Thursday, October 29, 2009

Beautiful Bonaire for a while!

We feel very much at home here in Bonaire. We have friends that live on the island and there are usually several boats we know moored near us. At "our" health club Fritz the owner welcomes us and Valerie "Frenchie", my instructor and Scott's personal trainer, beats us into shape every other day. Here's a view of my Body Balance class from the rear. The club is in an old Dutch style architecture building downtown. That's Fritz above left, Valerie above right.

Bob and Barbara Gilmour, formerly on "Enkidu", whom we've known since Trinidad have fed us at their beautiful condo several times and with them we've eaten out and attended music events - all in two weeks!
Last Saturday we saw Dutch Jazz Pianist Michiel Borstlap perform with some talented local musicians. He played a long marvelous solo piece on the grand piano, recently purchased for concerts on the island, followed by some terrific ensemble pieces. We picked up pizzas before and ate out on Bob and Barbara's balconey overlooking the coast of Bonaire. Other Dutch friends Maita & Ood (below left), and Margaret & Hans (below right) were also there. I've known Maita and Margaret for years now through exercise classes. Hans is a talented pianist as well and kindly gave us one of his CDs which we have enjoyed immensely. That's Barbara with the drummer above.
We've been diving almost every day. It's very easy to do here. We have the tanks refilled only 200 yards away. The diving is excellent right off the back of our boat. We've seen hundreds of different kinds of fish, turtles, manta rays, eels and of course a huge variety of coral and vegetation. It is a different world down there. I feel like I've entered a science fiction movie and I'm visiting another planet.
Yesterday we went down to the camera set up 50 feet down which continuously shows the reef and fish of Bonaire to the world on the internet - and the occasional diver. We had a date to say hello to the 5th grade class at Mt. Holly Elementary School in Vermont. In September we visited them to talk about weather and maps. Important elements to sailors. Other days we dinghy over to one of the 50+ dive sites around the area. It's pretty easy to get in and out of our dinghy, even with all that gear on!
Halloween will be celebrated here on the island in style. It's a popular holiday all through the Caribbean. Every one has put up decorations. That's Bob and Barbara with Scott posing with a witch. Another one is flying up on a balconey.
This morning at 5:10 AM our very good friend Russ Wolf (shown at the bottom here) arrived by plane. Scott took our dinghy down to the airport to meet him. Imagine walking out of the airport to a dock and taking the dinghy back down the coast to our boat as the sun painted the sky and clouds pink.

We had coffee and Russ had a swim. Later we sat at our favorite breakfast spot "It Rains Fishes" and had a huge breakfast. Bob & Barbara lent us their car for awhile this morning so Scott could show Russ around the island. We're letting go of the mooring around 4 PM this afternoon and sailing (more probably motoring) east overnight to Los Roques. Our trip to Trinidad will most likely take around 10 days. Russ is flying home from there on 11/13. They'll be four overnight passages with a couple of days in each island group between. Our float plan is to stop in Los Roques, Blanquilla, Los Testigos and Trinidad. We did this trip in reverse in April 2007. You can click on the 4/1 - 5/1 2007 link over on the left to see pictures of these islands.

This last picture shows Tom and Bonnie on "Toujours" our neighboring boat here who we will sadly be leaving. They are on their way west to Cartagena. We had several lovely evenings on each other's boats.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Back in Curacao

You'd think by now we'd have learned to check on our flight schedule the day before! We arrived at the airport at 6 AM for a 8 AM flight and found our intinery had been changed to a 6 AM flight to Charlotte. CheapOAir didn't notify us. The name says it all. U.S. Air very nicely rescheduled us but couldn't get us into Aruba until late in the evening. Too late to catch our Tiara Air flight to Curacao.

So, hotel reservations to postpone and new ones to make, a new flight the next day thank goodness available. Still, four flights instead of three AND an unexpected night at a hotel in Aruba. By the way The Town and Country Hotel is near the airport and a good value.
Our boat is up "on the hard" at Curacao Marine (see photo). It's hot as hell too. For the first time we've chickened out and are staying at a hotel until she's in the water. The air conditioning is heaven after a day working on the boat.

And the repairs on the boat are taking much longer than we expected. Our new propeller, a folding Gori, needs a retooled shaft and realigned engine. We won't be in the water before next Monday. There are a million other projects ongoing of course so the boat's a mess. Scott's happy not living on the boat as he can leave all his tools and projects in place.
Our hotel is the Plaza and is in the Waterfort, standing a quarter of a mile around the entrance to the harbor. It was originally built in 1634, but redesigned in 1826 to protect the enlarged city. During WWII the Dutch installed anti-aircraft guns and it was used as a base to protect the Shell refinery.

Steel cables were also placed across the entrance to Willemstad in St. Anna Baii in an effort to deter German submarines. Our room overlooks to the harbor and the lovely Queen Emma floating bridge (see photo top). Big and little ships are constantly going by our window! Another shot (just above) is taken looking at the hotel from our boat when it entered the harbor.
Last night we walked along the fort wall where a series of restaurants have been built in the arches. They have decks on the ocean side where the waves crash only feet away from where you're sitting. But we were attracted away by some lively music. The tourist board was putting on a cultural evening in the square.

The music came from a Ka'i Orgel and a Wiri, or metal scraper. The Ka'i Orgel is a Cylinder Piano - an vertical piano without keys that plays from a big cylinder made of mahogoney with a crown of 64 teeth. This means the operator needs to turn it that many times to finish the composition. There are 5,000 to 7,000 nails determining the melodies - up to 8 on one cylinder. The deeper the nail goes into the cylinder the finer the sound. These instruments were already popular in England at the beginning of the 18th century but originally came from Italy.

An Englishman Joseph Hicks produced many of these in the years from 1805 to 1850 and is usually credited with inventing it. The sound is reminiscent of a piano, kwarta, bass and guitar (a richer sound than a hurty gurty).
We had seen one of these being played last fall at the Harvest Festival. There are more than 40 of them on the island, 20 of which are still actively played by musicans. Each Ka'i Orgel has it's own name. The national museum's is called "Rais di Pueblo" to symbolize that it is rooted in the folk culture of Curacao.

A series of dance groups performed traditional dances. They asked for a volunteer to turn the cylinder for one dance and of course Scott was up there in a minute. He is so tall that in order to keep his back straight, he had to bend his knees - up and down to the beat. The crowd loved him. One dance group pulled up members of the audience to dance - very sexy moves! Both of us were chosen and did solo dances with our partners for the audience. Of course Scott was hysterical. Honestly, I was in tears laughing. Later when he won the grand prize everyone was delighted; a nice cloth cooler bag with a radio filled with gifts - a hat, three china traditional houses and a china Ka'i Orgel, DVD on Curacao and a hot/cold vacum cup. They served traditional foods as well - goat stew, rice, green beans & beets, and plantains. It marvelous luck to come upon it.