Sunday, September 16, 2018

Curacao Marine - Out of the Hurricane Zone

September 18 2018
Secure Customs yard
It is hot.  The good thing about hurricane holes is that they are usually hidden away, protected places.  The bad thing about hurricane holes is that they are hidden away, protected places aka little wind, and thus HOTTER than hell.  My phone apps says "89 today but feels like 101."  Yes it does.  Actually more inside the boat.
The maze through the boats
Here we sit at Curacao Marine on the hard at 12.1N and 68.2W - just above Venezuela and most important, out of the hurricane zone/box.  Unlike Trinidad, Curacao is primarily dry.  We did have a down pour the other night but that is it, otherwise it has been very dry.   Great for getting boat projects completed.  If you will remember, our past four hurricane seasons we put sv Honey Ryder in Trinidad for safe keeping.  But it rained nearly everyday and sometimes multiple times in Trinidad.  Not so great for boat projects.
I love that they paved around this palm

Anyway, I thought I would give you a tour of Curacao Marine.
One of the hire cars

We are in the work yard.  There is also a secure customs yard.  No one is allowed, not even us, once you boat is locked away in there.  It's a Customs thing.  That is where sv Honey Ryder was while we were away.  Even though we are out of the hurricane zone, the boats are still strapped down.  There is some question as to when this took place (recent) but they are strapped down.
Our lane - hey, whose big finger?

The work yard is gravel (a pretty white/pinkish color) with asphalt lanes.  This is nice because it cuts down on the dirt and dust and means no muck when it does rain.  Clean yard too.  Not a bunch of scraps and trash laying about. 
Gravel yard

The bathrooms are very nice.  Air conditioned, and clean with three showers with.....wait for it.....running water.....on demand.  *Coral Cove in Trinidad had major water issues as in NO water at times.  Nothing worse after a long, hot day of boat work than to turn on the water to nothing!  Argh!  And Curacao Marine has hot water.  I know it sound weird to want hot, well actually warm water when it is so hot outside.  But, after a long day of boat work, sometimes you need warm water to help your muscles relax and really scrub you clean.  Anyway.....nice bathrooms!  BTW - the yard has running water on demand as well.  *See the above.    
Tiki hut

Fire pit area - I am not sure how many fires get lit but it is a nice place to chill in the evening

There is also a nice community tiki hut area with fire pit (not sure how much this gets used), modern grill, couch and loveseat, bar tops and stools, two pop machines - including one that dispenses beer, a bar and stools and a community freezer.  The last item is really great while living on the hard.  We can store meats and chilly treats in there or quickly cool down drinks.
Tiki hut

Tiki hut

They have rental cars for hire.  One drawback is that we are tucked away from anything like a restaurant, grocery store or marine store.  However, one local grocery store sends a bus (mini van) each morning to the marina (except Sunday) at 9:30 am to take cruisers to the store for shopping.  It is next to the Budget Marine and ATM's so that works out well.  The other disadvantage is that there is no laundry on site at the marina but arrangements can be made to drop off laundry.
sv Honey Ryder strapped down

So this is home for a bit.
Stairs to the palace.  HA!  Yes, those are our dishes from breakfast

*Sorry, I can't seem to figure out how to put the accent under the second C in Curacao.  If anyone knows, please let me know.  I did Google it but the directions didn't work, or I didn't try very hard, or I didn't understand the directions or I don't really care enough to try harder.  Or all of the above.

Season 5 numbers

SV Honey Ryder waiting for haul out at Curacao Marine - June 12 2018

For those keeping track -
Season 5 total nautical miles = 773.9.  Trinidad, Grenada, Bequia, Martinique, Bonaire, Curacao.
For us, the numbers don't matter.  We are collecting adventures, memories and pictures as we slowly explore this big, blue marble.

