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Family Time – The Happiest Time of the Year!

What an awesome Christmas we had on LIB! Our sons arrived on December 23rd and as is par for the course, we were busy, busy,  busy!  But the great part is that we were not busy shopping and buying presents and worrying about who needed gifts.  Instead we were trying to pack in as much fun as possible while Hunter and Clayton were here.

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So glad to have our kids with us!

The one item I had on my to do list was to get a decent family picture.  The last family picture we took was a very last minute acquiescence and this year I wanted to make sure we took a decent photo. That doesn’t mean we dressed up and coordinated colors (much less shaved facial hair!) but at least we had a festive backdrop and Clayton took a good pic.

Christmas-6Hunter practicing his smile while Clayton sets up the camera.

After the “photo shoot” it was play time and we packed a lot into a few days. The majority of our focus was on kiting and we got some pretty good pics:

Christmas-5Clayton skimming along.

DSC01060Frank looking mighty relaxed.

Christmas-2Hunter spends a lot of kite time upside down. Christmas-8You went how high? A perspective on how high Hunter jumps.

Captain is not always happy that her herd is off of the boat and she spends a lot of time running from side to side barking for us to come back to the boat.

DSC02357 Should I put a Fitbit on Captain and see how many steps she gets?

Spinnaker-3LIB looks festive flying her new spinnaker.

We all enjoy sailing and the west side of Bonaire is perfect because the low land prevents the waves but not the wind. Every day we sailed to and from our mooring site to either the kiting spot or a scuba diving ball.

Hunter and Clayton earned their open water scuba certification three Christmases ago but we have not had many chances to dive with them.  The four of us dove this week and the marine life was great, but diving was definitely not their favorite activity.  I think they enjoyed cooling off but the activity itself was too staid for their tastes….. surprise!

Other activities included bike riding, swimming, snorkeling, exploring, SUPing and generally just enjoying our time together on the boat.  We are very fortunate that we truly enjoy being together; so the time flew by.

Christmas-9LIB showing off her North 3di sales.

We have tried to get a few pictures of LIB actually sailing so those interested in buying her can see just how pretty she looks sporting her North 3di sails. Since Clayton messes around with photography, he acted as the photographer and Hunter and I took turns driving the dinghy a couple of times.  Of course, we refused to allow the pictures to take precedence over playtime, so we didn’t use the best lighting of the the day. Still, Clayton did a good job with the pics and managed to get some photos of our boat zipping along.

Christmas-4Very cool to see this yacht actually sailing!

While out and about, we spotted this giant sailboat, M5.  It is unusual to see very large sailboats actually sailing, so we especially enjoyed watching this 250 foot long beauty going though her paces.  If you look closely, you can see the wing of an airplane on the aft deck! This sailboat was built in 2003 and refit in 2014. It is the largest single-masted yacht ever built. To give you a little perspective…. her beam is broader than the whole length of LIB!

Of course we were too busy “doing” for me to spend much time taking pictures, but we did take a little walk along the salt fields to see if we could get any interesting photos.

ChristmasClayton walking near the salt pond.

Once again the lighting was not conducive to taking great pictures and we couldn’t get really close to the pools, but I did snap this photo of Clayton as he strolled along looking for a better angle.

Bonaire has an outdoor movie theater and we decided it would be a fun change of activity for us. We drove the dinghy to a nearby marina, then walked about 12 minutes to the Empire Theater where the latest Star Wars movie was showing.  Our kids are too young to remember drive in theaters so this was a fun way to give them an idea of what that bygone entertainment was like.  Empire Theater is a fun experience but I can’t say the sound system is indoor theater quality. For the price of a ticket, you are given a plastic chair and a pair of 3D glasses.  We arranged our chairs in the gravel flooring, put on our glasses and thoroughly enjoyed watching the Resistance Fighters battle evil! Until, the rain came and we all had to dash beneath the very scant roof.

Even with the rain, we had was fun and enjoyed watching the movie in such a unique place.

Christmas-3Clayton and Hunter snagging the mooring ball.

Having all of us together, sharing activities, meals, laughter and Christmas was the best gift I could receive. I love having the chance to cook favorite meals and desserts for the kids and watching them relax and lounge about on LIB. And it is kind of nice to sit back and let my three guys take care of the helming and mooring while I have the satisfaction of watching them work as a team.

