Monthly Archives: December 2017

Tour? Check. Triathlon? Check. Christmas??? Almost!

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.

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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.

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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.

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Seru Grande

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.

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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.

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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?”

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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!

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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.

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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.

IMG_2399 2A pretty sweet way to keep the elders involved in Christmas activities.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

Bonaire: It’s Equally Interesting Above the Water.

So I have inundated my blog and FB page with images of the water and in the water in Bonaire.  Who can blame me when the water is so magnetic because of its’ beauty and refreshing qualities?

But we have not allowed the allure of the water or the temperatures to dissuade us from exploring the land. Frank and I pulled our mountain bikes off of LIB and went for a “short” three hour tour of parts of the island. We quickly left the paved road surfaces and found some rocky byways to ride and climb. Seeing as how I was trying to keep up with Frank, there was no time to take pictures!

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How is this for a view while biking?

My favorite part of exploring by bike was riding along the coast where we had a nice ocean breeze and a magnificent view…  Or maybe it was the screaming downhills that seemed so much shorter than the climbs to get to the top?

We also spent a couple of days exploring in a car and Captain was able to join us the first day which made her and us happy.   I did have ample opportunity to take pictures from the car!

The first day of driving, we managed to make a quick drive around pretty much all of Bonaire with the exception of Washington Slagbaai National Park as the Park doesn’t allow pets.

Bonaire-7A display of the harsh, rocky parts

Even though Bonaire only gets about 22 inches of rain annually, this is the rainy season and we were impressed by how green things were in some parts of Bonaire. The terrain is surprisingly diverse, sometimes flat and harsh with coral as the foundation, other times hilly and covered in scrubby trees then other areas are arid with towering cacti.

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While most of the land appears to be too rocky to grow crops, it is said that the island in the picture above has been farmed for three generations. You can actually see on the small island that the ground appears to be more of a loose soil than in other areas.

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A touch of softness among the cacti.

Even though the environment would be difficult to cultivate, there is beauty here and birds are more prevalent than on many islands.

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Such a vibrant bird!

This little bird was not at all afraid when we came by in our car and in fact he seemed very curious.  Captain was in the back seat and I thought she would go crazy if the bird came too close, but she remained very quiet.

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Our pretty little visitor.

Sure enough the little bird did come visit us at the car, but I think he was actually more fascinated with his own reflection than with us.  He hovered about our mirror for several minutes admiring himself, sitting on the edge of the mirror and sometimes hanging upside down to see himself.  The symmetry of his coloring is beautiful.

Bonaire produces 400,000 tons of industrial grade salt each year! The southern end of the island is naturally low lying and, using a system of traditional Dutch dykes, acres of land are divided into ponds which are flooded with seawater. The seawater is allowed to evaporate and salt is left behind.

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Can you see the pink color of the water in this salt pond?

The seawater changes color during the process of evaporation and from what I have read goes through three main color stages depending on the salinity of the water and what flourishes in that environment. The pink color that I found so pretty, but hard to photograph, occurs during the final stage of evaporation when the salt content is very high.  During this brine state, a microorganism called halophilic bacteria develops.  This bacteria is actually a single cell life form and gives the water this pink hue.  (For more in depth information, see this link.)

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Mountains of washed salt waiting to be exported.

The salt is collected and washed, then stored in huge piles until it is loaded onto a ship for transport.  The salt ponds have a separate, dedicated pier where ships dock to be loaded.  On days when there is not a ship at the pier, the area around the dock is excellent for snorkeling and scuba diving.

As pretty as these salt pools look, there is evidence of a sad history of slavery here as well. Driving along the road or from the sea you can see a row of tiny, stone huts which were used by salt pond workers. The houses are too small for a grown man to stand in and were simply a place for workers to keep their few possessions and sleep.

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These tiny huts give witness to a life of incredible hardship.

According to the literature I read, a small number of African slaves as well as Indians and convicts worked the salt fields and lived in these huts. I read that the slaves would walk to the city of Rincon on Friday afternoons to be with their families.  They were required to return to the salt huts on Sunday evening.  That walk to Rincon?  The literature said it took seven hours each way!  So sad.

We had heard about a pretty area on the eastern coast of Bonaire called Lac Bay and that was where we planned to stop for lunch. Lac Bay is a shallow, well protected area with white sand beaches.  This combination makes it seem like Lac Bay would be overrun with hotels and commercialization, but because it is on the eastern side (too rough to moor) and hard to reach by car, it only has a few cozy places that cater to windsurfing or lounging on the beach.

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Our very casual lunch spot had a cool, sandy floor for Cappy.

We stopped at a casual, little restaurant right on Lac Bay, for a bite to eat and some sniff time for Captain. Lac Bay is perfectly protected by a reef and Frank would love to kite there but due to some mishap a few years ago, kiteboarding has been banned from this idyllic bay.  Only windsurfing is allowed and even on a calm day, the bay is dotted with windsurfers.

As we drove around Bonaire, I was struck by how these folks have learned to use the resources available. There is a distillery here that produces a drink from the cactus plant. I understand that Cadushy Distillery makes the worlds only liqueur from cacti plants! We have not toured the distillery yet, but perhaps we will.

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This cactus fence was less dense than most.

Cacti are also used as natural fences here on Bonaire. Many yards are lined with cacti planted so close together that they act as a natural barrier.  In fact, I think these fences would be more effective than barbed wire at keeping people out if that is your desire. The fence above was a little more decorative and less dense than many that we saw along the road.

This post only touches on the many facets of Bonaire, but already it is long, so I will dedicate my next post exclusively to our visit to the Washington Slagbaai National Park.

Thank you for visiting our blog. I hope you can get a small glimpse into how pretty Bonaire is and how much it has to offer. If you have any questions or favorite places here that you think we would enjoy, please let us know! And if  you would like to hear from us more often, please visit our FB page.

 

Bonaire Underwater!

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.

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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!)

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

 

 

 

 

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