Monday, December 13, 2010

Winter Wonderland

We left Aruba for Colombia and had to at least see this place people talk about. The Monjes are a small archipelago of islands north of the the entrance to the lake Maracaibo are and they are also very close to if not in Colombian waters which is why the Venezuelans have built an outpost here.  These islands are basically 5 rocks within a 10 mile area.  Two of the rocks to the south are known as Monjes Del Sur.  (Southern Monjes) The Venezuelans have built an outpost here manned by a small group of Coast Guardsmen.  There is a lighthouse and some living areas.  The island originally were divided by a small cut about 40 feet deep. They bulldozed a rock wall between the two islands and made a very safe little bay. A cable has been stretched from one island to the other for boats to hang off of.  Due to the fact the wind never stops blowing here you don't have to worry too much about hitting the wall.  The Venezuelans are as usual very accommodating and polite.  They don't charge you for staying but do require you to complete a safety inspection which is actually a good thing.  I have to say that every time we have dealt with the Guardia National in Venezuela we have been treated very politely and the guys are very professional and nice. We blew the head of our sail out and were very thankful such a place existed in order for us to make repairs out here in the middle of nowhere.  After Sunny finished here excellent sewing job we decided to take a dive and found masses of Barracuda and huge corals, which perhaps due to such warm ocean temps this year had bleached themselves.  The landscape looked like huge piles of snow with tropical fish swimming around and through them. It reminded us both of winter and made for an enjoyable dive.  Hopefully the coral will recover and life will go on here. 

This is the gps position if you want to get there by google earth, because United doesn't fly here.  12°21'42.96"N,   70°54'15.04"W

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Well it's been a long and eventful summer. Not much to do with cruising unfortunately but were back now. We arrived back in Curacao to find the boat in great condition. The desert climate of the island makes for a great storage site. No mildew or mold in the boat and everything seems to be working fine. We completed epoxy coating the saildrives, cleaning and waxing the hulls and we finally relented and raised the water line a couple inches to allow for all the extra weight the boat has taken on over the last couple years. It's kind of like the defeated feeling you get when you buy pants a couple inches bigger than the ones you used to wear. Weight is a bad thing on a boat like this because it slows us down even further, as if that were even possible. We found our new dive tanks hidden away in the back of the storage room and all of the other parts we ordered while away were delivered to us as we arrived. We finished the bottom paint between rain showers and finally after about a week we relaunched the boat. All in all we have had a great experience with Curacao Marine services, so if you need a yard while in the ABC's we have to say we had a good experience. As good of an experience as one can have in a boat yard anyway.

We spent another week in Spaanse Water so we could at least get some wind and dodge some of the mosquitoes which seem to have had a bit of a population explosion during the rains. We got the sails installed and I spent some time replacing the generator end again. This time I hope it lasts a bit longer than the two years we got out of it last time. Who knows. We did have a honda generator shipped down just in case. The next couple of years will likely have us traveling in less than ideal areas for parts shipping so we decided to just play it safe.

Having been away for 5 months we were a bit nervous to get back out and sail as I expected Sunny to get sick and if the water was anything like what we experienced from the Aves to Bonaire I would likely have some problems as well so we waited till the winds were forcasted to be mild and left Spaanse water at 3:30 in the am. It was fairly easy to navigate with the full moon but it would be nice if someone could mark the edges of the channel at the mouth of the harbor. Once out of the lagoon we motored in the lee of the island for a couple of hours until the sun emerged. The wind came up with the sun and we raised the sails in anticipation of a great sail. The sea was fairly calm with a gentle 5'swell from the NW. Of course once the sails were raised the wind died. So we motor sailed most of the way with exception of a couple squalls that bore down on us and gave us some good wind. Once we rounded Aruba I headed for the main harbor to check in and the wind was on our beam. We sailed beautifully all the way to the harbor. I called Aruba and asked where exactly the dock was and they informed me that we passed it some time ago and needed to head back. I knew that wind was too good to be true. We turned and motored back into it for a few miles. 
After the formalities were finished we anchored at the end of the runway in Oranjestad.

