October 17, 2008

Kralendijk, Bonaire

12º 09.175´ N 68º 16.744´ W

October 13, 2008

Tickled Pink on the Island of Pink Flamingos

I almost didn’t write this today, because my mood is a little gloomy. In addition to the general malaise resulting from the financial meltdown which is affecting everyone (thanks all you politicians, bankers, mortgage brokers, appraisers, unqualified borrowers, and everyone else who brought this down on us [including us ourselves]), we here in paradise have been having our own little problems. The weather has been generally awful, hot and muggy with little of the refreshing trade winds normally found here. In addition to being uncomfortable, this results in winds coming from unusual directions, which makes the anchorage here rolly, and sometimes even dangerous, becoming a lee shore. It hasn’t happened yet, but from time to time during these “reversals” it’s necessary to suddenly leave the anchorage. This may happen this week. Thanks for this too, President Bush!

More personally, someone stole my folding bike off a dock during the Regatta, (a famous annual sailboat racing event here), and a mechanic ripped me off. Not only did this, as usual with these kinds of things, make me feel violated, but it also made me think less of the place, which previously has been high on my list of favorite places (we’ve been here several times before. In fact, Phyllis and I came here first 35 years ago to dive, immediately after getting certified in SF. We were also here several times during our last cruise 20 years ago).

Now for something completely different (Lyle, you may want to avert your eyes just now; this may be more than you want to know): Lyle was conceived on an island 35 miles east of here, twice! (the first time, it didn’t stick). Both times, exactly one year apart, Phyllis confirmed she was pregnant, in Bonaire. In fact, Lyle’s name is from the French L’Isle, which means from or of the island.

So, Bonaire occupies a special place in our lives. It’s also a wonderful island. It’s one of the ABC’s (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao), which are part of the Netherlands Antilles. As such, it has wonderful people, who are either Dutch, or a mixture of Dutch, Black and South American. The native tongue is Papamiento, which is a patois of all of the above. Everybody also speaks English and Dutch, which makes things very easy. The people are very friendly, organized, and generally honest, as opposed to those in some other countries we know (are you paying attention, Chavez?). It has world class scuba diving (we have finally been getting a lot of use out of our Airline unit, which is a floating compressor driven by a Honda engine, making tanks, BC’s, etc. unnecessary). It also has some very strange and beautiful scenery, including the Goto Meer, which is a huge brackish lake with hundreds of pink flamingos, iguanas, and other creatures not generally seen in Brooklyn.

We got here about 2 weeks ago, after a delightful cruise through the offshore (mostly uninhabited) Venezuelan islands of Tortuga, Los Roques, and Las Aves. Lots of free diving (we even finally got our [temporary] fill of lobsters). We especially liked Las Aves (again), which are 2 sets of horseshoe shaped coral atolls like in the Pacific. We anchored in the lagoon in the middle, with almost no land in sight, and dove every day on the countless coral heads nearby. Very romantic (although unlike previously, no children were made, thank you), almost no people (we were visited several times by the local Venezuelan Coast Guard, who were 8 kids, one with a submachine gun, in a leaking skiff. They were apparently bored to death, and visited us to talk and drink beer.)

Today, we’re waiting for the arrival of our friends on “Silver Sea”, who have been carrying a care package for us for several weeks. We are also waiting for mail. We plan then to depart for Curacao (a much bigger island with lots of provisioning opportunities), where we’ll be joined by Bruce and Sandy, who’ll sail with us to Columbia, probably in about 2 weeks, weather permitting.

Tomorrow is our 30th anniversary. Thirty years of unrelenting bliss! Can you believe it? (I can’t). Because of our outrageously expensive trip to Argentina and Peru (which we gave to ourselves as an anniversary present) and because we now have no money thanks to the financial crisis (are you paying attention Lyle?), we’ll just go out to eat at a nice restaurant here (called, interestingly “It’s Raining Fishes”).

