Sail to Bonaire
05 February 2015
First thing Monday morning Michael went off to customs to check us out of the country. Ron and I made one last trip to Simply's grocery store and picked up some fresh cooked chickens. This was it we were pulling anchor and leaving St. Marten. The new dinghy was strapped onto the deck and at 10:20 the anchor was free and we were on our way. The winds were light so we had to motor sail. The first day auto helm did most of the work. With the engine running there is no fear of using too much battery power. Michael and Ron took on the first shifts. The plan was two hour shifts. My first shift was at 2am. Michael and Ron had seen a few ships but the odd thing was they showed up on radar but not on the AIS. Ron was asleep in the cockpit and within no time another ship was in the horizon and approaching our aft port side. It appeared that it was right on a course to hit us. I woke Ron up and asked him what he thought. We did a 100 degree change in course and so did the ship. Time now to wake Michael up. Yes, it was a cruise ship and let's turn back to our course direction. Well that did it they were now heading off in another direction. As it turns out, many of the cruise ship do big figure 8's out here just to pass the time before heading into their next port. It also appears that they are turning their AIS off......totally beyond us. That was enough to excitement for one night. At 7:45 we checked in with Denis to report our progress and get a weather update. Finally there was enough wind to sail. After our first 24 hours, we had logged 144 nautical miles with approximately 366 miles to go.
Day two at sea was spent fishing and shifts on the helm as we would run the radar and auto-helm at night and they both use a lot of battery power. The sailing was not fast but it was better then motoring sailing. No luck fishing today but there was always tomorrow. At 10:00pm on Ron's watch the auto-helm failed. Michael proceeded to crawl down into the engine hold to examine what the problem was. The last time it failed, it was a bolt that had come off and he was hoping that it was the bolt again which would have been an easy fix in daylight. No such luck, the bracket that was attached to the rudder stock broke and the only way to fix it is to have it welded. Now we would have to hand steer the rest of the trip. Thank god Ron was with us to help out. The rest of the night was uneventful....pick a star in front of you and steer. The 7:45 weather and progress report from Denis was that we should get more wind today. At the end of day two we had sailed another 135 nautical miles.
Day three and the fun begins. We have all settled into the routine of eating, sleeping, steering, fishing, reading, boat watching, sailing and day dreaming. The flying fish could be seen all around us so out the rod went again at about 4:00 we heard the zing of the rod....fish on in 4000 feet of water! Ron and Michael caught a mahi mahi which would make for a great dinner....after we arrived in Bonaire. There will be no cleaning and gutting of fish while under way. Into a large garbage bag it went and was put in the very back of the fridge. That was it for fishing until sunrise. The rest of night was uneventful. By sunrise the that rod was back out. Did the 7:45 checkin with Denis and had to relay with another boat to get a message to him. We would probably arrive within the next 24 hours. At 8:00am we sited land....but not the land we were headed for and at 9:00 we were greeted by a pod of dolphins. At 10:10am we heard the zing of the rod again.....fish on. This time is was a much larger mahi mahi and Ron landed it in about 10 minutes. Now another 24 hours later we had sailed 164 miles and had a fridge full of fish.
Day four and according to distance and course calculation we should arrive in less then 24 hours. The way the crow flys it was about 82.5 nautical miles to the mooring field in Bonaire. In order to sail as much as possible we have to tack for the final leg of the trip. Of course, shortly after we tacked the wind died. On went the motor and we furled in the jib and took down the main. We did however have a current pushing us along at about 7 knots and everyone knows our boat does not motor that fast. It was gong to be long day and it was clear that we would be arriving well into the night. As the mooring field is a difficult place to find we would keep going. By 2am we could see anchor lights from boats moored. With Michael on the helm and Ron and I on the starboard side of the boat with flashlights we searched for a mooring. The moorings here are not like any we have ever seen. They are small red and white floats and each mooring has two of them which you tie up to. Needless to say, they are not easy to find. By 3:30 we were moored and celebrated with a few cocktails and reminisced about the trip. The trip ended with another 105 nautical miles logged. The trip in total was 545 nautical miles and done in 89 hours.