As much as we would love to stay longer in Bonaire, our stay here had to come to an end eventually. What a pleasure it’s been to be able to swim in the clear 27degC water each day; snorkeling or diving; knowing that our boat is safe on a mooring and not about to drag anchor. We’ve come to learn the daily schedules around the waterfront – young boys doing impressive wheelies on their bikes, older guys doing noisy and less impressive burnouts on their motorbikes; watching the water polo team each weekend; Sunfish sailboats from the nearby sailing club, as well as the daily inflow of tourists from cruise-ships. Thanks Bonaire, or as the locals say in Papiamiento, Danki!
Over the past five weeks, we clocked up many good dives; mostly within 3nm from the mooring field; most dives have a site buoy to tie the dinghy to. The 15-20m depth is ideal for diving with so much marine life. While the diving here is not as dramatic as the Outer Barrier Reef in Australia, the accessibility of the dives makes up for that. The ability to dive from the back of the boat into 20-30m is so easy to do. The dives weren’t swarming with divers – in fact, most of our dives we were on our own, except for the couple of times joining the crew of Voila. Now and again a couple of divers might swim by, but otherwise we enjoyed the dives by ourselves. We did get bumped off one dive – after motoring all the way to the north side of Klein Bonaire we’d just tied up to a site buoy and were ready to jump in, only to be asked to vacate the buoy by a commercial boat filled with potential snorkelers. And if you’re planning on visiting Bonaire to dive, don’t forget to visit the Stoked Foodtruck – the big red double-decker bus at Te Amo beach – the best burgers and fries to have after a dive!
Our little dinghy and 9.8Hp Tohatsu can’t plane when it’s filled with dive tanks and gear and we have to carry extra fuel when we dinghy far away. Still, we did some great dives on the west coast – in fact one of the nicest dives was our last dive – 18th Palm just south of the Cruise Ship dock. There were plenty of coral bommies, and loads of fish. We didn’t see any seahorses or octopus, but we were lucky to see many of the other species of fish; from small flirty Damselfish looking straight into the camera, to bottom-feeders such as the Sand Diver, to the gaping mouths of the Moray eels, the intimidating stares of the Great Barracuda and the slow undaunted stance of the large Tarpon. My favourite fish is the photogenic French Angelfish – so pretty, and those eyes! Hard to spot among the coral, we found a Scorpionfish with a face only a mother could love; unlike the colourful Parrotfish, Groupers, Butterflyfish and Grunts – the usual suspects that swim and nibble under the boat. Have a look at it yourself on this short ten minute video taken with my little Crosstour camera.
After cleaning, drying and stowing our dive gear to use another day, we are now focused on choosing an appropriate weather window to depart Bonaire. But to where?
The section of coast between Aruba to Cartagena is notoriously windy and squally, particularly during the dry period between December to March. While we had originally planned on visiting Cartagena, the ever-changing situation with entry rules and requirements in all countries, and the slim chance that Panama may close its borders for whatever reason they deem appropriate, plus the waiting around for a suitable weather window to avoid the worst around Colombia, we’ve decided to head directly to Panama – about 800nm from Bonaire.
Before departure, we filled up with diesel from the Harbour Village Marina – US$1.16/litre. Surprisingly our last diesel top-up was back in October and we only added 175 litres. The supermarkets at Bonaire are fully stocked and everything is available, although I have no need to do a huge provisioning shop – I can do this in Panama. I did buy some yummy Dutch licorice though…
To clear out some lockers and make room for future provisioning, I gathered clothes, plus kilos of sailing and other books that we no longer need, although are still useful, and donated them to the island Animal Shelter and second-hand shop. Each Saturday volunteers hold a garage sale to raise money for the animals. I spent the remainder of the day sorting out lockers, moving stuff around and putting suitable items in space-bags, sucking out the air to reduce the items to a more manageable size. After ten years aboard, our lockers are pretty full so it’s nice to have a little more room.
By the time you read this, we’ll be on our way; 800nm to Panama. The weather looks good and we anticipate a positive current, so we should take around five days to reach Shelter Bay. You can follow our tracking here.