Postscript: my mood has improved considerably. I just dove down below the boat (we’re in about 25 feet) and found the fork I accidentally threw overboard last night, and also found a pair of $200 sunglasses (not mine; they’re Versace) and a fishing lure. Now, I have the fever. I intend to cruise the entire anchorage in snorkeling gear on a scavenging mission. Just as soon as I awaken from my nap.

PPS: 10/15/08

Bad weather was predicted, as I alluded to above. Interestingly, nobody could predict exactly what would happen. Just in case, we prepared the boat for a quick get-away, and went to sleep on the night of 10/13. At 2AM 10/14 (our anniversary) we were awakened by a tremendous squall, with lots of rain, thunder and lightening, and winds of 40+ knots from the west (exactly the wrong direction for us, putting us on a lee shore). That started it. We were up all night, with the engine, radar and all navigational instruments running, debating whether or not to run. Finally, at daybreak, we decided to try to go into the marina for refuge. Just at that moment, Phyllis yelled “there goes our dinghy!” A shackle on the painter had bent and opened,, casting our dinghy (think car) adrift. Without thinking (stupidhead!; please don’t tell my mother), I jumped into ferocious seas, swam for the dinghy (which was about 50 feet from destruction on the rocks), got in, attached the starting lanyard (which I suddenly realized I had been hiding for safety against thieves ever since my bike was stolen), and, in one pull (thank you Yamaha), started the engine and backed away from the shore in 15 foot breakers, 2 feet from destruction (mine and the dinghy’s). I motored back to Antares, to find Phyllis on the stern, ashen faced (she still loves me, or was frightened that she couldn’t run the boat herself). Then I realized I would have to get aboard, with the stern of the boat rearing 8 feet above my head (ouch!) Phyllis threw me a line, I got the dinghy tied off, timed it, and jumped. I’m still here (stupidhead!) Yee-ah!

We dropped our mooring lines (a feat in itself in those conditions) and motored into the marina, very shaken. Interestingly as soon as we started to move, everyone else in the mooring field did the same. We were the first of many boats (cruisers, locals, Venezuelan fishing boats, etc.), to go into the marina (which is now like a parking lot for boats) for refuge. We, and everybody else, should have done it the night before. It’s a hard lesson to learn.

So, we spent our 30th anniversary on Antares, in a marina, in pouring rain, eating soup and sandwiches washed down with large volumes of rum and soda water for me, gin and tonics for P. We were going to go out to a local restaurant, but they were all closed due to what has now become Hurricane Omar. The town is a wreck, with numerous seafront facilities ruined (including the docks of the little marina where my bike was stolen from). An anniversary to remember!

Working on the Blog

Boats on Moorings at Kralendijk waterfront (later destroyed by Tropical Storm Omar)

Restrooms in the Bonaire desert…….

Girl's Room
Guess which is the girl’s and boy’s?
Dashboard Saint.....Dr. Jose Gregorio Hernandez, patron saint of Venezuela
Dashboard Saint…..Dr. Jose Gregorio Hernandez, patron saint of Venezuela
Flock of pink flamingos in Goto Meer sanctuary, Bonaire
Flock of pink flamingos in Goto Meer sanctuary, Bonaire
Flamingo landing
Flamingo landing
Colorful lizard, Washington Nat'l Park, Bonaire
Colorful lizard, Washington Nat’l Park, Bonaire
Iguana looking for a handout
Iguana looking for a handout
On the road, Washington Nat'l Park
On the road, Washington Nat’l Park
Making use of a going away present
Making use of a going away present
Visitor in Los Roques
Visitor in Los Roques
Bonaire waterfront before Tropical Storm Omar
Bonaire waterfront before Tropical Storm Omar
Los Nevados (Venezuelan Andes, near Merida)
“Los Nevados” (Venezuelan Andes, near Merida)

"Mother Ocean"

“Mother Ocean”