Season 6 - What Is Next

OCC Burgee

Remember I told you we finally joined the OCC - Ocean Cruising Club?  Well, the OCC does some pretty kewl rallies around the world.  A sailing rally is like a driving rally, except there is no official racing.  So really, just a group of boats traveling loosely together.  The benefits include safety in numbers, special discounts, special events with locals (government officials, yachting clubs, tour operators, etc..) marina bookings, ease of checking in with C and I (in theory), and more.  The only other rally we have done is the Salty Dawg Rally in fall 2013 that brought us to the Caribbean.
This summer I made all the flags we would need for the rally 

A couple of years ago was the first ever OCC Western Caribbean Rally dubbed the Susie Too Rally, named after the hosting couple on sy Susie Too.  We knew four different boats that went on that rally and LOVED IT!  They encouraged us to go.  We were interested but unsure we could because of a family wedding.  Turns out others were interested as well.  Soon the rally was full.  However, long story short, it all worked out and we are going on the rally.
Susie Too Rally meet up in Bonaire

We will be in group two heading out of Curacao approximately December 7 2018 with 34 other boats.  Our route is Aruba, Santa Marta Colombia, Cartagena Colombia, San Blas Islands, Panama proper, San Andres Island, Providencia Island, Bay Islands of Honduras and finally ending in the southern part of Belize at the end of April, beginning of May 2019.

We are super excited about season six and our exploration of the Western Caribbean.  We've already met some wonderful rally peeps.

Bonaire May June 2018 - BloKarts

June 2018 - WARNING, tons of fun aka tons of pics!

We had driven by the BloKart place several times.  Each time the comment was something along the lines of "We should do that."   Finally, we stopped and did.

Actually, the guys did - Jason and Tom.
Instructions - try to avoid wheelies

These BloKarts are made in New Zealand.  Very clever design.
BIG pre-start smile

Two different size sails - smaller and larger.
And they are off -

Two different size axles - normal and wide.
Picking up speed in the straightaway

Sheet in, go fast.  Sheet out, slow down - to control the speed.
Big smile

The advice was to ease the sheet on the turns.  And IF by chance you tip over, don't put your hand down thus avoiding the risk of breaking a wrist.
Check out the background

After the few instructions, they were off!  Zoom Zoom.
Neck and neck

Of course they were racing, they're men.
Tom starting to come up on two wheels

The wind was really blowing.  Tom scooted along but had to be careful as he was prone to come up on two wheels.  Jason had a few extra pounds of ballast on Tom so he was able to stay on three wheels and thus a tad faster.
Jason in the lead

But they were both winners with broad smiles.

They paid for 30 mins but there were only two other riders so they got a generous, island time 30 mins.

Laura and I cheered them on and took pics and video.
"Let's go again"

Fun, fun, fun!

Bonaire May June 2018 - Diving, Coral Reefs and Sunscreens

Pic by Laura

Damn it!  We have really got into the diving here in Bonaire.  Why is that bad?  It's not really.  Actually, it has given us a whole new appreciation of everything below the surface.  EVERYTHING!  With that appreciation, we have also gained a big dose of how we are directly connected to everything down there.  We always try our best to keep our impact to minimum.  Are we the best?  No, far from it.  However, we are not the worst either.

But being in Bonaire and diving in this amazing aquarium has really got us paying attention to our impact.  For we worry about what ingredients are in our sunscreen.  It turns out most sunscreens have chemicals in them that kill coral reefs.
Pic by Laura
Research - Here are some links to articles about reef safe sunscreens.
Consumer Reports
Travel and Leisure
Hawaii recently ban certain sunscreens.
There is more research out there, but these might help you get started.  It is shocking how many "Reef Safe" sunscreens actually have those bad chemicals in them.  So you have to really read the labels.

Reef Safe sunscreen is not just for those of us on boats or who live by the sea, it should be for everyone.  Why?  When you take your beach holiday there is a 50 - 50 chance you are going to grab the tube of sunscreen you have at home in say....Kansas, so you can hit the beach immediately.  Boom - bad sunscreen chemicals in the water and reef.  Or you wait to purchase the sunscreen when you are on the cruise ship but they don't sell Reef Safe sunscreen so you end up buying the bad stuff as you head to the dive boat.  In fact, cruise ships really need to step up their game and ONLY sell Reef Safe sunscreen as they dump 1500+ people at a time on beaches around the world.

And yes, we try to remember to refuse straws.  I even have a stainless straw thanks to my pal Amanda.  She has made the switch and she doesn't even live close to the sea.  Another KC friend is a server at a restaurant and she won't bring straws unless people specifically ask.  Even then, she explains why, usually teaching them and guilting them into not taking a straw.  And finally, we witnessed a KC bartender cutting up plastic six pack rings one night.  "I just think it is important to do this, even though we are in KC."   Agreed!  Every little bit helps.