Last year Hunter was working out of the country and we were unable to be together for the Holidays.  Remembering that Hunter was away last year made this Christmas just a little bit sweeter.  I am thankful for the many, many blessings God has bestowed on us; and I thank Him daily for my family.

I hope all of you had a blessed Holiday and we on LIB pray that God blesses your 2018 with health, happiness and adventure!

Thank you so much for visiting our blog! If you would like to hear from us more often, please visit our FB page.

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

Goodbye Aruba, Hello Bonaire!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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….

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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!

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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.

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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…

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Who knows what might pop out from a crevice?

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My favorite “find” so far was this octopus!

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This doesn’t do justice to the myriad of colors.

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Loads of fishies!

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This eel was fast…. or was I hesitant to get too close??

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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.

 

 

ARUBA! An Easy Place to While Away Time.

Wow, sorry for the lack of blog posts.  I would say it’s been super busy here, but that is a relative term.  We have been busy, but a lot of what we have been doing is researching things for the new boat.  (Skip to the bottom for that news.)

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Our view when anchored off Nikki Beach.

Aruba is a beautiful island with a population of a little ever 100,000 as of 2016.  The locals are extremely nice and cheerful, so we feel very welcome here.  However, the focus is certainly on the tourists who arrive via cruise ship or plane and we little cruisers are sort of an afterthought.  Which is understandable when you consider that just yesterday there were four cruise ships in port which is probably about 20,000 visitors!

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In this picture I captured 3 cruise ships and an airplane!

Checking into Aruba by private boat is a bit of an adventure. Boaters must tie up to the large commercial dock which is not well situated for a small boat.  When we arrived, the wind was beating us up against the concrete wall and the only protection besides our boat bumpers were old tires.  Let It Be came away with a lot of black tire marks on the side and we were tense the whole time we were at the commercial dock, but thankfully we didn’t have any other damage.

All of the paperwork was completed at the dock and immigration and customs came to us; but it took a while!

There are pretty much only two marinas available here and currently they are very full with boats from Puerto Rico that ran from Hurricane Maria and boaters who have escaped Venezuela.

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The Renaissance Marina.

We stayed in the Renaissance Marina for a few days before our trip to the U.S. and it is a nice place to stay. The marina is right across from all of the action of town and there are two hotels associated with the marina where we were welcome to swim and use the restrooms.

Since returning from the U.S., we have been anchored off Nikki Beach which is right next to the airport.  This is not a calm and quiet anchorage, so don’t expect flat water.  But the beach is nice and it is easy to pull the dinghy up on shore.  We have enjoyed taking Captain for walks twice a day on the beach and we have been swimming or SUPing most afternoons to get some exercise.

There are other beaches along the west coast of Aruba that are even prettier than Nikki Beach, but they are not well protected either.

We have rented a car a few times and explored most of the island by car.

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How many animals could survive here?

Driving around Aruba, the east coast is rugged and dry. Although years ago, there were supposedly a variety of grazing areas for cows, goats and other animals, we didn’t see any areas that looked capable of supporting cattle; and we are here during the rainy season.

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The east coast water was pretty but rough.

We are still considering moving up to Palm Beach on the northwest shore of Aruba so we can dive some of the shipwrecks, but much depends on the winds.

Aruba’s two largest visitor populations are from the cruise ships and repeat time share owners.  Both visitors seem to really enjoy their time here and many of the people I’ve spoken with make Aruba a multiple repeat vacation destination.

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Prada? Cartier? Ralph Lauren? Gucci?

I think Aruba is so popular because it is an easy place to get to and there are many familiar amenities that make it perfect for those who like a taste of home when they travel.  You will find most recognizable restaurant chains here and every upscale designer seems to have a store front.

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A “ying/yang” lounge chair?! Suits us pretty well.

We have certainly taken advantage of several of the restaurants and enjoyed many delicious meals here in Aruba. We have enjoyed access (by car) to very well stocked grocery stores. We have loved swimming nearly every day.

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Dinner at Elements was one of the best meals we had in Aruba!

We have also enjoyed spending time with our friends Shelly and Greg of s/v Semper Fi, who also sailed away from Puerto Rico just before Hurricane Maria.  Greg and Shelly have spent a lot of time on Aruba and they have been really helpful in learning what Aruba has to offer.

One other thing we appreciate about Aruba is that we were able to have the bottom of LIB cleaned and repainted.  LIB was on the hard for three weeks while we were traveling in the U.S. and we are very pleased with the work performed at Varadero Aruba Marina and Boatyard. Once again LIB is clean, painted and ready to sail.

