Our blogging frequency has been way down the past three weeks. Blame it on unusually poor internet connections on the boat. We can often get a strong wifi signal, but the data speeds are often excruciatingly slow.
We spent about two weeks on Bonaire. It was an unusually busy time for us, with lots of socializing and time off the boat. Together with our friends Rod and Jill from s/v Lookfar, we rented a car for a couple of days to explore the island. More about that in a bit. We also took advantage of the superb diving that is available on the island. Anchoring is prohibited on Bonaire, so you have to tie up to one of about 40 moorings. This small number means that the cruising community is small, and that leads to a lot of time sharing "sundowners" on various boats.
With the unusual availability of a car, we enjoyed driving around the island and into the national park.
On the first day Jill picked up the car late in the morning (it was supposed to be earlier, but the rental company was very late picking her up). Jill's friend Lee was with us. We drove in the direction of the park, and had a very local (and very tasty) meal in the town of Rincon. This sleepy little village was once the main habitation on Bonaire. There were too many thieves and pirates on the coast, so the population moved inland. Anyway, by the time we got to the park it was after 2:00pm. The ranger advised us strongly that we would not have enough time to see the park before it closed at 5:00pm, so we decided to come back the next day. We then drove to the south end of Bonaire. This is a huge area where sea salt is produced commercially by Cargill. The evaporation ponds were different colors, many of them bright pink. Salt has been produced on Bonaire for hundreds of years, and we visited a site where the island has preserved huts where slaves stayed while loading salt into ships.
We returned early the following morning. Bonaire is relatively flat, and extremely dry. The vegetation is
desert-like and the most common critters you see are lizards and
iguanas. The road through the national park is gravel and fairly rough
but easily manageable with our 4-wheel-drive vehicle (a reasonable
front-wheel-drive car would also be OK). There are many places along
the road to stop and explore. Bonaire is known for its flamingos, and we saw large flocks in lakes and ponds. We had been told we would only see them from a distance, but we were able to get pretty close to some of them.
We saw some very old petroglyphs on a sea
cliff, and a very cool blowhole where the surf sends spray flying high
into the air. After about 3 hours, we drove to the east side of the island, at Lac Bay. This is a large and quite shallow bay, protected by a reef. It has flat water and strong winds, and has become a very popular windsurfing site. We stopped for lunch at a beach bar, and really liked seeing the many colorful sails skipping along in the water. You can take lessons there, and there were many novices on the water, but also some very experienced board sailors who could do awesome tricks.
Bonaire has some of the best scuba diving in the world. Our diving experience so far has always been with a Dive Master or Instructor as a guide, but on Bonaire it is usually a much more independent experience. You rent equipment, including air tanks, from a dive shop, and then you can just walk into the water from shore, or dive off the back of your sailboat. There are dozens of dive sites, and it seems that all of them are beautiful and interesting. We did take a dive boat out to the island of Klein Bonaire one day, and sampled some sites that were too far to reach by dinghy. Because you are diving independently, the cost of diving here is pretty reasonable. We are looking foward to more dives when we return.
Our watermaker developed a serious leak, and we were lucky to find a technician on Bonaire who could help us with it. An important part of the high-pressure pump was cracked, and it had to be sent to the manufacturer for repairs. It wasn't possible to get the part back before we had to leave for Curaçao, so we will return to Bonaire to have it installed. Luckily, with our large water tanks we can go for a few weeks.