Omnibus Post — Bonaire and Curaçao; March 16 – May 5, 2017

Bonaire

Our experiences and activites during our last 5 weeks in Bonaire were to a large extent an extension of those discussed in the previous post.  We attended the Monday evening fish ID classes given by Kim White.  We exercised on weekday mornings at the Bonaire Health and Fitness Club, and then usually went for a local walk in the Kralendijk area.  We took the pickup to several more remote locations for extended hikes on established hiking trails, including one to the north near Rincon and another to new-to-us areas in the east.  And although Bill and I passed, Colleen and Barb enjoyed visiting the donkey sanctuary.  And of course we continued to dive, although Barb and Bill much less so.  I did most of my dives as a solo diver at night, enjoying the challenges of learning new techniques and new creatures. (I will hold back my underwater photos for another post.)

We continued to fuss and fix the pickup, including replacing two broken rear windows after suffering a bit of random vandalism.  (Actually, it turned out to be cheaper to just replace the whole rear doors with ones obtained from a local salvage shop.)

When the 7-yr old 25 hp Yamaha outboard developed problems — it would not stay in reverse — we investigated and found worn gears and worn linkage.  Unfortunately, we could not find a replacement motor with electric start.  Barb was especially concerned.  In the end, we decided to purchase a new 30 hp Yamaha motor, manual start notwithstanding.  All of the exercise at the gym is paying off:  Barb can indeed start the beast.  Fortunately, the Yamaha dealer was willing to serve as a broker for the old motor and we got a good price when it sold “as is” almost immediately.

We did a fair amount of socializing with a local resident of Dutch descent:  Paulien Wijnvoord.  She is keeping our pickup on her property while we are gone.

 

Curaçao

Tusen Takk II and Dolce Vita made the 50-mile passage from Bonaire to Curaçao on April 25. (Celilo had crossed about a month earlier in order to be free to accept an invitation to crew on a vessel that was going to visit Cuba.)  Long time readers will remember that we leave the boat in Curaçao because there is not suitable facility in Bonaire.  

When wind and sea conditions resulted in Dolce Vita not being able to keep up with TT2 on sails alone, she switched to motor sailing.  Alas, after a time she developed fuel problems: clogged filters due to dirty fuel.  A change of filters did not suffice to clear the problem.  This was worrisome, because the final leg of the trip to Curaçao Marine past the Queen Emma swing bridge and then down the relatively narrow channel through Willemstad could not be done under sail.  We slowed down to stay with them, and readied lines in case we would have to tow them to the Marina.  Colleen sailed while Bill spent most of the trip trying to combat the problem; there was so much “snot” in the fuel that the lines clogged as well as the filters.  He ultimately resorted to disassembling the filter assembly and to using compressed air to clear the lines.  Shortly before we neared the opening Colleen announced on the VHF that the engine was running again.  We sent DV in first, and we all held our breath as we made our way to the Marina.  They just made it!  How do we know it was “just”?  Because the engine wouldn’t start some days later when it came time to move from slip to haul-out dock.  

Tusen Takkk II also had issues on the trip from Bonaire to Curacao.  Several hours into the trip we noticed that the engine temperature as indicated on the pilothouse gauge was running a bit high.  We went down into the engine room and took direct readings near the temp sender with an infrared gun thermometer.  The readings looked fine.  So the question became:  was the method of measuring internal temp with the infrared gun flawed, or was the pilothouse gauge wrong.  We consulted with Bill via VHF and he urged that we test the system by increasing our RPMs to see if the temps would continue to rise, and if so, would they level off at some point.  So we kicked the RPMs way up, and watched the two conflicting indicators as they both rose.  We stopped the experiment when we got a “high temp” warning alarm on the console at a temp that would presumably be OK but high on the infrared gun.  Lower RPMs brought the temps down to “just slightly” high, and we continued the rest of the way without incident.  After we got on the hard I removed the heat exchanger and found that it was indeed partially blocked.  Conveniently, MRC, which has a shop adjacent to the Curacao Marine offices, was able to flush the exchanger with muriatic acid and render it squeaky clean.  I reinstalled the exchanger before we left Curacao, but will have to wait until we splash again next Fall to see if that has completely resolved the problem.