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It has been pretty interesting to watch the constant coming and going of the cruise ships at all times of day and night.  More than once we have awakened to Captain barking at night and when we look outside, there is yet another ship leaving with all lights blazing.

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The picture is poor, but you can see how amazingly bright these ships are at night!

If I have to summarize my thoughts about Aruba, it is a bit like living at anchor in a small city.  If you are a city person at heart who is living on a boat, Aruba might be the perfect place for you!  Frank and I are both looking forward to getting back to a little quieter anchorage if we can find one.  Next week the wind is forecast to lighten up so we will probably leave here and sail back toward Curacao and Bonaire.

~HH55~

One upside to the HH55 is that there are many ways to customize the boat, everything from choosing aft or interior helm stations to designing the cabinets in the galley and hulls.

It is really fun to have these options but it takes a good deal of thought, planning and research.  Unfortunately when we have s-l-o-w internet, research is very time consuming.  But we are plowing along and making decisions.

The folks at HH have been very responsive to our questions and they are working hard to help us build the boat we think will work best for us when we circumnavigate.  Also, Gino Morrelli has been amazingly helpful with the details of the boat and with catching things in the renderings that we need to consider.

The very first decision we had to make was which helm station configuration we wanted: the interior, center helm station or dual, outdoor, aft helm stations.

The interior helm is a very cool feature and we thought it would be really nice to sit inside during passages and helm from indoors. Whomever is at the helm would remain part of the activities indoors and would not be isolated at an outdoor helm station. We have some concern that during ocean crossings, water could come through the trampoline and swamp the pit by the mast where lines are adjusted in the interior helm configuration.  Plus the interior helm is a great way to reduce sun exposure and help prevent skin cancer.

The outdoor helm configuration is familiar and comfortable. With dual helm stations, docking would be easier because you could be in the helm station closest to the dock so you can see easily.   Removing the helm from the salon would allow for another sitting area indoors and make the salon more open physically and visually.

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Image from HH55 layout page.

Both configurations have positive features, but for us, the dual, aft helm is our choice. When sailing LIB, Frank and I love to sit at the helm together and watch the world go by, so we have a hard time imagining ourselves sitting inside the salon as we sail.

HH and Gino Morrelli are working with us to make sure the outdoor helm station seats are comfortable and will accommodate both of us as we sail. Perfect – for us anyway.

So there you have it. Our HH55 will be the dual, aft helm stations. FYI, this was not a difficult decision. I think most people know instinctively which would be better for their preferences.

Thanks for reading our blog. If you have any questions, feel free to ask.  If you want to see what we are up to more often, please visit our FB page: Let It Be, Helia 44.

 

Boat Dog Boarding. What Is a Pet Owner To Do?

While living on Let It Be full time, it is sometimes necessary to fly back to The States for family events or doctor appointments and such. Are you making reservations again?

Flying with a dog is difficult and even with the proper paperwork, once landed, additional questions about which hotels accept dogs and are clean, where to leave the dog while taking care of many errands or appointments, makes travel and use of time a bit more complicated. 

This year we have had to leave Captain behind three times and twice were for extended trips. Finding a place where Captain can be well cared for, get some attention and a decent amount of exercise, has been a challenge but the effort has been worthwhile. 

I thought some pet owners might find it useful to know how we have managed this year, so here is the rundown for our three trips. 

In May, Frank and I were in the Dominican Republic and we had a visit to Florida planned. We would leave together, conduct our meetings over the course of five days, then I would fly back to the DR and Frank would leave for his Atlantic crossing. 

For this trip, we hired a delightful guy named Nelson who works at the Samana Marina. Captain remained on LIB, Nelson came by to feed and walk Cappy twice a day and Cap was able to be ‘at home’ while we were away. 

One of our walks in Samana. 

Also, our dock neighbors, Andre and Josee, were simply awesome and kept an eye out for Captain. They decided Captain needed more activity, so when they walked their dog, Roxy, they brought Captain along. 

How awesome is that?!!!

Captain rides shotgun with Natalia. 

The second trip we took was from Puerto Rico and we planned to be traveling to multiple locations over a three week period. Fortunately I looked up rover.com, a U.S. internet based company where you enter your zip code and the bios for pet sitters near your location pop up.

 Captain with Natalia’s dogs. 

It is through rover.com that I found Natalia, who took excellent care of Captain. Natalia’s home was very well set up for dogs and she really loved Cappy. 

