Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Prep in Bonaire

Cruisers are part of a movable but close knit community. We all depend upon each other in foreign countries and environments and everyone comes through for each other. Holidays are a special time to join forces and celebrate.

This year we had sixteen present and ex-cruisers at a Thanksgiving celebration at the home of Bob and Barbara Gilmour on Bonaire. Two other ex-cruiser couples have settled here and were present, LuRay & Randy "Pizzazz" and Bonnie & Ron "Forever". The present cruisers were ourselves, Ellen & Cal "Patience", Valerie & Dave "Angel", Audrey "" and Ralph & Karen "KaRa Dream". Six of us women spent a lovely day preparing for the meal the day before. Barbara made a lovely lunch for us and we took breaks now and then for a glass of wine & a chat. Barbara did a lot of the work in advance, including the shopping. That had to be done over some time as any one item is not always available on the island. Substitutions became inevitable.
The menu:
Shrimp Cocktail, Crab Meat Dumplings, Turkey with Stuffing and Giblet Gravy, Potatoes Au Gratin, Mashed Sweet Potatoes stuffed in Orange Shells, Beets, Peas & Carrots, Green Beans with olives, Rolls & Butter, Pecan Pie, Apple Pie, Mince Meat Tarts and Cookies
Guess we won't starve!

Of course there was a lot of peeling and chopping to do. "Bring a potato peeler or knives with you", Barbara suggested. Bob and Bonnie's husband Ron went fishing and then sat having a drink on the porch to stay out of our way.

Top is Ellen, Barbara, myself, Valerie, Audrey and Bonnie. Then Ellen cleans up the counter, Audrey makes potato au gratin, Bonnie & Val do dishes, and Barbara slices and dices.
Those of us coming from our boats are forming a dinghy train at 4:30 to motor up to their condo for the occasion. We'll all be wearing our "best" (not like home best) clothes and hopefully it won't be raining!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What do you do all day?

We get asked this question a lot! Well I thought I might tell you what I did yesterday for example. I usually am up around 6:30AM or so and immediately put the kettle on for coffee. We have a french press type, stainless steel and insulated. It's the only one I've seen that holds 4 large mugs worth. Our coffee comes from Columbia now and it's good, but we really prefer a dark French roast type. That's generally not available here.
We have two cups of coffee each. I sit outside in the cockpit looking at the sun rise and the sky change colors. This morning the full moon is still very visable as the sun comes up. That's the view heading north above left and the one towards the shore and east below right. Scott settles into the internet in the salon and checks out the news. We get the NY Times on line. The newspapers here in the ABCs are mostly in Dutch or Papiemento, the two official languages.
Breakfast is usually eggs or cereal. This morning I made eggs scrambled with onions, peppers, tomatoes and ham with toasted banana bread. I eat a bit less than usual because it's my Body Balance Class this morning. This is a mixture of tai chi, yoga and pilates - a tough hour, followed by five minutes of total relaxation (see the picture below left).
It's 7:30 AM and my turn to pick up the other women in the dinhy - Val on "Angel" and Ellen on "Patience". My friend Barbara, formerly of "Enkidu" and several Dutch women I met last summer here in Bonaire at a similar class, attend too. When we return Scott has finished several small projects. Our clock stopped working so he bought a cheap one and has exchanged movements with our formerly good one - yeh it works! He's also mended the teak step on our swim ladder. A productive morning and it's only 9:20AM.
A much needed rest follows. Both of us curl up in favorite spots and read. Scott's almost through with Richard Russo's "Bridge of Sighs" and I've just started Tracy Chevelier's "Virgin Blue". Most of our books come from trading with other cruisers or book exchange shelves in marinas and bars.
It's getting hot now. Bathing suits and snorkeling equipment are needed for a cool down swim. We snorkel/swim most every day for a half hour to hour, usually right from the boat. Today we get in the dinhy and speed (new outboard!) over to Klein Bonaire for a snorkel along the windward side and then a walk back along the beach when the current coming back proves exhausting.
We're starving when we get back. Happily there are lots of leftovers from last night.
This afternoon I'm doing my laundry and shopping trip. Zoe gave us a great folding cart which is invaluable for this. I hump the big load of dirty laundry and several shopping bags (they don't provide bags at the markets free) into the dinghy and take off (that's me above with the cart). It's about a half mile walk to the laundromat where I drop it off. It will be ready in two days, nicely folded. Then off to two supermarkets to do my shopping. They are small and vary wildly on what is available. We had no eggs on the island for over a week recently. This is a small island and most everything comes in by boat from Venezuela, the U.S. and Holland.

