The cruising adventures of Sid and Manuela

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Diving, landsailing and a surprise visit

I don’t know where to start, so many things have been going on, and I don’t think we’ve ever been so busy doing this and that in any place before. Let me give you a little history on Bonaire which is part of the Netherlands Antilles with its sister islands of Curacao and Aruba, both a little to the west. Other Antilles Islands include Saint Marteen, Saba and Statia, all located in the Windward Islands. Bonaire’s main industry is tourism especially for the diving. The other industry is salt production which is sold world wide for industrial use (pools, icy roads etc.). Bonaire is also well know for great wind surfing as the wind always blows usually right around 20 knots and bird watching with over 200 species including the Lora a small green parrot and the pink flamingo.

Bonaire is a wild dry island covered with cactus, scrub, gumbo limbo trees and lots of corals which at one time lay under the sea level. The highest elevation is just a little over 800 feet which is in the northern part of the island. This region reminds me of a wild-west desert landscape. The southern part is flat with mainly mangroves and a huge area of salt flats, where you will find the most flamingos. The water surrounding the whole island is a national park and anchoring is not allowed, unless is a brick on a rope which all the locals use when fishing. Some 40 moorings are available for cruisers at the cost of 10 dollars per day and you have to purchase a park pass to snorkel or dive which is 25 dollars per person. The moorings are huge cement blocks with each two floats to tie up. There is only a small shelf of shallow sandy bottom before it plummets from 40 in a sharp angle to over 80 feet of depth. The bow is in about 20 feet of water while the stern is just at the 40 foot mark where it drops with a drastic change of color from light to dark blue. Best is you can dive right of your boat. Our neighbors Phil and Nell onboard Moon Dancer, we had met in Trinidad, ran into them in Grenada and now here, invited us to dive with them as they have three rigs and lots of tanks. So all we had to do is rent one BC, regulator and belt. While Sid joined the “old farts club” on Wednesday Phil took me for a dive. It was incredible to float underwater next to this hill of nothing but different types of coral, sponges and thousands of colorful reef fish. I was

in ah and really enjoyed my first dive after some 8 years. A few days later Sid went diving, I wasn’t feeling too well so decided it was not safe to join them. He had a blast as well. Then the third dive all four of us went. This time we went to the “Something Special” dive buoy which a couple hundred yards next to the Village Marina entrance. The special thing about this dive is there is an underwater web cam mounted in about 45 feet at the midsection of the reef:

This was an incredible dive, first thing I saw was what I thought could be a shark, but as the fish slowly turned and revealed his side I recognized it as really, really big tarpon of about 6 feet long. After about 150 yards we found the camera and of course all posed hoping our friends at home would watch as we had arranged a time for this event. Unfortunately the camera is damaged and had filled up half with water. After our camera poses we followed the reef. It’s just amazing how many different species of coral and sponges there are, there is so much to see you don’t know where to look. One coral head especially impressed me and as I got closer I noticed a tail fin of a very, very big fish. The fish had nestled himself into the coral so all that was sticking out was its huge fin on one side and a set of large teeth surrounded by big lips. It was a pargo of at least 30 pounds, wow. I was glad to be able to get the attention of my diving buddies to see this huge fish as well. This was indeed one of the best dives we’ve ever done. Thanks Phil and Nell. Next dive planned is a night dive.