Oh and HUGE shout out to the small Caribbean Island Nations who have banned Styrofoam - Dominica, Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines and probably a few others I don't know about - NOT Trinidad.....come on Trinidad, get with it!  The US should take serious note and do the same.  This action will make a huge difference as street food vendors switch away from Styrofoam. we explore more of this planet, we continue to learn the ways to interact and impact our world and we continue to make positive adjustments as we can.  A few might say "These little changes won't do a thing to help clean up the oceans."  Well they won't if we don't each start to do our part!  And every vote counts, btw!!!    

Bonaire May June 2018 - Brush With Diving Fame

Our Go To book on fish

June 2018 - sorry for the fuzzy pics.  Poor cell phone camera.
Ned's slide show

Ned Deloach is one of the guys that wrote four key reference books used by divers all over the world to id the sea life they see when diving.  Actually, I think he has more than three books (7 others + EBooks ) at this point.  But for this part of the water world - three that matter: "Reef Fish""Reef Creatures", and "Reef Coral."  Check for more info.

Ned Deloach on the right

As new divers, we would reference these books after each dive, trying to figure out exactly what we saw.  I usually looked through the book just ahead of a dive to get my mind thinking on what I might see.  Even seasoned divers use these books.
Anna in pink

Well, one of the dive resorts brought Ned and his lovely wife Anna in for a week.  The opening night talk by Ned was open to the public so we went.  Ned gave an hour long interesting and fun talk with slides.  Quiet Anna was there for support.  However, it turns out she is quite an aficionado on Blennies, the small, elongated bottom dweller that take up pages 312 to 367 in the Reef Fish book because there are so many different kinds.  In fact, the resort bar is named Blennies in her honor.   
sv Stargazer and sv Casa Blanca with their Blenny eyes.

sv Blue Blaze and sv Honey Ryder with their Blenny eyes.

The resort had a week of scheduled dives with this famous couple (for a fee, of course).  We chose to continue on our own.  At the first nights talk, Ned and Anna challenged us all to look closer as we were diving.  As part of that challenge, they handed out a check sheet of 80 fishes and sea creatures to ID during the week - honor system, one sighting each, multiple parrot fish don't count.  At the end of the week party, if we had 50 of the 80, we would get a pocket guide of one of Ned's books.   
Ned autographing his books

Challenge on!  I kept a close eye out and check off the fish/sea creatures as I saw them.  I ended up with 75 of the 80.  Not bad!  Ned chatted briefly with each person when he signed our books, asking about a specific fish we saw and congratulating us on the number we saw.  Such a nice guy.  And his wife was just too lovely.  She is the one that told me that diving behind the yachts in the mooring field is her favorite dive spot in Bonaire.  It was fun meeting them and working the challenge.  Our two books (Reef Fish and Coral) have really gotten a work out.  

At the end of the week party with Ned and Anna, there were several people running around with matching shirts.  I figured a dive club until I noticed the age spread.  It was obvious that it was a family reunion of some sort.

Finally, I had a chance to read one of the T-Shirts, it seems Grace and Phil hold the world record for "World's Oldest Married Scuba Diving Couple".  And have for several years.  Each year various family members fly in to witness them retain this Guinness World Record and help them celebrate.  I asked one of their daughters if she could share their specific ages as the t-shirt from last year only had the cumulative age of 171.   "Dad will be 87 this summer and mom will be 87 later this fall."  

WOW!  How kewl is that!  We felt honored to be in their presence and to be able to meet Ned and Anna.  BTW - Ned and Anna travel the world and are often at various dive resorts around the world speaking.  Maybe they will be on island someday while you are on dive holiday.  

Bonaire May June 2018 - The Diving

Tom gearing up to go diving

May / June 2018
Sabrina snorkeling 

After reading the other blogs postings about Bonaire, you are probably thinking "But what about the diving?"
Tom prepping to dive off the back of the boat

We did do a fair amount of diving.  We went through two Tank Fill cards, 22 refills on each card, so.....44 or so dives total.  In the end, we were diving every day and sometimes twice a day.
Sabrina diving

We also did a lot of snorkeling.  Many mornings, Laura and I would go snorkel in the shallows in front of our boats - say 10 ft of water or even less.  There were tons of interesting little sea creatures and every stage and color of Parrot fish.
Tom diving

