Saturday, August 29, 2009

Chaos in Curacao

Every so often, you wake up and hope it’s a quiet, relaxing day - especially after a night of great food and friends aboard Vagabond. We were invited over to Lili and Otto’s boat for dinner and were treated to an international feast to celebrate their varied backgrounds – she’s Swiss, he’s Hungarian and they both grew up in lived in and sailed from South Africa. Each course of the dinner featured a dish from one of the countries. It was wonderful and a real gourmet feast with great conversation and wine to go along with the dinner. So we stayed out late – consumed some wine – and were ready for a calm day!

But the headline gives it away, doesn’t it? For a few weeks, we’ve been anchored at the front of the bay – sort of the ”penthouse” of the anchorage – top floor, great view – nobody in front of us and not many around us. We liked it! Then on Thursday, an Italian boat comes in and anchors very close on our port side. Another boat comes in on Friday and anchors in front of us.

On Saturday morning, the boat in front of us drags at anchor and so he goes to reset it. The wind is quite intense and squalls are coming through with higher gusts and rain. As he’s trying to reset his anchor, another boat comes in and drops his anchor RIGHT in front of us – causing the re-anchoring boat to yell to him that he’s re-anchoring. This guy says, “Too bad, my anchor’s down and I’m not moving.” Nice guy. This is a single hander with an attitude! He’s anchored VERY close to us. We tell him that he’s way too close and he says “wait until I put my snubber on – I’ll be even closer!” He’s probably less than 15 feet in front of our bow – and it’s not an attractive, well-maintained boat. It’s a gusty day and everyone is swinging quite a bit. But he has no intention of moving.

Really Close!

After a bit, the first boat that dragged (and has re-anchored) and this knucklehead leave to go and clear into the country. Knucklehead comes back pretty quickly (less than an hour) and takes down his yellow flag. There is no way he could have cleared with customs, immigration and harbor authority in that amount of time. But he acts like he has. About this time, the other boat is now dragging again and is right between the close Italian boat and our boat. All but one of the crew from the Italian boat also left the boat earlier. The guy left – speaks little English and is obviously not a boater! So he is at a loss of what to do. At this point, several dinghies are in the water, near the boat trying to help. Knucklehead gets on board and “takes over.” The crew of Astarte decides to head back to Astarte. Now the entertainment begins. They manage to drop a lot more chain (scope) and hope the boat’s anchor grabs. However, they fail to take the snubber off first (until Michael yells at them to do so) – so they were simply putting out a bunch of chain that would do absolutely no good. They sort that out and start moving the dragging boat through the anchorage having started the engine. They are moving the boat without the anchor being pulled up – duh! So, they manage to catch the Italian boat’s anchor with the dragging boat’s anchor. This now causes the Italian boat to move and be at risk of also dragging. (and freaking out the non-english speaking person left on the boat who is on deck in very skimpy underwear (not a pretty site). Someone dives in the water to try to untangle the two anchors – scary, dangerous and risky – but it gets done. After several tries they re-anchor the original dragging boat (after almost wrapping the prop with a line.) It was very entertaining to watch – but it does show how important it is to be sure your anchor is set – AND – not anchor on top of someone else. We still have the boat right in front of us with little room should he drag. He probably doesn’t have insurance either.

On a positive note, several friends of ours on other boats arrived in Curacao today – Serene with Mel and Joanie; Rapscallion with Trudy and Dennis and Joule with Nani and Peter. It will be fun to catch up with them this week. They were all boarded by the Coast Guard either while they were coming in – or once they were anchored. There is a lot of Coast Guard activity today – several boats, planes and helicopters.

Great day for Sunfish sailing.

We did watch some fun sunfish races today in Spanish Waters. There is a regatta this weekend – so tomorrow there should be more races. These tiny boats were flying. We saw some collisions, near collisions, good tacking battles, a turtled boat and some excellent sailing by the local boaters. We had a good view and enjoyed the races.

Yes, he turtled it!

Bad news – the propane didn’t come back this Friday as promised. Bummer. Now we have to wait until Tuesday night. Of course, there’s a decent weather window Monday and Tuesday – but we won’t be leaving on that one.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Range of Experience

First a quick note – we put a few new pictures on the website (with captions) a few days ago. They are in “photos 2” or link from this page. Enjoy.

