Thursday, 20 April 2017

The long passage to the Marquesas–3000 nautical miles–and the Galapagos

Apologies for being so long since our last post, but life has been extremely busy with the Galapagos and then departing for the Marquesas. We are into the afternoon of the third day and since yesterday morning we have had good winds and good boat speed. Let’s hope that we are properly into the trade winds. Our course to the Marquesas is c 260 degrees and we have been trying to get south first to find winds so sailing 220 degrees to begin with and now 240. We are now 8 degrees S and the Marquesas are 10 deg S and 135 deg W.  The Galapagos are on the equator and 90 degrees west, so you see the amount of westing we have to make – one eighth ot the globe’s circumference.  The wind is just south of East and so we have been on a beam reach all day making 8.5knots.  Can we get to 200NM in 24 hours?  We are five up with Alex and Roger and Dinah who joined us in the Galapagos.

All well and the food which Nicky spent such time in Panama preparing is delicious. [note from Nicky: most recipes are my mother’s – layered ratatouille and chicken with Noilly Prat, for instance – but I also have four Meg Campbell boboties frozen. I’ve made mocha squares this morning and Charles and I take turns making bread – his ciabatta with sunflower seeds yesterday was a great success.] We need to eat food in the freezer and fridge to make space for any fish we may catch. Alex caught a 7kg yellow fin tuna within about 3 mins of putting the line in last week which provided delicious sashimi and tuna steaks.  With five on board and single two hour watches, you can get plenty of sleep and we are now adapting to the rhythm of the boat and watches.  It is strange to feel so small and alone on a night watch – no other vessels, only stars and sea.  We had two dolphins accompanying us day before yesterday and the odd bird flies past, but mostly it’s just…emptiness. The Pacific is huge.

The Galapagos Islands were amazing – wildlife and scenery you can’t see anywhere else.  At the airport Nicky managed to get past security into baggage reclaim to meet Alex whom we hadn’t seen since October after his Ambling through Africa, and Pippa whom we last saw in January.  Floods!   Mike – stand by for Tahiti airport! 

You kept on thinking what the next superlative could be: we dived with hammerhead and Galapagos sharks off San Cristobal, swam in a ball of fish and watched shoals of 1000 yellow fin tuna and barracuda swim past; we walked volcanoes and volcanic forest paths, stepping over marine iguanas, black as their lava rocks, with spiky crests; we swam with turtles, sea lions and sea horses in Isabela; we visited tortoise rearing centres where we saw tiny babies and 160 year olds (ugly and slow, yet fascinating); and then, just as Pippa was about to leave us, we went snorkelling off Pinnacle Rock on Bartolome (an extraordinary, moon-like place) where we found new reef fish and then three little penguins, who obligingly dived in off the rocks and went fishing right in front of us about a metre away.  Oops – I nearly forgot seeing the humpback whales and manta rays, 5m in width, jumping. All the animals are so unafraid that on San Cristobal we saw marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies and a sea lion on the same rock next to the pier.  The steps to the dock were covered in sea lions jostling for the best spot.  [Nicky again: I’m embroidering animals and birds we’ve seen – at the moment I’m sewing turquoise feet on a pair of blue-footed boobies, which we saw courting and nesting].

I hope the Ecuadorians keep the Galapagos safe and keep the visitor numbers balanced.  On the one hand it is good it is all very controlled; but on the other hand there are masses of regulations, some more sensible than others, everything is a tour which provides employment but does make it all feel a bit packaged. Our cruise boat had engine failure and so we did a series of DIY outings, which I think we actually preferred.

Photos will be a bit limited for now – we managed to leave two laptops next to a porthole which was not fully shut so they stopped working and have gone back with Pippa, and the data speed on the satellite is so slow and I am not sure it is reading our usage correctly or something else is using capacity as we seemed to use a month’s allowance in one day with 29 emails each of which only text.

PS how do we get a postal vote?  4 out of 5 of us will be out of the country.

