Saturday, May 12, 2007

Lunch at Bistro Le Clochard

Scott and I rarely splurge on a expensive restaurant but when we saw the white sail canopies (seen on the far left in the picture here) of "Bistro Le Clochard" we threw the budget to the wind. The restaurant's terrace is visible from the floating Emma bridge which crosses the narrow channel entrance of Williamsted harbour. It is tucked into Fort Rif and the rooms are within the 19th Century vaulting of the old Dutch fort guarding one side of the entrance.
The entrance is into a lovely greenhouse but we were headed for the dramatic tables overlooking the water. The waves were crashing against the walls of the fort and some of the tables were not available as a result - we got a dry location with an amazing view. Not long after our arrival two tugs exited the harbor and then proceeded to escort a huge freighter right past us.

We watched as the bridge slowly opened. The end of the bridge has two giant outboard motors; they power the 16 floating pontoon boats and the bridge above them in a semi circle, ending up parallel to the shore. This was built in 1888 and was recently overhauled and restored. While it is out of service free ferries called "ponchi" take passengers over the channel for free.

The food was terrific too - French and Swiss. We even treated ourselves to a beautifully arranged dessert of local strawberries and cream. That's one portion shown in the picture! After that Scott and I had to take a long walk around the city - hardly a difficult task.

Shopping is a big pastime in Willemstad - all the traditional European and American higher end chains are represented. Our favorite however was the local markets and outdoor craft artisans.

Friday, May 11, 2007


Curacao is the largest and most populated of the ABCs. It covers 171 square miles and 134,000 inhabitants. It was claimed for the Spanish by Alonso de Ojeda in 1499 and occupied by the Dutch in 1634. It's natural large protected harbour made it a center for the slave trade until slavery was abolished in 1863. Affluence from this thriving business built the beautiful architecture of Willemstad, a mixture of Dutch and Spanish styles. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and very lovely.

In 1914 oil was dicovered at Maracaibo Basin and the Royal Dutch Shell built a large oil refinery in Curacao, this was turned over to the local government in the mid 1980s and now is leased to Venezuela. The oil developement caused serious descrepancies among the social groups on the island resulting in large scale rioting and protests in May of 1969. This resulted in more control over the political process by the majority Afro-Caribbean populace.

Tourism is becoming more important and big hotel developments are evident. Our marina is part of a combination hotel/condo/private home complex. At this point only the marina and some private homes are finished (very expensive ones). We're located at the end of a long private road and traveling to the city takes some planning. We caught a ride with one of our cuiser friends into the city and took the local bus back to the gate house. There we waited until a security guard came to drive us down to the marina.

This image on the right and some in the previous blog entry were taken around the marina and show the semi-arid vegetation and table topped hills that reminded us of the US southwest. The remaining lumps of other hills, worn down by occasional downpours and wind litter the area. The sunrise from our boat on our first morning here was really lovely.

Bonaire to Curacao

We really hated to leave Bonaire. It meant saying goodbye to many old and new friends. When we return in July only a few of them will be around. Luckily Bob and Barbara will be there as they sold their beautiful boat "Enkidu" during our stay and have moved into a rental apartment at the Marina while they look for a new home in Bonaire. They are sitting to my left in this picture taken during dinner on Tango (shown below).

Another shot (shown above) is of one of the tables during the weekly Mexican dominos game. Valerie is on the left; it was hard to say goodbye to she and Dave - they were great buddy boat friends on our month through the Venezuelan islands.

Finally we cleared out of Customs, battened down the hatches and left for Curacao. Again it was an easy fast trip and we were off the marina, Seru Boca, in Spaanse Water (a beautiful large lagoon inside the island) by 2 PM. The wind was continuing between 15 and 22 knots so we anchored off the Marina and gave them a call on our VHF radio.
The manager came out to the boat and suggested waiting until early next morning to come into our slip, when the wind would be at it's calmest. That sounded great to us. We did go into the small restaurant/bar for dinner that night and met many old friends from our summer in Trinidad. The neighoring boats on either side of us will be there until our return and we met the owners as well. This is a lovely, although remote, spot!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Fun times in Bonaire

We joined our friends from "Will of the Wisp", "Justoo" and "Unplugged" plus "Angel" on a trip to Lac Bay on the east side of Bonaire for the day in a rented truck. This picture shows how 10 people manage in a five passenger truck.