One of the selling points of diving in Bonaire is that there are many dives sites that are accessed from the shore.  This means divers can come to Bonaire on a dive holiday and have the freedom to do a bunch of dives on their own, no dive boat or guide needed.  All the rental car companies have dozens of pickup trucks for rental.  In the back there are wooden palettes so you can easily lay down a bunch of dive tanks safely and drive to the various dives sites.
Sabrina diving - not cold, trying to keep my hands in and not flail about

While walk in dives sites are a big attraction for most holiday divers, it wasn't so much for us.  All we had to do was dive off the back of sv Honey Ryder.  See, her bow was in about 25 ft of water at the mooring and her stern was in about 50 ft of water, right on top of the wall drop off.  The wall runs all along the mooring field.  In fact, pretty much around the island.  No getting lost in underwater valleys that go this way and that.  One world famous diver told me her favorite diving site "is just at the edge of the mooring field behind all you yachties.  It's just lovely along there."
Tom diving

When we weren't diving off the back of the boat, we would hop in our dinghy and go to sites north and south of us.
Sabrina snorkeling in the National Park

Tom had 25 or so dives under his belt when we arrived.  I only had 16 dives in my logbook.  Diving in Bonaire gave us the chance to really develop our diving groove as partners and establish a routine for before, during and after.  Invaluable, important experience. 
Pic by Laura

We did do one shore dive together with Laura.  Tom did his first wreck dive as well.
Laura the fish with the fish

There is a dive shop on every corner.  We used Dive Friends at the Yellow Submarine, a great dive shop.  Tank fills were $6.  If they didn't have our tanks ready, we would just grab one of theirs.
So many fish

Stenapa is the official marine park office.  There is a junior ranger program of the local kids, events, dives, talks and such.  Additionally, there are a couple of coral farms and other interesting things - sv Blue Blaze helped move sponges on the Salt Pier as part of a sponge relocation project, very kewl!
Tom free diving down to check out the coral farm
We even did a night snorkel.  Some super, duper glow in the dark shrimp/worm things were supposed to be out 30 mins after dark on the third night after the full moon.  Did you catch all that?  Well, Tom and I met up with sv Celilo and their visiting son Phillip to snorkel and see this phenomenon.  We arrived at dusk and waited for the right time to slip into the water.  Then we watched and waited.  And waited and waited some more.  It was our first time snorkeling at night and felt a bit weird.  Honestly, it felt like a Snipe Hunt.  Remember those when you were a kid?  Usually a group of older kids (scouts) would take the younger ones out at night hunting for the elusive snipe, basically making them run around the woods or prairie like silly fools looking for an animal that didn't exist for the pure entertainment factor of the older kids.  I even said to Mike at one point, "This feels like a Snipe Hunt."  He snorted into his snorkel and mask but assured me that this was real.  Finally, we saw some glow in the dark things firing up. 
Tom heading to a night snorkel

sv Celilo - night snorkel

But you probably want to know specifically what the diving is like in Bonaire?  FABULOUS!!  The reefs looks good, with fish and sea life everywhere.  We saw the most amazing creatures.  And because the entire island is a protected marine park, there is an abundance of sea life.  It is like diving in a big, fancy aquarium.  Seriously!  So kewl!
Laura getting ready for a dive at Klein Bonaire

We were lucky to be with sv Blue Blaze as Laura and Jason are master divers, commercial divers and Jason is a marine biologist.  And we took full advantage of them.  "Hey Jason, we saw a long, skinny fish that was green and blue with a hooked snout.  What was that?"  He would usually say "If it had blah and blah, that is a long snout whatever.  Those are really cool because......."  They pointed out the Yellow Jawfish to us.  We had never seen one and didn't know what it was.  "BTW, the male carries the eggs in it's mouth." Jason explained.  WHAT!  When Laura and I would go snorkeling together, she would spot something kewl and call me over "I am going to dive down and point something out" .  I would follow along to see what she had spotted.  Then we would surface and she would tell me what we were looking at and all about it.  They also loaned us dive computers and helped fix some of our gear.  Thank you sv Blue Blaze!!!!
Tom prepping for another dive

Actually, being around sv Blue Blaze and then on our own, we started slowing down on our dives and really looking.  Not just at the big stuff but the little stuff as well.  On one morning snorkel with Laura, I spotted THREE octopus!
One of the hundreds of dive spots around Bonaire
So yes, the diving is brilliant in Bonaire.  Go dive there!