that occurs in certain areas of Colombia each year. Their drainage system was amazingly effective. But when the Spanish arrived they filled in this wonderful drainage system, causing flooding to begin again, and which
continues annually to this day. We did not visit the House of Pain, sounded like the Tower of London and is where the Spanish Inquisition was carried out in the name of the Catholic Church. You certainly would not want to upset anyone back then, as the priests sounded evil.
Colombia is thankfully cheap. Stuck here at the marina it is costing us $350 per week, including electricity and water. Not that cheap, but we would have had to pay that for a night in some parts of Europe. Being at anchor is not an option in these winds. Colombia is a bargain for restaurants compared to the Eastern Caribbean. We have splashed out a lot and have enjoyed the 2 for 1 happy hour (normally all night) where Mojitos cost $7 for two and have become a favourite. The food is also excellent with a main course costing around $10, I have told Russell I can't cook a meal for that cost (he believes me - yeah).
Not sure now what we are going to get up to. Latest weather says we are here for another week - yet again we are thankful we have no agenda. We are thinking that once we have sorted out the freezer we might take to the hills and/or the national parks to experience the waterfalls, hiking, birds, etc... Our next blog will tell all. Keep safe, smiling and .... Slow down (our new motto).
Happy Days are here again, oh .... I feel a song coming on. We are back in the water; which in "boatie" terms is called splashing. It was a tad overdue, but hey I "kindof" suspected that Russell and Adrian might not have got through the "to do" list by the time I arrived a couple of weeks after them. We flew Adrian over to help polish the boat and to have some "boy' time with Russell. Last time he visited he had a broken foot, this time he fell off a ladder and had to have ten stitches in his elbow, luckily he has insurance ☺. Sadly the polishing went a lot slower than anticipated, but we now have the outside hulls done which look great, the rest we can do while we are in the water.
There is a reason for everything and it has meant that Russ has been able to get most of his "to do on hard" jobs done, including sorting out the new two back rubbing strips. As this is a visual item I am a very happy bunny. It has also meant that I have been able to help him for the last week while not cleaning and .... doing more cleaning. As Adrian says "I love Catamarans, but not when I am having to polish them". Bless him, I feel the same Ta-b needs a lot of looking after. For sure living on a boat has its pluses and minuses. As you can imagine we are all looking forward to anchoring in a beautiful bay so we can jump in the water and have a much deserved play day.
The good news is that the weather is much, much kinder than it was when we were last here in November. Although it is 30 degrees and sunny, every day we have a cool wind to ease the heat. It has not been a bad thing to be on the hard for an extra week as we could not have left before. We have to wait for a good weather window to sail to Cartegena, a passage which apparently is one of the 5 hardest sails in the world and the toughest in the Caribbean. Friday is looking good. It now will depend on when we can get some new batteries as yesterday we found out that our current ones are on the way out. We hope to ship some to Aruba this week - fingers crossed.
Curacao is an interesting island and part of the Dutch Antilles. The main town of Willemsted has lots of character, with delightful buildings painted pastel colours. The rest of the island is rather barren, but there is a huge tourist industry as like Bonaire the diving and snorkeling are excellent off the coast. There is a lot of African influence, just love their belly laughs, and most people speak either English, Dutch, Spanish or Papiamento their local dialect. In fact it is strange to see so many "English" signs every where. There are 170 species of birds and we have enjoyed their birdsong at dusk and sunrise, however I have not enjoyed their popping on our decks. The national bird is the yellow breasted Oriole, beautiful.
Now looking back at our time in Vancouver seems like a distant past. We had a lot of fun house sitting for Ken while he was in Australia, Otis his dog and two cats Mojo and Charlie were fun to be around. We spent lots of time walking Otis on the beach or through the Endowement lands, a pastime we thoroughly enjoy. In between we spent the month catching up with as many friends as we could, attending appointments, myself enjoying some regular yoga and of course seeing as much of Edwin and Amy as possible given their busy lives. They are a delight and we love their company.
Edwin is still very keen on boarding and photography and is doing well in both. Workwise he is now managing Finest at Sea at Granville Island, looking after his increasing staff and helping the business expand. He also helps out a friend when he can who has an upmarket catering company. He gets paid well and finds it really interesting. When he is not riding up at Whistler or Grouse (he gets a free pass for his photography) he goes off with his friends. Lately he went to Big White and is currently on a road trip to Silver Star, Banff and Revelstoke. At the end of the month he is off again to Reno, we just love the way he is fully enjoying life.