On the way we drove by the salt ponds. These are huge square pens of various colors from green to pink that dry out the salt from the water. This is major industry here on Bonaire. Until the Dutch took possesion from the Spanish in 1633 there was little development on the island and salt was it's only resource. It changed hands several times and was handed back to the Dutch by the Treaty of Paris in 1816. By 1837 it had a thriving salt industry, all made possible by slave labor. We visited the slave quarters which have been restored. Six men used to share these tiny dark houses.

A large group of kite surfers were practicing here on the beaches and they are spectacular to watch but our goal was the windsurfing lagoon at shallow Lac Bay. Honoree and Scott rented them and practiced as we all watched and cheered. Honoree is quite good and Scott is getting better! Many of us walked a half mile across the bay (it is that shallow!) to snorkel on the reef. It was a lot of exercise as the currents were quite strong. We rented lounge chairs and sat and talked too. Later we had dinner at a wonderful nearby restaurant, Kon Tiki - great food, atmosphere and service.

Another night we went to see "Eregon" at the movie theater on Fair Winds, a Scientology cruise ship that was in town. They invited mostly local people but Honoree had met the social director while running. All the guests and staff on the boat are Scientology members and most are there to take the courses and tests. The movie was very entertaining and it was fun to tour the boat. There were no attempts to convert any of the invited guests.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Water Sports in Bonaire

The next few days we spent on water sports and socializing. Honoree and Walt on "Will of the Wisp" came over for dinner and then we spent a day on their boat scuba diving and snorkeling off Klein Bonaire. These shots are all taken that day. Even though the weather and water is quite warm, wet suits help keep one warm when in the water for some time, or diving deeper.

Another day we did the same with Peter and Connie on "Justoo" at the dive mooring site called "A Thousand Steps" north of Kralenduk with Coleen and Tom from "Unplugged" joining us. Both these boats are 38 feet and therefore can moor at the special dive moorings. That's the limit on size. The snorkeling and diving is famous here and justifiably so. In July when Scott and I fly back to Curacao, our son Sean and a friend will be joining us for 20 days. They and I plan to get our PADI Basic Scuba certifications in Bonaire. Scott already has his and may do an advanced course.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Aves de Sotavento to Bonaire

We left the next day at 9 AM and it was another rolly fast sail downwind. We're getting better at jibbing the main safely with the preventor but getting the jib through the narrow slot between the Yankee and the staysail is difficult. We've decided it's safer to roll it in and then take it out again. The route into our new anchorage in the Aves de Sotavento was easy to see and a pretty spot. We were between Isles Palmeras and the small island to it's south. Lots of dolphins escorted us in, playing in our bow waves. We spent the rest of the afternoon kayaking around the three islands, snorkeling off the north end and visiting a fisherman's compound and shrine.
Up early we cast off and again enjoyed our dolphin escort for miles heading west. We were in 20 plus knots of wind and 8 foot waves but it was fun tacking downwind and a fast passage. In no time we saw the hills of Bonaire ahead and headed up the west coast towards Kralenduk. As predicted in our guide book, this reach in calm waters with lots of wind was wonderful sailing. We hit 9.3 knots at one point! It was May 1, Labor Day, and a holiday in Bonaire so we picked up a mooring and went into Customs and Immigration (at the Police Station because of the holiday). Later we went out to dinner with our friends from Australia, Jerry and Nikki, on "Orphalleur" at the Mona Lisa Restaurant - wonderful food. After weeks in undeveloped islands it was a bit surreal to be there.
The next day "Enkidu", Bob and Barbara, good friends from our summer in Trinidad and moored beside us, took us all around in their car for errands. I dropped off three bags of laundry and visited two supermarkets - heaven to get lots of fresh vegetables, meat and fruit. Later we met up with Debra and Richard on "Tango", also friends from Trinidad for drinks. They presented our Welcome Aboard certificate from Seven Seas Cruising Association; we are now Commodores! They invited us all to a terrific dinner on their catamaran a few days later. That night we fell into bed early after motoring into the Harbour Village Marina and filling up our dry water tanks. We plan to stay a few days here and clean up the boat.
This picture shows Debra and Dick in their twin kayacks. We joined them one day for a trip up the coast in our double kayack to a pretty beach and some great snorkeling.
We've really enjoyed our double kayack, not only for fun and exercise, but also as a second "dinghy".