Tag Archives: ad astra

Aruba Bound

The time had come to leave Bonaire (“again”) and it was much harder the second time around.  Matt and I had been here close to 70 days, met a lot of good friends, got into a comfortable routine, accomplished a lot of projects, and dove a lot of beautiful sites.  But we needed to head to Aruba.

On Friday, Jane, Cindy, and I went on our normal early morning walk and had planned to end it at Gio’s Gelataria and Cafe.  As we finished our 5 mile walk, we padded into Gio’s all nice and sweaty. To my surprise, all of our spouses were there awaiting our arrival for an impromptu going away party.  Jane and Cindy brought brownies, provided a super cool Bonaire hat, and stunning photo cards.  It was so sweet and touching and made me feel so incredibly blessed to have met such caring and generous friends.

Bonaire at Gio's

Going Away Celebration with Gelato

Gio's in Bonaire

Walking group with Priscilla at Gio’s

After a full day of cleaning and preparing to leave, we headed to dinner with our friend’s on Ad Astra: Eric, Max, and Kyle.  We went to Blue Garden, the Brazilian place which was a fabulous night of tasty food, great company, and lively conversation!  Unfortunately, I did not manage to get a group shot – slacker that I am!

It was time to go as our good friends from Texas (Shawn and Sharon) are due to arrive in Aruba soon.  We decided that it would be best to leave Saturday around 1500 for the best weather and the best shot at arriving in the morning.  The weather apps and charts indicated a 12-14 hour downwind sail.  After a little mooring shuffle, we set off toward Curacao. Our plan was to sail over the western tip of Curacao to Aruba’s lower tip.

Matt expertly set our big spinnaker and we were on our way.  At a comfortable 8-9 knots we were going to be really early and would arrive at dark, but we held our course and sail plan.  Matt set the fishing rods and teasers with the hope of catching some fresh fish, we ate dinner, and got ready for the night sail.

Spinnaker Sail

Spinnaker Sail on our way to Aruba

After several hours, we decided that we could not hold the course as we were heading directly for Curacao.  So, we took the kite down and put up the main canvas with one reef in the main.  At least now we should be able to point better and go around Curacao rather than through it.

I don’t do well at night when I cannot see the horizon, so I decided to take the first down shift to catch a few zzz’s.  The hope was to have the moon come out to light our way.  However, after a few hours, Matt was still going strong and told me to sleep some more. This routine happened several times.

During this time, Matt had turned on the engines when the wind died, then turned them off again when the wind returned.  Lots of sail tweaks, but maintained course.

It was not until 0400 that the moon finally came out, as a sliver, barely illuminating our path.  I finally took the helm and gave him a small reprieve. Normally I am not this useless on a night passage so it felt good to be at the helm for a small bit.

We arrived at 0830 just in time to clear in.


Arriving Aruba – Paardenbaai Key

We had received some good intel about the check in process and even received a photo of the dock where we had to meet customs and immigration.

On the way to the dock you pass by the cruise ship terminal between the cruise ships and the reefs. Makes for an interesting passage.

Passage between cruise ship and reef

Passage between cruise ship and reef

We had heard the dock is hard on your boat as they have large, black tires which often mark up your hulls.  But evidently, enough sailors complained so they put out a 40′ section of plywood between the tug boat landings.

Aruba customs and immigration dock

Customs & Immigration Aruba

Aruba customs and immigration dock

Sugar Shack is too long for the plywood area, but we managed to avoid the tire marks.

Aruba customs and immigration dock

Local official helped tie us off at the dock

Matt had a good plan, we approached the concrete wall, on the port side, in between two tug boats slowly to get a look at it.  We then passed it and circled back to have a starboard approach.  Just as we were approaching, and I was preparing to jump off, an official hopped out of his car to catch our lines – yeah!

The officials were super nice, very friendly, and extremely professional.  They come aboard, hand you the paperwork, leave and wait for you to finish completing it.  Then they take all of your paperwork and passports back to their office to copy it.  Kind of weird arriving into a new country and handing your passports off to someone you don’t know and they drive off.  But they came back.  They did a quick check of the boat, processed our paperwork, and gave us some advice on anchorages.