The other boaters you meet out here have a wide range of experience on the water. Some are just starting out and find a harbor they love and get stuck to it (that’s why places like Georgetown are often called “Velcro harbors.”) Some are new to cruising but continue to pull up that anchor, leave the protection of those “Velcro harbors” and move on. Others have been out here for years – sometimes running up and down a specific chain or islands (the Virgins, the leewards, the windwards, Venezuela) or circumnavigating (the Caribbean or the world). We are still thrilled to meet people who have lots of miles under their keels and have incredible stories of exotic locations. They are all so generous with their stories – some openly share them – others you have to pry it out of them.

Last night, the good ship Astarte had the pleasure of hosting a range of sailors with various levels of experience. Pat and Rich from “So Cal So Good” have come through the canal from San Diego and have been in the San Blas, run up the western Caribbean and are now heading back to the San Blas then the canal back to San Diego. Ria and Waldy from Talagoa have 60,000 miles under their keel – having sailed to very exotic places after leaving Holland. They have crossed oceans and gone to places so ancient a 2000 year old structure is considered “new.” For us, it’s a thrill to hear the stories and learn from their experiences. Sharing a meal and way too much wine with the conversation makes for a wonderful cruisers evening.

Potluck aboard Astarte

And yes, we stayed up way past cruisers’ midnight (which is about 2100 (or 9 pm) for those that are curious).

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Iguana Rescue

In Spanish Waters in Curacao, an iguana was struggling in the water. He was stuck in the middle of the bay and a long way from the shore. So a rescue team went to its aid. Michael (Hawk) from Astarte and Otto from Vagabond proceeded to help the reptile. The iguana dove once - probably thinking the rescuers were gonna cook him for dinner - but then was grabbed by a gloved Otto and instantly became very calm. The dinghy brought him to a mangrove island and he was set free. Lucky iguana!


Align Center



It's been a busy social time for the crew of Astarte in Curacao. On Monday, a dominoes match was played on board with Lilly and Otto. Michael claimed victory (Interesting note - he was also scorekeeper - makes you kinda wonder!) A real treat of ice cream sundaes (whipped cream, nuts and chocolate sauce) was part of the fun dominoes night. The clock struck midnight (and we don't mean cruisers' midnight!)

Tuesday night was Happy Hour at the local sailing club. Lots of cruisers there. A sampling of some local Dutch foods became dinner - a loempa and stoba sandwich. Tasty!

Wednesday (tonight), there's a potluck on Astarte - the crew of Talagoa, Ria and Vladamir (sp?), a Dutch flagged boat and Rich and Pat from "So Cal. So Good" will be joining in the festivities. It should be fun. The chocolate banana pie is chilling in the refrigerator.

Last week too much wine was consumed aboard So Cal So Good - along with a lovely dinner by Pat.

Shopping for a new propane tank has also been on the agenda since the bad news of last week. One was found - the right size (10 lb), shape, aluminum with American fittings at the local chandlery - Budget Marine. It was anything but "budget" - but was needed. It;s been sent out to be filled and hopefully this time it'll work.

After the tank is back, we'll wait for a good weather window to start along the Colombian coast. The winds now are very strong and predicted to continue throughout this week. So projects, cleaning, cooking, provisioning are all the agenda for the Asarte crew. Luckily, there's good internet here so keeping up on e-mails, photos and news is good. Skype is also working much of the time - so making calls and taking care of some business and chats with family and friends is also really nice to get done.

Shopping in Curacao is both a chore and a social event. You meet lots of other boaters on the various free buses to the various grocery stores. There is one store called the V(something)....-Hill - it means Happy Hill in Dutch - (kinda sounds like an insane asylum doesn't it?) This store provides a free shuttle daily for the cruisers. Another store provides a shuttle Wednesdays and Sundays. And one store Centrum, doesn't provide a bus - but cruisers have organized one so for 5Naf per person round trip a bus picks you up and returns you from the store. Each store is a bit different - some provide mostly Dutch specialties; another provides American specialties etc.