Kings Day

On April 27 we suspended our chores early and drove downtown to join the throngs celebrating Koningsdag or King’s Day, a national holiday in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The date marks the birth of King Willem-Alexander.  Up until 2013, when Queen Beatrix abdicated and was succeeded by her son Willem-Alexander, the holiday was known as Koninginnedag or Queen’s Day and was celebrated on 30 April.

The streets and stores were packed — every citizen of Curaçao must have come downtown!  And to do what?  Strolling and eating and drinking and people watching and shopping at the vendor booths and stores, many of which featured special prices for the day.  (We bought a sound bar for our TV at a price better than what is available in the USA from discount houses!)

Visit to Museum Kura Hulanda

On April 29 we took another break and visited the Museum Kurá Hulanda – the museum with the largest African collection in the Caribbean.  Opened in April 1999, the museum is the vision of Jacob Gelt Dekker who founded and privately funds (initial investment $6 million) it through the Jade foundation. Museum Kurá Hulanda is an anthropological museum that focuses on the predominant cultures of Curacao. It offers a world-class chronicle of the Origin of Man, the African slave trade, West African Empires, Pre-Colombian gold, Mesopotamian relics and Antillean art.

Back at the Marina

For a number of years we have been using, with only limited success,  PropSpeed to protect our rudder and propellor from fouling.  But it is quite expensive, and so last fall we decided to try priming and then applying bottom paint.  See below for some impressive modern art.

Foggy Flight Home

We flew to Savannah on April 5.  I guess there was a lot of moisture in the air.  See below.

Underwater Creatures — Bonaire, Jan. 1 – April 1, 2017

As this posting affirms, I have not grown out of my fascination with tiny denizens of the sea. However, there have been some changes. I have been doing a lot of night diving lately, and that means a shifting of subject matter. Some of the crabs in this album are no larger than ¼ of an inch. That means I do my best to focus, check the exposure after taking the picture, and often do not find out what I have captured until loading the image onto the topside computer. But I am having fun. Hope some of you enjoy seeing these creatures too.

Bonaire – January 16 – March 15, 2017

In our last blog I characterized our island life as “busy”. If that was appropriate, then the activities covered by this blog should be called “frantic”. We stayed super busy, exercising almost every weekday morning at the Bonaire Health and Fitness Club and then going for a long walk. Here is a brief accounting of some of the other activities that filled our days:

On Jan. 19, the crews of Tusen Takk II, Dolce Vita, and Celilo (hereafter referred to as “the Pod”) took the pickup (hereafter referred to as “Wanda”) down to the foodtruck (hereafter referred to as “King Kong”) owned and operated by Asko and his wife Jana.  Asko formerly was one of the big guns at Dive Friends, but is now happily making delicious hamburgers at Bachelor’s Beach. Later that day, the Pod joined Roger and Stephanie aboard their vessel Poespas for drinks and a vast array of hors d’oeuvres.

On Jan. 20 the Pod gathered on TT2 to make posters for the Women’s March. On Jan. 21 we joined about 20 others in downtown Kralendijk to participate in the world-wide march to protest President Trump’s policies.

On Jan. 22 the Pod took dinghies out to Klein Bonaire for a day in the sun that included a picnic lunch and a rousing game of bocci on the beach.

Our vessels are moored very near the dock used by local fishermen. From time to time we buy a fish as it is being offloaded. On Jan. 23 we scored a major purchase of a wahoo that Bill cut up and separated into three big piles.

On Jan. 26 the Pod took the pickup up to Seru Grandi in order to reconnoiter sites we had been assigned as volunteers in the annual count of Yellow-shouldered Amazon parrots, or “lora” as they are called in Papiamentu.

