Check out the photo gallery for updated photos of the work.
Flavit and his group showed up right at 8 am on Monday morning ready to get started. Some of the crew consists of: Blake, Flavit's brother, Jorge times two (one also Flavit's brother) and Orleng who can fit into any small space. Sanding on the hull sides and removing the teak decks are the first items to be started. Filling all the holes on the deck made by the one million screws, removing all the hardware, windlass, forward stay mount and filling more holes in the toerails. Removing all the hardware and stantions required work below deck. All the cabinets and closets had to be cleaned out to have access to the ceiling liners. The photos show why we are not staying on the boat right now. This process took about two weeks. Now prepping the deck for gelcoat has started. It is a messy process and we are glad to not have to be climbing in and out of the mess every day.
Please visit our new Photo Gallery We really enjoyed our few weeks in Aruba. The weather was fantastic. No rain, warm but breezy days and the evening temperatures were very comfortable. We used a light sheet to sleep almost every night. The island has changed since our last visit about 15 years ago, when Steve and I went to Aruba after a week in Bonaire. Of course, we fell in love with the island of Bonaire and had not returned to Aruba. In the photo gallery there is a picture of the hotel Steve and I stayed at all those 15 years ago. We returned to Curacao, minus our fish catching son, Michael. We will have to make some improvements in the fishing department. Michael is getting close to finishing his first semester of college and doing very well. He is now working at Smoothie King and actually earning a paycheck instead of swapping work time for clothes. Prom is approaching quickly and he is getting excited about attending his first public school dance. Our trip to the Curacao airport on Christmas Eve was an interesting adventure. We did not realize the entire island got off work around noon. The streets were packed with cars, all of them clogging the streets going somewhere. We did make it to the airport in plenty of time and had a nice flight back to Florida. The weather when we left Curacao was warm and somewhat rainy. Please visit our new Photo Gallery Please visit our new Photo Gallery Please visit our new Photo Gallery Please visit our new Photo Gallery Please visit our new Photo Gallery
We arrived in Santa Marta, Colombia ready for a full nights rest. We wanted to anchor outside the marina for the first day and night and proceed into the marina the next morning. Before we could find a spot to anchor, the marina contacted us on the VHF and asked if we wanted to come inside the breakwater to a slip. We conveyed to them we would like to anchor out for the first day. They told us we would have to arrange any anchoring with the Coast Guard. About this time, we did notice a small gray boat with several officials on board coming our direction. The marina spoke with them and informed us that we could not anchor anywhere in Santa Marta. If we wanted to anchor, we had to continue on a few miles south to another bay. Somewhat reluctantly, we got all of the fenders ready and headed into our slip. From the beginning, the staff at the marina were very helpful and will help out wherever they could.
Before we could get situated on the dock the agent that is required to clear customs and immigration was on the dock. We used the Romero Agency and dealt with Dino. He is handling all of the paperwork and importing the boat. We have since had a coffee with Dino. He is very eager to provide a good service for his clients. We will post more about this as we continue to Cartagena with hopefully, no problems. After all the formalities, we plugged in the power cords, turned on the ac and hit the sheets for several hours. I had several opportunities to sleep on the way over from Aruba but Steve really needed to catch up as he had been awake most of the trip. The rest of the first day we spent getting things put away and organized.
The first night in the slip, we awoke in the middle of the night to winds gusting down from the Sierra Nevadas. We checked the instruments and 6 knots was average but the gust came out of nowhere and were as high as 30 knots. We heard from our friends that were here in the winter that the gust were up to 60 knots. John, the dock master told us they had several broken dock fingers from these high gusts. The marina here is new and has been adding amenities even while we are here. The restrooms opened just before we arrived, the washing machines and dryers were up and running after we had been here two weeks and hot water in the showers may be here any day. There is a helipad also but I don't believe we will be needing to use it any time soon.
The beach is right next to the marina and on the weekends it is packed with locals. There are almost more street vendors than sunbathers. The vendors are selling everything from sunglasses to watches, fruit, drinks, food. The vendors are very pleasant and with a "no gracias" continue on their way. This is a nice change from some of the other places we have been. The vendor idea is seen all over the town with carts and umbrellas crowding both sides of the street.