LOCAL BOATS (look hard - "Happy Time" and "Viagra" in the same area!!)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Collecting Barnacles in Curacao

We’ve moved quite fast (as far as “cruisers” go) through the Caribbean. The goal was to visit some new places, visit some old favorites and make it to Panama for some of hurricane season. Sometimes you simply stay someplace because you love the snorkeling; the convenience or you’ve connected with friends. Sometimes you stay someplace because you’re waiting for company, mail or boat parts to arrive. Or sometimes you’re ready to leave and something breaks. That’s the case with us right now in Spanish Waters in Curacao. We’re pretty ready to move on (though we’d still love to find a buddy boat for the trip along the Columbian Coast). But now we have a propane tank issue. Propane is used to cook on Astarte. We have two 10 gallon tanks that we rotate. When one gets empty, we switch and then figure out how and where to get the other one filled. It’s usually not too hard on most of these islands and runs anywhere from $10 to $20. One or our tanks was empty – so we found “Propane Paul”, is who you need to give your tank to – he picks up at the Happy Hour on Tuesday nights or on your boat on Friday. The tank would be returned at the next pick-up. So we had Paul pick-up the tank on the previous Friday, went to Happy Hour on Tuesday – no tank. There was some issue with the propane supply on the island. On Friday, we see Paul delivering and picking up tanks from boats – but he passes by our boat without a stop. Michael overhears a conversation from the dinghy that seems to indicate our tank isn’t there. But they don’t stop by. So Michael gets in our dinghy to chase him down. Sure enough, there was some problem. Our tank for some reason couldn’t be filled because it was “broken.” And unfortunately Paul’s wife (sure, always blame it on the wife) left the tank in the car. Michael insisted on getting it back so we could start figuring out what was wrong and what we needed to do to correct this problem. Later that night, we got our tank back and sure enough the pressure release screw was mighty tight.

Michael worked on loosening it almost all day on Saturday. No luck. He started to price options for a new valve, new tank etc. Unfortunately, we are on a Dutch island and the valves are different than American valves (and our system). Plus the new fiberglass bottles (much lighter and cheaper) won’t fit in our propane locker. This simple re-fill issue has now turned into a major problem. We really don’t want to travel the Columbian coast without a fresh tank (no place to refill along there if our current tank runs out). On Monday, we’ll go to Budget Marine and determine what we can get here in Curacao or see if we have to have something shipped in. Shipping costs really add up. Anyone want to come visit us in Curacao next week and bring a part???

Once the propane issue is resolved (one way or another) we’ll look for a good weather window to start our trip down the Columbian coast. We’ve enjoyed Curacao, but barnacles are starting to grow on the hull. We did some cleaning on Thursday – Michael doing the lower part (he’s better at holding his breath and diving) and Barbara did the waterline.

On Friday, we did a trip into Willemstad on the local bus and roamed around town. We were in search of an underwater camera (for those of you asking for fish pictures!) and a beard trimmer. Found the beard trimmer, but decided the camera was a bit out of our cruising budget right now. We also shopped around for a mini computer (the Acer), but again, decided we’d like it – but don’t need it. After the propane tank issue, we were glad we didn’t impulsively make a purchase. Now we’ll be spending money on fixing something (not as much fun as a new camera or computer!)

In town, we ate lunch at this really interesting “food court.” All the locals go there and they serve local dishes. Lots of “stoba” which is a stew in Dutch. We’re getting a little better recognizing some of the names. We know “kip” is chicken. And people here are very helpful. We sat at these big picnic tables and met an interesting woman who was trying to trace her family’s roots in Curacao. She was a fourth generation Curacaon. After a stop by the Venezuelan veggie market (bought a whole watermelon!) we headed back to the boat on the comfy air-conditioned bus.

On Saturday night, we took a walk along the waterfront and discovered a fort (on a hill!) and went up to that. Found a fun little beach restaurant for a cold beer and saw some really interesting birds – shorebirds, little yellow birds, parrots and a larger yellow variety of something that looked like an oriole. One the way back, there was this group of local men racing Radio-controlled speed boats. We watched for awhile and it was great. It was nice to see fathers and sons out on a Saturday night sharing a hobby.
Today, (Sunday) we woke up to some drizzles – looks like a grey morning.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Shopping. Cooking. Eating.