Natalia has two dogs for Cappy to play with and daily walks were a given. While Cappy was with Natalia, Hurricane Irma was heading toward PR and Natalia was very communicative about her plans should evacuation become necessary. 

Captain chillin’ at Natalia’s. 

We were extremely happy with Natalia’s care for Captain and had planned on leaving Cap with her again for our October trip to the States, but our escape from Hurricane Maria rendered that impossible. 

Our final trip this year we had to scramble and find last minute accommodations for Captain in Aruba!

Fortunately we found the Dog Hotel Aruba where a young couple boards dogs in their yard. Rose and her husband are clearly dog lovers and assured me they would take great care of Captain. 

Captain says “pick me.”

The Dog Hotel Aruba has several kennels and two large fenced areas on site. The dogs are outside pretty much all day and large dogs are separated from small dogs. The dogs are also taken to the beach to swim once or twice a week. Not a bad way for Captain to spend her time when we have to be away. 

That is a pretty little swimming hole!

I consider each of the dog stays successful though obviously very different. I think Captain was most comfortable when she stayed on the boat and was at home in our absence. I am sure in that situation Captain felt the least ‘abandoned ‘ but she was probably a bit lonely. Still, this is similar to dogs who stay home while their owners are away. 

Staying with Natalia was where I think Captain received the most amount of human attention and love. This was a very good fit for Captain and us. Plus it was easy to find a sitter with good reviews and paying online was convenient. 

I’m fine up here. 

The dog hotel in Aruba was a good find. I doubt this is Cappy’s favorite stay because she usually prefers to be with people more than dogs. But like a child who has to play with others, this is probably a good experience for Captain. 

Even though finding a place to leave our dog takes a little time, so far it has worked out well for us. Plus, there is the added comfort of being able to receive pictures and updates to make sure our furry loved one is doing well. 

Cap is pretty relaxed in LIB. 

I acknowledge that we have been fortunate in finding great options for Captain, but I still feel a little guilty leaving her behind. I have really enjoyed our travels and visits with friends and family but I am glad we don’t have any other time off the boat planned for a while!

And I am confident Captain will agree completely when we get back and I tell her. 

Thanks a bunch for stopping by. Please share your thoughts on pet care while away from home. 

Arial Photos of Places We’ve Seen

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LIB stripped and prepared for Irma. (SUP was inside while away.)

Well, we are finally back on our boat in Puerto Rico and we are SO fortunate that we suffered NO damage from Hurricane Irma.  At the very last minute, this horrific storm decided to go just a bit north and the island of Puerto Rico avoided a direct hit.

In the face of this near miss, the folks here on PR have stepped up and contributed to the efforts to help neighboring islands which have been decimated.  There are people taking tangible supplies to PR, others have picked up people stranded on the island and brought them to PR and still others have taken friends or strangers into their boats and homes here in Puerto Rico.

On LIB, we have not contributed physically to the efforts, but we have tried to offer emotional and some financial support.  Our intention is to give trained personnel time to reinstate order, then actually go and help rebuild.  Admittedly Frank is much better with tools than I, but I have learned a lot since moving onto LIB and I am sure will be able to help in some way.

In the mean time, on our flight back to Puerto Rico, we saw from the air some of the islands we played on while cruising the Bahamas this year.  I have not always been a student of geography, but living on a boat has taught me a lot and it was fun to recognize the islands we had visited from an arial perspective.

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We spent several days anchored off Normans Cay.

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Enjoying the shallows while paddling to “The Pond” on Normans

We stopped on Normans twice this season; once alone and once with some of our Sail to the Sun Rally friends on board LIB with us.

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Captain found the soft, deserted beaches perfect for playing chase!

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The second great picture from the plane was of Cambridge and Compass Cays.  The cut between them is where we met up with s/v Radiance in an amazing feat of timing.  We had texted with Radiance crew, Susan and Kevin, who were heading toward the Exumas from Florida while we were returning to the Exumas from Eluethera.  Our plan was to anchor near Compass Cay and contact each other upon arrival, but just as we were getting close to the cut and were dousing our spinnaker, we spotted Radiance also approaching the cut! LIB fell into line right behind Radiance and we followed them into the anchorage!

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Susan demos the arduous skill of floating about on Compass Cay!

