Bonaire was our escape plan when we sailed away from Puerto Rico to escape Hurricane Maria. We knew this island would offer us hurricane protection but we really had no idea that we would find such a lovely place to live for a while.
French Angel Fish
Bonaire is a world class scuba diving destination as is evidenced by the dive shops that are more prolific here than 7-11’s are in China!
Bonaire’s National Park Foundation was created way back in 1962 which shows that this tiny island was forward thinking about land preservation! This body was specifically formed to protect the nature of the island. Then in 1979, the Bonaire National Marine Park was formed and it regulates the whole coastline of Bonaire! That means that for many years the coast and land of Bonaire have been intentionally protected and the result is an amazing array of healthy fish and coral underwater and on land the island strives to protect it’s natural resources. (See what we found on land in another post!)
I don’t like snakes, but look at the iridescent blue on this sea snake’s “fin!”
According to Wikipedia, Bonaire is “essentially a coral reef that has been geologically pushed up and out of the sea. This also resulted in the natural fringing reef system seen today, in which the coral formations start at the shoreline.”
LIB on a dive buoy and trucks in a dive parking lot.
Furthermore this means that the beautiful dives on Bonaire are accessible from shore as well as boat. And the island has done a fabulous job of marking the dive sites with painted yellow rocks on the roadside and yellow buoys in the water.
Hahaha…. first time I have seen this road sign!
Anchoring is strictly prohibited in Bonaire, so all boats must use park moorings and dive buoys. But there are so many marked sites, that it is not hard to find great places to tie up LIB or the dinghy for a dive.
The colors are incredibly vibrant. It looks like melted crayons all over the reef!
The clarity of the water is also fabulous. I think the combination of the white sandy bottom and the vibrant reefs contribute to the ability to see very well even in deep water.
This huge moray eel was in 81 feet of water!
Thankfully Frank was willing to take the GoPro and get close to this big guy. I know moray eels are not supposed to attack humans and I know they are actually fish and not snakes, but that doesn’t mean I want to be close to them!
Something out of Star Wars or is this a 1980’s McDonald’s French Fry Guy?
This little formation made me wonder if perhaps some writers get their inspiration while scuba diving!
There is something about these Honeycomb Cowfish!
Cowfish and trunkfish are seen in a variety of colors here and each one I see makes me smile. I love the little, spiky hoods above the cowfish eyes. The baby trunkfish are super cute and fairly friendly.
Repeat of Mr. Octopus!
Although I have used this picture before, having the chance to see this octopus was so exceptional that I wanted to share it again! Look on our FB page to see the video.
I have had several people tell me they have spotted sea horses!! I am constantly looking for them but so far without success. Not to worry. I am sure we will find one before we depart Bonaire!
Captain and Frank swim to shore for morning ‘business.’
Even Captain loves the water in Bonaire! While she has not yet learned to snorkel or scuba dive, she loves jumping into the water and swimming to shore. Plus at the end of her walks, she is quite ready to wade back into the water to cool off and swim back to LIB.
Frank has kited in two places and I hope to have a go next week when the wind returns. Although the wind on the south side was offshore, the location is lovely and the wind wasn’t too gusty, so Frank had an excellent set. The second spot was right off of Klein Bonaire and it didn’t work out as well.
Kiting off of Klein Bonaire was too gusty.
The water side of Bonaire has been delightful. But don’t think Bonaire is only for water sports. We have pulled out our bikes and explored a bit that way and we have just rented a car. Our first excursions have been fun and interesting. I’ll share those pictures soon.
Is Bonaire on your bucket list? We would recommend it!
Our view from Arashi Beach.
Our last few days in Aruba were spent in a northwest anchorage called Arashi Beach near the lighthouse and a pretty public beach. While the anchorage was still rolly, we really appreciated the beach setting where we could alternate between dips in the clear water, cool beverages at the small bar and strolls along the tourist strewn sand.
Captain was extremely happy here as she would swim then roll in the sand to her hearts content. Plus there were SO many people who gave her love and attention that she really did not want to return to LIB!
Captain is quite the ambassador and because of her we met people all along the beach. Since there is no cruising community to speak of in Aruba, Captain’s introductions to new friends was even more welcome than usual.
