Monday, December 25, 2017

Bonaire Part 1 - in no particular order

August 9 - November 7

Wow, where to begin with Bonaire. Originally, Element and her crew were to stay only 2 weeks in Bonaire but ended up staying for 90 days. This place has a way of infusing into your heart. So many interesting events and milestones occurred during our stay.

Bonaire turned out to be a diamond in the rough (and one of my favourites). It ended up being our longest stop since we left Finike, Turkey in April 2016. Upon first glance Bonaire was nothing special but, upon spending time on land and in the water it has ingrained its way into my heart.

It was the wee hours of the morning as we approached Bonaire from Los Roques, Venezuela and we had to slow down in order to arrive in day light. Once we were able to see, we slowly approached the mooring field. Back then it was so foreign. Funny how places become so familiar.

During our first cruise by of the mooring field, we quickly spotted two friend boats, Manado and Gaia. We were unable to find a mooring near them so we continued on. In fact there were no moorings available until, a lady on a catamaran waved at us. I was nervous that we were going to be told bad news but were thrilled to find out that their vessel was departing and that we could have their spot. The rest is history.

As we were grabbing the mooring a Norwegian boat, Kattami in front of us knew who we were. Element's name preceded us as we are a kid boat. Not really, the s/v Manado crew had mentioned that we would be arriving soon. It was lovely to get to know Ragnar, Thea, Veslmøy and Hedda during their time in Bonaire.

We also got to meet another kid boat, Nomad. They have three children (Amos, Noah and Addie). They have a small dinghy sailboat and Jordan got to sail around with Amos. It was so lovely to see.

Jordan and Amos sailing
from left to right Finn s/v Blue Zulu, Jordan, Noah & Amos s/v Nomad
The first time we jumped off the stern, we were greeted to our own personal aquarium. To say incredible does not describe it accurately, in fact I had to use a thesaurus to find an accurate word. Staggering! Yes, this will do. Staggering amounts of fish at our doorstep. In fact one evening we were all heading in to Luciano's (our favourite ice cream and wifi joint) and we drove the dinghy through a school of flying fish. I can only describe it as driving through a wall of fish. I was slapped in the face while the girls were slapped on their arms. Three landed in the dinghy flapping and thrashing. It was hilarious! A memory that will be with me forever!

Each day we would snorkel a small reef in the shallows becoming familiar with its residents. Paige was so sparked by the creatures that she mapped the shallows. During her mapping she found where several octopuses resided, eels, shrimp, french angel fish, tarpons and many more creatures. Incredible! As we watched her interest bloom, we decided that this was an exceptional opportunity for her to get her scuba certification. So, as an early birthday gift we sent her to Dive Friends Bonaire for her certification (milestone 1). I was one proud mom.

heading for her in the water training
During one of our visits with our good friends Nadja and Manuel (s.v Manado), a huge decision was made. They decided to sell their boat and come and live on Element. We had tossed the idea around a while ago as we wanted extra hands for our Pacific passage. We wanted the right fit and Nadja and Manuel were just that. The date was set for November 12 that our new crew would move aboard (milestone 2). 

During our time in Bonaire we had several celebrations. Shaun's 46th birthday, Jordan's 8th birthday,  Paige's 14th birthday and a Halloween to remember (pictures on the next blog post). All of these occasions were enjoyed with fellow cruisers, new friends as well as old friends.

Paige and Veslmøy during Shaun's birthday party
Jordan's 8th birthday party visitors part 1
Jordan's 8th birthday party visitors part 2
Jordan's 8th birthday bash
we ordered pizza from a local restaurant
For Paige's birthday I wanted to try and make it special. I organised a surprise party. I could not have pulled it off without the help of my good friends on s/v Maple. Janet offered to make a cake and I invited the kid boats we knew along with our friends from Windancer VI. Paige had no idea (or she claimed to have no idea). Either way a win!

