Dominican Republic to Netherlands Antilles

June, 2008

From the gorgeous shores of the Dominican Republic, it’s time for the longer sail down through the Caribbean Sea to the Netherland Antilles.

A group of 5 islands in the Caribbean Sea, which previously constituted an autonomous part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, is named the Netherlands Antilles; although there are only 3 to where, we’re sailing: Bonaire, Curacao, and Aruba. These 3 islands hug north-western Venezuela.

Dominican Republic

Unfortunately, we have to rush through the best and less traversed areas just to be below the hurricane belt before the 1st of June (Official Hurricane season). This pace is not my idea of cruising at all and is a tad stressful.

Very sad to leave the Dominican Republic as it’s a country that would be great to hire a car in to explore inland further. Especially, as the boat is safe at this mooring with 24/7 security. As we spent three months in the U.S. buying Reality, sadly, this ate into our cruising time elsewhere.

Although the DR is so friendly and I felt very safe at all times, you can’t help but notice that every shop and house has bars and high fences. And, I did notice that several locals carried hand pistols tucked in the back of their jeans or under the front of their T-Shirts. Perhaps we didn’t experience the seedy side of the country, but at least our experience was excellent! Clearing Immigration in the DR was pretty painless and without event, which was a welcomed change from Cuba.
Boca Chica, Dominican Republic, Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles

The Sail

Boca Chica (DR): 18°26.680’N 69°37.467’W
Bonaire (Netherlands Antilles): 12°09.850’N 68°17.110’W

We left DR at 13:30hrs and sailed the 422NM in under 68 hours, so not a bad run considering that for over 6 hours, the wind decided to die down quite a lot. I became pretty queasy on and off on this sail, so didn’t do many position fixes…feel quite useless when I get seasick, but can’t be helped.

Arriving

Netherlands Antilles: Bonaire location map

Beautiful Bonaire

Arrived at the marina in Bonaire pretty tired.

After a couple of nights, we moved outside to a mooring as much cheaper at USD$10 per night compared to USD$44+power+water). This is also the first time we have to buy all of our water, which is charged at USD$0.15c per gallon, but at least the water is drinkable.

When checking into Bonaire by boat, you have to surrender all firearms to Customs, which includes spear and flare guns.

Dog tired from the sail and after 4 attempts to catch Customs, we gave up and returned to the boat. Trying again the next day, discovered we no longer had the spear and flare guns, and realised we left both on a bench the previous day. Of course neither were on the bench the following day. We had a bit of explaining to do to Customs as we already completed our form, which included these items; an expensive exercise. Not sure what good these items are to anyone on the island as they’re illegal…perhaps another yachtie found them and decided to keep both.

Bonaire

The island of Bonaire is part of the ABC (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao) chain and just below the hurricane belt, although Aruba suffered bad wind effects from a hurricane last year. A much smaller island named: Klein Bonaire is in spitting distance from the Bonaire island and good to anchor off for some exploring.

The wind always blows at around 20-plus Knots here and as the island is limestone, there’s a fine red dust that blows and settles over absolutely everything.

Spent almost 5 weeks in Bonaire as it isn’t such a bad place to work on the boat to finish a few jobs that we didn’t complete in the US.

Bonaire: gorgeous scenery

Bonaire blues

During our stay, I gained allot of weight due to the numerous parties, BBQ’s, dinners, and sundowners that yachties hold and to which everyone is invited. We probably had dozens of people on Reality for drinks. Bonaire is very much a party atmosphere, for yachties anyway and had an excellent time!

Met some really cool and very interesting people with boats from around the world. In only one day, I noticed flags from the US, Norway, UK, Canada, Australia (us), Holland, Germany, France, and Italy…everyone stops here on route to somewhere else. this is an easy place to chill out. Not to mention that the checking in and out of the island is free, and without any hassles whatsoever. The officials are super friendly and very easy going, which makes for a pleasant experience and introduction to the island.

Bonaire: anchorage Catalina 47'

Anchorage at Bonaire

Because of the good winds here, the island is famous for Kite and Wind Surfing, with world championships held here each year. The island is also extremely popular for diving. The water is so very clean and crystal clear that it seems you’re swimming in an aquarium and not at all in the sea…it’s the clearest I’ve found so far.

Bonaire: Kite surfing

Kite surfing

This is the only island out of the three that has voted to become under Holland’s jurisdiction. As a result, in the last year or so, loads of investors have poured in and there’s construction happening everywhere. The island is really moving ahead quite rapidly.

The island will also change its currency, which is from the Netherlands Antilles Guilders to Euros, in December this year (2008). I believe this probably means that the Euro will push prices up further and unfortunately, be even more expensive than it already is. I’m not sure how locals survive as groceries are not cheap. Of course being an island means that much is transported in to the island.

Bonaire: Pink Flamingo

Pink Flamingo

Around Bonaire

Apart from the drinking and constant boat jobs, we manage to do a little site seeing around the island.

Going halves with other yachties in hiring a car for a day, this is enough to do a quick drive around this small pretty island. Some of the sights on offer here include the Salt works, slave huts, pink Flamingos, and general drives around the island. Bonaire is not a big island so half a day is ample.

Leaving Bonaire

After spending about 5 weeks in Bonaire, decided that the next sail is to Venezuela, which is a short and sweet sail – I’m hoping!

Visit Nilla’s Photography for more images. More posts on the Caribbean at Image Earth Travel.

Bonaire: salt mines slave huts

Slave huts at salt mines

Bonaire: salt mines

Arid Salt mine

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