  One of the tasks we accomplished this year was to change our hailing port. We used the old Concord, NC since we got the boat not really being concerned about representing NC, but we were constantly being asked how we sailed it from Concord,which is landlocked, and Carolinians were always coming by to talk about Carolina which we simply don't know much about. So having extra time to deal with the coast guard we changed the the hailing port to Seattle. Once our hook was down our work paid off. A guy came up to the boat and yelled, “Hello Seattle”!
Nice. He was from Portland, OR and before you know it we were invited to Thanksgiving dinner the next day with all the trimmings.

After an extremely busy summer which ended with a month of remodeling and a two weeks of fitting the boat out we finally are relaxing and enjoying Aruba. 
........and this place ain't bad.

Friday, August 20, 2010

We Got Crabs!

One of the great things about traveling is that you come to appreciate the tastes home just that much more.  We have encountered plenty of good eats while cruising the East Coast and the Caribbean. We encountered the Conch for the first time in our lives as we sailed to Bahama and have enjoyed them ever since.  Fresh fish is always a favorite from Grouper to Mahi Mahi and Tuna the selection is great.  Goat stew is my go to dish at most lunch counters, and Sunny has taken a real liking to Papaya which I still think tastes like dish soap.  

There are a few items which we don't get back east though and one reason why we were so eager to come back for the summer.  We both had a need for some specific foods and one of those was fresh Dungeness.  Opinions vary on the best way to prepare these great crabs but our favorite way is to catch and steam them them in salt water, followed by cracking the warm legs and throwing the pieces to the fish behind the boat or dock.  The flavor is perfect and butter would only diminish the flavor.  When I first encountered one of these I was with my grandparents in Neah Bay, Wa and we had just finished smelt fishing.  I was about 14 and after eating some smelt they broke out a fresh Dungeness and let me have at it.  After I had finished they broke out a fresh blackberry pie and just like that I was hooked on NW cuisine. 

Our good friends, Jim and Mary, whom we've cruised the Puget Sound with quite a bit were nice enough to invite us along to Anacortes for the Latts and Atts party where we spent three days in the grip of a huge pirate invasion complete with wenches, canon fire and of course Bob Bitchin himself.  The highlight for us though was two days of crabbing where-in we all limited and had all we could eat fresh crab. 

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Quick Update

Unlike many of our friends who have no access to the net at this time we are swimming in it and still haven't got the decency to do an update.

We are still in Spaanse (Spanish) Water Curacao and are putting the boat up for the summer.  The simple fact is, we are a bit homesick for some Seattle summer.  The summers down here are just brutal.  We are going to take a month long trip to South Korea as well, and then fly to Texas for Aileen's basic graduation and then back to Curacao to make a (hopefully) quick exit, west to Cartagena in time for Christmas. 

This year our cruising has been very curtailed for no other reason than we just decided to hang out and enjoy.  We have both decided this style of cruising is not working in our favor and have vowed to change our ways next season.  We will not stay anyplace that does not hold our interest and I think an easy way to decide that is by the number of photos we take on a daily basis.  We've taken none recently and it is due to the fact we have seen this place.  Time for a change.

On a sad note, a dear member of our crew has died and left us a bit sad.  Pebbles was a great dog and faithful companion to our family for many years.  Were sure she is sleeping on a big fluffy cloud somewhere. 