Captain amid her friends Pam, Tiff, Chris and Lisa.
We ended up meeting several groups of visitors but we really connected with two groups and since both expressed interest in our sailing life, we invited them to come visit us on LIB.
John, Mark, Zachary, Gerry, Frank, Lisa and Chris…. the youngest at the helm?
Once again, I forgot to pull out my camera, so I don’t have pictures from the day Becky, Tanya, Jeb and Shawn went sailing with us, but both days were really fun. Our guests soon became friends and I can only hope our paths will cross again. Thanks for trusting us to share part of your vacation time guys. It was a pleasure meeting each and every one of you!
Eight large boats and a couple of small ones.
Aruba tourism is huge as evidenced by the number of day boats taking people to various snorkeling spots. Just count the number of boats in the pictures above and below this paragraph. These were to the port and starboard side of LIB as we motored away from Arashi Beach.
Just another six day boats!
I mentioned already on our boat FB page that the checking in and out process for Aruba leaves a LOT to be desired. The docking is especially poor as it is set up for very large tug boats or cruise ships and small sailboats or motorboats do not fit well against the dock. The people in and about Aruba are delightful, but the Customs and Immigration people were much less helpful, in our experience. I get it though; we cruisers are small potatoes and little revenue compared to those who arrive by plane or cruise ship….
Sailing against the trade winds is no fun, so this calm day was perfect!
We set out for Bonaire on a fabulously calm day with winds of less than 4 knots and seas that were calmer than our Aruban anchorages!
Venezuela is right there!
If you look closely, in the distance of this picture, you can see Venezuela. It is easy to forget that Venezuela is only about 25 miles from Aruba. Many large, private fishing boats have come from Venezuela and are docked in Aruba. I assume this is to find a safe refuge since Venezuela is in such a sad plight.
We anchored in a small bay on Curacao overnight, then motored on to Bonaire. WHAT a welcome back to Bonaire we had. Our friends Josee and Andre whom we met in the Dominican Republic were already in Bonaire and had scouted out a mooring ball in case we needed it. (You guys ROCK!)
Kathe and Gary of s/v Tribasa Cross, whom we met waaaay back in the BVIs in 2015, were on a mooring ball and Gary was in the dinghy to greet us when we arrived. How fun is it to bump into people you met years before?!
Plus we were able to reconnect with Kathi and Tim of s/v Two Oceans; fellow Puerto Rico refugees!
Needless to say it is awesome to be back in a cruising community where we can reconnect with familiar friends (notice I did not say “old”) and new friends are just a mooring ball away.
The reefs include more color than you can imagine!
Now that we are back in Bonaire, once again we are diving daily. We find the diving here fabulous! By early afternoon, we are very hot and ready to drop our body temperatures. Scuba diving and being underwater for an hour is an excellent way to cool off and explore at the same time.
Here are just a few pics from diving in Bonaire…
Who knows what might pop out from a crevice?
My favorite “find” so far was this octopus!
This doesn’t do justice to the myriad of colors.
Loads of fishies!
This eel was fast…. or was I hesitant to get too close??
Nature reclaiming man’s waste and making it pretty-ish.
It is really nice to be back in Bonaire where we are surrounded by other cruisers and we can enjoy the water that surrounds us. There are good grocery stores and we can find most things we want and everything we need. The winds are returning this week, so we look forward to finding a good kiteboard spot soon.
Happy Thanksgiving to our U.S. readers. As usual, thank you for stopping by.
For the first time in my life I truly understand that the difference one day can make in my life is huge. I have so many examples recently that have driven this home and unfortunately they have mostly been sad examples.
Our dear friends, Ken and Laurie, sent a video of their sailboat Mauna Kea while they were finalizing preparations for Hurricane Irma which devastated St. Martin a mere 24 hours later. Mauna Kea had engine problems and it was unsafe for Ken and Laurie to sail out of harms way. A picture taken from the same place 24 hours later would show Mauna Kea in a much different condition.
We were in Chicago glued to the television as we watched Hurricane Irma swirl toward Puerto Rico where we had left Let It Be and our sweet dog, Captain. We were very lucky because in the last 24 hours, Irma took a slight wobble north and our boat and dog were spared! What a difference a day made.