In the mean time we also did an island tour with Randy and Lourae with Clayton and Fiona onboard Argo. All six squeezed comfortably into their car with a beer and champagne filled ice jest in the back and off we went. First they drove us along the road hugging the coral cliffs of the north western side of Bonaire heading north. We stopped at a place with caves and Indian paintings. The drive then took us inland to Rincon the first settlement in Bonaire from there to the East coast where Blokarts awaited us. A Blokart looks like a three wheeled lounge chair with a bicycle handle and a sail. You lie in the seat buckled in and with one hand steering while with the other hand controls the sheet for the sail that makes the three wheeled lounge chair move and so you land sail around a race track. What a hoot, we all had a blast blasting around the track and passing each other over and over. My favorite was passing other Blokarts on the inside in the turns. If you’re not careful or push the limit chances are the wind will topple your cart and you lay sideways on the track. Lourae and Clayton managed to do that. This was really a blast land sailing and we all laughed so hard we could not whip of the shitty grins on our faces for days. We haven’t done anything this fun ever, what an experience. After the excitement we had lunch in Rincon then followed our tour to Seru Largo with an incredible view over Kralendijk and half of the island. From there we followed the road, which by the way here are so narrow that two cars can not pass so one always pulls over to let the oncoming car pass. This area has a rocky shore to one side and the salt flats on the other. We saw many pink flamingoes wow. The southern most part is where the salt is harvested and we also stopped at the old slave quarters. We had a fun day, no we had many fun days and dedicated Saturday after the camera dive as a rest and only rest day.

Have you ever had one of these WOW days where you can’t stop saying wow? As we were resting in the cockpit around 4 PM I noticed a young women approach the dock near us, her eyes fixed on our boat as she came out to the end of the dock. I was just going to mention this to Sid as she called “Paradise”. Then “Manuela it’s me, Donna”. I jumped into the dinghy and headed over to the dock and couldn’t believe my eyes to see Donna with a huge grin standing there. For all of you who have followed us ever since we left for cruising may recall this story. Two years prior to cruising we went for a 6 week camping trip to Bahia de los Muertos on the almost south tip of Baja de Calofonia where we met Alan and Donna with then one year old son John. They were living in the woods in Durango collection wood and making furniture then selling them and with the money they camped in Muertos for the winters. When they found out about us living on a boat and going cruising they squeezed everything out of us about boat life and cruising. Two years later after a fun summer in the Sea of Cortez passing by Puerto Escondido on our way back to La Paz a boat named MacNab hailed us on VHF. She overheard us calling one of our buddy boats. I had no idea who MacNab was until she brought up our history having met in Muertos. A couple of months later MacNab pulled into La Cruz in PV and dropped anchor next to us. That was the first time we saw them since Muertos, now they also had a little daughter Anna. It was a great reunion seeing them cruising and finding out that we had put the cruising bug into their heads and one year after Muertos they started their journey on a small 28 foot Bristol Cutter. We parted ways and now and then we received greetings from friends who just ran into them. Years later as Sid was assistant dock master at the Sheraton Marina in New Bern MacNab, not knowing we were there anchored in front of the marina. I was in Switzerland at the time so I missed meeting them. By now they had another son, three kids on a small sailboat. Then we lost contact again. A couple of years later as we headed up the St. Johns River to Jacksonville a Bristol Cutter was heading south passing us and it was MacNab again. On the drive by they told us that they were underway to St. Augustine. As we were settled into the marina we rented a car drove to St. Augustine and met up with them. We had a wonderful day in the park, the kids were just amazing as instead playing with the swings they were climbing the tall trees like little monkeys. For a few years we staid in contact with them via email but then my emails were returned as unknown. So we once more lost contact with them but we were sure someday to run into them again. Once day came Donna was standing right in front of me on the dock some 8 years later. She shared the sad story of Alan’s passing as she was pregnant with her 4th child. She was then and still is living in Deltaville in the Chesapeake Bay and in the mean time has found a wonderful boyfriend Leroy who also has 4 kids. Donna’s mother takes the kids once a year so that the two can escape on a vacation and they chose Bonaire. We sat in the cockpit of Paradise until late at night and had one story after another. Leroy truly enjoyed himself listening too all our adventures we shared with Donna. Ever since they left all we say every few minutes is wow, wow, wow…… They are here until next Saturday so we will have many more times to get together. Wow what a story, this time Leroy promised he’ll make sure that we will not loose contact again. Wow, wow, wow….

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