Posted by: rosyroadsadventures | July 23, 2012

Diving into Bonaire

N 12° 09.3′   W 68° 16.8′

Kralendijk, Bonaire.

 

View from our spot in the Bonaire mooring field. Bob says some of the nicest diving was just off the boat.

 

Bonaire, the most easterly and first of the ABC islands (Aruba-Bonaire-Curaçao ) on our itinerary has been a very pleasant surprise. With only one anchorage and two marina options on this small island we had low expectations. I can only say it is absolutely delightful and falls into the category of another one of the places we wish we could stay longer. Real estate and rentals are reasonably priced and we could envision spending time here on land some day too.

The climate is pleasantly cooler and drier than in Florida and the Eastern Caribbean, with the humidity also lower. Temperatures range from the high 70’s at night to the mid to upper 80’s during the day, not bad given we are only 12 degrees north of the equator. No lush rainforests are to be found on this mostly flat land that is peppered with succulents and cacti among the palms. We have had just two brief rain showers in the week we have been here. Outside of the hurricane belt, tropical storms are rare here. One hurricane and several tropical storms have been recorded over the past hundred years. There are still some pesky no-see-ums but the dogs seem much more comfortable and the constant scratching they had in the Grenadines has subsided.

Bonaire is a special municipality of the country of the Netherlands. Like many of the Caribbean islands, it was ruled by many different nations over the course of its history. Initially settled by Indians from Venezuela, the island was later governed by the Spanish, then the Dutch, then the British, then Dutch again – first as part of the Netherland Antilles, and now as a public body of the Netherlands. There are two major towns on the island, Kralendijk (pronounced “crawl-en-dike”) and the smaller Rincon, inland and to the north.

The people are a mix of European-Dutch heritage, native islanders and immigrants from Venezuela and the US among other places around the world. Sometimes it is hard to pick out the tourists from the locals. The official languages are Dutch and Papiamentu, a Creole language with influences from Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, English, French and African dialects. Most islanders are fluent in English and Spanish in addition to the official languages and we have encountered no language barriers so far.

The streets of Kralendijk are lined with appealing and trendy shops. Bright, colorful fashions are displayed on the mannequins inviting a shopping excursion. Pretty murals depicting island life are frequent sights, attesting to the strength of Bonaire’s arts community. Restaurant varieties cover many types and nationalities – International, Chinese, Italian, Indian, Sushi, BBQ, Caribbean, Colombian, French. A couple of meals ashore have been a real treat, with creative cuisine and sauces bursting with flavor. There is a Budget Marine here, and they can get many items air freighted in quickly from the larger store in Sint Maarten. The new Van den Tweel supermarket, best visited by car, is the most impressive market we have encountered since leaving home and was well stocked with American and European goodies, high quality meats and produce. Bob is tasting the different varieties of “schnitzel” and I found some steals on Dutch brand staples.

Diving is the island’s calling card and draws serious dive tourists. There are sixty-three named dives surrounding the mainland and twenty-six (A through Z) around Klein Bonaire. Most of the dives on the mainland are accessible from the shore, with boats needed only for the Klein Bonaire dives. Most dive tourists simply rent a vehicle and their gear and set off with a choice of more dives than they could possibly cover in a short vacation. There seems to be a dive shop on every corner and courses are readily available including instruction in the newer Nitrox system which makes it physically easier to accomplish multiple dives each day. Bob has gotten reacquainted with this past interest, and has ventured off each morning to dive with our cruising friends.

The island is boater-friendly although being off-the-beaten-path from a cruising perspective the tourism office doesn’t make much of an effort to attract yachting business. The boaters we have met here are all of the pretty serious nature, with long passages often including ocean crossings on their boating resumes. We are having a sort of “trawler-fest” here with our convoy of three – Mar Azul, Renegade, Mystic Moon, joined by Hobo, a 42-foot Kadey Krogen who came in from Curaçao the day before we did. Having just spent time in Panama, the San Blas Islands, and Colombia, Lena and Larry have been a wealth of information for us for our upcoming itinerary. We also became better acquainted with Rico and Jackson on the sailing vessel Apparition, whom we had met in St. Martin. They plan to be trawler owners in the not-too-distant future. Not that we only socialize with those on similar boats, but is does seem that when there is a rare trawler in the anchorage there is more curiosity and an incentive to get to know each other. Larry and Lena said we were the first trawlers they had seen in many months. The small group of visiting sailors here must have thought they were being invaded when our group arrived last Friday morning.

The waters surrounding the island are part of a large marine park. With the emphasis on preserving the coral reef, anchoring is a serious offense and permitted only for very large vessels under the supervision of the harbor master. The mooring field has been comfortable. The only drawback to our stay thus far has been the heavy Saharan dust, which is not particular to Bonaire. We had quite a bit of the dust while in Martinique and I am reading it has been a concern in South Florida lately. It makes for a reddish-brown dusty mess that turns into a nasty mud when wet, and likely contains toxic stuff that we would not like to have around and collecting on our critters’ paws. I have been cleaning every day to get it off the decks, and was glad to hear that the dust clouds are moving out of the area. The only other concern here for mariners is the potential for wind reversals. On the rare occasions that the wind comes from the southwest the mooring field becomes untenable. Everyone either has to go into the marina or head out to sea. They say the bigger marina goes above and beyond to make room for all, but it seems quite busy now. We are keeping a close eye on the weather.

We have been here long enough to settle into a very pleasant routine. This week Bob is taking a break from diving to allow time for land touring and some R & R before we move on to Curaçao.

 

One of the pretty shopping streets in Kralendijk

A trip to Digicel to purchase a wireless modem and sim card was the best internet option for us in the ABC’s

Bonaire is dog-friendly and the gals enjoy their morning stroll along the waterfront. There is not a lot of grass here with the more arid climate and the turf is more shell-y and gravely. They still love it.

Catching up with our trawler friends at Karel’s on the waterfront: L to R – Don(Renegade), Kathy (Mystic Moon), Larry (Hobo), John (Mystic Moon), Lena (Hobo), Sarah (Renegade), Bob, Deb (Renegade), and of course I was the photographer. We are missing Maddie and Bill from Renegade. Tough to get the whole group together at once.

The north end of the mooring field, away from the lively entertainment at Karel’s was a smart choice for those who need absolute quiet to sleep. Our friends on S/V Apparition, right.

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Responses

  1. Enjoyed your report on Bonaire! Great that you met people coming from the “other” direction so you could get some good info on what to expect.

    • Yes, great info, and nice to have it first hand. We are making some adjustments to our itinerary as a result. Also got us thinking more about the provisioning challenges we will have while in the San Blas islands of Panama, where we may spend a couple of months. No traditional stores there, which should be interesting. The only bad part is that several folks confirmed that finding a good passage north out of Panama might be tough.


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