One of the pleasures of the islands is the adventure of shopping and provisioning the boat for long term as well as the next meal. Every country is quite different in the availability, quality and convenience of everything from meats to fresh vegetables and fruits. In the remote places, you have to make do with a tiny little market that may be supplied once a week or every other week with products from the nearest mainland. On the larger islands, the stores can be quite similar to what we are used to "back home" though the labels on the products may be in a different language. It's all part of the adventure. Plus, you have to determine weights based on the metric system or cost based on the local currency (converted to what you're used to.) So is a box of crackers expensive or cheap? Is that ground beef enough to make a meatloaf? It's all part of the fun and adventure.

In Curacao, there are several good grocery stores - quite large and well-stocked. We've only been to the one that provides a free shuttle bus to the store for the boaters. (You can also drop off your laundry if you ask the driver nicely!) The adventure begins when you don't speak the language and you're trying to determine what something is from the label or the look. This caused some issues aboard Astarte yesterday. There were these lovely tiny red and green peppers that looked exactly like the peppers we bought at the local veggie market in Grenada. They were called flavoring peppers and had a wonderful flavor, aroma and taste when added to dishes. Barbara picked up a pack in the Curacao grocery to add to some curry she was going to make that night. The label was in Dutch - so she wasn't 100% sure what it said - other than she deciphered that it was a pepper (duh!)

She cut a bit of the pepper off and tasted it and it was nice. She threw two in the pot with the curry makings and started to cook it all up. In about ten minutes, her lips began to burn from the bite she tried. It was too late for the curry dish however. The curry, though tasty, was nuclear hot. Thank goodness for rice (and wine!)

The joy of traveling is the adventure. It's the pleasure of trying new things, sampling local products and experiencing all that a new country has to offer. Food is one of the easiest and fastest ways to get a sample of a new country. On the Dutch islands, the names of various dishes are pretty foreign sounding. And sometimes, some of the local dishes don't look all that appetizing. But the fun is in trying. We tried some mighty hot peppers.and will probably be more careful next time (or we'll ask in the store).

It is amazing the amount of US brands in many of these stores. They usually are significantly more expensive than the local brands - but they are available. But on our cruising budget - we go for the local goods. It's been part of the fun.

The one thing we did learn - you can't go wrong with Dutch chocolate! And even if you can't read the label - you're pretty certain it will be rich and tasty!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Curacao - an Island and a Liqueur

Which came first? The island was discovered by a lieutenant of Christopher Columbus, Alonso de Odjeda in 1499. The Spaniards started to settle the island in the 1500s. The Dutch captured it in 1634 and founded a Dutch settlement with its Governor Peter Stuyvesant in 1642. IN 1646, Stuyvesant became governor of New Netherlands of which New Amsterdam (now New York City) was the capital.

Then it was the typical island history. From the mid 1700's through the early 19th century, the English, French and Spanish all battled for Curacao. It went from British, back to Dutch, back to British.until the Treaty of Paris in 1815 gave it to the Dutch. Curacao gave asylum to South American liberator Simon Bolivar multiple times during the South American War of Independence.

Now, the island boasts 50 nationalities as part of the 160,000 population. The influence is definitely Dutch and Curacao was part of the original Netherlands Antilles group of six islands (Sint Martaans, Bonaire, Aruba, Statia and Saba). Things are changing on that front with Curacao becoming more independent from the group. But you would call the island Dutch though the language spoken is a Papiamento - a mix of Dutch and Spanish with a bit of island slang and English., They use the Antillean Florin (NaF) as well as the US dollar as their currency.

The early economy of the island depended largely on the slave trade. With the abolition of slavery by King William III of the Netherlands in 1863, Curacao lost much of its economic clout. Then came oil. Black gold! The establishment of an oil refinery in 1915 helped the island's prosperity. At night, you can see the glow of the oil refinery flame over the city - giving the skyline an eerie red glow. Curacao has one of the largest oil terminals in the Western Hemisphere. It also boasts that it has the largest non-military dry-dock in the region. (Richard S - more competition!!) Plus there's the alcohol here - the famous Curacao liqueur and the Amstel Brewery (using distilled sea water to produce its beer). Tourism though is the number two industry on this pretty island.