Another swim to cool down is necessary when I return. Scott puts everything away. Tonight we've been invited to dinner at the home of Randy and LuRay, "Pizzaz" (picture below). They are a famous couple among cruisers, the authors of the only cruising guide to Columbia, which they give out free. It was invaluable to us during our trip along that coast twice this last year.

They designed and supervised construction on their beautiful spacious home, high on a hill overlooking the island. The huge deck stretchs across the whole front with a sapphire infinity pool in the middle. Wonderful use of local materials, soaring multi shaped wooden ceiling design, and windows bringing in the views everywhere create a feeling of floating in space above the sea. Furniture and personal items shipped in from home make it homey and inviting. Watching the sunset there was a spectacle indeed and it was a lovely night.
They drove us back to the marina and we motored back to the boat in the dark, stars lighting the sky only as the moon had yet to appear. It's 9:30 PM and time for bed in cruiser land. And that's a fairly typical one day in the life of Heather and Scott on "Scott Free".

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Diving and Partying in Bonaire!

First let us celebrate the election of our new President!!! Yeh!!! We sent our absentee ballots in from Cartagena - two of the many many votes for President Elect Barak Obama. How we love saying that. We watched the returns at Bob and Barbara Gilmore's home in Bonaire with friends Andrew & Kerri on "Mariposa" and Ellen & Cal on "Patience".

It was midnight Bonaire time when the California polls closed and they finally confirmed what we all already knew. We were all fiercely partisan - even Kerri (New Zealand) and Andrew (Britain and South Africa). Barbara brought out the noisemakers and we screamed and yelled out on their balconey over the waterfront!
We were particularily excited about the wins in Colorado and Virginia as that's where Sean worked so hard. It was wonderful to talk to him that night and congratulate him! Barbara and Bob were perfect hosts (that's them above right on our boat) - the food was fabulous and champagne to celebrate. Two of the culinery hits of the evening was the sushi Kerry made (shown here with Cal above right) and Barbara's sausage and egg breakfast casserole after Obama's inspiring acceptence speech.

"Mariposa" was our neighbor on the moorings and we did a lot of diving with them. Kerri is a PADI instructor and has a compressor on her boat. She sailed with three young inexperienced crew over from South Africa and her boyfriend Andrew joined her in the Caribbean for the remainder of the cruise. They are delightful and we were very sorry to see them sail off east for Grenada a few days ago. Happily we hope to see them again in Panama next year as they too are considering departing across the Pacific in early 2010. That's Kerri above and Andrew in their galley.

The rules have recently changed to allow boats up to 45' use the dive moorings so we and Mariposa, their friends "Blue Water Cat" and "Patience" (that's Ellen above and ourselves on Patience at the top of the page) all took turns bringing our boats out for dives and lunch. Most memorably we did a dive on the wreck "Helma Hooker" and a night dive. The former was a medium sized freighter at about 85 feet and my first wreck dive. The lurking huge silver tarpons inside and under the freighter were the same ones that followed us so closely at night. I'd catch a glimpse of movement near me and see them practically touching my side! They are looking for prey in our flashlight's beam. When we inadvertently spotlight one they gulp it down whole.
Kerri certified Andrew and myself for our PADI Advanced Night Dive. That involved reading the appropriate material and taking a test, then practicing some skills underwater - such as a simple navigation exercise (not quite as simple in the dark!). Scott already has his Advance Diver Certification. I'll need four more advance dives before I finish it.

Diving takes a lot of equipment. We've been collecting pieces for the last year and now have everything for the two of us. Well, except for a dive computer - a big loss as far as Scott is concerned. It is possible to work out the needed information with dive tables and a dive watch but not as accurate and, of course, not as much fun. We now have two of each; BCDs (Boyancy jacket), a main regulator and a secondary safety one with an "octopus" to connect them, full insulated dive suit, booties & hood, tank (one big and one smaller - we still come out with the same amount of air left as I use less) and weights (Scott's on a belt and mine integrated in the BCD). This all costs and arm and a leg but will last a long time.
Bonaire is one of the premier diving centers in the world. They created a Marine Park that surrounds the island and protects the reefs. Boats can not anchor but permenant moorings are installed all along the protected western shore. A small island called Klein Bonaire lies off that coast and is surrounded by dive moorings. Other dive only moorings line the north west and south west coasts. In between are 40 moorings for cruisers, $10 a night. They are only 100 feet from shore - the view here is the walkway and road across from our mooring. The second picture above left is looking from our boat north. That's "Mariposa" next to us. We often have rainbows after the usually short lived showers!,