So far in our stay here we have only come across approximately five people that speak English. John, the dock master, Maria in the marina office, one server in the mall, which we later found out only speaks English in relation to the food items on his menu, a tour guide named Claudia, and Dino the agent used for clearing in. This has been our biggest challenge here. I thought my four years of high school Spanish would have been more useful. But, I am finding that because it was never used in a real setting we are not able to communicate like I hoped. The people here are very patient and we do what we can with my Spanish, pointing and some writing. It took several tries to get a local sim card with time on it and we still have not figured out how to set up the voice mail because all prompts are in Spanish. We have managed to get to and from the places we wanted to go. In just a few weeks there has been some improvement. I am starting to learn what I want to say but it is still very difficult to understand the answers we get from the locals because it may be too fast or a word I have never heard. Even going to the movie was a challenge until we figured out how to be sure we were seeing a movie in English or at least with English sub titles. We were told the dock hands at the marina are having English classes and at a local restaurant. They had a short conversation with us in English and we tried Spanish.
We took our first taxi ride to one of the two local malls. Horn blowing is continuous and driving looks like some kind of crazy dance where the car in front leads. There are two lanes on most of the roads we have been on and cars, bikes coming the right way and the wrong way, horse and donkey driven carts and many motorcycles compete to be in the front. It seems like the object of the game is to be the car in the lead, never use your breaks and see how close you can come to other traffic without actually hitting anything. When you step from the curb, you better be sure you can make it to the other side because the same rules apply to adult, children and animals. The two malls are very nice. One called Buena Vista and the other Oceans. They both have movie theaters in them and a food court. We have seen a movie or two in English with Spanish subtitles. One of the malls has a haircut shop for children (photo in gallery). The shop is brightly colored and each child has a large tv's with movies and cartoons in front of their station. The children sit in little race cars for their haircut. We have the pedodontist and pediatric health care in the states. I can't believe we don't have one of these somewhere for those willing to pay a little extra for the "experience" of having you child's hair cut.
The food here has been great and at a reasonable price. We have eaten at several restaurants and in the food court. The portions even for lunch are all very large and we can sometimes eat several meals off of one order. Fruit drinks seem to be very popular and we have found several we like. Cherry lemonade is one of them. Frozen strawberries and raspberries are found in huge frozen carts at the grocery store. There are several grocery stores, two in town and one at each mall. I am sure there are more but these are the ones we have found so far. We also heard of a large membership store across from the mall called Makro we hope to check out. At the Exito grocery store we had a slice of tres leches dessert. This is translated three milk and is a cake that is very moist, sweet and very good. A cream is poured on top and runs down into the cake. There are several of these type sauce that can be added to fruit on the fruit bar. I read before we came to Colombia that the people here have a sweet tooth and I tend to agree.
We took and inland trip to Tyronaka with Claudia, a bilingual tourist guide. Cell number (57) 311 546-4727 and email firstname.lastname@example.org. She also works with the cruise ship that arrives on Sunday at this time of the year. The price of the tour was not inexpensive but fair. She provided a very nice, organized and private trip for us with a taxi driver named Louis for the day. (see photo gallery) We left Santa Marta and headed out of town. We went through a toll booth and passed several armed police and military check points, The drive was about an hour and a half to an unmarked turn off in the road. We drove through a small village that seemed to be more pool tables than homes and arrived at a river. We took a boat up the river to the facility. Amazingly, there were not any mosquitoes or other biting bugs. We had a tour of the small museum that contained arrows, artifacts, pictures, jewelry and some pottery. Afterward, we looked in the huts that were built on round plateaus with stones to line the edges. The husband and wife entered through different doors. The husband through the front and the wife in the back. There was a place for a fire right in the middle and a hammock to one side. Guess who this was for. Right, the husband. The wife slept on a mat on the floor next to the hammock. The guide told us this was because the woman was to sleep closest to terra or the earth for fertility reasons. We were fortunate enough to see two poisonous dart frogs. I asked it this was a regular occurrence and we were told no. They found the frogs the day before on another tour and they were still there when we arrived but they have not seen them before. We finished the tour by spending a few minutes with a pet raccoon. Tim got to go inside the cage and the raccoon climbed all over him. It was more like a dog than a raccoon. It loved attention and did not want us to leave. We had lunch and then dipped our feet in the river. We were encouraged to go for a swim but our legs were numb from the knees down where we were wading so we decided against a full body dip. We were introduced to a little girl that looked to be about 6 years old that lived in the area. She was a full blood Kogui Indian. She was very pretty and had very distinct features. We made our return trip down the Buritaca River. We passed an area on the bank of the river that had some of these round huts we had seen on the tour right at the rivers edge. Claudia told us this was the film site of a movie that was being made. There were also a handful of children on the opposite bank enjoying the water. They gave a a eager wave as we passed.