After we were legal, we decided to head to the anchorage in front of the hotel row to check it out.  We did a drive by and then turned around to park Sugar Shack in the airport anchorage, Paardenbaai Key.  As we were getting ready to drop the hook, we received a call on the VHF radio and a friend of ours, Barry on “White Shadow” from Curacao was here – giving us a welcome.

More from Barry, Adventures of an old Sea Dog later.


Salt Pier dive

Diving the Salt Pier

Another day out on Ad Astra for a diving adventure under the Salt Pier also known as “Waf di Salina”.  The Salt Pier, one of the best dive sites on Bonaire, is also one of the most photographed sites on the island.

Cargil currently operates the Salt Pans which cover one tenth of the island’s surface and produces 360,000 to 500,000 tons of Bonaire salt every year.  The varying colors of the ponds reflect the various stages of production.  It starts with crystal clear seawater which then turns to green, then brown, and then the salt crystallizes turn pink.  The unique pink color us caused by bacteria which are enjoyed by flamingos.  Did you know, baby flamingos are born white until they eat the brine shrimp and bacteria?

Aerial view Salt Pier and Salt Pans

Overlooking the Salt Pier and Salt Pans. Photo courtesy of We Share Bonaire

Diving the Salt Pier takes you to depths between 5 to 15 meters, where you’ll explore a maze of pillars fully encrusted with sponges and corals shooting up, hanging down, and jutting out.  These sponge and coral covered pillars are in vibrant shades of purple, yellow, and pink.  Each pillar provides you with a unique sea community filled with sea life large and small.  Large schools of fish congregate in the shadows created by the salt terminal overhead.

Our first dive of the day was to get the “lay of the land” and give us Salt Pier newbies a quick glance of what the Salt Pier looks like during in the light.  We anchored at Jeannie’s Glory and decided to swim to the Salt Pier.  It was a pretty big distance, but we were able to mark our path by a large cargo ship mooring which indicated the half way point to the pier.  It also had a distinct “clink, clink” sound as the chain links bobbed up and down off the sea floor.

It was absolutely amazing to see the corals and sea life hanging precariously from each pillar which offered new and surprising communities.  We moved on to the 2nd and 3rd set of pillars to get a quick glance of everything before our night dive.  We were surprised to see the large amount of trash and tires, but I guess that is to be expected below a pier??

Salt Pier Dive

Salt Pier looking up from the sea bed.

Salt Pier Dive

Salt Pier Pillar with coral growth

At dusk, we jumped in the water in small groups as there were a lot of us diving (12 divers), we followed our dive plan and headed toward the Salt Pier with torches in hand eagerly anticipating what we might see.  Our goal was to swim slowly to the huge mooring, then over the reef to the first set of pillars.

New and surprising creatures appear during night dives that were not there during the day.  Flowers bloom, sea anemones pop up, eels and shrimp come out and so much more. It is an exchange of sea life where the day fish go into hiding and the night fish come out to play.

Large tarpon surrounded us checking us out – some as large as our bodies.  They have no fear and will often swim very close to you which is unsettling when you don’t see them in the dark until they are in your peripheral vision or right in front of your face.

A delightful slipper lobster was cruising around the bottom of the sea bed in between the pillars.  You can’t tell from the photo below, but at night his eyes glow and his tentacles reflect the light from your torch.  He moves slowly and methodical – pretty spectacular.

Slipper Lobster dive

Slipper Lobster photo courtesy of Info Bonaire.

Salt Pier dive

Salt Pier Pillar coral growth

Labor Day in Bonaire

Matt and I were planning on leaving the day after Labor Day so we decided to throw ourselves a party. Well, truth be told, our friends on Shangri-La started the talks and we just ran with it.  Of course, we would be celebrating an American holiday with Canadians, Norwegians, Germans, Dutch, and a small handful of Americans.   There is a little public park with benches and a playground so we commandeered it for the afternoon and enjoyed some land time.

Everyone brought something to snack on and grill and we brought brownies, snacks, and of course jello shots.  Most of our guests had never had a jello shot so it was really fun to introduce them to this new way of drinking.

Holly (Shangri-La), me, Robin (Always Sunday)

Matt and I with Nadja and Manuel (Manado)

Erik and Kate (Ad Astra)

Kyle and Max (Ad Astra)

Mizzy & Brian (Kokopeli)

Robin & Ricky (Always Sunday)

It is always sad to say goodbye, but totally exciting to know that you will see them again in another bay and another country.