Alex: fans of hearing about our sat phone data allocation will be disappointed to hear I’ve got nothing to add on that front. Dad’s covered most of what we’ve been up to, although I feel Pippa’s contribution is underplayed – she barely gets a mention! It was lovely hanging out with her for the first time in six months: she’s still as competitive as ever; it was entertaining to compare her tan with ours; she may have mentioned once or twice that she’s got a boyfriend called Will… Mum breaking through security at Galapagos airport was a highlight, and thankfully the police decided to not get between a lioness and her cubs. Every time you think the Galapagos have exhausted their wonders, they manage to surprise and delight once again. Uniquely unique. Oh, and many thanks to the universe for putting on an excellent private nightly shooting star show out here in the middle of the Pacific – it feels like you can reach out and touch the Milky Way, although given that there’s absolutely nothing for hundreds of miles around us, and a 4,000m drop to the sea floor, I haven’t tried too hard!

Monday, 3 April 2017

Crossing the Equator - two up to the Galapagos

We arrived safely in Galapagos after an uneventful and windless for the last two days crossing from Las Perlas.  But we successfully made it two up without incident including flying the asymmetric two up and the poled-up genoa.  We had company the whole way, with Miss Tiggy following us as their autopilot wasn’t working and and it’s much easier, when hand-steering, to follow – especially at night.  There was no moon so it was very dark and the stars and planets were magnificent.  We also had company in the form of birds: four of them perched on the pulpit all the last night, leaving a lot of guano evidence, and each night white birds swooped around our navigation lights.
Aldeburgh Yacht Club at Equator
 I’m not sure what was in it for them, but they accompanied us for hours and it felt as though they were watching over us on those long (4 hour) night watches. This system gave us just enough sleep over five nights, although dodging fishing vessels on the last night into Galapagos was tiring.

We crossed the equator at 3am and paid homage to Neptune, though we had celebrated with a bottle of champagne when Miss Tiggy swam across at 5pm.  We did have two days of good sailing in flat seas.


Punta Pitt San Cristobal
San Cristobal is our first Galapagos island, with a bustling little town and efficient water taxis to pick you up from your boat – just as well, as any dinghy left in the water for even a moment is colonised by smelly, moulting sea lions.  We all put fenders and other obstacles on the boat’s swimming platform (our “seal defences”), but several friends have had their cockpit occupied overnight.  The whole archipelago is a national park with very strict ecological rules, so when we arrived we were visited by eight officials, who checked that we were separating our rubbish (though when we came ashore we found it all goes in one bin…), didn’t have any fruits with seeds on board (I hid the lemons at the back of the fridge) and that the boat’s bottom was clean.  Movement of yachts between islands is strictly regulated, so there’s a whole industry of ferries and tours – we are hoping to visit Espanola on Wednesday.  Yesterday we went diving (Charles) and snorkelling (Nicky) to Kicker Rock (Leo Dormido), an impressive hunk of rock with masses of sea birds, including blue-footed boobies and frigate birds displaying their red neck pouches.  It was rather overcast, so not ideal diving conditions, but we ticked off various sharks, including a hammerhead, as well as many fish and impressively large turtles, close enough to touch.

Ecuador held an election yesterday and citizens were not allowed to drink alcohol for 48 hours leading up to election day.  Might a similar ban have affected the Brexit vote or the US elections?  Anyway, today there is a recount and it seems the same party has stayed in power – at least, I think that’s what our taxi aquatico driver said.  One thing I definitely do NOT miss is politics!

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Panama Canal and setting off towards the Galapagos

Log entry reads: 0900 depart Rio Cacique on Las Perlas islands, Bearing to waypoint 230 deg; Distance to waypoint 818. Crew, C&N.  We have done overnighters before with just the two of us and we have done overnighters with crew who were laid low by seasickness, but we have never done 5/6 days two up.  However wind is 3 knots, at least it is from 015, and forecast is that we might get up to 15 knots for a couple of days, so it may be a lot of motoring.

Las Perlas are a collection of islands, only 30NM out from Panama.  A few fishing villages and one island with holiday homes, but otherwise deserted and beautiful.  We spent two nights off Isla Pachega, where there were thousands of pelicans and frigate birds, and we were woken up by wave-slapping noises all around the boat.
 What was it? Could it be wind-on-tide?  In the morning we found that is was rays jumping. And jumping high! Then two more nights on Isla Canas and a discovery dinghy trip up the mangrove-lined Rio Cacique. We have had to learn about tides again as they reach 4m here.