Our next excursion was not as pleasant. We took a taxi with some friends we made in the marina, on sailing vessel Taz, to the small fishing village to the north of Santa Marta called Taganga. We read on line that this was the place to snorkel. Snorkel gear in hand we arrived and were immediately asked if we wanted a boat ride to the "best" place to snorkel. I had read this was the place to snorkel so after some negotiations and a nice lunch in town we headed off for a 15 minute or so ride to the location. The water was cold as we started our snorkel. The bottom in this area is seaweed. Very little coral or sponge growth. There were a few fish, mostly juveniles hiding in the weed. We returned to the shore and some of the group played paddle ball. Here there were some annoying little yellow bees. We thought at first they did not sting but later found out they can. We headed back to the town and had a time of renegotiating of the price. Initially, we were told that if we were not happy with the fish we would not have to pay anything. Luckily, the crew aboard Taz is fluent in Spanish so they were able to reduce the price some. This tour I would not recommend at all.
Our next excursion was to Minca and San Lorenzo. Our friends on Taz also wanted to go to Minca so we planned a trip together. We went to the tourism office and got all of the information we could. Actually, Tamara got all the information and translated it for us. We did not want to end up with another expensive tour of nothing like the one we had in Taganga. We had to pay some park fees before we left town. You do this by going to the bank and depositing the money in an account. The next day we took two taxis up to Minca. We heard from our friends that were here in December that it is cooler in Minca than Santa Marta. Today it was warm and humid. We found a hostel up the hill from town to stay in for the night. We went back to town and got a few supplies and had hand made pasta for lunch at Sierra Sound. Steve and I were a little nervous about the hike up the mountain after all, we have not had real shoes on our feet in over a year. It is around 15 miles up and we did not know how straight up the hike would be to San Lorenzo Research Center. We inquired about alternative ways up the mountain. You could be the passenger on the back of a motorcycle. Thank goodness we did not pick that way. After seeing the dirt, gully washed road, I am sure we would have been bounced off at some point on the way up, maybe more than once. We chose to go up the mountain the next morning in the back Willys jeep. We returned to our cabin, had a pizza delivered and got ready for bed. Tim had a prize in his bed. He started to put his head on his pillow and he saw a few very large black ants. He killed them and then the search was on. Out came more and more. He thew the pillow on the floor and the entire nest came out all carrying eggs in their mouth. We finally got all the ants killed and went to bed. We were told it usually rains around noon here and rarely at night. About 10 pm the bottom fell out and the rains let loose. The power went off so no lights and no fan. Tim was obviously a little jumpy about bugs in his bed from the ant experience. Not long after the power went out he sprang out of the bed with his i pod for a light and said a giant scorpion was trying to kill him. There was a pretty big scorpion heading out under the crack in the door. During the night we were awakened by a loud noise that sounded like a gun shot. The next morning we discovered the repeated noise was a mangoes falling out of the trees onto the roof when the wind would blow. The hostel had a great view, a swimming pool, ping pong table and 4 baby kittens to play with.
We headed up the mountain the next morning. The ride was bumpy but nice with great views. It took about 3-4 hours. As we headed up the mountain we could feel the temperature changing. When we arrived at San Lorenzo we checked out our cabin and headed out for a hike to a waterfall. We returned to the cabin and played some games. The challenge was staring a fire. Zsolte worked hard to get a fire going but all of the wood was wet from the recent rain and only a small fire would stay lit. Any warmth was welcomed. At night it was very cold and we all slept with our faces under the blankets. The wind was howling through the trees all night. We were planning on going up the mountain further in the morning to the Ciero Kennedy then hike back down to Minca. We were told the hike up took two hours. We were all up very early but the North Star group decided to not make the trip to Ciero Kennedy, where you can see the snow capped mountains. It was dark, cold and we were afraid if we went to the top and all the way back down we would not make it to Minca in daylight. The crew from Taz headed up and were back in no time. They took some photos of the snow covered Sierra Nevadas. I will try to get a copy before we leave. As we packed up and headed down the mountain a large open party bus arrive at the research center with about 30-40 older teenagers inside. We planned our timing just right. The trip down was scenic. It did rain for about an hour. We were passed by a small herd of Brahman cattle. We got way off of the dirt road for them. There are only a few houses and one or two very small stores the size of a broom closet with mostly drinks, small candies and a few necessities like flour and toilet paper on the way down. There were a few four wheel drive vehicles going up and several motorcycles. We were most of the way down when Taz put their teenager, Amaury, on a motorcycle to the bottom because his legs had given out. Not long after that we were asked if we wanted a ride to Minca or Santa Marta in the back of a big 4 wheel drive truck that had the remnants of corn in the back of it. We paid the reasonable fair and went back to Santa Marta. Taz stayed one more night in Minca.
