Finally we got the weather we were
waiting for and headed back to Bonaire, which was to be a stepping stone
towards Puerto Rico. Not too much wind and a flat'ish sea which would
allow us to motor-sail peacefully the 40 miles between the islands......
Except that after the first few miles the
engine started overheating. Not a serious problem, almost
certainly some crud in the heat exchanger, but tricky to do underway.
We decided to press on to Bonaire. After all we are suppose to be
a sailing yacht, we can tack!
It was slow going with the contrary
current, occasional squalls and 20 knots of wind right on the nose.
In the end those 40 miles turned into 72 miles and took us 15 hours.
The biggest problem when we arrived would be finding an empty mooring buoy
in the dark and not being sure how long we could run the engine to
manoeuvre on to it.
If we could make radio contact with a
boat that was already there and who could tell us where the free buoys
were that would help a lot. We tried Toujours who we knew had
headed back a few weeks earlier - perhaps they were still there, perhaps
they had their radio on...... Success! There was a buoy
free outside Yellow Submarine which would be easy to find. Tom
also volunteered to sit on the buoy in his dingy with a light and take
our lines when we arrived.
|With that all sorted out we could go back
to enjoying the trip and even managed to catch a fish. So we
tacked towards Bonaire,
and as night fell began monitoring nervously the freighters and tankers waiting for daylight and
a pilot to take them in - much too deep to anchor here so they just
drifted - "Not under command" is what it's called in nautical speak.
At last we closed the coast and were out of the way of
the ships. Only 10 knots of wind in the lee of the island, so
really slow going now. It was virtually impossible to pick out the
unlit moored yachts against the lights of the town, let alone the buoys.
We were talking to Tom via VHF. He now had our masthead light in
sight and was talking us in and finally we picked up his light flashing
from the dingy. (I don't know how we'd
ever have found the buoy without him.) We sailed to within a
couple of boat lengths of the buoy and then wound up the last of the
head sail, crossed our fingers, started
the engine and we were there, safe and sound.
|Well as we've said before, Bonaire is
about diving so we did a lot of that. We also cleaned
out the heat exchanger and installed our new windlass which had been
delivered in Curacao. This involved cleaning out the anchor locker
which led to lots of rust removal, painting etc and also altering the
hole in the deck to accept the windlass. And making teak trim to
go around it....
There was a pretty active social scene amongst the
cruising boats. Happy hours, drinks parties, dinner parties, etc.
And then there was Christmas - celebrated with braised local lamb-goat and
then New Year - celebrated with yet another happy hour followed by impromptu spaghetti
for 7 aboard Samarang.
Of course Bonaire was only supposed to be our stepping
stone to Puerto Rico, but it was a very, very easy place to stay.
Ultimately though, we did have to prepare to leave. Not
because we really wanted to, but because with the change of Bonaire's
status on 10-10-2010 visa extensions, previously freely available, but were
no longer being granted. A slight pain for us, (though we did need
something to galvanise us into action) but a nightmare for people
who have bought property on the island and can no longer live in their
houses for more than 3 months at a time!
|It was early February and we started looking for a
weather window. Looked like there was a sort of one opening just over a week
out and then.........
and then we were rammed by
the very drunk skipper of one of the local tourist boats who normally
moored on a buoy close to us! A huge crash and then he drifted off
into the night. Nothing to be done during the night (except inform
the coast guard), but in the morning the boat had reappeared on the mooring and
fortunately the boat is plastered with contact telephone numbers.
The owner didn't remember hitting us, but did remember
drifting about in an alcoholic haze. He was desolate and accepted without a moments
hesitation full responsibility and agreed to pay all the costs
associated with the repairs. He was as good as his word and the good news is
the repairs were completed on time, they did a good job and we had the
chance to equalise batteries, do lots of washing etc whilst we were in
the marina. We were also finished just in time to catch the weather window which
we'd been watching.
The bad news is, as is often the case with "sort of" windows, that the window proved not really to exist. Turned out
to be very squally, neither the wind angle nor the wind speed was what
we'd hoped for and there was a very short steep sea. We had more green
water on the boat than at any time since we left the UK - Apart from
that and the rain everything was perfect!
Our biggest problem was that the only way to keep up boat speed and
punch through the waves was to come off the wind (ie head further west)
and with the forecast we had, without some very long tacks (which would
have extended the trip into a very bad forecast), a landfall in Haiti (with its world
class facilities plus added cholera) was looking a pretty real
possibility! So after 8 hours, we gave it up, put the wind behind us
and headed for Curaçao.
On the plus side, although it's not where we wanted to be, being in
Curaçao gave us the opportunity to receive our first mail package for 6
months, including much needed debit cards, our repaired AIS and to order some
engine spares (which would hopefully stop the heat exchanger problem
from reoccurring) - though of course we could equally have done
all of those things
in Puerto Rico.
We now return to waiting and watching weather.
Nothing promising at the moment.
Sailing is waiting!