Netherlands Antilles: Sailing Bonaire to Curaçao

A gentle sail along the blue-green crystal waters of the southern Caribbean, from picturesque Bonaire to cosmopolitan Curaçao in the Netherlands Antilles…

A little background

Buying a boat in the US isn’t easy. Dreams aren’t always easy.

Taking 3 months to finalise the boat’s sale in 2008 then trucking Reality (Catalina 470) to Miami for a fit-out before sailing to Florida, Cuba, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic, it’s necessary to continue to sail below the hurricane belt before hurricane season.

Pushing due south through the Caribbean Sea to safely stop below the hurricane belt in the Netherlands Antilles then Venezuela, it’s a leisurely sail to Curaçao.

The Netherlands Antilles

Founded between 1493 and 1499, the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao) also known as the Leeward Islands and the Lesser Antilles, form part of the Netherlands Antilles group of six islands.

The other three islands are the Windward Islands comprising Saint Martin, Sint Eustatius, and Saba.


Today’s sail

Bonaire: 12°09.850’N, 68°17.110’W

Klein Curaçao: 11.9913°N, 68.6425°W

Curaçao: 12.1696°N, 68.9900°W


Bonaire

Bonaire, Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles, CaribbeanA final farewell to Bonaire and wonderful yachting friends we’ve met over the past few weeks, before today’s short day sail.

Bonaire is a popular destination for cruising boats from America as is the rest of the Caribbean.

Heading out under the morning’s warming sun and light sea breezes for the 26NM sail to Klein Curaçao sees a pleasant passage under full sail – no need for the motor today.


Klein Curaçao

Klein Curaçao (or Little Curaçao) is only a 1.7-kilometre uninhabited flat sliver, slicing through the southern Caribbean Sea that from the air almost resembles a teardrop.

Great aerial view from dronepicr (WikiCommons) gives you a better perspective.

Klein Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles, southern Caribbean
Photo credit: dronepicr (WikiCommons)

Nearing the island’s flatness, the solitary lighthouse protrudes as a constant reminder of time.

lighthouse, Klein Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles, southern Caribbean
Several thatched huts housing the occasional fisherman dot one end of the island, which is renown for diving underwater caves and beautiful coral.

fishing huts, Klein Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles, southern Caribbean
The decrepit lighthouse tower stands at 22 metres and solar-powered although no longer in use as a newer one was built in the island’s interior.

lighthouse, Klein Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles, southern Caribbean

The mining of phosphate on the island for export to Europe during the late 1800s resulted in the island’s level dropping and the plummet of seabirds. Reforestation is currently in progress although I can’t see many signs yet of new growth.

lighthouse, Klein Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles, southern Caribbean
With Reality peacefully at anchor, we’re free to explore as have the island to ourselves today.

Klein Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles, southern Caribbean
The battered lighthouse has succumbed to graffiti and the harsh salty environment. Although a hurricane doesn’t travel this far south, the fury of its wake is felt on the island.

lighthouse, Klein Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles, southern Caribbean

Barren vistas from a desolate relic…

lighthouse, Klein Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles, southern Caribbean

…although an escape is never too far away.

lighthouse, Klein Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles, southern Caribbean

As with many Caribbean islands, Klein Curaçao’s dark history involves the Dutch West India Company transporting many slaves from Africa to Curaçao via Klein Curaçao.

Slaves and passengers that didn’t survive the journey are buried on the island. Sick slaves were quarantined until well enough to continue to Curaçao.

Slave huts still remain on the neighbouring island of Bonaire as a constant reminder of the Caribbean’s ugly history.

lighthouse, Klein Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles, southern Caribbean

Wander around the island and it’s not long before you discover that not only the crumbling lighthouse surrendered to storms.

shipwrecks, Klein Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles, southern Caribbean

The shipwrecked Maria Bianca Guidesman tanker is a great reminder of nature’s violent wrath.

