Saturday, 19 March 2011

The Dutch Antilles - Bonaire

Giving it plenty!
The Dutch Antilles - Bonaire

We approached at 7am, having lost yet another hours sleep. From the panarama of the gym, I could see the low-lying island, which rises to a mere 700' at its peak. Beautiful white coral beaches and a small settlement, with red-roofed houses and small hotels.

We walked up the shore in one direction for a reccy, past brightly-coloured, turquoise and yellow old sea-front shacks. Everything is so bright and cheerful here- the yellow, orange and turquoise, the bright blue sky and the blue sea, with the white sand patches of the nearby island of KleinBonaire in the distance. We saw some liitle green parrots, posing calmly in a tree, a local man gutting the large fish he'd just caught and cleaning them in the sea. The indigenous people speak Papiamentu, but most seem to flit between, Dutch and English or Dutch and Spanish.

 After a draught Heineken, we strolled around an art shop, and then the local market. The Dutch people who have settled here and the locals have established an artists cooperative, selling only locally made and hand-crafted gifts, from decorated gourds, famous little "black mama" dollies, jewellry and painted postcards. No-one was pushing you to buy, the minute you raised your eyes, so you could browse and admire the skilled craftsmanship, and stroll calmly around. I bought a gourd Xmas tree decoration, with the features of a turtle burnt into it, and a palm leaf, which the artist had cut from a plant in his garden, and painted to look like a flying fish.

Later we hired a sorkel for $8, paid $10 each to use the facilities of the DiviFlamingo resort- a small development with showers, a bar and lots of sunbeds. The snorkelling was some of the best we've done- hundreds of brightly coloured fish, large parrot fish, some with beautifully marked scales, blue and yellow tangs, 2' pipe-fish (some of the largest I've seen), wrass, a puffer-fish, hiding in a cave, an octopus, boucing curiously along the sea-floor. The best experience yet of being in the water. I loved this tranquil. laid-back place, quite different to the more in-your-face tourism of some of the previous stops. But then there's not the same poverty as in Guatemala, and the culture and attitude to tourism is different to Mexico, who seem to see you as dollars coming ashore!!

Queen Victoria in Bonaire
One last swim in warm sea-water, for god-knows-how-long (7 deg at home currently), and then back on board before the horn signals to leave at 5pm. A lot of the crew had been ashore today. You could tell who were the crew- they were the young, slim ones! Our friend Sergei, wine-waiter from the Ukraine, was having a few short hours R&R before serving us again that same evening! A young girl with very short dress (and cheese-string knickers) was walking off to the beach! All the Filipino lads were swimming in the sea, laughing and joking. It was great to be back amongst young people, all vibrant and happy. I hadn't realised how much I'd missed people under 30!!

Snorkelling about 200 metres from the ship
Back on board after a relaxing afternoon, a real highlight of the trip, and then off on the first of a two day, two night sail, 1200 miles throught the Caribbean, past Haiti to starboard, Cuba to Port, landing at our final destination of Port Everglades, Florida, early morning Thursday. Trade winds are a constant force4-5, with swell now moving from our bow to beam. Everyone stagering around after dinner, and hard to tell who's had too much wine. Our friends from Wisconsin with a lovely "Canadian" sounding drawl, reminding me of the sherriff in Fargo, was struggling to cope with the listing. Some of our less mobile cruisers, probably about a third, and that's not always down to age!, are going to have difficulties if this continues all the way back!

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