When we arrived back at North Star, got some take out, a shower and slept great.
Blisters, bruised toenails and we all had a great time.
Returning this time as a cruiser was very different. In order to clear customs and immigration, we were told, you have to bring the boat to Barcaddera or possibly Orenjastad. The port authority told us we needed to clear at Barcaddera. We tied up at the black tire lined commercial dock. We heard that sometimes the dock can be full of small fishing boats and very crowed but today there was a spot for North Star. After about an hour of paper work we motored up to the anchorage. After several attempts to get the anchor to hold we found a spot on the sandy bottom and anchored just north of the airport runway not far from the beach. The landing pattern for incoming planes was almost straight over our mast.
We were a short, but potentially wet dinghy ride from the main town and the marina. The Renaissance Hotel has what seems like a constant line of ferries that bring hotel guests from the mainland to an island just across from the airport. These ferries met each other coming and going with loads of people. This constant traffic kept our boat moving pretty regularly and could make for a wet situation with anything concerning the dinghy. There were never more than 3-4 boats anchored in this area with us.
The town was brightly colored, clean and the people very friendly. We noticed quickly that cars would stop on a dime to allow pedestrians to cross the street. Aruba has many restaurant from home: Wendy's, Taco Bell, Subway, Hooters, Hard Rock Cafe, McDonald's. Dunkin Doughnuts, Starbucks, Dominos. There may be more, but that is what I remember off the top of my head. And of course we tried a few of them. Right there by the marina were many restaurants, several hotels, casinos and a movie theater. There is also a movie in the hotel area. We tried both. Very nice and modern. There were at least two and sometimes three cruise ships in an any given day except Easter weekend when there were none.
The bus terminal was located at the end of town not far from the cruise ship docks. We utilized the public bus system several times for trips heading north on the island. The price to get anywhere you wanted to go was about 1.50 pp each way. We made several trips to the grocery stores and several trip to the beach and hotel area. There were three grocery stores a short bus ride from town. The newest looking one being Ling and Son. It was very nice and looked like a large grocery store from the states.
We rented a car for two days and drove around the island. The hotel area has grown since our last visit here. Only the beach side of the road had buildings on it then, but now both sides of the road were filled with hotels, shops and restaurants. While we had the car we dropped off our laundry at a mat not far from the grocery stores. What a bargain! We had a huge bag of laundry washed, dried and folded in the same day for 15 US. On our drive up to the north end of the island, we enjoyed the view of the beautiful beaches, the California Light House, and the rugged terrain on the windward side of the island. The natural bridge located on this side of the island was a rock formation between two protrusions of land that formed a bridge over the ocean. It was intact when we were here before but has since fallen into the ocean. The southern end of the island was much more industrial and reminded me of Curacao.
While driving on the windward side of the island we stopped at several rock formations, there are photos in the gallery of these boulders in the middle of nowhere. We also got a photo of the blue lizard called a Bloblo in papiamento, the local indian dialect. In Aruba this lizard is from a separate species from the other islands and has a brighter blue color.
We also saw a dead boa on the road in the park. We had to do a little research on this but this snake is not native to Aruba and has become a problem because of its eating habits. We read on one site there may be some kind of reward for dead or alive captures.
While we were at anchor the military ship, Ms. Rotterdam, from Holland came into port. From shore a twenty one gun salute announce their arrival and the crew were on deck in their white uniforms. They made a mock docking unassisted and then went back out of the port area and made the real docking with the assistance of a tug boat.
We waited for a good weather window to head to Columbia and made our plans. This time of year is good for this passage. The only problem is we were trying to get a few days with enough winds to sail. We picked a good few days and made the sail from Aruba to Santa Marta ,with only a few lulls in the wind, in about 36 hours with no problems.
