Las Aves to Bonaire
13 February 2008 | Bonaire
We had a six hour run to Bonaire in front of us today. Hideko's cousin Em was flying into Bonaire to meet us so we wanted to get there at a reasonable time. As wonderful as the Los Roques were I was completely taken by the Las Aves. Perhaps it was the simple fact that there are fewer people there. I always love the remote places that you can only really get to with a boat. I could easily spend a month here.
Hideko and I went for a short snorkel to look for Lobster but there were not any reefs close enough to the boat to go hunting in. The water is amazingly clear though and we were greeted by a turtle early in the morning and many fish swim about over the white sand bottom. At 79 degrees, the water in this neck of the woods is a bit chilly for us. Thin skin, I know, but we always like at least 80 and like 85 even better. It was refreshing regardless.
We left the anchorage at 10:30 Curacas time, which is a half hour in between AST and EST. The forecast was for big wind and seas even relative to the usual. Nothing dangerous of course but certainly a day where Hideko and I would have stayed put if we weren't meeting family on the next island. We also wanted to make sure that Mom and Pops got to see as much as possible on their trip to the southern Caribbean.
The wind was over 20 knots true all day but we were heading down wind so it was nice on the boat. We sailed along at 9-10 most of the day. It was the first day where I had to keep an eye on the waves coming from behind. Some were up to the bimini but fortunately they were not too steep. We were running off at a nice angle and generally stayed under 12 knots coming down the waves, with a few 15s in there once in a while.
A stream of squally cumulus was running in a continuous line out toward Bonaire much like it had on our way to Los Roques. This was my second time witnessing this phenomenon but this time it was threatening to get me wet. We stayed high on track waiting for a break in the frequently rainy dark spots. When we could wait no longer we jibed, cutting across for the southern tip of Bonaire.
We almost made it. The wind kicked up and the rain came down just as soon as we got under the clouds. It was over quickly though and before long we were rounding the flat southern coast of Bonaire. As we began to turn up wind it became apparent that things were getting more exciting in the afternoon. The wind was in the high 20s. Fortunately the seas flattened out quickly as we came in behind the island. We put in reef two with our wonderful new reefing setup as the wind climbed over 30. We rolled the jib in until just a scrap was left. Then I started to see 40s. Next gusts up to 50! Even our Margarita encrusted log was starting to spin. I was beginning to wonder how far this was going to go. It was just then that the Sea Princess decided to leave the dock.
Normally I try to stay well out of the way of anything approaching the size of a cruise ship. Even more so when I'm in conditions gusting to 50 knots. The problem was we had limited options with the sail trim, Hideko and I had things eased off so that the boat was only doing 10 something with a scrap of jib and a double reefed main. The Sea Princess also gave me no indication of where she was heading. She was turning, speeding up and always increasing our concern. I hailed her on 16 twice but received no reply. My only real goal was to find out where she was going so that I could make sure to not be there. We fell off a bit heading for Klien Bonaire, the little island that makes the entire inner bend of Bonaire a fairly protected harbor, and the Sea Princess kept coming at us. Just before I had to take more action the big hotel trundled off on a southerly course. It sure would have been nice if they'd simply let us know what they were planning so we didn't have to guess at how to avoid them.
As we reached deeper into the bay the wind calmed to the high 20s. This felt like a gentle summer breeze by comparison.
We tried to get a slot at the Nautico Marina where we had told Em we would meet her but they were full up. Nautico is basically a small dock out in the ocean. They have a couple of Manta charter cats on the two ends so don't look there for space if you are a cat. In fact I wouldn't recommend it regardless. Our next shot was the Village Harbor Marina. In retrospect this is the only real marina in Bonaire for non local yachts. They close up promptly though and we had no reply from them.
All of Bonaire is a no anchor zone so we went for the final option which was picking up a park mooring. In the end this would turn out to be our favorite place to be while in Bonaire. A pleasant neighbor in a dinghy from the yacht Willow helped us tie up to the unique Bonaire twin loops.
It was 17:30 by the time we were secure and I had told Em that we would meet her around six. So we quickly cleaned up and put the dink in the water to deliver the shore party. Roq stayed aboard while Mom, Pops, Hideko and I went to find the bar at Nautico Marina where Em would hopefully be waiting.
When we got to Nautico we realized that it really was just a dock. There was no bar (I had just assumed that all marina's have a bar, right?!). Fortunately there was a restaurant across the street with a bar. It Rains Fish is a fantastic restaurant with a nice bar and the hostess informed us that our relative had been waiting for us but that she was gone presently. However, her luggage was in the bar. After some recon down by the Nautico dock we found Em and our mission, short of eating dinner at one of Bonaire's famous restaurants, was complete.
It Rains Fish was booked for the night but we had a tremendous meal at the Tapas place just down the waterfront. As I sat there enjoying the food and the company of family, watching the people walk by on the strand of the busy little town of Kralendyke, I marveled at the fact that just hours ago we were snorkeling in a private anchorage in the middle of no where. Cruising is fun.