Category Archives: Bonaire

Below the Sea (Part One) — 2017-2018 Season in Bonaire

All photos ©Charles Shipley 2017-2018, please do not use without permission.

Here are some of the underwater “fish” photos I took during the 2017-18 season in Bonaire.


Closing Out the Season; News from above the Sea — Mar 4-May 2, 2018

This post will be a quick overview of some of our above-water activities during the last half of our season in Bonaire.

Barb and I fell into the habit of having Sunday breakfasts at La Crêperie early in the season, and continued that practice throughout our time in Bonaire. When Mike and Roberta, co-owners of our pickup, arrived “late” in Bonaire, having been delayed by the birth of their first grandchild back in Portland, OR, they joined us in crepe worship. The four of us also partook of the best arepas in Bonaire at the gazebo on Coco Beach run by Yhanni. And we continued our practice of attending the Burger Nights at Zazu.  We also went to Tuna Night at Hill Side; on one occasion transporting a gaggle of folks that overflowed into the back of our pickup. We also took the pickup to one of the monthly wine tasting events held at Antillean Wine. One afternoon we made sushi at Pat’s, whom we met a couple of years ago through Mike and Roberta. We went on a dive/snorkel trip to Klein Bonaire with Pat and Mike & Roberta and Rod & Jill and Rod’s cousin Chuck, afterwards stopping at the beach on the north side for a picnic lunch. Well before the arrival of Mike & Roberta, at the initiative of Lawrence (Phatt Cat), we began playing Mexican Train every Sunday night at the Divers’ Diner. It turned out to be a very popular event, attracting two tables totaling 12 to 16 players. Jill & Rod’s son Roddie visited for a while, during which a bunch of us celebrated Jill’s birthday at Zazu, including Kim and Doug (Gabriel). Speaking of whom, the couple again presented a series of four sessions on fish identification, this time hosted by Dive Friends at their Yellow Submarine location.  The lessons are designed to provide certification with REEF to enable citizen-based fish surveys.

On April 13, I completed my 1000th scuba dive. Diving with me to mark the occasion were Barb and Mike & Roberta.  Later, Barb threw a party for me on Tusen Takk II, attended by Roberta & Mike, Kim & Doug, Jill & Rod & Roddie, and Sherry & Lawrence. Barb was enormously supportive as I pushed to reach the milestone before we had to leave Bonaire.  We were first certified in 1991. Over 600 of my dives were at Bonaire, including about 400 of the most recent during the last four seasons. (Watch for a subsequent post featuring some of my underwater pictures.)

On April 17 we joined Roberta & Mike at Pasta e Basta, a special occasion at the restaurant It Rains Fishes: an evening of dinner and music provided by singing waiters from an Amsterdam restaurant of the same name: Pasta e Basta. For a review of the Bonaire version, click here.

We received word that my 99 year-old mother was experiencing health problems, so we pushed up our departure date from Bonaire and took Tusen Takk II to Curacao on April 23.  We worked frantically at Curacao to put the boat to bed, including putting down four coats of varnish on the cap rails to help them resist the Caribbean sun during our six-month summer absence, but on April 28, on the eve of our departure, joined Al & Maggy (Sweet Dreams) for dinner at scenic Fort Nassau.

Barb’s sister Audrey Visits — Feb. 24-Mar. 3, 2018

Audrey came to Bonaire for a one-week visit recently.  We kept her busy with various social activities, but she still found time to just read and relax.  We were invited out to a sushi dinner at Ron and Nancy’s; one of the last engagements at their “old” home before moving into their “new” larger home just a few doors away.  The ladies visited with Pat on several occasions.  Don and Pam were back to the island for a very brief visit; we saw them at Burger Night at Zazu and also got together at La Crêperie on Saturday morning.  We took Audrey to Coco Beach to introduce her to Yhanni and her arepas.  Barb and Audrey snorkeled a number of times, including one trip to the dive site Thousand Steps with Pat.  On another occasion we all went to Klein where they snorkeled while I dove.   And then the pièce de résistance: Barb took Audrey out to the Donkey Shelter!  I suspect that will become one of the must-see experiences for visitors to Tusen Takk II.

Norwegian Friends Visit us in Bonaire — January 23-February 1, 2018

On January 23 friends Lars Helge and Tove Brunborg arrived from Norway to spend some time with us on Tusen Takk II.  They were knackered after a long day of travel, first to Amsterdam from Kristiansand and then on a direct flight to Bonaire, but they stayed up long enough to partake of a glass or two of welcoming Prosecco.

Next day we showed them a little of Kralendijk with a walk through some of the village.  Here they are at the waterfront near the cruiseship dock.

On the 25th we boarded our beloved “Wanda” pickup and toured the south side of the island, making our usual stops at the salt pier, the white and pink slave huts, the kite surfing beach and finally the Sorbonne Resort for lunch. Afterwards we took the side road up to the north side of Lac Bai in search of flamingos.

On the 26th we were all invited to join Mary Grace and Frank aboard Let it Be on a sailing trip down to Salt Pier, where we tied up to a dive buoy and then took their dinghy under the Pier for a snorkel. On the way back we sailed around Klein Bonaire. Thanks Mary Grace and Frank for a great afternoon!

On the 27th we counted parrots. We had been trained and assigned a territory on a previous night. We arose shortly after 4 AM in order to get to a roost just south of Rincon. The counting was from 6 AM to 8 AM. The protocol was to count a parrot only after it had risen up from the roost and flown away. Since they generally did not land again in the immediate area, double counting was largely avoided. Our first parrot left at about 6:25 AM and our last about 7:45 AM. We counted a whopping 74 parrots in all! Our results were turned in at the entrance to the Washington-Slagbai Park, where we learned that the preliminary total count was 10xx, considerably up from the 8xx count of the previous year. We were served a breakfast of sandwiches and fruit and then returned to our boats (plural because we also gave a ride to Mary Grace and Frank), stopping at Seru Largu (Papamiento translation: large hill) along the way.

On Sunday, January 28, we went into Kralendijk and had breakfast at La Crêperie.  (No photos: too busy eating).

On the 29th we took Tusen Takk II out to deep water in order to empty our holding tank. We took the opportunity to do a little motor cruising and circled Klein, discovering in the process Paul Allen’s Yacht Tatoosh anchored in deep sand west of Klein.

On the 30th we took the pickup round to Windsock Beach where we lounged in the sand under a small tree and some of us snorkeled. We also partook of sandwiches and adult beverages. For most of the visit we’ve had periods of precipitation, and this day was no exception. We were ultimately chased home by a gusty shower.

On Wednesday, January 31, Barb got up early to check out the special moon. Alas, the cloudy weather persisted. We took our pickup “Wanda” out to the donkey sanctuary and fed them carrots we had purchased on the way.  Afterwards we had lunch at the Windsock, the Beach Bar and Restaurant. That evening Mary Grace and Frank joined us at The Bistro for the famous burger night. Afterwards, we enjoyed drinks and conversation aboard Let It Be.

We have been trading visits with the Brunborgs for many years now. It is always fun to spend some time with these good friends from Norway. We are already discussing our next get-together.

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


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.



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…