We spent most of the time after we returned to Curacao sitting on the hard at Curacao Marine waiting for a quote, some work, or any sign of movement toward getting anything on our list completed. After five weeks of waiting and trying to arrange service we gave up and decided to move on toward Columbia. We did have a car most of the time and were able to see the island. We spent one day driving around the north end of the island and stopping at most of the beaches to have a look around. The water in this area is very beautiful and looks to be very clear. The beaches were very nice and have small cabanas set up for the locals or tourists to use. We stopped for a drink at a restaurant on the top of what I guess you could call a cliff. Some of the local boys were talking the young tourists into jumping off of the cliff and into the water below. This was quite entertaining and somehow it seemed easier for the girls to make the jump with their tops off instead of on. Not sure what difference that made but somehow courage was gathered with a bare top. On our way back toward Punda and Otrabanda still up in the northern end of the island the sides of the street were starting to crowd with people getting their spot to watch the horse parade for Carnival. This parade was not on the calendar of the major parades but must have been something the town put together. We headed back to town so we would not be caught when the road closed down. We did get to experience two of the Carnival Parades. One was the daytime parade. I thought this was amazing and the costumes were beautiful.(you can check the costumes out in the photos) The parade lasted at least 4 hours and we left so I am not sure how long it actually ran. I was amazed at the ages of the people that participated in the parade. The walk had to be 5 miles or more and these people were not just walking they were performing and dancing, some of them with full heads of gray hair. We also went to the night time parade. I believe it is the same parade with the same participants but at night. They have a huge puppet called a Rey Momo that they believe is the bad king. While the parade is going on a few streets up on the main street in Otrobanda, the puppet is lit on fire and the tradition is that all of the bad spirits for the year will be burned up. There are fireworks all around the Momo also so that is what the people watching the parade see in the distance. There was cheering and excitement when the fireworks started. The parade was running behind and it did not reach us in town until after 11:30 pm we did not stay for the entire parade because as I mentioned it was at least 4 hours long two days before and we did not see the end of that parade either.
We found a restaurant called Larry's that is located in an old Applebee's. Everything is exactly the same, except the menu. The ribs seems to be a favorite and the local live entertainment was very good. We also spent a fair amount of time enjoying the A/C in the McCafe not far from Curacao Marine. We also ate at Laldea, a Brazilian restaurant almost on the windward side of the island. There are a few photos of the restaurant in the photos section. They have a salad bar and the servers bring by skewers of 10-15 different kinds of meats and you pick if you would like some or not. It was very good to try different cuts of meat within a few minutes of each other and decide which ones you may like the best. It must be low season because we were one of only 3 tables of customers. It was very early on a Sunday so not sure if later in the evening a bigger crowd shows up. We found a great place called Seaside Restaurant located on the beach by some of the hotels. It is small and serves only a few items but they had pan grilled fish, fries, salad and beans and rice that seemed to be one of the best tasting and best bargains on the island, that we found anyway. The sunset view was great.
We heard that after Carnival the winds are blowing at their strongest here for about 40 days. Kite surfing, wind boarding and kite flying are all very popular during this time and we have seen kites in the air every day. We will wait for the winds to die down some to make the trip to Aruba. We may have waited too long because the trip from Curacao to Aruba was not as nice as we had hoped. We sailed at night and the wind died down to less than 7 knots. The seas were still a little confused and waves were coming from different directions. We had to motor sail most of the way. We Arrived in Aruba a few days ago. Tied up to the commercial dock in Barcadera, cleared customs and immigration and anchored within sight of Orenjastad, the main town. We are sitting right at the north end of the runway for the airport. The landing light are in the water just in front of us so we have had some beautiful views of planes over head. The flights don't seem to be to early in the morning or to late at night. We have made several trips to town to look around and today we took a bus to the resort area and to get a few groceries. The cost is $1.30 each US each way. It is not to far of a ride and most of the large buses have ac. We had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe here right across the street from where Steve and I came for vacation almost 15 years ago. We walked through the hotel for a stroll down memory lane. I will post some photos in the gallery of some of these places.
We landed in the chaos and confusion of Miami International with thousands of others arriving for the Christmas holiday. After stepping out of the airport, we had to immediately don whatever cold weather attire we could find and turn on heaters. Our wardrobe for the last year has been shorts, tank tops and flip flops. On a dressy day we may find ourselves in a pair of jeans and a shirt with a collar. My sister picked us up at the airport and we spent several days with my Mother, Sister and Niece in Ft Lauderdale. It was nice to be with them for Christmas.