On Jan. 28 we departed before dawn, and were on our counting stations from 6:30 am to 8 am. Afterwards, we drove up to Rincon for the volunteers breakfast. On our return we noticed a parking lot filled with cars, so we pulled into Mangazina di Rei, which turned out to be a busy Cultural Park. “Mangazina di Rei” translates to “King’s Warehouse”. After working the whole week in the salt flats of southern Bonaire, slaves would walk for about 9 to 10 hours to the storehouse to get their provisions. The center is now dedicated to the culture, history, landscape and nature of the area around Rincon.

On Feb. 7 we helped Mike & Roberta (Celilo) celebrate their anniversary at Donna Giorgio.

On Feb. 16 the pod went to Sorbonne for lunch, stopping along the way to take pictures of the salt harvest machinery.

On Feb. 18 Elliott — son of Patricia, a frequent visitor to Bonaire and a sometime joiner of Pod activities – used his drone to capture stills and videos of the Pod’s moored vessels. (Here are a few snippets of his videos.)  Several days later a local newspaper contained a blurb warning that it is illegal to fly drones above Bonaire.

Later that day, nephew Erik and his wife Cindy arrived for a week visit aboard TT2. During their stay, Cindy completed her PADI dive certification. In addition to diving, we toured the south end of the island and attended the Youth Karnaval Parade. We hope they enjoyed the visit as much as we did.

After their departure, the Pod watched the Grand Karnaval Parade on Feb. 26.

On Mar. 11 the Pod participated in the annual Bon Doet – an annual charity event through which folks volunteer their time to work on various projects.   Last year, we gave our efforts to a local sailing club for youth. This year, we spent most of a day staining picnic tables and repairing and painting lattice partitions at a local childcare facility. All told there were more than 1500 volunteers participating this year on this small island!

On March 14 the Pod gathered on TT2 for a farewell dinner for Mike and Roberta, who were leaving the island early in order to settle Celilo in at Curacao Marine before flying north to join as crew a vessel on an organized visit to Cuba!

When they departed Bonaire early on March 15, they discovered a problem with their cutlass bearing. After returning to their mooring, they decided to leave anyway and to sail on to Curacao. They spent the night anchored off Klein Curacao, and proceeded the next morning to the mouth of the channel through Willemstad, where they were met (by pre-arrangement) by a commercial tow boat that took them safely to the marina.

Bonaire — December 1, 2016 – January 15, 2017

The big news for this blog is that the happy cruisers (Tusen Takk II, Celilo, and Dolce Vita) bought a (very) used pickup. A 2006 Mazda double cabin model never sold in the USA. We have named her “Wanda”, and have affixed a suitable (?) decal to her hood. We have spent a lot of time, and a fair amount of money, turning the rusty bucket into dependable transportation. We have visited a lot of junkyards searching for parts. We replaced the rear suspension springs. We took the truck to a muffler shop and had extensive work done to the muffler and exhaust pipes. We have done extensive repair work to the floor under the driver. We have repaired and patched the driver-side doorframe. We have sealed the front windshield. We have installed a new starter. Much of the metal under the rear of the cargo box was gone, and we created a new rear out of lumber that we covered with metal and then coated with roofing compound. We replaced the clutch master cylinder. We flushed and replaced the radiator coolant. We replaced the left rear taillight, only to have that later damaged when one of us – not disclosing who – backed into a pole.

It has been – and continues to be – an interesting experience, one that would not have been possible without the mechanical abilities of Bill (Dolce Vita).

As it turns out, we use the truck a lot. Shopping expeditions, trips to the laundry, interesting island events and just exploring. One of our destinations is a new Wednesday night activity. When the mosquitoes got to be too pesky at the Zazu burger night, we switched to dinner at a local cooking school. The meal preparation and table service are handled by young students, under the supervision of adults. It has been an interesting and enjoyable experience that gets us out into the community and not incidentally provides some great meals.