Paige and Ella giggling on the bow
from left to right Iris, Max, Kyle, Jordan, Paige and Ella
a new favourite shirt
not sure who was happier to see this.... me or Paige
cake time
there is a back story to the pink icing..... Janet texted what colour icing and I responded any colour except pink..... Darryl decided that he would add a dollop of pink just to be cheeky..... it was perfect
I was eagerly awaiting our friends on s/v Maple to arrive at the end of August and as soon as they arrived we organised (thanks to Nadja and Manuel) an awesome price for PADI certification. Literally, 3-4 days after Maple arrived we were in the water getting certified. There is a lot of reading material to cover in 2-3 days but we managed to get through it before the in the water training began. We were all certified together early September (milestone 3). By the time we departed Bonaire I had 16 dives under my belt while Paige had 15. Helping us with our diving experiences was our friends on Ad Astra. Most Sundays they invited friends and fellow divers out to different dive sights for the entire day. In fact, I successfully completed my first night dive at the Salt Pier (milestone 4) during one of these outings.

all set to dive one of our last dives with Lucia our instructor
Janet and I posing for a pic
a big thumbs up from me (oops this actually means I need to surface)
under water fun
from left to right, Darryl, Janet, Ella and myself
chain moray eel
French angel fish
Paige and I diving
Robyn s/v Always Sunday, myself, Naddia s/v Manado, Ragnar & Thea s/v Kattami on our way back from one of our Sunday dives on Ad Astra
best friends reading together on Ad Astra during a Sunday outing (left to right - Jordan and Iris)
Shaun and Erik (s/v Ad Astra) chilling on the trampoline
Ad Astra also introduced us to a wonderful phenomenon that happens in Bonaire 4-5 days after each full moon. As Erik calls it "the sexy dance" of the corals. Each month the corals living creatures procreate and us divers are treated to a wonderful other worldly experience. The best place to dive and watch is on Klein Bonaire, where there is no ambient light. I panicked during this particular dive and ended it but I am proud to say that Paige completed it and was able to experience the dance. Here is a link from Dive Friends Bonaire that documents the experience -

continued to read in my next post Bonaire part 2.

Follow our video adventures on our YouTube channel: Video adventures of s/v Element

Follow us on Instagram: Element Instagram photos

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Los Roques, Venezuela - Paradise and Mosquitos

July 26 - August 8

We set off from Grenada and made the 2 day 2 night sail (290 nautical miles) to Grand Roque, Los Roques (Venezuela).

I won't lie, I was nervous about this stretch of our travels due to the unrest in the country. The only time we felt unsure, was when we saw a large fishing boat. At this point we turned off our lights and set the AIS to receive only. Everything went smoothly. We were a tad bit paranoid.

We had a great sail and only had to throw on the engines during the second day. Upon arriving we dropped our anchor in the bay near Grand Roque. Shaun had read on Noonsite that the check in process had several steps. They were correct. In fact there were 6 places that need to be visited (Pharmacy for money, Parks, Military, Immigration, Coast Guard, and Port Control (ANEA)). It is a lengthy process, made even longer as we didn't speak Spanish. We ended up doing it over two days as we had arrived later in the afternoon and most of the places close at 4 - 4:30 PM. During the check in we were informed that foreigners are allowed 15 days in Los Roques before they have to move on.

we're millionaires (200 USD = 1,400,000 million Bolivars)
At first glance Los Roques is very "rugged", as we walked through the sand streets we noticed the charm and the copious amounts of dogs. They are everywhere. Many have dug out small dirt beds to stay cool during the heat of the day while others lounge in the streets. They are of many different breeds and have not been "fixed" so their numbers are out of control.

As we made our way to the centre of town we walked past wall art, homes, peek-a-boo water views, and fishing boats. During the day it is a quiet town but as evening arrives people materialise and the town comes alive.

tree climbing in the centre of town
conk Christmas tree?
hidden views
yummy fish dinner
fishing boats
the sand roads as we walk to check in
the airport

pelicans and fishing boats go hand in hand
a beautiful view from the Aquarena restaurant
cuba libre
Element anchored in the bay off of Grande Roque
a kids play park
on the way to the airport
the streets in town
a view of Element from Grand Roque
The swell at Grand Roque was starting to bother us so we decided to motor over to Cayo Frances and anchor in the bay. It was an excellent decision. The waters were calm and translucent. We could easily swim to the beach.