Astarte is settled into Spanish Waters and we've had good weather. We are wishing for a good downpour to wash the decks though - they are quite dusty. The solar panels are probably at less than 100% efficiency thanks to all the dust. It's a combination of African dust, phosphate mining dust and just blowing dirt and dust from Bonaire and here. We've had good breezes most of the time, so the wind generator is pumping out amps.

On Friday night we entertained - inviting Otto and Lily from "Vagabond" aboard for a pork roast dinner. It felt very international. They are South Africans but he carries a Hungarian passport and she a Swiss one. It was a good time and we all stayed up way past cruisers' midnight (2100).
Saturday, we did some boat projects and some dinghy exploring. There are some big fancy houses around Spanish Waters. It's interesting though, not many local restaurants or bars. With all these cruisers anchored here, you'd think it would be a good business. The good news is the boat parts Michael ordered are here already - as is our mail which we had forwarded (good work Fed Ex!).

Today is hair cut day and a few more boat projects. Our friends from Bamboozle left this morning (Sunday) for their trek to Columbia - we hope we'll catch up with them again soon. Barbara continues Spanish lessons - prepping for Columbia and Panama.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Captioned Pics on Web

FINALLY! The new photos are all captioned. Check it out on the web page. go to Photos 2.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Re-anchoring in Spanish Waters

Curacao has a great and quite large harbor called Spaansche Water (that's Dutch for Spanish Water). It has a tricky entrance but once inside it opens up into several anchorage areas. Since 2001, when we were here last, the anchoring rules have changed a bit. Now you need "permission" to anchor in certain areas and some areas are no longer allowed. This meant we tried one place, but before we got the anchor down someone told us - "can't anchor there." So we tried another - but didn't like how we sat - too close to a "thoroughfare" (a small channel into another area). So we moved again and anchored in this spot a few times until we liked where we were. (More on this later).

On Tuesday, we did our clearing in. We got the dinghy in and headed to shore to catch a bus. We met Lily and Otto from Vagabond who would be making the trek as well. As we were waiting for the bus, we met another few sailors - one spoke like 10 languages- fluently. He was filled with great info and could go from Hungarian to Spanish to English without blinking! We unfortunately missed the 0900 bus (it must have gotten there a tad early), so we waited and chatted until the 1000 bus. The bus is 1.60Naf (less than a dollar US). It was a brand new big bus, air-conditioned and very roomy and clean (eat your heart out Frank - these were no Grenadian minivans). We got to town and started the process. First customs. No problem (in fact it was new employee who gave everyone the wrong forms and had to chase us down the street to switch them). Then across the floating bridge (which opens and closes with people on it- no OSHA here) to immigration. No problem. Then on to the next building. We went upstairs to the Harbor Authority which gives you permission to anchor in the various harbors. A bit of a problem. We decided to ask for permission to anchor in each of the harbors in case we wanted to visit them on our way out of here. But you have to give specific dates for each location or the coast guard will make you leave. We said - it depends on weather - they said "give us specific dates." So we made it up!

We had a nice lunch with Lily and Otto and then split with them. We did a bank stop and picked up some nice fruit from the Venezuelan veggie market (watermelon - yum!!) Then headed home - finding the right bus. We got back to the boat in time for Happy Hour at a nearby sailing club. Before we left, the gentleman (Bill) from boat we were anchored near, came by and introduced himself and told us - he tried to move today but when the wind shifted, we were over his anchor. We told him we'd move in the morning.

Nice Happy Hour - we got lots of local info from Bill, Louis and Tom - all single-handers who have been in Curacao quite awhile. Tom was the only cruiser we've ever met who knew that Astarte was a goddess!

When we got back to the boat, Sweet Dreams was very close to us, having just anchored in the spot we were planning to move to the next morning. Bummer. The next morning, we re-anchored. Once. Twice. Three times. Now we were far from Bill's boat and not on anyone's anchor. The water was deeper - so we had to let out more chain. (Now freshly painted and easy to see - though the paint is chipping off quite quickly!)

On Wednesday, Michael ordered his fuel lines and our mail to be delivered here (Pricey!). Barbara did some baking (she made up a recipe for a mango/papaya bread). Then we invited some folks over for sundowners. Our Bamboozle friends Lucy and Jamie arrived - but they had other commitments. We invited the folks from "Casa del Mar" (from Portland OR) and "So Cal. So Good." It was a fun (although a bit long) night. Sundowners lasted until 2200.