Amy moved from Cactus Club to Lululemon for the holidays; which she loved and I was lucky to enjoy the discounts on their clothes which I adore. 20 May is the big day when Amy will graduate from UBC, she has studied hard while working at the same time. She has liked the combination, although it has taken her a lot longer to get her degree than if she had studied full time. It must be exciting for her to now be able to look ahead as she is wanting to travel, and maybe live in London for a while.
After housesitting we stayed with Kim and Cam for a short time; lots of fun, we get on well especially having crossed the Atlantic together. We have friends currently doing the trip at the moment and our hearts are going out to them. Our trip took 16 days and although tough is nothing like our friends journey. They still have 300 miles to go and are on day 27. They have a monohull and are still in their thermals and wet weather gear at night. Russ is helping them with their weather and we are getting their daily blog, they are still in good spirits.
When Russ left for the boat I set off to Sun Peaks to visit my girlfriend Cathy for five days of ski-ing. I lucked out with the weather as it was sunny for four days and powder for two, with lots of snow on the mountains. We had a wonderful time together and I managed to see many of the friends who we had met two years ago. Sun Peaks is a very special place, certainly it has a huge place in my heart and we plan to visit again this Summer.
Our agenda? Depending on weather (always is when sailing) and batteries, we hope to leave for Cartegena in Colombia by next weekend. Yet again, depending on weather, we will either do day sails or a couple of overnighters. We want to leave the boat in Santa Marta Marina so we can go down the coast and stay in the old city of Cartegena for a few nights. Then if the weather is in our favour we will head for the San Blas Islands off the coast of Panama. Think we will head for Hondurus end of March as the outer islands are supposed to be worth spending some time inbefore we head into the Rio Dulce in Guatemala where we will leave the boat for the hurricane season. Spring is around the corner, enjoy everyone such a fabulous time of the year.
12/31/2014, On the move
Ga day Mate, Kia Ora where downunder shoes are optional (even at the airport or in the grocery store) and everyone says "no worries" to everything. She'll be Right, You Little Ripper, Sweet As .. and Stone the Crows soon started to flow easily for us once again. As they say "You Gotta Love It" and we do, a little bit more, each time we go and visit family and friends.
We spent nearly a month in Australia and New Zealand, stopping off in Vancouver on the way to say hi to the kids and to enjoy the RVYC vegas night. Our last few weeks on Ta-b we spent de-commissioning her to be ready to put on the hard, for the two months we would be away. It is always a lot of work, but she is certainly worth it. Russell is returning to Curacao on the 10th January with our friend Adrian. They plan to get all the boat jobs done before I get back on the 22nd January, what wonderful guys.
Our first stop downunder was Australia to visit Russell's older sister and family. They live about an hour south of Brisbane, an area we have always loved. The weather is warm and the natural beauty of the countryside is spectacular. We spent a lot of time hiking the Hinterland rain forests and enjoying the stunning foreshore trails and beaches. In Oz there are an incrediable amount of colourful birds, the music from their constant singing is magic and in Queensland they are very tame and are more like pets. We managed to catch up with our niece and her kids and also our friend Andrew who rowed across the Atlantic at the same time as we sailed it. Ten days was not enough time with Yoga and Boop, next time our visit will be a lot longer.
We had an amazing last day in Brisbane, meeting up with Russell's younger sister who was on her way back to New Zealand, and then bumping into our old flatmate at the airport. We had not seen Ken for about 30 years and I was amazed when he recognised me, such a small world and so wonderful to find each other after all this time as we had lost contact.
Next we spent ten days with Russell's mum in Timaru. She is 91 years of age and just a delight. She still lives on her own and is in very good health both physically and mentally, so we had a lot of fun together. Our days revolved around eating and drinking, two of her favorite pastimes, and going for drives.
Grant and Mary kindly had us to stay again and we had some fantastic evenings catching up with them and various friends. It was the beginning of summer while we were there and the local Rose Festival week; which I was able to enjoy with Mary one day. About ten homes are chosen for their gardens and they are open to the public for a couple of days. Wow is all I can say, they were spectacular. Gardening is a big pastime and New Zealanders, like the English, love roses so it was a real treat. Normally the houses are not open, but we lucked out as most were and all decorated beautifully for Christmas - we had a lovely day. We also had a fun day out with our friends Irene and Chris of s/v Cutty Hunk who are now living back in Christchurch and running a tour company.
