Friday, 17 February 2017

Leaving the windward islands–new destinations

Where did we leave you?  Laluna – Indigo Villa – in Grenada overlooking Morne Rouge Bay gave us 5 days of luxury living in John and Tim’s beautiful and tasteful villa with delicious meals at Laluna restaurant in the laid back and very cool hotel.  We had meant to explore more of Grenada but relaxation got the better of us: so we topped up the tan, swam across the bay, and did a little bit of boat maintenance and cleaning, aided or not by Curtis who thought that by taking all morning to wash one side of the boat, he would get another day’s work.

Maarten and Hein joined us, and after an aborted attempt to sail back to Carriacou – gentlemen don’t sail to windward – we spent the night on the south side of Grenada and left for Bonaire at 9am on Saturday.  400NM and we arrived at lunchtime on Monday.  The first 24 hours was breezy at times, mainly Force 5, on a broad reach heading 285 so a little north of course, but speedy in 3-4m seas. The second 24 hours we poled out the genoa and headed directly downwind to reach the north side of Bonaire.  A good knot of current helping us on our way.

Sleep?  Not for the first night as rolly on the reach, with 3m seas which every so often gave a big lurch.  Lee cloths are tied to the ceiling in the cabins to give you a nautical equivalent of the Pine Board that you remember from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  Maarten and Hein took 7-10pm and 1-4am, and Nicky and I were on for 10-1 and 4-7.   Nicky had cooked a lasagne (and three fruit cakes) at Indigo so we had a delicious supper eaten out of the dog bowls which kept the food safely. 

The second day the wind faded on us a little to F4, the seas flattened and the poled-out rig meant Calliope sailed herself with Mr Auto for 24 hours.  Good teamwork and pleasant companionship.

It was a full moon and clear skies.  Venus ahead of us, Jupiter and his companion star Spica astern.  So much moon you could almost see the horizon all night, Orion above the mainsail.  In the morning four flying fish on deck.  I read Nicholas Nickleby on the passage, which took two days and made me think of “Dickens-in-a-week” for the English undergraduate at Oxford.  We sailed with AIS on silent and no nav lights on in case of Venezuelan pirates, saw one fishing boat and three freighters near Bonaire. Otherwise the sea was ours.  The second night we had all acclimatised and slept well in flatter seas.
So to Bonaire - a curate’s egg in my view; fabulous diving with amazing coral and crystal clear water.  I had one compulsory practice dive and two more, plus I tried out our mini scuba kit, while Nicky and others snorkelled. 
Nicky said she spent the first half keeping an eye on the big “scuba fish”, and then the second half observing little fish once the big one had come up for air. A well organised marine environment with no anchoring allowed.  Salt pans cover the southern end of the island where Cargill extracts vast quantites of bright white salt from vast pink lakes. Flamingos fly across your path, which is distracting when you’re driving a motorbike.  A national park in the north with cactus and scrub that looks like Mexico.   We ate very well in a number of restaurants, and provisioned in van der Tweel, which is the Dutch Waitrose.

But Bonaire has no strategy as to what it wants to be. Planning rules seem non-existent with too much random building of industrial units and low grade tourist housing,  One or two cruise ships a day disgorge 3000 large passengers to be served by a host of vendors who sell T-shirts, Harley-Davidson bike tours, or just food.  It is an artificial imported environment and the mostly pleasant and friendly locals have been tempted into becoming too much “Mzungu” hunters to borrow a phrase from Alex. An under-managed marina and noisy neighbouring boats which ran their generators all night: their Colombian owners knew nothing of marina etiquette, and the harbour master was surprised we were complaining.  Dalliance, SunSuSea and Meteorite as fellow OWR participants made for jolly company.  We are rather the fleet back markers.

Nick and Alexia joined us and we picked up a hitch-hiker, Laurens, a kite-surfing instructor and are now sailing towards Curacao.  Nick arrived with two Chelsea FC caps which have been banned in the forward cabin and which I plan to serve as fish food.  We plan to spend a day in Curacao, then move on past Aruba towards Colombia where the weather round the dreaded point looks as though it may be most gentle on Monday and Tuesday.

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