Touring Bonaire - the dusty desert with cactus and iguana!
We are very behind on our blog postings. This is from last month when we were in Bonaire (we are now in Curacao). We've just been so busy!
We stared out touring Bonaire by going north along the west coast with all the beautiful scenery along the coast. But, inland, the island is a desert with cactus, thorn bushes, and iguana (see photos)! And it never rains here except the rainy season, which is one month; November. Touring the island, and seeing the desert, we came to understand why we have had a thin coat of dust on our boat (inside and outside). Whenever we get out of the water and walk around the deck, it quickly becomes mud!
We drove a couple miles to the other side of the island and saw the wind farm, Indian encryptions in the caves, the blow holes, the cactus distillery where they make tequila (unfortunately, not open), the mangrove forest with flamingos (see photos), the wind-swept east coast with driftwood sculptures and petrified coral in the limestone (see photos), and the Willemstoren lighthouse. There is an excellent wind surfing beach in an area that is an average of ~3 feet deep protected by a reef. We had lunch at the Jibe City Hang Out Bar and watched all the wind surfers (>50 surfers at any time). There is also a kite surfing beach, where you can typically see ~20 kitesurfers at any time.
The most interesting part for us was the salt pans. The salt pans cover ~20% of the island with the huge condenser ponds, evaporator ponds, and the crystallizer areas in their varying shades of blue, green, and pink depending on their level of evaporation (see photos). There were lots of flamingos in the ponds (at a distance). The slaves and donkeys were originally used in the salt production and there were red, orange, white, and blue obelisks along the coast to let ships know where to anchor, depending on what grade salt they were purchasing. The slave huts and obelisks are still present (see photos). The salt ponds (owned by Cargill since the 1960s) are now solar powered and they use conveyors to load ships.
More later - Gail & Tony
Bonaire - An Underwater Wonder World! - Photo Under Our Dingy
We finally finished our diving course and we are certified certifiable PADI Open Water Divers! The scuba diving course is really scary! They make you flood your mask, take your mask off, take out your regulator, share a regulator, and do emergency ascents, all at 40-50 feet deep! But, now we are enjoying some relaxing diving/snorkeling with our Hookah (see photos). As it turns out, our boat was in one of the best diving and snorkeling areas. We could hear bubbles from divers several times a day. We went diving and snorkeling right off our boat and we saw just about every kind of Angel fish and Parrot fish along with turtles, barracuda, etc.! We also went by dingy with our friends Nancy and Ginny (both expert divers) over to Klein Bonaire one day, where the soft and hard coral are spectacular. Unfortunately, my underwater photography has a lot to be desired, but is getting a bit better (see photos). My favorite fish is still the Trunk Fish.
Bonaire is one of the best snorkeling and diving locations in the world! It is also one of the easiest as most dive sites are accessible right off the beach. Since the whole reef is a protected area, the fish are very friendly and used to divers. One French Angelfish swam right into me (see photos). We met a couple from Canada that were cruising around the world, stopped in Bonaire for a couple weeks, and they are still there four years later! It is no wonder!
Just before 6:00 am on Thursday February 28, 2013, we unwired (yes, we were actually hard wired into the dock) and left our beloved St. Lucia and headed west toward Bonaire. We had a great sail most of the way, mainly dead downwind with 12-20 knots wind and 6-8 foot seas. So we headed off the rum line slightly, making for a more comfortable sail for both us and Cetacea (see photos). That, along with lower winds and a transmission problem, put us behind our schedule to arrive Bonaire before dark. Just as we were approaching Bonaire, the wind picked up to 30+ knots, the seas were easily 10 foot, there were several tankers nearby, our charts did not match up and the lights on shore made it difficult to see. But, we did manage to get in and find a mooring ball and get secured by 9:30 pm (with help from Mary Stone, another Texan Tony met a few years ago). Cetacea behaved very well on the trip and the only casualty was my favorite knife (which Tony threw overboard along with the leftover vegies by mistake) but, we survived on a 2.5-day sail with Gail's cooking! Actually, we had a really good Hunan fish dinner one night - wonders never cease!
We have been in Bonaire for a week now and LOVE it! (see photos) Bonaire is a Dutch island, part of the Leeward Nederland Antilles, located 50 miles off the coast of Venezuela. It is 24 miles long and ~5 miles wide, with a population of ~14,000 people. It is a very quiet, peaceful, beautiful, laid back island. There are >470 fish species and >170 bird species in Bonaire, making it a natural gem!
We started a 5-day scuba diving course. It is one of the most intimidating things we've ever done, but one of the most rewarding! We have seen probably 50+ species of fish, dove to 40 feet, dove around a ship wreck and swam with a large hawksbill turtle. We only have 1 day to go but Tony got an ear infection, so we are taking a break. We have two new friends from California on the mooring next to us and we all started taking a fish identification course on Mondays. The water is crystal clear with visibility of up to 100 feet. This is truly a diver's heaven, considered the world's premier shore diving location, as you can access 53 of the 86 dive locations from the beach! The island is surrounded by a fringe reef located ~50 feet from the shoreline and is 20 - 100 feet deep. Anchoring is not allowed at all in Bonaire, but there are nice mooring balls in about 15 feet of water right off the beach. We have been snorkeling right off the boat and we often hear bubbles under our boat as the divers go by!
We have been to town, shopped around and, of course; Tony has found some great restaurants (Mona Lisa, Wil's Grill, Karel's, a Peruvian restaurant and Texmex place owned by a Texan)! Tony has also been working on the engine transmission (flushed it and will likely wait until we get to Curacao to fix it), the Panda generator (still misbehaving) and the hot water heater (fixed now). Gail has been emailing, washing, organizing, reading, planning tour activities and absolutely LOVING retirement!
More about Bonaire later . . .
P.S. For all of you that thought our boat was just a construction zone and would never be cleaned up again - we did manage to get all the "stuff" stowed properly so that you can actually sit down in our main salon now and you can actually see out the pilot house windows! (see photos)