On the first night back in Wesley Chapel the thermometer plunged to below freezing. We had the heater humming and electric blankets plugged in to warm the freezing sheets. A few weeks later we got the $300+ power bill. We enjoyed visiting family and friends while we have been home. We have been able to attend our local church, Idlewild Baptist Church, every Sunday and catch up with our church family.
The doctor appointments kept us busy for the first few weeks. We are glad to have everything checked out and have a clean bill of health for the next year or so.
I think Steve was ready to head back to North Star after a few weeks of being back in the fast paced lifestyle on land. The cold temperatures did not help. If it is below 60, outside activities are not going to happen.
The kids have been busy with friends and school. Michael started college classes a few weeks ago and is settling in to the routine. He also found a job at Hollister, a clothing store for young people. He has only worked a week or so but enjoys the job.
We will be heading back to North Star soon to start some boat projects and get the boat back in the water. We are looking forward to being on the move again and enjoying the cruising lifestyle.
With mixed feelings we left the beautiful island of Bonaire. We look forward to what lies ahead but will miss our friends and all that Bonaire has to offer.
We had an easy sail over to Curacao and anchored in Spaanse Water. From what we have been told the anchorage is empty compared to the number of boats that were waiting for weather to head west. The temperatures in the evening have started to cool off and sleeping has been very comfortable.
We have taken the public bus, that picks up passengers near the fishermans docks, to the brightly colored towns of Punda and Otrobanda. The towns offer great shopping and restaraunts. The two bridges right in town are very beautiful and unique. The Queen Emma Bridge is a floating pedestrian bridge, called the "Swinging Old Lady". As boats enter the commercial harbour the bridge swings open to allow boat to pass through. Pedestrians can stand on the bridge as it swings open. The next bridge is a fixed bridge called the Queen Juliana with a height of 200 feet. The two towns are filled with restored and brightly colored Dutch style buildings. There are movie theaters on both sides of the water. The movie on the Otrobanda side are very similar to the new style movies in the states with comparable prices as well.
Clearing in to customs and immigration took a entire day with the bus ride and all of the walking from place to place.
After a few days we moved North Star over to the commercial port to Curacao Marine. We passed through the Queen Emma and Queen Juliana Bridge and made our way through the oil coated waters to the haul out location.
The hydraulic lift went well and North Star is safely located out of the water on stands. We spent a few nights on the hard getting the boat ready for us to fly back to the states for Christmas and to get Michael ready for school.
The return home is another trip filled with mixed emotions. We look forward to spending time with family and friends but will miss our lifestyle back in the Caribbean. We will surely miss the weather because we hear it has been down into the low 20's in Tampa.
September in Bonaire is an interesting time. The winds die down and the rains pick up. We have passed the hot days either diving or enjoying a long meal in one the few restaurants with ac. Bonaire receives very little rain through out the year but this month is has rained every day. Sometimes for hours with lots of rainfall. We spent several nights up most of the night with heavy rain and winds coming from the opposite direction from normal. This situation can be dangerous because the boats are very close to shore and there is not much time to react if a line breaks or another boat were to come loose. One evening lightning from one of the storms hit the BOPEC oil tanks on the north end of the island. Efforts were made to put the fire out but in the end, it had to burn itself out. It took several days for the flames to stop. The rain that followed was dark and oily and stained the covers and awnings on the boat. We happened to be out for dinner that night and got it all over our clothes too. We heard the same thing happened in Curacao the same night.
In the beginning of the month, about 400 motorcycles arrive from Curacao, Aruba and The States for motorcycle week. The streets were filled with lines of motorcycles and people that had to have been roasting in their leathers. It was fun to watch but we were glad when the week was over. We were awakened many of the nights that week to the sound of a motorcycle engine revving or tires spinning on the road just in front of the boat.
This last week was the week of Regatta. Boats from Venezuela, Curacao and Aruba along with the local boats from Bonaire spent a week of racing around in the bay. We were told it is usually not windy for the regatta and the same was true this year. Most days there was enough wind to get around but it did not make for a fast sail. The Regatta included larger boat races, micor boat races, sunfish, prams and windsurfing competitions. On the last day of the Regatta the Netherland Antilles dissolved and Bonaire will join Statia and Saba to form the BES islands and have closer ties with Holland. On Saturday they closed the evening at midnight with fireworks from the town pier. This was also Steve's birthday.