Panama City and the disappointing La Playita marina was three days of non-stop shopping, cooking, vacuum-packing and freezing. Engine and generator checks, rig checks.  Old Panama fun, with architecturally interesting Spanish heritage.  Nicky has made plans and provisioned for 60 meals for 5/6 people, and the freezer  which is exchanging heat with 28 deg water has slowly, slowly gone from just negative to now a healthy minus 16 in the cooler ocean waters. Every space under the cabin floors is filled with tins, cans, bottles, etc.  Chicken, pork, beef, lasagne, ratatouille, babotie, peppers de-seeded, all vacuum-packed, labelled with expiry dates, so that the Galapagos authorities will not be unhappy. No seeds of any kind allowed, so our netting hung from the saloon ceiling and filled with fruit, lemons and limes, will have to be eaten or juiced before we get there.


Taking a yacht through the Panama Canal was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. First, the canal is highly evocative of the struggle to build it by the French, who attempted a sea-level canal, and then the Americans who finished the canal in 1913. 35,000 lives lost, many from Caribbean islands.  Total height above sea level is only 26m, which compares to the 49m of the Caledonian Canal, but the recently opened new locks on the canal can now take post-panamax vessels which carry 3x the number of containers of the original.  We waited for our transit advisors to come on board anchored off Colon, then we went up the three locks into the Gatun lake; most Oysters nested in groups of three boats, though we were alongside a French catamaran, where a keen but unskilled grandfather failed to understand that ropes have two ends, that if you are rising 8m in a lock, the ropes will need to be tightened and that chatting at that point to your grandchildren is not that smart if you are controlling the windward side of the nest!  Our transit advisor, Ricardo, was charming, calm and helpful.
Overnight moored up six abreast in the Gatun lock, we set off early am and then waited ahead of the Culebra cut for the vast MSC Elodie to come through.  Then down through Pedro Miguel and Miraflores locks, under the Bridge of the Americas and into the Pacific!


So I guess this is what we came for – big passages in a boat in her element.  We loved the Caribbean, and particularly the new geographies of ABC, Colombia and the Panama Canal.  We loved having 15 friends on board.  And now we are looking forward to seeing how this two-person team fares on a long passage.  We feel tuned up and hope Calliope is too!  And then we look forward VERY MUCH to seeing Pippa and Alex in the Galapagos, with Roger and Dinah then joining us for the long passage to the Marquesas.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Thoughts on the first leg of our journey


Tomorrow we are due to go through the Panama Canal, so this seems a good time to reflect on the journey so far.  We have come 1525 nautical miles since Antigua, with 15 friends and one stowaway, without arguments and with immense pleasure in their company and our surroundings.  If I (Nicky) had to pick a favourite place, it might be Klein Curacao after the tourist boats had departed and we had the island pretty much to ourselves (we had to share it with a very excitable dog).

Panama has been a mixed bag.  Although the San Blas islands were stunning, once you went ashore it was distressing how much plastic had been washed up and how little effort was being made to clear it away – some financial incentive is needed, I suspect. Cartagena is another strong contender for favourite place. I wish I could communicate better in Spanish, not just to be able to order meals or ask the way, but to hold proper conversations with locals. 




At Villa Tavida, the wonderful, isolated lodge inland from Penonome where we spent two days last weekend, lovely Maria Beatrix told us about the petroglyphs and gave us an insight into local life, while Julio took us on a great hike up to the ridge, where we could see the watershed – one side, the rivers run to the Atlantic, while the other side they end up in the Pacific Ocean.  We swam in the pool under the waterfall, visible and audible at all times from the hotel, and had a hot mud massage, which left our skin fantastically soft.  Driving to Tavida was a challenge.  We had been warned, but it was still extraordinary to witness drivers doing U turns on a dual carriageway! 

We are looking forward to seeing Panama City on the Pacific side; Colon, the nearest city to Shelter Bay marina where we’ve spent the past ten days, is horrible.  We have spent more time in Colon than we’d have chosen to, and definitely more time in a Panamanian provincial hospital, because Charlie, who was our skipper on Calliope in summer 2016 and brought her across the Atlantic, before he moved onto Miss Tiggy, another Oyster 575, has been critically ill there, with blood clots in his leg and lung.  Don’t take out medical travel insurance with Bishops Skinner – they have been awful!  We hope that following his operation yesterday, he will make a speedy recovery. 