From Timaru we drove down to Queenstown to see our best man Foxy who has recently moved there from Perth. It is about a four hour trip south past various lakes and through several mountain passes, just stunning; especially with all the wild loopins covering the sides of the roads and fields. The view from Foxy's house of Coronet Peak and the Remarkables ski areas was fantastic; we can certainly understand why he and Jacqui have chosen to retire there. Queenstown is known for its outdoor activities and has become the hub of the south island since Christchurch's earthquakes. Sadly that means a lot of tourists, but we were there just before the season started and saw it at its best.
Next stop was Auckland to visit Russell's younger sister who has just moved to Piha, a beautiful area on the west coast about half an hour north of the city. We took off for a few days in Jillie's bus/converted camper van and headed up the east coast to Whangarei and ended up Whananaki where we met up with Leslie and Bruce from s/v Midi. They now have a fab caravan for land travel while they are not sailing around Greece/Turkey, a perfect life. We could have spent a lot more time enjoying the beautiful coast, but the weather was not that great and time was not on our side as we wanted to head back to Vancouver for Xmas.
A lot of our friends have visited New Zealand and Australia, however if you have not, we would highly recommend it. New Zealand has again, three years in a row, been voted as the best place to visit by The Telegraph. The people are laid back and friendly - everyone stops to have a chinwag (chat). With a patchwork history of Māori, European, Pacific Island and Asian cultures it is a very diverse country. The majority of the people live in the north island, especially Auckland, whereas the south island has its stunning mountains and lakes. Everyone is into the outdoors with camping very much a way to travel and explore. There are not many big hotels and on our trip most places to stay were either camping grounds or B&Bs. We look forward to returning there in 2016 with Ta-b once we have crossed the Pacific.
I have added a few pictures to our gallery for you to enjoy. Please keep in touch, it is wonderful to get all your news and know that you are there for us even if we are not around very much. Kia Ora (Maori for be well/healthy, now used as "hi" in NZ).
Bonaire; we found the longer one is there, the more it grows on you and the longer you want to stay. Yet again this was so true. Our seven weeks went far too quickly and it was very hard to leave what is for sure one of our favorite islands in the Caribbean.
Bonaire is part of the ABC islands and although part of the Caribbean they are in a class of their own. Tourism has not yet taken the charm from the people who still go out of their way to help you. Luckily we were there in the low season, and it remains the same sleepy, laid back place that we remember from six years ago. The three islands are part of the Netherland Antillies. Bonaire is 50 miles from the Venezueland coast and the smallest at 112 square miles (24 long and 3-7 wide) with Klien Bonaire (a little uninhabited island) off the west coast.
Six years ago there were no cruise ships, but sadly they have recently found this little gem, we can't imagine what it must be like once the season starts on the 4th November. In a couple of years it will become a different place as we saw a lot of building work in progress.
The weather was very kind to us with cool offshore breezes to ease the heat that we remember being quite intense our last visit. We had a few wind reversals, but the mooring buoy we picked did not put us too close to shore. We were in our favorite spot just off the Yellow Sub dive shop; which has fantastic snorkeling and diving. The sea around the two islands is a marine park. There are 63 dive sites off the main island and 24 off Klein Bonaire. You are not allowed to anchor and all boats either take a mooring buoy and go into the marina.
Needless to say, the diving and snorkeling is some of the best in the world and so we pigged out. Be warned there are quite a few underwater pictures with this blog that I took with my new camera. I just love being in the water (above or below) the beauty of it draws me and each time I enjoy looking for that rare treasure that Bonaire always seems to deliver. However, time on board Ta-b is not always play as she is an ongoing concern. Russ especially got a lot of boat jobs done (of course more reared their ugly heads to keep the to do list in balance) and I kept the place running and clean (not an easy task). We had some great days where we took friends out sailing and diving to the more remote sites, with a late leisurely lunch after, before sailing back before sunset.
The boating community are such a wonderful mixed bunch. We made wonderful new friends with numerous nationalities, some who will be friends for ever and we are looking forward to seeing again in the San Blas islands next year and others in Panama/Pacific the following, with more downunder. When we arrived there were only about a dozen boats, but by the time we left nearly all of the 30 odd mooring buoys were taken. There was probably a rush for ours as we left, as it was such a great location. We experienced more boats during regatta week; which was fun, but there was always seemed to be a mooring buoy for all the cruising boats .
