Bonaire — Above Water; November 10-30, 2016

Despite initial reports of a crowded mooring field, we arrived to find our favorite spot waiting for us. The reports had not been in error; the previous occupant had just departed that morning, and all other moorings were taken. We gave abject thanks to the God Who Provideth Shelter to the Shipleys (despite Her lack of interest in preventing natural disasters for mankind in general) and quickly set about settling in. One of the first chores was the re-commissioning of the water maker, which had been pickled at the end of the last season. That appeared to go well, with a fully established production rate. But. Oops. A leak. Investigation revealed that the high pressure gauge was leaking at its attachment point to an internal T-fitting. Bill and I removed the gauge, reapplied Teflon tape, and watched the leak persist. After several iterations, we decided the damaged threads belonged to the gauge and not the T-fitting. Echo-Tec in Trinidad could send a new gauge, but it would take a while. So we replaced the gauge with a suitable plug and made water by adjusting to the customary production rate rather than the customary pressure. (Bill is indeed a clever man.) As I write this, the new gauge has long since arrived, but everything is working so well, and I have been ever so busy with other things, and all work and no play makes for a dull boy…

It was hot when we arrived in Bonaire.   Unusually hot, and unusually still. Day after day of calm warm waters. Someone said the temperature at depth was 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Too warm for my new diving suit, so I had to go back to my old (thinner) outfit.

We (TT2, Dolce Vita, & Celilo) re-joined the Bonaire Health & Fitness Club and typically went to the gym in the morning, then went for a walk, then had some lunch, sometimes on the boats but often in one of Bonaire’s superior eateries, and then did some diving. We celebrated Michael & Roberta’s anniversary with a dinner at Sebastians. We visited a new (first class) museum on the waterfront.

On November 26 we joined a large crowd gathered at the cruise ship pier. The event: waiting for Sinterklass (St. Nicholas) to arrive – by tugboat! I made the mistake of referring to Santa Claus, and was corrected by a Dutch National. St. Nicholas day is on December 6; children receive their presents on December 5 on St. Nicholas Eve. St. Nicholas is not a jolly fat man; he is a stern Saint and wears a long red cape over a traditional bishop’s alb, dons a red mitre and ruby ring and bears a gold-colored shepherd’s staff with a fancy curled top.   Traditionally, he rides a white horse. His companions and helpers are Zwarte Pieten (Black Petes), dressed up in 16th-century clothes of nobles in colorful attire. We were told the black faces have become quite controversial in the Netherlands, but they are beloved parts of the holiday here in Bonaire. St. Nicholas is somewhat more scary than Santa Claus; he and his helpers not only have candy in their bags for the good children, they also have birch rods for spanking naughty children, and sometimes they even stuff especially naughty children into the bags for taking them to Spain.

Bonaire’s St. Nicholas neither arrived nor departed by white horse: he arrived on one of two tugs loaded with Black Petes, and he departed on a white bus! No children have been reported missing.