Shelter Bay marina is very friendly – there’s yoga in the mornings, aqua aerobics in the afternoons and social activities galore.  Oyster organised a great party at Fort Lorenzo, just up the road, where Spanish conquistadores stored gold and silver before it was shipped to Europe.  There wasn’t room for the silver inside the fort, so apparently it lay in heaps outside.  Charles mended a davit cable and, mindful of an incident in Greece, was very careful not to drop the weight into the water.  However, a spanner went overboard and Charles dived in the dark marina water to find it.

We will go through the Canal over the course of two days – the timing is out of our hands, as each boat is assigned a Transit Advisor.  We will probably be rafted up as a ‘nest’ of three yachts, but even so, we will be tiny compared to the huge container and cruise ships which take up a whole lock on their own.  Look out for us on the Panama Canal webcam: www.pancanal.com/eng/multimedia/index.html  - though when we tried recently, one of the cameras was out of action. On Thursday we’ll go up 26 metres in three locks, and that night we’ll moor in Gatun Lake.  We can’t drop our anchor, as we’re told it might get caught in the branches of the trees which were submerged when the Chagres River was dammed to create the lake.  Neither can we swim – there are apparently lots of crocodiles.  Then on Friday, we’ll motor the length of the lake, before going down the Pedro Miguel and Miraflores locks and under the Bridge of the Americas, out into the Pacific!  We have some new acquaintances on board to help with the transit, Sue, Spiro and Neil, but from there on, Charles and I are on our own to the Galapagos, about 1,000 miles, which I’m really looking forward to, though I’m a bit apprehensive about the night watches.  In Panama City we will do major provisioning as there’s not much shopping between there and Tahiti, two months’ sailing away.  Those who know my love of lists won’t be surprised that I’ve been having fun, working out food and other requirements for 60 days.

I think of home a lot.  There are lots of items aboard which remind me of people – the Cretan lemon squeezer from my parents, the bread bag from Richard and Ishbel, the chess set Maarten and Hein brought, Lucky the Pakeman teddy with his lifejacket, even (thank you Caroline) the dustbin bags which fit our odd-shaped bin so perfectly.  When I wake up in the middle of the night and our natural air conditioning (aka the wind) is blowing too strongly for me to get back to sleep, I miss Switzerland, my parents, log fires and skiing.  It’s hard to realise the routines at home go on without us; I wish I could pop back for Book Club and Orangetheory Gym, and to see Pakeman children and staff.  Most of all, I miss our children and hope they won’t mind when I smother them in hugs when they join us – Alex and Pippa in Galapagos in 24 days (yes, I’m counting!) and Michael in July in Tahiti.  It’s good to hear that daffodils and blossom are out in England.  Keep the news coming!

Charles: in terms of sailing we have done 1525 on the log since Antigua, but we have had strong current behind us from Grenada to Cartagena, so total miles higher.  We have used 55 engine hours and 45 on the generator, so the winds have been kind and favourable!  Nothing major has gone wrong, and we have done maintenance jobs here in Shelter Bay, oil changes and general checks.  We have started up the freezer and Nicky is filling it with meals for the Pacific.  The coast of Colombia was kind to us for the three night passage we sailed with Nick and Alexia rarely getting over 25 knots.  From Cartagena to San Blas we did have 33 knots and 25-30 for about 7 hours with Ben, Sara and Annemie.  Calliope coped with it all very well, and the autopilot was a great help!

Monday, 13 March 2017

Guest Blog - Ben Stocks writes

Cartagena to Panama City.  Feb 26 to Mar 6
Annemie van Berckel, Sara and Ben Stocks crewing

Six weeks into their adventure, Charles and Nicky were well when we met them. Both were nut brown and glowing with health, with Charles's strappy sandals revealing a new relaxed outlook on life.