Today, we'll go grocery shopping and more exploring. All require bus rides.

Happy Birthday mom (Gen) and Dad (Peter).

Monday, August 10, 2009

The "C" of the A-B-Cs

We are now in Curacao - the "C" of the ABC Islands. We had a terrific sail from Bonaire today - pretty flat seas, an easterly wind 10-15 and a full headsail. Currently anchored in a place called "Spanish Waters," we arrived around 1500 and after a few tries anchoring - found our spot. We'll clear in with the officials in the morning. We met some nice folks from a boat called "Vagabond" in Bonaire customs and they arrived at the same time as us and we'll head in together with them to check in.

There was no joy on the fish front - even though we had two lines in the water and most of the time we were sailing at fish catching speed. We're good at fishing - not so good at catching!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Last night, we organized an historic walking tour and pub crawl in Kralendijk, Bonaire. Barbara found a brochure in the tourist office and thought it would be fun to do - especially by adding the pub crawl part. Our friends Jamie and Lucy were game enough to go along (they really are good sports and fun company!). There were 25 sites (not including the pubs) including a plaque dedicated to Eleanor Roosevelt, a WWII memorial (Bonaire lost more sailors than any other Dutch island in the war), a Simon Bolivar bust, some old British cannons (age being challenged by Jamie!), the W sitting bench and St. Bernard's church - though we're still trying to figure out why the statue of St. Bernard is holding a skull. Anyone know? It was a really fun and interesting evening. It ended up with a dinner at a Chinese restaurant and an ice cream finale.

We also enjoyed a terrific snorkel yesterday. We saw some interesting fish including huge tarpon, big barracuda, a very large scrawled filefish, trumpet fish, porcupine fish and many more. The best part - as we headed back towards Astarte, Michael spotted a Hawksbill Turtle. Barbara stayed watching him quite awhile and he finally came up for air - and came up very close to her. She was within a few feet of him and he wasn't spooked. Very cool.

We got some fuel - but the good news was we only ran the engine 13 hours since leaving Grenada. That was 5 weeks ago! We only needed about 5 gallons of diesel. We're using more gasoline for the dinghy than fuel for the big engine. That's good for the cruising budget.

Today (Saturday), we made a run to the grocery store - in search if fresh fruit - the Venezuelan vegetable sellers haven't been here for 4 days! Then we went to a boat "So Cal, So Good" (from San Diego) to pick their brains about the San Blas islands. They were there for three months very recently - so we thought it would be helpful to get some local knowledge. They were great folks and offered lots of good info.

Tonight - we're off to a wine tasting at the Antillean Wine Company with some other boats. It should be fun.

Friday, August 7, 2009


It's been six months since Astarte and crew left St. Petersburg, Florida. We feel like it's been a good "shake-down" cruise. Astarte was a "new" boat to us - and as we both worked to build up the cruising kitty which meant being on the road a lot - we didn't get the chance to really use her too much. So these first six months, we've learned a lot about the boat and cruising on her.

We've traveled more than 2800 nautical miles and visited the Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, Puerto Rico, US Virgins, St. Martins, St. Barts, Guadeloupe, Dominica, Martinique, St. Lucia, The Grenadines, Grenada, Venezuela and now Bonaire. In some of those countries we stopped at multiple anchorages. We've experienced some big seas and some flat calm crossings; some heavy winds and some light air; we've sailed various points of sail and had to motor into it.

With every "major" stopping point (Georgetown, Provo, Salinas PR, St. Johns, St. Martins, Rodney Bay in St. Lucia, and Grenada) we were excited about the decision to continue to move on. And with each move we knew it was the right call. Every cruiser has his or her own tolerance for continuing the adventure - and it's certainly easy to fall in love with many of these islands - and stay. But we've moved on - maybe too fast for some, too slow for others.but we've moved on with our goal of the San Blas islands in Panama still in sight.

