We are amazed at how busy we have been in Bonaire! We showed you a bit about our travels around the island, but we didn’t share anything about the Washington Slagbaai National Park.
Driving the park.
We spent the better part of one day driving around the park which was formed by combining two plantations and is just shy of 14,000 acres. The Washington Plantation was donated to the government by “Boy” Washington upon his death in 1969 with the agreement that the land would remain undeveloped and open to the public. The Slagbaai Plantation was added to the Park in 1979. Originally, these two plantations harvested salt, charcoal, aloe extract and divi-divi pods and transported them to Curacao and Europe; today they are places of refuge for people, plants and animals.
The landscape within the park is dramatic with areas of barren, rocky coral; undalating hills that look lush but are actually dry and overgrown with thorny plants; or coastal perimeters where the water pounds against the edges of the land. The variety within the park reminded us of the power, beauty and even aggression of nature.
These giant “boulders” show the geological history of Bonaire. You can see the definitive line in the rock which differentiates two distinct “terraces.” The higher terrace is mostly limestone with fossils of corral reef within and is said to be over a million years old! Furthermore, the line between the “terraces” shows the level of the sea before the tectonic plates shifted and raised Bonaire.
There is just something I love about this picture.
The landscape displays a harsh beauty that is also prickly and hot. We were happy to observe it from the comfort of our rental car. I cannot imagine the hardships faced by those who lived here before food and supplies arrived from container ships!
Throughout the park are areas marked as scuba diving stops, but honestly, I don’t know how you would get OUT of the water after diving from some of them.
Yeah, we’re not diving from here.
Frank is standing on the edge of a park designated dive spot. You tell me, would you jump into the water from there? More importantly, how do you climb back out assuming you survived the entry? We searched and did not find a way to enter or exit the water. Perhaps that spot should be called “Last Dive?”
I wish I had a better pic these orange beauties!
Flamingos are a common sight in the park and around Bonaire and they are a vibrant orange color. Depending on their diet, flamingos vary in color but these birds obviously feast on the local crustaceans and plankton. Crustaceans and plankton are rich in beta-carotene which gives flamingos their pink/orange color. These were the most orange flamingos I have ever seen!
Captain and MG sporting their Santa hats.
Christmas festivities are beginning to flourish here in Bonaire and all of the shops have plenty of decorations and music. There have been some fun events, like the Santa Hat 5k, to help usher in the Holidays.
Kate and Captain won trophies for best dressed!
About half of the walkers in the 5k were cruisers, including friends Barb and Kate, who joined Captain and me on the walk. A small truck led the way and blared Christmas music the whole time. It was delightful to have a sunset stroll with friends while enjoying the Christmas music.
After the walk, the downtown shops were all open late to encourage Christmas spending. There is an annual parade which consists of only two groups of participants ~ some youngsters in Santa costume and these folks from a local retirement home. While the parade only lasted a few minutes, many people gathered along the streets to cheer and wave back to those in the parade.
A pretty sweet way to keep the elders involved in Christmas activities.
The only float in the parade was pretty impressive.
The next morning Frank and I were up early for a mini triathlon. The local Budget Marine sponsored the event which was really fun and so low key, especially compared to how such an event would be handled in the U.S.
Pre-race; numbered and ready to go.
Those who participate in races in the U.S. know a short triathlon would cost around $70, rules and waivers would be clearly and forcefully enforced, transition spots would be coveted and competition would be strong.
This tri cost $15 each. There were no waivers. Rules? Just follow the courses.
It was a simple event with the emphasis on having fun. And since neither of us is at all serious about training or running triathlons, this was perfect.
I am pretty sure Frank and I were the only cruisers who entered the race, but there were cruisers who volunteered to stand at corners and direct participants. Teams were a big part of both the long and short races including several families who made up a team. My favorite was the family of three generation! Granddad, dad and granddaughter earned second place in the short team triathlon ~ and the granddaughter was only 7!
Number two sporting his metal.
Of course Frank had to go out strong and he snagged second place overall in the men’s short course. I was less successful and finished around fourth place. But really, we just had fun and didn’t care about placing.
Honestly, I think we enjoyed this triathlon so much because it was so casual. There was no pressure to compete only a desire to complete it. This removed the burden I used to feel in the very few events I ran in Dallas and put the emphasis on simply getting some exercise and enjoying the festivities.
LIB gliding along under her new spinnaker.
