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.
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.
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.
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.
Getting caught up on blog posts while staying isolated on board with Zika…
Granddaughter Kristen — daughter of Danielle — flew in to visit us from Georgia. She was on a brief break between Spring and Summer sessions at Georgia Southern University, and was determined to get some quality down time, which primarily meant relaxing and reading to her, and meant “activity, activity, activity” to Barb. They are both strong-willed women, and so it was interesting to watch the process of reaching an accommodation during the week. We began with our traditional tour of the southern end of the island, supplemented with a preliminary stop to a vista northeast of Kralendijk: Seru Grandi. Then we followed our familiar counter-clockwise route through the south part of the island: past the salt works and the kite surfing and white and red slave huts, and around to the east end where we expected to enjoy lunch at the marvelous Lac Baai restaurant. Alas, they were closed, so we made do with a much less appealing snack at Jibe City, where there were surprisingly few wind surfers. And then around the bend to the north side of the mangroves, where we have lately had great luck in getting guests close to flamingos. Alas, not this time.
On another day, the girls disappeared for hours in town, including an extended visit to a beauty shop for a facial.
Barb did little diving while Kristen was here, opting instead to snorkel with her. On one such venture, I dove beneath them and got pictures of one of Barb’s activities: cleaning the bottom of the dinghy. Barb also got some nice pictures with her GoPro of Kristen snorkeling. And of course we attended the Wednesday hamburger night at Zazu’s and Yhanni’s Friday arepa night. We watched some movies and played dominoes enough times that each of us won at least once. We enjoyed having Kristen with us, and hope she feels sufficiently recharged and ready for more studies.
On April 23 we joined a Park-sponsored hike to the top of Brandaris Peak, the highest point in Bonaire (241 meters). We gathered at 4 pm at the Park headquarters, drove through the Park to the trailhead at 4:30, and were back to the vehicles in the dark before 8 pm. There were about 20 hikers, including Roberta & Mike, (Celilo) and Barbara & I. (Bill & Colleen (Dolce Vita) had already gone on to Curacao.) The low part of the hike is an easy walk on a path; the high part is a use-your-hands-too scramble. Beautiful view from the top — even on a cloudy /dusty day. But it was a little dodgy getting down in the dark.
On April 25, Roberta and Michael, following in Bill & Colleen’s wake, headed to Curacao too. Leaving us the last ones standing.
Barb’s sister Audrey came to visit for two weeks in early April. Rather than withdraw with her from our social circle, we simply included her in our activities. We think that worked well since she enjoyed our friends and they enjoyed her. She dove with us some, and she joined us at the Health Club for our morning exercise. She was with us on our long post-exercise walks and especially for the hike up to the top of Seru Grandi. We had burgers on Wednesday nights and arepas on Friday nights and had lion fish pizza at Pasa Bon. We had ribs at Bobbejaan’s and splurged one night at the Mona Lisa restaurant. And she was there for the dinghy float we organized for one afternoon/evening. Some fourteen dinghies gathered behind Tusen Takk II. Everyone had their own drinks, and nibblies to pass around and share. After we had all gathered and gotten acquainted for a bit, we let loose from TT2 and the assemblage drifted off toward Klein Bonaire. There was a fairly good breeze, but the distance is considerable. By the time we approached the shore of Klein, it was getting dark and time to break up. Great fun and good company. Which is also a fitting description of Audrey’s visit.
The fun just keeps happening for Tusen Takk II on Bonaire. It has been a special time this season. We have very much enjoyed the diving, of course. But beyond that, we have been more than busy socializing with good friends Bill & Colleen (Dolce Vita), Mike & Roberta (Celilo), for a time Jack & Jo (Bodacious), until they left, and new young friends Simon & Hadley (Ouma). On a typical morning TT2, Dolce Vita & Celilo gather at the Bonaire Health and Fitness Club for about 90 minutes of aerobics and strength training, followed by a good long walk that takes us past either a hardware store (with free coffee) to the north or to an excellent grocery store to the south (with a surprisingly generous “breakfast” of coffee, juice, ham-and-cheese sandwich and a croissant). Often a dive late morning or early afternoon. And then “hamburger night” on Wednesdays, “arepa night” on Fridays, and occasional dinners at one of the fine restaurants. Mexican Train fairly often on one or another of our vessels. And then there are the special events to attend, such as a kite contest or a “Voice” contest at a local nightclub, or rendering assistance to an intern doing night-time research along the shore on box jellyfish.
On Tuesday, March 8, we were joined by John & Ann Taylor for a visit on Tusen Takk II. We had met them originally in late 2006 on our way down to the Caribbean. They were aboard their sailboat “Living the Dream”. We shared a number of eastern and southern anchorages, including the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, the USVIs, Dominica, Grenada, Trinidad, Los Testigos, Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela, etc. A few years ago they returned to their home in Punta Gorda, FL, and so they are officially CLODs (Cruisers Living on Dirt), although they have retained ownership of their boat and keep it in a canal in the their back yard.
They exemplify the kind of enduring friendships that occasionally occurs among cruisers, an aspect of cruising that can be deeply satisfying.
They had been to Bonaire on a previous occasion, but had not been able to visit the north end of the island due to muddy (!) conditions in Washington-Slagbaai Park. So on one of the days of their visit they rented a pickup and headed north. We stayed in Kralendijk, since we had just recently been to the park with Kari & Rasmus.
We did a fair amount of diving together — on the first day with rented and borrowed gear since that bag had unaccountably been sent to Aruba even though all their other luggage had arrived correctly. An aside: when they went to the dive shop to settle their bill, they were not charged for that rental. They were told that the policy of Dive Friends is to not charge if dive gear was misplaced by an airline — just one of the many reasons why we are so happy with the Yellow Submarine branch of Dive Friends.
John and Ann quickly became involved in the active social life of our Bonaire cruising friends: Tuesday night Sundowners aboard s/v Flash, Wednesday cruiser’s burger night and Friday Arepa night and a fortuitously-scheduled wine tasting on Saturday night at the combination Ikea-and-wine shop located in several adjacent units of a storage facility. Ten dollars gets each participant a glass (not just a taste) of six(!) different wines. Transportation was provided by Ron & Nancy in two pickups. The trip back to the dock was particularly interesting since there were 26 of us squeezed into the two vehicles. Ron and Nancy are Americans who own property on the island and who divide their time between Bonaire and Illinois. When they are on-island they often join in socializing with what they call the “boat people”.
We could not ask for better guests than John & Ann. Of course, as former cruisers they could anticipate what and when something needed to be done and always offered help. But beyond that, they were consistently low-key and relaxed and just plain fun to have around. It was a good visit.