Fast forward about a week to 5 pm Saturday, September 16th. Frank and I were sitting at the pool at The Yacht Club in Palmas del Mar, Puerto Rico. We were chatting with other live aboard folks lounging in the pool and we all agreed that the morning forecast of 60 mph winds for Hurricane Maria were not a problem for our boats. We could be comfortable about staying in the marina.
An hour later, when we read the 5 pm hurricane forecast, the story was dramatically different. Hurricane Maria had changed from a category 1 to a category 4 forecast! And she was barreling directly toward our marina!
The Yacht Club from the top of the mast the morning we left.
Frank and I immediately began redressing Let It Be; returning her sails to working order, putting the enclosure back on the helm, replacing the broken anemometer (luckily the new one had arrived in the mail the day before!), walking to a nearby mini market for canned goods and plotting our departure for early the next morning.
We left Palmas del Mar on Sunday morning, less than 24 hours later, and had a beautiful passage of about 375 nautical miles to Bonaire. We sailed for the first day, then motor sailed the remainder of the trip. We had mostly following seas that were never greater than 1 meter. Surprisingly, this was one of our most pleasant passages!
Twenty four hours later, our friends Greg and Shelly on s/v Sempre Fi had found the quickest flight they could back to Puerto Rico to prepare their sailboat and leave the marina. Shelly and Greg left Palmas del Mar on Monday, about 24 hours after we did. They experienced 21 foot seas and a lot of wind. They could see the very outer bands of Hurricane Maria and tension was high on board! Eventually they encountered ‘a parking lot of tankers and barges drifting in the sea,’ Shelly said. This was their indication that they had run far enough to be out of harms way and could continue more comfortably to Aruba.
Once we arrived in Bonaire, we found wifi and checked on our friends back in Palmas del Mar and learned that Maria’s eye had passed directly over our marina! Thankfully our friends are all safe, but not all of their boats survived.
What a difference 24 hours can make!
Frank and I like to tease that since moving aboard, we live our lives at 6 knot. Thankfully over a 24 hour period, that seemingly slow six knots was enough to remove us from harm!
There are many times in our lives when one day makes a lifetime of difference; one day you’re single the next day you are married; one day you are pregnant and the next day you are a parent. Yes, there are many life changing moments, but somehow this hurricane season, the changes that can occur in a mere 24 hours has become shockingly real!
Drone photo of Palmas after Maria (sorry don’t know who took it!).
We mourn for our friends, their homes and the beautiful islands that have been devastated this year by hurricanes. All those suffering loss from Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria are in our thoughts and prayers!
Although this season has been a challenging and heart wrenching one, we are trying to take away the positive aspects as well. For instance, we have some friends whose boats survived hurricanes with nary a scratch! We have seen many people step up and make huge inroads in gathering and delivering food and water to those in need. We have seen friends drive from Dallas to Houston, towing boats to help rescue stranded flood victims. There are silver linings to every cloud if we look hard enough.
On a personal note, this season has reminded us that we cannot be complacent about weather while living this nomadic lifestyle that is much more vulnerable to weather and storms. We are reminded that we must do our best to keep Let It Be movement ready at all times. We have agreed that we should try to keep our fuel topped off in case we have to sail away from a weather event. We are reminded that we must make our own decisions and allow friends to make theirs as well – what works for us might be all wrong for someone else.
We are reminded that we are blessed to have survived this season without injury or damage to property! (So far.)
Though this blog post could be construed as a negative reflection on sailing life, in truth, Frank and I enjoy living on our boat. While others might dislike the need to pay such close attention to the forces of nature, we find this lifestyle requires us to be more observant and respectful of the power of nature. We are constantly learning to improve our ability to understand what surrounds us. We can no longer jump in a car regardless of the weather and without regard for tides and seas and upcoming storms.
No doubt this life is a greater challenge than living on land, but for us it works. We like the learning aspect and prefer to be caught up in weather and seas and trip planning rather than being concerned with the daily news or which Hollywood star has returned to rehab or who was this years biggest loser. (Plus we were too cheap to pay for cable tv!)
Over the last two years we have learned many things, but in the last two weeks we have learned to appreciate that 24 hours can bring humongous life changes.
As always, thank you for reading. Next post I hope to report more positive things, like about the amazing diving in Bonaire!