When we were last in Bonaire Karel's bar was very unpopular with cruisers as their speakers pointed in our direction and the music at night kept everyone awake until dawn. Thankfully they are now pointed in the other direction and we never heard them, although we were told that they are still loud if you are close to Karels. Also if you are near the fishing boat dock the fishermen tend to wake you up predawn as they shout to each other leaving. Just a heads up for fellow cruisers. There is also a new supermarket in town that does a free shuttle on Tuesdays and Fridays at 10am for all the cruisers, makes life SO much easier.
We used to get together on Wednesdays at the marina with other boaties for their two hour happy hour (2 for 1) and fantastic $8 hamburger night. I am not a hamburger person, but without the bun, a choice of six toppings, salad and fries it made for an easy, yummy, fun and cheap night out. Another weekly event was going to Bobbejan's (only open at the weekend) a Bonaire must. They have a garden to dine in, but we found that it was more fun to have take out and take it to the kids park with a crowd. We all took our own refreshments and enjoyed the ambience of the kids who stay up until all hours in true European fashion.
Our favorite dive site was probably Salt Pier, it is not too deep so I was able to take quite a few pictures and it was always teeming with life. Salt is still exported from the island and one can see many pink flamingos on salt pans. Our second favorite diving spot was off the back of the boat, especially at night when the colours are so fantastic and different fish come out to play. We also went across to the East Coast with friends for a day's outing and enjoyed diving the White Hole, a huge collapsed cave with a white sand bottom with sleeping turtles on the reef.
We have found as we travel we open doors to perceptions we did not previously know exsisted. We meet new challenges, form new friendships and discover new visions of our world. We have a week of hard work to put Ta-b to bed for two months, she will be on the hard at Curacao Marina. Next week we fly back to Vancouver for a quick stop over on our way to Australia to visit Russell's older sister and family. We then go to New Zealand to visit Russell's 91 year old mum, his younger sister and also our best man Foxy who has moved to Queenstown. It will be a busy month before we return to Vancouver for Xmas and New Year.
We hope that we will be able to see many of our friends while we are off the boat, please let us know if you will be around over the holidays. The best way to contact us is via email as our global cell phone is rather expensive. Enjoy some of our Bonaire pictures, it is a place that we would recommend to anyone; especially if you are a diver.
Tomorrow, no another day, we found It hard to say goodbye to the Spanish Virgin Islands, as they are locally called. They are part of the offshore islands of Puerto Rico, both of which are territories of the United States. The islands were colonized by the Spanish for four centuries and now offer immersion into the Spanish Caribbean, with the benefit of bilingualism and the convenience of US institutions. Luckily, unlike the other Virgin Islands, they are many years behind in development. Terrific for the getaway cruiser with secluded undisturbed anchorages, pristine beaches and great snorkeling. We saw no charter boats, with only local boats and a few liveaboards like ourselves being around at this time of year.
Culebra and its out laying islands are magic. They have not changed at all since we visited six years ago and we keep our fingers crossed that they will continue to stay a local secret. The beaches and bays are spectacular and the town of Dewey is very quaint with no development. Everyone is terribly friendly, happy, and always helpful. Even the kids came up to us smiling wanting to chat. We can understand why people arrive here and never leave.
During the week Culebra is quiet with Thursday happy hour (well three hours from 3 till 6) at the Dingy Dock being the night that the local liveaboards seem to get together. The food is excellent and it is always busy on Friday and Saturday nights, as they have live entertainment, and people arrive from the mainland for the weekend. The island is only about five miles, by two miles, however it has a wonderful community. There is a great grocery with fantastic butcher, Tues and Friday a fresh market, library with free internet, and even a mini cinema open two nights a week. We were fortunate and met lots of locals, some fascinating characters either living on their boats or ashore. Our neighbour at anchor John helped us set up our new wifi aerial/router system, he left a top job at wall street at 35 to go sailing over 20 years ago and has never looked back.
The weather has been perfect since we have been in the Virgin Islands. For approximately 99% of the time we have had warm, sunny days with the temperature averaging 28-30 degrees with not too much humidity. There have been a few fronts to keep us on our toes, the worst being Bertha when we hid ourselves and Ta-b in the mangroves in Culebra. We hardly moved or felt the wind, although it felt like we were being pressure washed all through the day on and off. Some of our friends stayed out at the anchorage where we had been. They told us they clocked 76 knots of wind at one stage, with one of them being nearly knocked over and another nearly taking flight. It was our first time in the mangroves and it was an interesting and somewhat exciting experience - apart from a major thunderstorm. However, it is an event we hope we never go through again.