We will try and keep things moving along here anyway and as always I promise to do better.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Hello Curacao

Well we finally cleared out of Bonaire and are now resting peacefully in Curacao. Bonaire was a great place to hang out and it gave us an opportunity to learn scuba and enjoy some very nice water.  If you ever get to Bonaire and want to learn scuba or need tanks, I would highly recommend Rob Vershoor at the Sun Rentals in front of the mooring field.   They are close to the boat and are part of the larger Buddy Dive business on the island.
  Aileen did fine on the crossing and was able to catch up one her beauty sleep.  We tried to make a run to Klein Curacao, which is a small island south of Curacao but the sea conditions were such that I felt Aileen would appreciate a calm anchorage and some civilization more than a remote anchorage that would likely be full of swell from the 6-8' seas in the area.  No need to create a problem.  We did get an escort to the southern tip of Curacao courtesy of about 50 spinner dolphins which I think she enjoyed. 
Curacao is proving to be a pretty fun island as well. The beaches are not nearly as clean as Bonaire and the water in our anchorage at Spaanse Water looks almost muck like compared to Bonaire but I don't think it looks much worse than the water in Grenada.  The reef looks amazing though and we plan to do some more exploring there.  The shopping bus picks us up everyday and the bus to the town of Punda is easy to catch.  The city part of Curacao is very touristy but in a good way.  The food is good and the weather is almost perfect.  We took a bus to the western tip of Curacao to a place aptly enough called Westpuunt.  There is a some great scenery on the way and the bus stops at a cliff overlooking an almost perfect location.  Back down the road a 1/4 mile or so is a famous restaurant called Jaanchie's ( Yanchees).  What the place lacks in cuisine it more than makes up for in ambiance.
  They have hundreds of birds along the side of the windows which are eating a steady supply of sugar supplied by the restaurant and make quite a show.  We saw Sugar thieves, Orioles and Turtle Doves.  I can't recommend the place for food or service but it's worth stopping in for a drink for sure. We did try Iguana for the first time and that was interesting as was the goat stew which I think was butchered with a hammer rather than a cleaver. 
Hopefully we will have the boat ready to go the distance to Panama soon and Aileen is scheduled to fly home from here at the end of the month.  In the meantime we just hang out and enjoy.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Breakfast in Bonaire

Goedemorgen!  The weather has been unusually calm with the last few days being overcast, light winds and a nice rain shower every so often to keep things cool.  The water is still quite clear and the island is a lot less dusty.  We are waiting the arrival of Aileen and our generator parts and in the meantime we play with the fish.  These are some pictures we took while feeding scraps of fruit to the best school of fish in the Caribbean.  This water is 30' deep.  BTW Gary how's the weather up there?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Blowing Bubbles

We have made no effort whatsoever to move since arriving in Bonaire.  The island has been great and Sunny was getting a bit homesick so I sent her packing off to Memphis to visit her sister.  She was able to drive to Georgia and visit Bonnie and William in their new home.  Looks pretty swanky.  Aileen also flew from Seattle to meet her and they drove from Memphis to Georgia again to see William and to see if Aileen would enjoy the Airforce life.  Aileen has such a gift for language and it would be a shame for her not to use it. The education in the military for languages is second to none.  Sunny was able to retrieve all the stuff we have been ordering over the last couple of months so it is like Christmas onboard now.  We have all sorts of gizmos that need to be installed so I am quite busy.
While Sunny was away I decided to get certified for scuba.  I was going to do it years ago in Seattle but the time and logistics never came together. Here the school is off the front of the boat and the classroom is actually underneath it.  Pretty easy commute.  After the course was finished I asked Sunny if she might like it and she said yes.  So I ordered all the gear and had it shipped to her in Memphis just before she flew back.  When she arrived she got to do a discovery dive where the instructor basically has to hold her hand but there is only a couple hours of class and pool time involved.  Long story short she loved it.
Now she is in the process of getting certified as well.  This should add a new layer to our experiences at sea.  Learning a new skill is always a good thing.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Carnival here in Bonaire is a very different animal than what we have seen before.
It is a very family oriented event compared to the last couple we have attended. 
No really loud sound trucks with skads of loosley clothed ladies hanging out of every opening.  No chest pounding Soca.  No whining or stab dancing either. 
The costumes are much more elaborate and it seems the participants put a lot of effort into their themes.  The speaker systems on the band trucks were so much smaller than anything we have seen in the past but they got the job done. 
It kind of reminds me of a local town parade and that is what this place is anyway.  Bonaire the island consists of about 15,000 locals and about 10,000 tourists.
It has a small town feel and the people are quite nice.  The language is all over the place and combines words from Dutch, Spanish, English and local dialects.  Impossible for me to understand.  Bonairians are fiercely proud of their island and it is reflected in how clean they keep it. 
The water surrounding the island is crystal clear with reef just off the beach which drops steeply within a few hundred meters from shore making this island an incredible dive destination.  Here the sea is rich in fish and I don't remember seeing so many turtles. See the lap pool in front of us.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Lot's of Boobies

