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.
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 (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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!