Cambridge Cay is where we first met Kristen and James of s/v Tatiana and Laurie and Chris of s/v Temerity.  This area is also the location of another Sail to the Sun meeting where about 10 of us did a float snorkel near the Rocky Dundas in water so clear that Tom and Louise on s/v Blue Lady appeared to be suspended in air in the picture below.

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Blue Lady lifts anchor near Cambridge Cay.

Traveling in a plane nearly 100 times faster than LIB sails, we quickly covered the area we sailed this season. But it was fun to look out the window and recall the islands we visited and see again the amazing blues unique to the Bahamas.

For now, we are keeping an eye on the weather here in Puerto Rico and hoping this nasty 2017 hurricane season ends without any more storms anywhere! We look forward to putting LIB back into working shape and once again exploring the Caribbean.

As always, thank you for stopping by our blog. We would love to hear from you. If you want to see what we are up to more often, please see our FB page: Let It Be, Helia 44.

Life Onboard; Comparing Year 1 and Year 2

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The unparalleled waters of the Bahamas.

September marks the second completed year of full time living on our sailboat and it is amazing how different the two years have been.

Our first year we spent the first months working hard to get Let It Be ready for us to live on her.  Although we bought our boat new, we had several items we wanted to add to make life on our boat just a bit easier.

Probably the three biggest changes we made during the first year that have made LIB more functional for us were:

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Adding a Cruise RO Water Maker which frees us from looking for places to buy water as we travel.

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Adding these two upper windows to our salon which allow us to have airflow into the boat even if it rains outside.

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Our new cushions which are so much more comfortable than our original ones and add a very nice pop of color and individuality to LIB.

As far as our actual travel during the first season, we spent our time in the Windward and Leeward Islands of the Caribbean and loved moving from one country to the next.  The majority of our time was spent on anchor; we spent three nights in a dock on Antigua celebrating the New Year, then did not use a marina again until June.

We thoroughly enjoyed being on the hook, swimming and snorkeling almost every day and living that first season very much in tune with nature.

At the end of our first season, we left the Caribbean and sailed north all the way to Annapolis, MD to get in position for my personal “wish” which was to join a rally and work our way south through the Intracoastal Waterway.

Prior to the start of our second season aboard LIB, we made three additional changes to LIB that have made a significant difference for her in a positive way.

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We invested in brand new 3di sails by North Sails.  These sails are higher performance than our original sails and have gained us the ability to point higher and sail a bit faster. Definitely a win for LIB and us.

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We replaced all of our electronic equipment with B&G and we added radar to LIB.  We are very happy with our new equipment and find the autopilot to be excellent. The B&G equipment has some features that our previous system did not have and we find the whole system more user friendly.

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Our third change was that Frank and I completely revamped the rain water drainage on LIB by enlarging the drain holes and leading the captured water into the drain in the cockpit floor.  Prior to making these alterations, our cockpit floor would get wet when it rained because water ran off of the upstairs sun area and into the cockpit.  Since our modification, our cockpit is dry and usable even during heavy rains.

Our second season of cruising has been great but completely different from our first. We kicked it off with the 2016 Sail to the Sun Rally that started in Hampton, Virginia.  In the company of 18 other sailboats, we spent two months working our way south to Florida.  Nearly every evening we were in a different marina and we ate out more often than we ever did while living on land. The social life was amazing and the group of people were like minded and are sure to be friends for a very long time.

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A few STTS Ralliers waiting for a trolley tour.

We spent January through April in the Bahamas, including several stays in marinas.  Next we worked our way over to the Turks and Caicos, the Dominican Republic and then to Puerto Rico for this hurricane season.

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This marina in Samana, DR isn’t exactly a hardship!

While in the Turks and Caicos, we spent 95 percent of our time in a marina.  In the Dominican Republic we spent 100 percent of our time in marinas and now that we are settled in Puerto Rico for hurricane season, we are again in a marina.

As you can tell, our second season was all about marinas and much of it was about land activities.

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Kiting in Antigua.

Our first season we ate off of the boat rarely and focused on our water sports. Many hours and anchorages were all about kite boarding in beautiful places and having beaches all to ourselves.

This year we have made a ton of new boat friends, helped considerably by the Sail to the Sun Rally, and we have spent more time exploring on land.

In summary, I would say this year feels more like “land life” while living on a boat but our first year felt more like living on a sailboat.