It is now mid October and the winds have started to pick up. The evenings have been much nicer and the number of mosquitoes seems to have decreased. It has been boat project time and many hours have been dedicated to removing old varnish, sanding and applying several new coats on the teak trim. It's times like these when you realize just how much teak you have on your boat. Diving is still fantastic. We try to make sure we are in the water almost daily.
Many of our friends have moved on to Curacao from Bonaire. In the last few days, the moorings here have completely filled up with new boats. We have had the opportunity to make many new friends in the last few weeks. The local people here are some of the nicest we have met. Steve and the boys are still helping with the local church and progress with the construction has been good.
We have been in Bonaire for approximately two months. Since our arrival the days and especially the nights have been hot and getting hotter. The breeze during the day and the time we spend diving or swimming helps hold down the feeling of roasting on an open spit. The diving has been great and each dive we see something interesting. The lionfish have appeared on the reefs here in Bonaire. There is a movement to tag and remove as many of them as possible. The lionfish is native to the Pacific Ocean and has no natural predators here. This is a problem because the lionfish seems to have a very healthy appetite and can reproduce with some unbelievable numbers.
Steve and I passed the level three REEF fish id test a few weeks ago. The entire family took the level two test a few years ago when we were on vacation in Bonaire. Studying for the test really helps you to take a look at all the fish you are seeing and try to identify both the juvenile and adult stages. It definitely, makes the dive more interesting when you know what you are looking at. After the dive you can go online to REEF.org and enter the fish you identified on a survey. The REEF organization uses this information to monitor the fish in a particular area and any changes taking place.
Bonaire has a smaller cruising community than many of the other islands we have been to. Most are on a mooring ball outside of the main town of Kralendjik. Maybe twenty to thirty boats at a time have been here. We have made some new and interesting friends while we have been here. On my birthday, we met at the local dinghy dock and bar called Karel's and enjoyed happy hour. We had a beach party on Klein Bonaire, a uninhabited island just off the coast of Bonaire. We have had a few noodle parties behind sv Paradise. The photo gallery should explain the new sporting event called "noodling".
The boys have helped out a few more days with the construction of the new church. They also attended a day of school here on the island. The local language is Papiamento but school is conducted in Dutch. Many of the locals speak 3-4 languages very well. The boys did do well in English class but could not understand much in the other classes. Michael and Tim enjoyed the day and made some friends that they have been hanging out with that live on the island. Bonaire culture is very diversified but the people seem to mesh into a great melting pot. . This is part of the reason we have been coming here for so many years.
Tonight is Julia's last night here. She will leave for home early tomorrow morning. We all enjoyed her time here. We spent the week diving a new site on the island every day. We did dive the wreck of the Hilma Hooker and participated in one night dive at The Lake with Challenger and Bill from Bamboo. A small animal called an ostrocod mates right at dark 5 days after the full moon. What we saw in the water was a bioluminescence that looks like a million spiraling stars suspended in the darkness. This last for about 30 minutes. We have seen this one time before here in Bonaire. Some friends of ours, Bill and Prawpan, told us about it and took us to The Lake, which is a dive site that is secluded so the lights from land are minimal. We spent the last day with a rental car and drove to the north end of the island and up into the National Park, down the windward side of the island and then around the southern tip by the salt ponds to Lac Bay and Jibe City where the kids took a few hours to try wind surfing. They all got up fairly quickly thanks to some instruction from Daphne, a local we met through a common friend, that was nice enough to meet us there and show them how to get up on the board. I think they will want to try again but we'll see how sore they are tomorrow.
I forgot to mention in the last blog update we were here when Holland was in the World Cup Series for soccer. We watched the last two matches here with the locals. Some of the photos show the excitement going on in town surrounding the game and the bright orange colors being proudly displayed.