We made a habit of going to the local beach restaurant Casa Marina for the cuba libras and to watch the lizards. This is where we met Javier, one of the staff members. He makes a mean cuba libra. We also met many local people vacationing from mainland Venezuela. One day we happily met a group because Shaun noticed that they had a delivery of ice so, he brought rum and coke from Element in exchange for ice. They insisted that we try Anise and lime juice a local favourite. They graciously invited us on a boat trip the following day to paradise on earth, Caya de Agua. They arranged for a boat to pick us up and we made the hour trip up. STUNNING!!!!!!

Casa Marina restaurant/bar in Fancisqui Bay
Element at anchor in Frances Bay

the Cnemidophorus lemmiscatus lizards
Casa Marina price list in Bolivars
cuba libras for $1.50 USD
myself and Javier at Casa Maria
Shaun with the staff of Case Maria
myself and the staff of Casa Maria
cuba libras with Element in the background
happy captain with Element in the background

sea urchin anyone?
old and new friends (our new friends are from Caracas, Venuzuela and old friends from sv Tyrona)
our rides up to Cayo Agua
beautiful sand
paradise in Caya de Agua

Marisol of s/v Tyrona after feeding the birds

moving an umbrella 
Another day Jordan and Shaun got to work on making a masterpiece sandcastle on the beach in front of Casa Maria in Frances Bay. We also met a Russian family who are living in Venezuela. They were vacationing in Los Roques from the mainland. Jordan and Mila (aka Milk) had a lot of fun together. We invited Mila to come back on Sunday to hang out with Jordan before flying home.

the beginnings of the castle
the finished masterpiece
Mila and Jordan playing
Paige dressed in her sailing "uniform" LOL
Jordan and Mila on Element
Another day we had a bunch of kids swimming near Element. They ended up taking a break on our back transom. We ended up meeting them the following day. Their names are Ricardo, Lorenzo and Diego. They are staying in Grand Roque. 

One afternoon there was a fellow who asked politely if he could rest at Element because he was tired from swimming. Shaun offered him a beer and he so grateful. Later that day we met up with him at Casa Maria.

from left to right - Ricardo, me, Lorenzo, Diego and Jordan
We met so many lovely Venezuelan vacationers in Cayo Frances. We were asked over for coffee to a neighbouring power boat. The 16 year old son wanted us to meet his family. During our visit several other friends and family arrived and throughout the conversation the topic of the current Venezuela government came up. It was enlightening to hear firsthand the locals points of view on the matter. Later in the evening, we were safely tucked away from the mosquitos we heard a dinghy approach. Our neighbours Mom sent over a traditional Venezuela dish for us to try Pabellóon Criollo. It is a simple dish of shredded beef and black beans served on a bed of white rice. It almost always is accompanied by a fried egg (Pabellón a Caballo) or with fried plantain slices (Pabellón con Barandas). Super delicious.

Cayo Frances is beautiful however, there is a lagoon near by and after rain showers the mosquitoes arrive in droves. We put up our mosquito net and promptly watched the buggers fly through the holes. It was horrible, they were relentless. Every evening we had to shut our front hatches and companion way door so that we wouldn't get eaten alive. Each morning we had to draw straws, the loser had to go outside and kill the 25-30 waiting to eat us. Some days there was a little bird that would come and visit and munch a bunch of them. We always cheered when it arrived and groaned when it flew away. The mosquitoes were the deciding factor regarding our early departure from Los Roques.

Our experience was a very positive one. It took a lot of soul searching and research to make the decision and we are exceedingly happy that we decided on visiting the area. The people are warm, generous and hopeful.  

Follow our video adventures on our YouTube channel: Video adventures of s/v Element

Follow us on Instagram: Element Instagram photos