Hello from Bonaire.  Not doing well at keeping the blog up to date so I will try and fill in the space between now and the last post

We spent the holidays in Grenada due to the great internet connection and planned our trip to the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao)  We found another boat doing the same, Stardancer III skippered by an Australian named Kieth.  We made plans to leave once he had mended his main sail.  Once his sail was mended we headed out of Clarkes Court Bay to the Western side of Grenada to preposition ourselves for a midnight departure and as we transited the reef out of the bay our steering cable snapped.  We quickly installed our emergency rudder system and in a few hair raising minutes we were safely back in the harbor looking for a place to anchor.  We spent the better part of a week getting that fixed and waiting for another window in the weather.  Kieth too lost his generator power so at least he didn't get stuck waiting just for us.

Once we finally departed Grenada, the wind was about 14 knots and the seas were very gentle.  It was a fairly slow ride but nobody was complaining as we all know a slow ride is better than a brutal one.
Arrived in the afternoon the next day in Los Testigos, a group of about 6 small islands with a few villages and a Venezuellan Coast Guard station. We checked in with the La Guardia Costa and spent a few days snorkeling the reefs, climbing the hill to the lighthouse and checking out the sand dunes.
It is a pretty cool place and one of those places that once you are there you want to stay, but we were not actually checked in to Venezuella and therefore not allowed to spend too much time there.   My next destination was Blanquilla 90nm west.  I was told it is a stunning and intriguing place to go, but alas I may never know because I was voted down on my plans by Sunny and Kieth.  Sunny wanted to do some shopping and Kieth had a friend on Margarita Island. 

Margarita Island is to me anyway a bit of a strange place.  Known as a resort island it boasts many hotel/condos and beaches with lots of US style shopping and restaurants.  I was told originally it was made a duty free zone and that attracted all sorts of investment in the area.  Once the boom was in full swing the zoning changed and left many people holding a bag of empty promises.  During the day the skyline is impressive but at night many of the buildings show no lights and a few show only one or two.  The large buildings are deserted or were never finished.  Shopping was good though.  Since the Bolivar has been devalued the buying power of the dollar was in full swing and Sunny managed to restock our boat with much needed beef and fresh produce.  One may not think beef is all that big of a deal.  But I like beef and the meat in the Caribbean south of Puerto Rico was horrible.  None of it is aged properly and most if not all of it is too old to be tender.  The hamburger tastes like soy burger.  Venezuela on the other hand does very well in the beef department and while the cuts are not great the flavor is fine.

While in Margarita we met up with Mike and Julie from the Flying Buzzard, whom we had previously met in Trinidad.  Had a great dinner with them and hope to see them again soon.  Sunny did all her shopping and with the exception of a few items which are apparently impossible (flour and  coffee)  to find in the country we got all of our necessities.  We thought about clearing into the country and staying a bit but our impression after talking with the local contact for cruisers, Juan Para, was that it would be a complete waste of time and money.  For a guy who makes his living by clearing boats into the country he has a funny way of selling his service.  Another big fan of Che I suppose. 

We took off from Margarita and made our way to the west end of the island.  Just as we rounded the cape our steering once again came undone.  This time it was my fault.  I made a poor job of the Nicropress. 