It has been a busy six weeks since our last blog post. A trip up to Bonaire’s second city to attend “Rincon Day” on December 18. A German chocolate cake celebration of my birthday the next day. Christmas dinner aboard . (Two days later I came down with what I assume was Zika. For two or three days my ankles were so tender that I essentially couldn’t walk, and I had a mild headache and a bad rash that persisted for over a week.) But I digress. I was listing activities. We attended one of the sponsored fireworks displays that many larger businesses throw for their employees on their last working day of the year; this year we damaged our hearing at Kooyman’s. That evening we had dinner at the Cuba Compagne restaurant after which we gathered back at Tusen Takk II for dessert and to watch the extensive fireworks on shore. On the first day of the new year the happy cruisers joined us for Hoppin’ John. Later that afternoon, about a dozen dinghies from the mooring field gathered initially at TT2 before letting loose and floating as a connected group toward Klein Bonaire, sharing nibblies and stories along the way. On Jan. 3 we put Celilo’s dinghy up on our deck and began a multiple-day project to repair its floor and reinstall an internal platform for their cooler. On Jan. 5 we took Wanda out to Sorobon for lunch and on Jan. 15 we sought and eventually found “Mi Banana”, an eatery way out in the boonies where we were the only non-Bonaireans among the large crowd enjoying the local fare.  So yes, it has been a busy six weeks.

 

 

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.

 

Bonaire — Below Water; November 10-30, 2016

Getting caught up on blog posts while staying isolated on board with Zika…

Curacao — November 1-9, 2016

We arrived at Curacao Marine late on November 1. Very late. Last flight in and after midnight before our taxi dropped us off. Next morning, we woke to a very dirty boat. For the next 7 days we would frantically hustle to get the boat ready for our trip back to Bonaire, where we would rejoin our friends Michael & Roberta (Celilo) and Bill & Colleen (Dolce Vita).

We commissioned to have the boat thoroughly washed and then waxed and polished (the “white” parts) and painted with anti-fouling (the “blue” parts). Bill had left behind his grinder so that I could strip the rudder and propeller, preparing for an experimental covering of primer and bottom paint (instead of the usual Prop Speed, which hasn’t been working very well.) And I had the unfinished business of installing new oil seals in the dinghy outdrive.

We set a record with our shortest re-commission ever. Pierre threw one of his periodic barbeques on the 4th, I installed the oil seals on the 5th, we splashed on the 7th, we checked out on the 8th (and noted that the pontoon bridge was being festooned with Christmas lights.) On our way out of Curacao on the 9th, Barb took some nice pictures of Willemstad and the pontoon bridge.

 

 

Homecoming — Savannah, Georgia; October 20-31, 2016

Our last stop in the USA was to Savannah, where we maintained our tradition of visiting relatives, friends, and doctors, not necessarily in that order.

Early on, we drove out to the vicinity of our former home on the Ogeechee River, in order to access the effects of the Matthew Hurricane. Although we arrived some 11 days after the storm had passed, there was still a tremendous amount of debris. The roads were clear, but the lawns and ditches were still littered with branches and cut-up logs. We saw some big trees that had fallen in yards, narrowly missing homes, trees that were still not sectioned for removal. We saw lots of blue tarp on roofs that had been damaged. Surprisingly, the private docks along the river seemed largely intact.

We spent a fair amount of time with Barb’s daughter Danielle and Danielle’s daughters Kristen and Abigail. One afternoon, Barb took Kristen and Danielle on a shopping expedition.

We had deliberately timed our visit to Savannah to coincide with the annual Savannah Film Festival, hosted each year by the Savannah School of Art and Design (SCAD). All told, we saw about ten films, all relatively new and all yet unrated. After many of the films there were Q&A sessions with some of the film actors and/or directors. Some of the films were surprisingly risqué for a conservative Southern city. On the last day we took Abigail with us; on one film Barb and Abigail had to beat a hasty exit. I stayed. 🙂

Barb and I took Abigail out to Tybee Island, where we walked the beach, had breakfast at the world-famous Breakfast Club, and climbed up to the top of the Tybee Island Lighthouse, located at the north end of the island. When we tried to access the North Beach, we found it was closed because the large parking lot was being used to temporarily store storm debris. The magnitude of the collection was amazing.

Back in Bismarck — October 7-20, 2016

By the time we made it back to Bismarck, Mom’s cracked/broken ribs had healed enough that she was largely free of pain.  We were delighted to see how youthful she looked — almost back to where she had been before the awful summer of her ill health began.