Hopefully, this post will get us back up to date. We have not has reliable Internet since we left Grenada and the posts have gotten so far behind it is difficult to catch up. We left Grenada with the intention of spending a few days in Los Roques and Islas de Aves, a group of islands off the coast of Venezuela. We planned to arrive mid day due to the shallow reef structure that surrounds these islands. We had very favorable winds and the sail from Grenada was at top speeds of 8-10.5 knots! This may have been because of the large pod of dolphins that were racing and jumping in our bow as we left Grenada. We hear this is good luck and means you will have a good sail. We decided to stop in Blanquilla for a break and to allow for our timing into Los Roques for a daylight arrival. Steve received an email while we were sailing and we needed to get to an area with some internet service. We decided to head on to Bonaire and see the remaining islands on our list at another time. Blanquilla was a low lying island and the anchorage was just in front of two palm trees that looked as though they were planted on the beach for a postcard photo. We were approached by several of the local fishing boats looking for cigarettes. Of course, all communication was in Spanish but the word cigarette was very clear. Freshly caught fish and lobster were offered for trade. Little did we know. Next time we will bring some cigarettes for a trade. We continued on our way to Bonaire after a good nights rest and dinner. The winds weren't as strong on this longer leg of the passage and the sail not as fast. Michael started fishing around Los Roques. He was not having any luck and made the statement, "I want to catch a mahi now!" Within 10 minutes he had a nice size mahi. After the mahi was on board, cleaned and put into the freezer Michael put his line back out and said, " I would like to catch a tuna now." Well, withing 15 minutes he had a tuna. Not sure if that will work again but ask and ye shall receive. There are photos in the gallery of both fish. It was almost dark when the tuna mess was cleaned up so he put the line in for the night. It took a few days and we could see Bonaire in the distance. We have been to Bonaire many times but always by plane so arriving on the windward side of the island and coming around the southern point gave us a new view of the island from the sea. Crystal clear, beautiful waters with a distinct line between the light blue and the dark blue. It took a few days to get North Star cleaned up after the passage and luckily we did have some rain to get all of the salt off the boat. We started diving within the first few days and have seen all kinds of great creatures. Frogfish, seahorses, eels, an octopus and even two lionfish that are not native to Bonaire. These are the fish that someone in Florida threw out of an ornamental fish tank and they are thriving in the waters all the way down the Caribbean. They have no natural predators so they are a problem in this region of the world. Here in Bonaire and so I hear in the Bahamas they have programs in place to try to capture as many as possible. The experts here say one lionfish can eat 40 small fish in a 30 minute time frame. The dive shops have markers you can place near the fish if you see one and a blog site where trained locals will make a dive to recover the fish. They seem to stay in one territory once they are established. I believe they arrive here by the eggs floating in the water not by swimming down the island chain. I had my first find yesterday and got to put a marker on Bari Reef. His photo will be in the gallery soon.
Challenger arrived within a week of us and Heat Wave was here when we got here. Heat Wave moved on to Curacao a few days later but Challenger will be here for awhile longer. We do not know any other boats here in Bonaire at the present time from a earlier meeting but it seems many boats return here every year for the hurricane season.
The boys just finished on Friday over 75 hours of community service at a local church. The International Bible Church here is the only church in English and they are constructing a new building not far from the anchorage. The boys spent three weeks painting, hauling block, cleaning up and laying tile. It was hard work and hot but they seemed to really enjoy the work and being a part of building something. We are attending the church while we are here in Bonaire and enjoy the people of this island very much. Michael, a man that has lived here for over 20 years and we have know for as long as we have been coming to Bonaire has been kind enough to drive us wherever we need, church and groceries etc. A lady from church named Lynne has also taken me grocery shopping on several occasions. It is great to shop with a woman here because she understands the need women have for going to 4 or 5 grocery stores to get all the essentials that men just think we don't need if we can't get in one place. The kids have made friends with some of the local kids, many are back home in Bonaire on summer break from college all over the world.
Steve and Michael are at the airport now picking up a friend of Michael's named Julia. She will be here for a little over a week. We are all looking forward to her being here.
We really enjoyed our few weeks in Aruba. The weather was fantastic. No rain, warm but breezy days and the evening temperatures were very comfortable. We used a light sheet to sleep almost every night. The island has changed since our last visit about 15 years ago, when Steve and I went to Aruba after a week in Bonaire. Of course, we fell in love with the island of Bonaire and had not returned to Aruba. In the photo gallery there is a picture of the hotel Steve and I stayed at all those 15 years ago.
We returned to Curacao, minus our fish catching son, Michael. We will have to make some improvements in the fishing department. Michael is getting close to finishing his first semester of college and doing very well. He is now working at Smoothie King and actually earning a paycheck instead of swapping work time for clothes. Prom is approaching quickly and he is getting excited about attending his first public school dance.
Our trip to the Curacao airport on Christmas Eve was an interesting adventure. We did not realize the entire island got off work around noon. The streets were packed with cars, all of them clogging the streets going somewhere. We did make it to the airport in plenty of time and had a nice flight back to Florida. The weather when we left Curacao was warm and somewhat rainy.
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