Caribbean Sailing: 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 (Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, Sint Eustatius, and Sint Maarten) previously constituted an autonomous part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

This group of islands is now named the Netherlands Antilles.

Today, we are only sailing to the part of the group known as the ABC’s: Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao. Confused? These 3 islands hug the north-western part of Venezuela’s coastline, which is the next country on the map after the ABC’s.

Dominican Republic

Unfortunately, we have to rush through the best and less traversed areas of this beautiful country, 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 I would like to hire a car in to explore further. Especially, as the boat is safe at this mooring with 24/7 security. This is one downside of visiting a country in a boat, you need a safe anchorage before you can explore inland.

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 is adorned with steel bars and very 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 any issues, 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

Leaving the DR at 13:30hrs and sailing the 422NM in under 68 hours, it’s not a bad run considering that for over 6 hours, the wind decided to die down to nothingness.

I am pretty queasy on and off on this sail, so don’t contribute to many position fixes -feel quite useless when I get seasick, but the sickness can’t be helped.

Arriving in Bonaire

Netherlands Antilles: Bonaire location map
Beautiful Bonaire

Finally reaching the marina in Bonaire very tired, we can relax.

After a couple of nights, we move Reality outside of the marina and to a mooring as it’s 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.

Loosing our gear

Dog tired from the sail and after 4 attempts to catch Customs, we give up and return to the boat.

Trying again the following day, discover that we no longer have our spear and flare guns, and realise that we left both on a bench the previous day.

Of course neither are on the bench today when we return – damn. So, now have quite 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 in and 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 hosted dozens of people on Reality for drinks.

Bonaire is very much a party atmosphere for yachties anyway and you can have an excellent time.

Met some really cool and very interesting people with boats from around the world.

In only one day, I notice flags from the US, Norway, UK, Canada, Australia (us), Holland, Germany, France, and Italy.

Everyone stops here on route to somewhere else as 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 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’s currency will also change 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 is already. I’m not sure how locals survive as groceries are not cheap and of course, as it’s an island this 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: salt mines slave huts
Slave huts at salt mines

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
Arid Salt mine

15 thoughts on “Caribbean Sailing: Dominican Republic to Netherlands Antilles

Add yours

  1. I have been living on the North Coast of Dominican Republic for the last two years. About 8 months ago I came to unintentionally own a puppy, who I have grown quite attached to. I would ilke to move to BonAire this spring, and am trying to figure out how to get there with my beloved Maverick. I’m having a hard time finding out how to do that simply by browsing the internet. Was wondering if you might have some thoughts/advice on the subject, as I saw above that you have already made this trip by boat, and with your dog!! Do you happen to know anyone for personal hire? or know of any public forms of boat transport that would accept my dog on board? my email, if you would like/are able to respond there is: gypsyrootsyoga@gmail.com thank you so much for your time and consideration. Kindest regards, Jennifer

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jennifer,

      Many thanks for your comment although, I didn’t have a dog when sailing from the US to Venezuela via Cuba, Haiti, DR, Bonaire, Curacao, so maybe you have me confused with someone else? The only dogs I met along the way were Customs sniffer dogs.

      I’d love to offer some advice or help you with this but not sure where to start as have never travelled with a dog. I hope you have some luck with your question and maybe leave a solution here in case other people are experiencing the same problem. 🙂

      Like

    1. Think it’s 60 or slightly more, but I’ve been travelling for many years on and off, so don’t whizz through but take my time to explore. 😉
      Would love to spend more time in Poland and The Baltic States again, Venezuela would be another country but I hear it is dire there now, with inflation at around 740% and starvation on the rise.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Still too much of the world to explore Gill. Aruba is the more popular island and where most cruise ships land.
      Building my photographic website (intermittently), which I’ve included a clickable world map to country galleries for my portfolio. I had to add the co-ordinates for each country, which took a while as I didn’t realise I’ve been to about 60 countries! I have loads of travel journals in storage, which one day, I might get around to uploading to this site. 😉 x

      Like

    1. Yes, it was an amazing experience Julz but also challenging and a beautiful part of the world. I still have many hardcopy journals that one day I will try and convert to this blog site.

      You may like to read the other 5 sailing posts in my Caribbean destination.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Louise, sorry for the confusion!

      I wrote 6 sailing posts in Word back in 2008 but only posted blogs on this site in 2015. I’m currently updating the format in my posts, editing connecting links, and adding more photos as I’m building a new photography site, which connects to this blog site. So, I’m re-blogging at the same time and have one more sailing post to re-blog on Sunday.
      Sailing and living on a boat is another world and not too dissimilar to motorhoming with one distinct difference…a motorhome can’t sink!
      Thanks for taking the time to comment and appreciate your eye for detail. Cheers, Nilla 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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