We popped back to St. Thomas for a day to get our (new) water maker pump fixed under warrenty and to pick up some parts. Reefco were fantastic and had us sorted out within five hours and we now have masses of water. It did not help Russell's compressed vertibrae though and he was out of action for quite a few days with an painful back. When will we ever learn that we are getting older.... never I fear ☺
After a month we moved onto Viequez which is the largest of the Spanish Virgin islands. Many people consider the bays, coves and beaches the best of all the Virgin Island anchorages. They are totally untouched by developers as they have stayed off limits for most of the 20th century. The US Navy used both Viequez and Culebra for weapons training. The whole eastern half of Viequez has become a marine park, but sadly you can't go hiking inland as there are signs everywhere warning of unexploded bombs. There are no houses, however the beaches are supposed to have been cleaned up. We did not go ashore as there were also wild dogs; which kindof put us off, but the beautiful coves were certainly worth visiting. We did not see a boat or a house for over a week and with no other lights to be seen the stunning night skies and strong phosphorescence were a delight.
We spent our last night in a bay called Ferro where there were six boats at anchor without anyone on board. Two were in the mangroves, but sadly one had been broken into as it was open with no one around. With the recent front that had come through we could imagine the water damage inside, not a happy thought. We left the next day for Salinas as the winds were perfect and we had a fantastic fast sail across to the mainland.
Salinas was dead, nearly everything closed for the season. So we moved onto Ponce hoping to be able to get into the marina there for a few nights so we could go walkabout. We were lucky and got the last spot for a catamaran. It was cheaper for us to spend a week at dock then three nights, water was free and as the weather was forecast to be good we settled Ta-b alongside, hired a car and went off to explore the island. Ended up spending a couple of nights in an airbnb apartment in the old town of San Juan, perfect location and great place to be a tourist. We found a wonderful place for breakfast called Hacienda Isabel, they produce their own coffee and we agreed it is the best we have ever drunk. You can buy on line and we now have some on board. In the plaza by our apartment was one of the oldest restaurants in San Juan, Rosa de Triana. It was so fantastic that we went there two nights running for tapas, sangria and live flamingo dancing. We also visited the Rain Forest and stayed in an awesome boutique hotel at a wonderful low last minute price. Puerto Rico is very lush and a nature lovers paradise.
Just before we left Puerto Rico we cleaned our hull .... Again. With the very warm waters growth was a hassle and we wanted Ta-b to have a fast trip down south. We picked our weather window and had a quick, although bumpy two day sail down to Bonaire. The trip was 434 nm with a maximum squall of 42 knots, although the average was 15-25 knots for the trip. The wind was on our port beam, perfect except for the waves that were also on our port beam max 3 meters, but confussed and a pain. Russ has a recorded max sog (speed over ground) of 11.45 knots; which was probably when the squall hit - thankfully I was off watch ☺ What did surprise us was all the seaweed in the water, it was offshore for at least 300 miles and was not there 6 years ago when we sailed the same leg north. It will be interesting to learn about it, but it certainly stopped our fishing. We took a picture that even shows a can on what looks like a little island.
On the trip our freezer went on the blink. Can you imagine with a friend's cards I had bought out Costco and Sams and had filled the freezer and it looked like I was going to loose the lot. Made friends with a big power boat on our arrival in Bonaire and luckily they had room in their ..... walk in freezer .... for our stuff. Freezer now fixed, electrics, boats ... say no more $$$
Bonaire is one of our favorite islands. We are relieved to find It is not as hot as we remember, however there is a lot of wind at the moment which keeps the temperature down. The water is a couple of degrees cooler, perfect for cooling off and hopefully will keep our hull clean. We will be here for at least a month, if anyone is coming this way, before we head towards Curaco.
I have rambled on. Those following in our footsteps if you want any more information we would be happy to help you. Tips from one cruiser to the next is what makes our community. Take care everyone, keep safe and have fun.
07/29/2014, 18°18′10″ N
We are now anchored behind the huge reef of Dakity off the secluded Isla de Culebra, one of the Spanish Virgin Islands east of Puerto Rico. It is one of our favorite islands in the Caribbean, small, friendly, with such happy people, a truly beautiful island. The quaint and insular town of Dewey is a delight with some fun bars and restaurants to enjoy, we will stay here for a few more days for sure.