Our outside activities during the period of this posting were minimal — we stayed home with Mom during several periods when Zona spent some time at Lake Sakakawea and Minneapolis. We took the RV out to Tappen, ND, where it was stored away for the winter in a huge building owned by Marvin Bodvig as part of the complex that comprises the Tappen Farm Supply Company.  We had a nice visit over lunch with Marvin and Violet after tucking in the RV.

We spent quite a bit of time with Jon and Cathy Docktor and their children Katie and Cole, including meals at Zonas and a meal at the Dockters and a farewell dinner at the Bistro in Bismarck.  We attended Katie’s last basketball game of the season.  And when Zona returned from Minneapolis she brought along some brun geitost (brown goat cheese).   We had brought along tyttebær syltetøy (lingonberry jam) from the Ikea store in Las Vegas.  So when Zona made fresh norske wafler (Norwegian waffles) we all gorged ourselves with waffles eaten by hand and spread with the jam and brown cheese.  Yum yum yum!

Barb mostly doesn’t appear in the photos below; the last picture reveals the reason:  she was in the throes of a multi-week treatment to remove persistent pre-cancerous growth on her blue-eyed visage.  As I write this she is back to her beautiful self.

 

Heading East & North, Part 2 — Rapid City, the Badlands & Pierre, Oct. 3-6, 2016

Continuing east on October 3, we paused briefly to re-inact a remembered photo that featured my father, Wilbur (Bill) Shipley, in which the young man rode on the snout of a triceratops dinosaur.  Actually, a concrete triceratops, one of seven dinosaur sculptures on a hill overlooking Rapid City, South Dakota, created to capitalize on the tourists coming to the Black Hills area to see Mount Rushmore. Constructed by the Works Progress Administration, the Dinosaur Park was dedicated in 1936.  Dad was riding a grey beast, but it turns out that the seven were painted green with white undersides in 1950, so when Dad took his ride I either didn’t exist or was under the age of seven.

After our brief stop, we continued to Wall, South Dakota, where we settled into an RV campground and revisited the legendary Wall Drug.  Next day, we disconnected the toad and drove the loop though the South Dakota Badlands.  A comment by a ranger in the visitor center reminded me that we were close to the site of the Wounded Knee Massacre.  She remarked that there was a photographic display at the Oglala-Lakota College near Kyle, SD.  So we spent the rest of the day motoring south through some of the Pine Ridge Reservation, searching for the College and then the right building, and then experiencing the somber exhibition.  Did you know that after the Lakota were finally pacified — largely because the whites had virtually wiped out the Bison — the Lakota were told that the entire portion (of what would become South Dakota) to the west of the Missouri River would be theirs.  Just another treaty with the Indians broken by the Government.

After our drive through the badlands and some of the Reservation to the south, we returned to the campground in Wall.  Next morning, we proceeded further east, stopping in the capitol of South Dakota, Pierre (pronounced “pier” by South Dakotans.)  We conducted a self-guided tour of the capitol building, constructed between 1905 and 1910.  We learned that the building was patterned after the Montana State Capitol in Helena, Montana.  We then turned and headed essentially straight north toward Bismarck.  While still in South Dakota, we stopped at the private RV campground at South Whitlock Resort near Gettysburg, SD and the Oahe Lake.  We were the only campers in the 71 full-hookup facility, and so we could “parallel park” our camper and avoid having to unhook the toad.  But the campground would not stay empty for many days, since the pheasant hunting season was imminent and the area is prime pheasant territory.  Opposite the resort office and store was a supper club which we could not resist.  I had one of the best New York Strip steaks ever, and Barb had grilled walleye, presumably fresh from the nearby lake.

I write this from Bismarck, at the home of Mom and sister Zona. Mom, by the way, has regained much of her energy and all of her positive outlook. Both Barb and I feel that she looks healthy and much younger than her actual 97 years. Her secret? Staying active and involved (and playing lots of Progressive Rummy). We will put the RV to bed here in North Dakota, and then fly to the Savannah area to see friends, family and doctors. But that is a topic for another post.