Tag Archives: bonaire

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.


Keeping Fit in Bonaire

Matt and I have wanted SUP boards for awhile now, but just could not invest $1k for the set and shipping.  We wanted something that could easily be stowed, easily inflated, fairly stable, and reasonably priced – we don’t ask for much, right?  The waters are pretty calm in Bonaire which makes this a perfect spot to try them out.

New, local friends, who recently bought a catamaran, were selling their two inflatable boards (paddles, bags, fins).  They thought they were too old for them as they had a hard time balancing.  As it turns out, they bought small boards (8’9″ with a maximum weight of 60 kilos or 130lbs) and for their size they should have bought the 10’9″ standard inflatable boards.  They loaned them to us to see if we liked them and let me tell you it was HARD!  I had SUP’d before, but it was on Lake Austin on a 10’9″ standard board (non-inflatable), in no wind.  Didn’t have much of a problem then, but this was a very different story!

Matt seemed to tame the board almost immediately.  Not only was he able to stand up on the board, but he stayed up and paddled around mooring area.  I managed to get up (after falling in a few times) and managed to paddle around the boat, on my knees not standing upright, but it still felt like a accomplishment!

Several days later, after a few attempts and a few falls I was finally able to stand for a short up. Of course that all changed when a wave came, or a boat drove by, or a gust kicked up.


SUPing around the boat. Concentrating very hard on staying upright.


Oh dear, this is not good – so close to the boat too!


Yep, knew that was coming! Of course Matt captured the moment.

In addition to our SUP adventures and daily walking in Bonaire, we also have a great group of people who enjoy water aerobics or Noodling on the Sea.  Our friend leads the hour long class every Tuesday and Thursday where all are welcome.

Noodling on the sea in Bonaire.

Noodling around and getting some exercise.

Noodling on the Sea

Bonaire current carried us too far away so we are swimming back to position

Bonaire 50th Regatta

Bonaire celebrated 50 years of hosting its annual Bonaire Regatta while we were on island and even though we did not participate as we had in the other regattas, we did manage to watch several races over the course of 3 days.

Most of the races were across the bay (which is right behind the mooring area) and to Klein Bonaire from Bonaire.  So, we had perfect viewing seats right off the back of our boat.  The smaller boat categories included micro-boats, optimists, and sunfish.  They also spent many hours restoring old fishing boats “boto di piskado” that raced in the original regattas.  They managed to restore four of them which were in pretty bad shape.  We watched the transformation over many months.

Bonaire Regatta

Boto di piskado racing in Bonaire Regatta

They also had J-boats, CSA boats, kite surfers, windsurfers, and multi-hull boats racing.  The interesting thing about this regatta is that big boats and small boats end up in each other’s way even though they had separate courses, causing a bit of a calamity around some of the marks.

Bonaire Regatta

Opti’s in the way of the large boat trying to round the mark

Bonaire Regatta

Crowded mark for a little Opti

Bonaire Regatta

Bow to stern kiss but no visible damage on either boat.

Bonaire Regatta

Everyone heading downwind for the mark

Bonaire Regatta.

Opti’s and Sunfish getting started

They also raced these  non-motorized micro-sailboats.  The owner holds on to them at start line and sets them off with just the wind guiding them – they were really pretty mini-boats.

Bonaire Regatta

Micro-Boats racing in Bonaire Regatta

In addition to all of the excitement on the water, there were lots of activities ashore.  They had events spread out all over the coast line in Kralendijk.  With a large adult themed carnival by the stadium, a smaller carnival area for the kids by the cruise ship dock, 5 music stages, dozens of food booths, bingo, and booths with people selling their wares – there was something for everyone.

Event and Activity Map Bonaire Regatta

Bonaire Regatta Site Map of Events

Despite being a small island they have a pretty impressive music line up for the evening events.

Music Schedule for Bonaire Regatta

Bonaire Regatta Music Schedule

A much different experience than the other large scale regattas, but it still provided a lot of fun and entertainment!