If I had to choose if I prefer year one or two, I would not be able to do so. Year one I loved being in tune with the sunrises and sunsets while on anchor. I loved swimming to shore nearly every day and daily water activities.  I loved being in somewhat isolated places and feeling out of touch with U.S. news but being able to stay in contact with my family and friends.

This year I loved making so many new friends and reconnecting with friends in different anchorages or marinas. The convenience of restaurants and stores was welcome. It was really nice to be back in the U.S. with everything so familiar and accessible. But because we were in the States, it was easy to get caught up in the “real world” and that was not my favorite aspect of year two.

So now that we have experienced two very different years, what will we do for the upcoming season?

In November, we are once again setting off toward the Windward and Leeward Islands of the Caribbean. But this year we will also jump over to the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao) and spend time there before the hurricane season of 2018 begins.

My hope is that this season we can somehow manage to blend our last two seasons.  Perhaps we will devise an itinerary that includes remote anchorages intermingled with some more developed areas with conveniences we sometimes crave (think grocery stores with our favorite veggies and fruits).

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It was a great surprise when Starry Horizons was nearby!

And of course, we hope to reconnect with sailing friends because it is a little thrill to drop anchor and suddenly realize that a nearby boat is a friend we didn’t know was in the area.

As always, thank you for visiting our blog. We love hearing your comments. If you are interested in seeing more of our everyday activities, please visit our FB page: Let It Be, Helia 44

Sargassum ~ Floating Habitat with a Big Smell!

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Sargassum at sea (image by Tam Warner Minton/Flickr)

Sargassum grass is a type of brown algae that floats in small patches or gathers into large masses and can be found in every ocean except the Antarctic.  The first written report of sargassum dates back to 1492 by Christopher Columbus (don’t get me started on the different names I have encountered for this famous explorer!).

Like every living force, sargassum has some great properties and some that we could do without.  Here in The Yacht Club at Palmas del Mar, Puerto Rico, the big negative is the smell emitted by the algae as it dies on the shore line and releases sulphur compounds that smell like rotten eggs on steroids!

But this floating grass also has benefits for the ocean.  As many as 52 varieties of fish were found to take shelter and find food within this floating algae off of North Carolina.  Sargassum grass offers a moving habitat for fish in parts of the ocean where no other is available.

Interestingly, a study by the North Carolina National Estuarine Reserve states, “The Sargassum community occupies such a large dimension of the upper water column (up to 3 m depth) and is typically so diverse that one gear or collection method cannot effectively sample it all.” 

In studying the algae columns, researchers found that there is something of a layering habitat within the sargassum where smaller fish live in the algae, slightly larger juvenile fish live below the grass and larger predators such as dolphins swim further down in the water.

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Small gas-filled spheres that look like berries keep the seaweed afloat. (naturetime.worpress.com)

In recent years, sargassum has become so prolific that it has caused issues along some beaches, creating foul smells as it rots on the shore, deterring vacationers from visiting popular resort destinations.  Additionally, the grass can be so dense in places that it inhibits the movement of hatching sea turtles on their way to the water, causing them to die before reaching the ocean.  But once in the water, small turtles also find food and shelter within the sargassum algae.

The benefits of sargassum are not limited to fish and turtles.

Since the eighth century, traditional Chinese medicine has used sargassum as a natural diuretic and for treating goiters and thyroid deficiencies. Additionally, the algae is nutrient dense and contains carbon, making it an excellent fertilizer.  The government of Tobago is encouraging farmers to use this algae as fertilizer on crops.

Experts believe these main factors are causing the increase in sargassum grass;

  1. higher ocean temperatures which allows this tropical plant to thrive
  2. polluted waters carrying higher nutrients that act like a fertilizer for the sargassum
  3. changing “liquid boundaries” in the ocean caused by storms and high winds help spread sargassum throughout the oceans

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Sargassum drift near The Yacht Club only two weeks after a clean up.

Most days as I head out for my walk here at Palmas del Mar, I hold my breath as I pass one area ripe with rotting sargassum grass.  Even though the marina is doing all it can to collect and remove the plant, I gag a little on days when the smell is strong.

So I’m glad I researched sargassum and can at least appreciate the benefits it offers instead thinking it is just a “smelly weed.”  Perhaps the next time you are confronted with the obnoxious odor of this algae as it decomposes, you will be able to consider its’ benefits like I am now and both of us will resent the smell a little less.

As always, thank you for visiting our blog. We love hearing your comments. If you are interested in seeing more of our everyday activities, please visit our FB page: Let It Be, Helia 44

 

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