Fortunately we were able to piece it back together and Sunny and Kieth went to shore and found a guy who drove them all over the place to find some cable clamps.  Very nice of them and it goes to show that one should not judge a country by it's government but by it's people.  As a side note we were also warned time and time again not to cruise this area because of crime and government interference.  I've never been much of a listener and Sunny less so.  Thankfully we did make the trip and also we were fortunate not to have any problems some cruisers have experienced.  

We made our way on to the island of Tortuga and anchored in a place called Playa Caldera.  It is a great beach and fine anchorage.  There is a small airstrip and people fly out and sit on the beach.  Some very nice aircraft managed to stop by including two Bell 214's loaded with people just wanting a nice beach.  Venezuela is probably the only place where I could afford the fuel for one of those.  After a couple days we headed out but only made it as far as Cayo Herradura just 10 miles West.  Another great beach but it was quite rolly.  The reef did give up a fairly nice fish as we sailed in though.

From Tortuga we sailed on to the area of Los Roches which is a shallow sea encircled by some small islands.  We were immediately impressed by the water clarity as we entered Sebastepol inlet and set anchor for a couple days.  We made our way north to the island of Grande Roches and were impressed by the cool little town there.  The streets are sand and you can walk barefoot if you want.  Lots of neat little restaurants and hotels.  The interiors of the buildings are quite nice with very artistic entry doors and polished floors.  After an evening in town we sailed on west again to the island of Carenero which has a great anchorage tucked inside of a lagoon.  The snorkeling was fantastic with tons of squid, Spanish Mackerel, Blue parrot fish, Queen angelfish and Sunny claims to even having seen a seahorse.
No confirmations though.  It was hard to give up such a beautiful spot especially when our next anchorage treated us quite differently.  The island of Becqeve offered us a shallow and tricky approach with the clouds and shadows moving in the water.  Once we were set the boat never stopped rolling.  Stardancer chose to go south a bit to another anchorage but soon returned, as that one was even worse.  On the beach though it was a different story.  The island is a breeding ground for boobies and their chicks are very cute.  They look like little white overstuffed pillows with beaks.

Since that anchorage was not so comfortable we decided to move on to the Aves and leave the Roches behind us.  The short sail west 30 odd miles was a bit of an adventure.  The swell was still active and with 20-25 kts of wind the seas were very steep and the wave frequency was short.  10 foot wave were breaking on our stern and several times we got sent sideways by the odd SE wave.  Needless to say we were glad to get settled.  We entered the Aves de Barlovento from the north so we could run off the wind some and avoid any unwanted gybes.  The wind was getting close to 30 when we rounded the NW entrance and were immediately rewarded with a very nasty beat to the South side of the bank.  We anchored in the middle anchorage all by ourselves and were immediatly impressed by the unbelievable beauty of the water, reefs and the huge mangrove trees.  The trees were teeming with red footed boobies and frigate birds hatching chicks and hunting for food. 
The wind was cooperating enough to keep the smell well away from the boat.  Pebbles needed a bath and Sunny washed her on the back step in the water.  A small trunk fish came up and seemed curious if not a bit hungry watching her tail flip around.  We ended up having 8 of them swimming around the boat and us whenever we entered the water.  Normally these fish, while not very excitable, don't seem to be that curious.  We ended up meeting a family of Aussies on s/v Grace and together with Kieth on Stardancer we managed a great beach party with drinks and Boci Ball.  The girls won of course.   

As we left the Aves we had a much better time of it sea state wise and cruised comfortably on to Bonaire.  As we approached the southern point, the Bonaireian Coast Guard flew out to survey us and give us all some cool low altitude fly-byes. Turning north we had the wind on the beam and Slow-Mocean and Grace sailed together in a great run up the beach past the salt fields and kite surfers all the way to the anchorage in the town of Kralendijk.  I can't pronounce that either.  Met a Dutchman here who said that Dutch is not so much a language as it is a throat infection.  He said it.  We apologize for not getting any good booby pictures uploaded but we are having camera issues of the worst kind.  With luck we will recover at least part of the photos we've taken.