Maria Bianca Guidesman shipwreck, Klein Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles, southern Caribbean
Time and the island witnessed five vessels yielding to savage storms over the decades…

shipwreck, Klein Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles, southern Caribbean
Photo credit: Colin Palmer

…as does the aged bleached driftwood and plastic washed up, rendering dishevelled patterns along the island’s shores.

lighthouse, Klein Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles, southern Caribbean

Time to catch the afternoon sea breezes and sail onwards for the next 10NM to Curaçao as the wind is picking up…


Curaçao

Arriving in sheltered Spaanse Water (Spanish Water) Bay, it’s a try of several times to anchor as the long slippery grassy seaweed causes the anchor to shift and Reality to drag.

It can be tricky finding a secure spot to anchor in this large unusually-shaped natural lagoon although, with Reality safely anchored in a firm muddy spot, it’s time to relax and partake in the traditional sundowner.

Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles, southern Caribbean

Curaçao liqueur

Some of you may have heard of or tried the smooth blue-coloured liqueur that goes by the same name of Curaçao and usually mixed in cocktails?

The Curacao Liqueur Distillery at Landhuis Chobolobo still produces this deep blue liqueur that is flavoured with the dried peel of the Laraha (citrus) fruit grown on the island of Curaçao. Senior & Co – the company that owns the distillery – still uses a copper kettle that’s 120-years old for the distilling process.

Why not take a tour through the distillery on your visit to Curaçao and whilst there, learn how to make a cocktail or two or indulge in a bottle?

Willemstad

Catching the government-run (Convooi) bus into Curaçao’s capital Willemstad, which is around 11 kilometres from Spanish Waters as it’s time to stretch the legs and explore a little of this colourful city.

Willemstad’s natural harbour made the city an ideal lucrative trading port in the southern Caribbean.

Willemstad, Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles, southern Caribbean

Around 12 kilometres north of the city, the Curaçao International Airport services the island and the surrounding ABC islands.

Curaçao is home to over 700 UNESCO-listed buildings in Willemstad, which are restored or internally renovated to their former glory.

Willemstad, Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles, southern Caribbean

The dust-blue-coloured Otrobanda Hotel and Casino blends in with Willemstad’s first colonial settlement: Punda. Punda is a World Heritage site although originally, this quarter was a settlement hub for Dutch slave traders.

These days, many dazzling and preserved colonial buildings house art galleries, sidewalk cafés, and fancy fashion boutiques down its narrow cobblestoned alleyways.

Willemstad, Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles, southern Caribbean

Built during 1888, a close-up view of the opening pedestrian pontoon Queen Emma Bridge – also known as “The Swinging Old Lady” – stretches across St. Anna Bay.

Connecting Willemstad’s Punda and Otrobanda historical quarters, it’s a pleasant stroll across the bridge.

Willemstad, Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles, southern Caribbean

Because everything is quite expensive in Curaçao as the island operates on the Netherlands Antillean Guilder, boats arrive from Venezuela with cheaper fresh produce and products to sell to the locals.
Willemstad trading, Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles, southern Caribbean

More Venezuelan boats filled with South American goods…
Willemstad, Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles, southern Caribbean

Gorgeous friendly Caribbean faces are plentiful in Curaçao and not bothered about gracing my photo, whilst waiting for an ice-cream.

Willemstad local, Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles, southern Caribbean

But for now, it’s a bus back to Spanish Waters and Reality for a well-earned sundowner, and also to meet more cruising folk…

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

Curaçao, Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles, southern Caribbean

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33 thoughts on “Netherlands Antilles: Sailing Bonaire to Curaçao

Add yours

    1. Hi Dave, you’ve certainly travelled to some unusual places!
      Yes, totally agree that there are loads of cacti all over Bonaire but I don’t remember so many in Curaçao.
      I didn’t do any diving there only some snorkelling off the boat. Maybe it’s where I snorkelled but don’t think it’s as good as the Great Barrier Reef – I’m spoilt. 😉

      Liked by 2 people

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