Luckily we now have no agenda to get down to Bonaire, so can slow down a bit more allowing us to enjoy the perfect weather and sailing conditions we have. There are lots of peaceful quiet anchorages with snorkling and diving to explore, we just hope that the weather stays kind to us for a few more weeks.
We stayed another week in the BVIs so that we could enjoy Norman Island, where we met locals at the William Tell floating bar and some fun cruisers. Headed back to Road Town as I got an ear infection, then a sinus infection which I am still battling four weeks later. Saw Doc twice in Tortolla and an ENT guy in St. Thomas on our way west, way too many drugs but no choice. However I am slowly getting better. Worst part is the no swimming, it has been TORTURE.
We had a wonderful sail up to Anegada, an island made up of coral and limestone which at its highest point is only 28 feet above sea level. It is north of Virgin Gorda only 11 miles long with mile after mile of sandy beaches. It is totally unspoilt, quiet and we met some wonderful people there. One day we watched the men's Wimbledon finals with one other guy at Neptune's Treasure (great place for pain killers) and ended up going to Loblolly Bay and had the most amazing conch curry at a locals beach bar. A family reunion was about to take place of all the Vanderpools, our new friend being one from New York. He had some amazing tales, one was how his great grandmother was shipwreaked on her way from England and ended up marrying into one of the eight families on the island. She had seven children, but one old lady had just died who had twenty eight children - I suppose the lack of night life had something to do with it ☺
From Anegada we sailed to Cane Garden Bay on the west coast of Tortola. Great place to party and picture postcard material. Then a quick hop over to Jost Van Dyke the most western island in the BVIs and where it is easy to check out. Foxys is still there and has even more memorabella everywhere, but we did not see Sir Foxy this visit. He is quite famous and talented with a wicked sense of humour. We love Jost Van Dyke, although large it has a small permenant population and there are some great anchorages, one where we stayed White Bay has the famous Soggy Dollar bar. So called because you swim ashore and pay, what used to be a dollar, for a drink and they had an area that they used to dry out the wet bills. At the east side they have another beach bar where you make your own drinks and pay on an honesty system, our kind of bar, a locals place.
Then it was off to St. John where we checked in at Cruz Bay, which is charming, before heading to Caneel Bay. Two thirds of this fabulous island is under the auspices of the National Park Service, maintaining its pristine appearance. We would highly recommend the island for a visit, whether on land or water, there are so many wonderful things to do. There are only two big resorts, but most people just rent a villa and do day trips. Your boat is only allowed 30 overnight stays in the marine park; which covers most of the coastline, so most charter boats are unable to tour this magical island.
Caneel Bay Resort is built on the site of an 18th century sugar plantation, it is a lovely place to walk around, with little cottages dotted throughout the three bays it covers. From there we went to Francis Bay and onto Leinster Bay, some great hiking at both places. Coral Bay is still as quirky as we remember, wonderful eccentric and dedicated cruising sorts - such characters, just love some of the people we meet on our travels. We ended up spending quite a few days in Otter Creek in the area called the Hurricane Hole, there was no one around us for miles it was bliss. We did not find out until later that you are no longer supposed to stay there overnight unless there is a hurricane situation - oh well.
We had the southern part of St. John's almost to ourselves as well and visited Saltpond Bay, Great and Little Lameshur Bays before we left for St. Thomas and the big smoke. There is a fantastic fishing shop that we wanted to visit in Red Hook, so we popped in there and I managed to get a decent hair cut at the same time. It's now very short, but it will grew and it looks a ton better even with the grey seriously beginning to show. Pisses me off that Russell still only has a sprinkling of grey on his head. Red Hook is not a good anchorage, so we went over to St. James Island around the corner (great spot) before we headed into Charlotte Amalie, the capital so I could see the Doc. Not a great place, lots of tourist shops, but they are all duty free and we ended up picking up a couple of excellent buys.
Honeymoon Bay, on Water Island a mile away, was a great place to spend our last night. Terrific band ashore and lots of people partying as it was a Saturday night. We were amazed at how many permanent liveaboards there were, although it is certainly an area where there is lots of work to be found.
The sailing between islands has been terrific. It only took us four hours to sail to Culebra with just the genie out, we were feeling lazy and could not be bothered to set up big red. Our next big sail will be down to Bonaire about 360 miles from Puerto Rico. It should be fast with a great beam reach, we are looking forward to it. I will update the blog again on our arrival. In the meantime, enjoy your summer (or winter) months, be healthy, happy and have tons of fun.