Relaxing on Bonaire

After the month of working non-stop on the boat on Trinidad and the strenuous maiden voyage, we needed to kick back and enjoy ourselves. Relaxing on Bonaire is the perfect remedy and a great way to forget about time.

Bonaire is a wonderful place to come with a sailboat, for the following reasons:

  1. There is no anchoring allowed anywhere, so everyone has to pick up a mooring. It might seem strange that I think it’s great that everyone sailing to the island can only stay on a $10/day mooring, outside the main town Kralendijk, but it’s great because it means that all the bays are pristine. No damaged coral, fish that hasn’t been hunted (spearfishing is illegal) and a visibility that makes you feel like you’re running aground, when the actual depth is 10 m.
  2. The water is super clean. I could run the watermaker without problems at the mooring, which was certainly not the case in Chaguaramas.
  3. You can experience a rich variety of coral and fish in all sizes and colors, by diving off your boat at the mooring.
  4. You’re moored right outside Kralendijk, so supermarkets, restaurants and wi-fi are a short dinghy-ride away. The only minus with this convenience is that it’s easy to spend more money than planned.
  5. Bonaire has an interesting fauna with several well kept national parks.
  6. The climate is excellent, with air temperatures hovering around 30 degrees Celsius and sea temperatures always at 27 degrees Celsius. There’s a constant breeze of around 15-20 knots, though sometimes it can be stronger than expected, but it’s always there, ready to make your stay more comfortable.
  7. World class dive spots are nearby, so on any given day we could jump into the dinghy, motor for 5-15 minutes and get to spots that have established Bonaire as one of the top 10 diver’s paradises in the World.

We spent the first couple of days relaxing, eating good food at nearby restaurants and enjoying being able to dive into crystal clear water whenever we felt like it. We slowed our pace down, but still woke up at 06:00 and went to bed before 22:00. We’re following the daylight. The other boats moored around us were very friendly and two days after arriving we were invited to a beach BBQ with all the other boats. The BBQ took place on Klein Bonaire, which is a small island just to the west of Bonaire. It took us 20 minutes to get there using the dinghy. We made a mistake and used our 5 hp engine; it would have been much smarter to use the 18 hp engine, because the extra power would have made the trip faster and smoother. Fellow cruisers from at least 10 other boats showed up, so it was a nice gathering of people. It was a potluck style BBQ, so most people brought a dish that they shared with everyone else. We had missed that point and only brought food for us, and nothing that was easy to share, but we solved it by only eating our own food. We’ll get it right, the next time…

Though we enjoyed seeing Bonaire from the sea, we rented a car for two days, to fully explore the island. We did a complete circumnavigation and explored anywhere roads went. On the south of the island salt is big business. They have large lakes, which they let seawater into, then let the water evaporate, leaving the salt. The lakes are called evaporation ponds and are easy to spot, because the watercolor is pink. On the north part of the island, lies Washington Slagbaai National Park. It is a large national park, that used to be a privately owned plantation. We explored it fully, driving on all the paths and looked at iguanas, geckos, goats, parrots, flamingos, hawks and a ton of other wildlife, that are living in the wild in their natural habitat. The largest point on Bonaire also lies in the park, so we put on our hiking shoes and climbed it. The climb itself isn’t that strenuous, but add the temperature and it quickly becomes a challenge. We enjoyed it and goofed off at the top taking pictures. The national park is very dry and warm, but scattered along the coast are a bunch of excellent snorkeling spots, so when we got too warm, we stopped and dove in for a refreshing snorkel. We saw the largest parrot fish I’ve ever seen there as well as a number of sea turtles.

Having learned from the BBQ on Klein Bonaire, we mounted the 18hp engine on the dinghy and went all the way northwest on Bonaire to a couple of dive spots you can’t reach from land. The waves were fairly big, but once we were in the water, it didn’t matter and we were free to look at vibrant coral and tons of fish. Unfortunately we don’t have an underwater camera, but a GoPro is on the way, so when we get to Panama, we’ll be ready for taking pictures underwater.

Margrethe took a freediving course on Bonaire, to learn the necessary freediving skills from Carlos at Deepsea Freediving. He has 11 freediving World records, so he definitely knew freediving. Margrethe enjoyed the course, but couldn’t get the equalization right, despite Carlos trying to teach her every technique he knows. The problem boils down to physiology: everyone is wired differently and though we can’t pinpoint why she was unable to equalize, Margrethe will have plenty of time to find a way to equalize as we sail westwards.

Now for a little boat talk:
The temperature sensor on our fridge appears to be fried, because the compressor never stops running, so it’s drawing a solid 4-5 amps per hour. Multiplied by 24 hours, the fridge alone takes over 100 amps per day. I unscrewed the cooling plate and looked at the sensor, and since I found out on Trinidad that the system wasn’t lacking gas, I ordered a new temp sensor what will be delivered in Panama.

The problem with the fridge sucking that much power is that the wind gen and solar panels can’t generate enough power, to replenish the drain the fridge is putting on the batteries. This becomes very apparent when we were sailing and using the autopilot for steering, because it takes about the same amps per hour and then we were down over 200 amps per day, so we’d have to run the engine for a couple of hours per day to generate power.

On the positive side, I managed to get the wind generator working. The load controller was very rusted and we weren’t seeing any input from it coming to the batteries. The controller isn’t working, but by bypassing it, the wind gen is generating a sorely need supply of energy. Once we start using a windvane (which we’ll pick up in Curacao), our power situation should look much better, especially when the new fridge sensor is installed.

I also managed to plug up the gas leak from the pipe fitting running from the gas canister. I spent two days sourcing fittings in Chaguaramas and had to file and sand-paper the pipe to make the fitting fit … and it still leaked. The problem was that I didn’t have a lot of pipe to work with and it was bent, so I couldn’t find a perfectly straight spot to mount the fitting. We solved it, by turning the gas on and off at the canister every time we made food. It’s was the safest way to go. After talking to a “gas-guru” in Bonaire, he told me that the only thing I needed to do was add some tape on one of the joints and I’d be good to go … to my surprise it worked and we no longer have a gas leak.

We met a number of other nice boats, and really hit it off with Brita and Jason on Blue Moon. They are our age and sail on a nice Island Packet 38. We met them at the BBQ, had drinks on both Stella Polaris and Blue Moon, and went out with them on Blue Moon for a good dive on Klein Bonaire. We’re crossing our fingers that we’ll meet up with them again in the Pacific.

We spent close to two weeks relaxing on Bonaire and loved it there. I wouldn’t be surprised if we sail there again, some time in the future.