We've met many wonderful and interesting people along the way. Cruisers are great partiers and incredibly helpful and fun. You make "fast" friends while cruising because of similar interests. We've had the pleasure of dining with many aboard their boats or ours; drank with many more on boats for sundowners or at happy hours on shore; and, we've experienced fun local events with fellow boaters. The people are from all parts of the world - making it a small world community - and folks we've met from our own backyard - St. Petersburg.

We've had guests (not enough!) and enjoyed their company. We wish we were more prepared for the first guests - and had fewer outboard problems - but hopefully they understand. It's a continual learning experience for us - what works best for guests and us. We look forward to Kathryn and Mark's visit to Panama.

Astarte has been a great boat - she sails like a dream - but isn't such a great power boat. Michael's been terrific about fixing things that break. Barbara's adjusted to cooking on a two-burner stove.

We don't have a favorite island - every place is special and it is so dependant on the weather when you're there. We love remote, out of the way places as well as the bigger "cities."

Fish catching has been fair. We always have a line in the water when underway. Sometimes we get lucky - but we wish it was more often.

We've read loads of books and continue to trade them as we read them. We're trying to learn Spanish - and are committed to being more conversational by Columbia!

The most important thing is that we are healthier now than when we left. We've both trimmed down quite a bit and are more active. We eat healthier than when we were traveling for our jobs. And we are happy. We still love being with each other and enjoy our time together.

We do miss seeing family and friends - and that's what you give up when you cruise. Luckily our families are very supportive and understand what fulfilling dreams is all about.

Let us know if there is anything specific you'd like more info on. We're always looking for ideas on what to put in this blog.

We look forward to the next six months.

Monday, August 3, 2009

"Bon Bini" to Bonaire

On Saturday, Astarte left the beautiful waters of the Venezuelan islands and headed west 40 miles to Bonaire. It was a great sail with the headsail and a following sea - but a comfortable 15 knots of wind. We sailed at fish catching speed and had two lines in the water and changed lures to try various colors and styles. But no fish jumped on the line - bummer.

We arrived in Bonaire - having to tack into the harbor and tied to the mooring balls. It was great to be greeted by hearty waves from our friends Lucy and Jamie aboard Bamboozle a few boats away. It was about 1445 when we arrived and we decided to clear in immediately. We showered, put our "going to town" clothes on, launched the dinghy and outboard and headed to shore. We found customs open and the gents quite helpful and friendly. Because it was Saturday, immigration was closed so we had to go to the police station. That was also an easy process - forms to fill out and stamp-stamp in the passports and we're cleared in. We stopped for a few beers at the dock and headed back.

We had a wonderful invite from Bamboozle for dinner. This is a real treat after sailing all day - plus it was really wonderful to see Lucy and Jamie again. They are very experienced cruisers - having been through the Canal, into the South Pacific, ocean crossings under their belt. They are so fun and friendly, we really enjoy their company. They prepared a terrific dinner and ice cream for dessert!! But the company, conversation and laughs are always the best. They've been enjoying diving everyday in this "divers' paradise" (the motto on the Bonaire automobile license plates).

Sunday, we tried to pay for our balls (mooring balls that is), but the marina was closed. We'll do that today. Sunday was a slow day with a few projects completed. Michael took apart the outboard because it was squeaking. This was a scary prospect as he undid the giant spring on the recoil starter cord, and then had to get it back together. But he did it. Barbara defrosted the freezer. We paid for an internet connection for a few hours (couldn't find any free ones).

Bonaire is one of the "ABC" islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao). They are part of the Netherlands Antilles. (This also includes Sint Maarten, Saba and Statia). There are some political changes happening as to where the islands will be run from. But it shouldn't impact us.

The headline of this post is the unique welcome as they say it in the local patois. The island is very attractive - with charming bright colored buildings along the waterfront. It is very clean. The main industries are ecotourism and salt. As we sailed by, there were giant white pyramids of salt along the salt pans waiting for shipment. They are obsessive on the island about the environment. Giant wind generators were spinning as we sailed by. No anchoring is allowed, you must take a mooring ball or stay in a marina. If you dive, you must get a pass and go through an orientation session before you are allowed to dive in the waters. No spear fishing allowed. There are 200 species of birds on the island so bird watching is also big here. A lagoon on the windward side is supposed to be a windsurfer's paradise.

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