Of course we have spent a lot of time exploring the dive sites. Ken and Judith of s/v Badger’s Sett and Barb and Charles of m/v Tusen Takk II joined us on LIB for a quick sail up to two northern dive spots. We left early one morning, dove Carel’s Vision, shared lunch on LIB, then moved to a second dive site named Bloodlet. Of the two dives, Bloodlet was by far the better one. Frank spotted another octopus and we spent several minutes watching him contort and camouflage as he settled into a new rocky crevice.
Mountains of salt lend a feeling of Christmas snow.
The wind has been pretty accommodating and we have kited a few times. Kiting with the brilliant blue water below and the stark white of the salt piles in the background is pretty unique here in Bonaire.
All in all, Bonaire has been a delightful place to while away the end of the hurricane season as we make plans for 2018 and continue to work closely with HH as our future boat is constructed.
Some delicious meals have been prepared in this galley.
As for LIB, our awesome boat is up for sale and we have already had at least three parties who seem very interested in her. I get a little catch in my heart when I think about selling Let It Be. She has been a great home for us and is extremely comfortable. We have had her long enough that we have worked out the usual boat issues so she is reliable and predictable, pretty and easy to sail. I will find it hard to let her go.
Merry Christmas to all who read this blog. We hope the peace of Christ’s birth fills you will comfort and joy.
Thanks a bunch for visiting our blog. This barely touches the many facets of Bonaire, but we hope it gives you a glimpse into her beauty and bounty. If you are interested in hearing from us more often, please visit our FB page.
Our last evening in Deshaies, Guadeloupe.
Okay, let’s admit right now, we do not have much passage experience, so “longest yet” for us is nothing for many others.
Still, we are doing our best to build our experience at a reasonable rate and not jump from square one to 10, thereby skipping the learning in between. This sail was an excellent next step for us.
Our first overnight passage was from Virgin Gorda, BVI to St. Martin (84 nm) and that went very well. We had a great weather window with almost flat seas which made our maiden overnight excellent.
Our second passage was from St. Bart to Antigua (80+nm) and, like the first one, was an upwind sail. So the wind angle and seas weren’t perfect but we made it and added to our experience.
This last sail was from Guadeloupe back to Virgin Gorda, BVI and a total of 202 nautical miles. I know that isn’t a long distance for many cruisers, but it was a perfect step for us since we are fairly green and we don’t yet live on Let It Be.
Happily, once again we had an excellent weather window and this time we were with the wind and waves which made me a very happy 1st mate – especially since I did not get sea sick this time!
So what do cruisers see and do on passages? Well, of course we see a lot of this:
Ocean, ocean and more ocean.
But often we saw other islands, some we had visited on our way south and others we just didn’t have time for on this trip.
Hmm, I am pretty sure this is Montserrat.
We spent the night listening to music or audiobooks, but also staring at the sky because the beauty there is beyond description. The stars are truly innumerable when earthly lights don’t interfere and the sundeck is the perfect spot to watch for shooting stars.
This trip Frank trolled for fish and managed to land a skipjack tuna! We have had several hits on the line and were unable to land any fish, but success was finally ours.
Frank is thrilled with his catch!
Some friends have asked us what the difference was and how Frank was able to land this fish. In other words, do we now have the “secret” for catching fish? Well this picture might give away the secret:
Frank kneeling to the sea gods as he reels in the fish.
Truly I jest…. we do not have the secret, but hopefully just as our experience will make us better sailers, practice will make us more successful fishermen.
This trip we had our first and second visit by dolphins! So often I have heard about dolphins visiting boats but experiencing it firsthand was thrilling. They glide and jump and dart about with so little effort and with amazing speed.
Jumping in front of the bow.
They are literally right below the forward beam!
Both times the dolphins played alongside and in front of our boat. The first pod consisted of about 10 dolphins. The second pod had closer to 15 dolphins and they swam with us for a solid 10 minutes. We both wished we could jump in the water and swim with them.
Other activities that consume time on a passage…. sail handling! Those who know Frank, know he has plenty of energy, so we tend to tweak and test sails often. We sailed with a main and jib, we sailed with a jib only, we sailed with a spinnaker. Yep, we played with all the toys. But that keeps Captain Frank busy and we learn in the process.
Virgin Gorda, BVI
After a pleasant 28 hours of sailing, Virgin Gorda was in sight. We had survived our longest sail to date with no serious issues, thank God.
Returning to the BVIs was similar to returning to familiar streets after a long driving vacation; you have had a really great trip, but it’s also nice to be home.