Cartagena is cool.  Built inside a fort, the old city has small streets lined with balconies and bouganvillea.  At night it is packed with bars, clubs and youth.  By day it is mostly cafes and street vendors.  Sara quickly scored the tourist trifecta of Panama hat, 100% genuine Raybans, and a colourful woven bag, leaving time for a quick debrief with Nick and Alexia Bell who were leaving Calliope after a wonderful passage from Bonaire,  Their reports were of blue water sailing, yellowfin tuna sashimi, and the AIS switched off for fear of Venezuelan pirates.

Leaving Cartagena after a long and liquid lunch, we had a short shake-down sails to Islas Rosario, anchoring there for the night before the 160NM passage to San Blas.  This turned out to be an uncomfortable 24 hours of 3 metre seas, and winds gusting to 33 knots.  The crew did little actual crewing, but Charles and Nicky were unperturbed,  Indeed Charles found time to practise his navigation with his sextant placing us, somewhat disconcertingly, 3 degrees south of the equator, when the GPS had us 10 degrees north.  Long discomfort was rewarded with dolphins off the bow at dawn and picture book islands by breakfast:

The San Blas are spectacular.  We island-hopped: Coco Banderos, Holandes Cays, Lemmon Cays, Sugardup and Isla Linton.  All were beautiful: palm trees, white sand, turquoise sea and the distant boom of surf on the reef.  A few are inhabited, most are not.  The Guna Yala people do not allow fishing or the harvesting of coconuts, but will sell lobsters, fish or embroidered molas.  We dined on red snapper, watched eagle rays gliding in the shallows and snorkelled.  Between islands trade winds made for excellent sailing and cool nights on board.  Entirely delightful.


Some things didn't go as planned.  Doc van B was called back into Lemmon Cays to stitch an Aussie Oyster foot.  Ordered into the water to scrub the antifouling, some of the crew (Annemie & Ben) were more diligent than others (Sara).  The ice-maker broke, and we ran out of wine.  Every morning Annemie studied the books, guides and charts to announce a plan which Charles would quietly ignore.  There was much laughter and never a cross word.


The final passage into Shelter Bay at the Atlantic end of the Panama Canal was one of lumpy seas and a 25kn following wind.  Shipping lanes are clearly marked but the size, number and speed of the container vessels at the entrance to the canal breakwater is impressive.  We left the Oyster fleet preparing to be measured and fitted out with new warps before crossing the continent.  Calliope heads to the Pacific with a clean bottom; Charles and Nicky head off for some R&R in the Panama rainforest and this happy crew heads home.







Sunday, 26 February 2017

Cartagena de Indias




Courtyard in Cartagena

We left Bonaire and sailed to Klein Curacao, a sandy island with a shipwrecked freighter from 100 years ago, a lighthouse and little else save a few day trippers who left and then the island was ours. Hein saw a shark under the boat when snorkelling, Nick and hitchhiker Laurens went kite-surfing and the sun went down with a hint of a green flash.

Curacao has the oldest synagogue in South America and lovely old architecture. Spanish Harbour is a fantastic natural harbour.  Our enjoyment of the island only marred by inefficient and duplicative bureaucracy with customs and immigration in different places.


So we left on Sunday morning to round the fearsome Colombian headland.  A bright and breezy sail between Aruba and Venezuela had its excitement when the mainsheet block snapped leaving us with a sail thrashing around dangerously.  Good teamwork by Nicky and Nick tamed the beast, and on we went for 3 days and 3 nights.  We ended up going only 30NM off the point and the highest wind we saw was high Force 6, gusting light Force 7 which from the stern was not a problem.

Punta Gallinas and Bahia Honda were deserted miles of beaches and sand dunes and vast bays and inland lagoons.  We tried to put the anchor down unsuccessfully onto a rocky bottom and so sailed on to Cabo de la Vela, catching 2 Spanish mackerel on the way, where we finally saw some people, a mix of local fishermen and kite surfers including the local kids who were doing the most amazing jumps.  Nick had a good kite, Nicky and Alexia bought brightly coloured bags and friendship bracelets from the local Guajira people, and we left after dinner for a second night.  Winds began to drop and the following day we flew the asymmetric, saw two pilot whales followed by the most enormous number of birds, and five minutes later caught a yellow fin tuna.  All fish expertly cleaned and filleted by Nick. Amazing views of the 18000 feet snow capped Sierra Nevada di Santa Marta. 

STOP PRESS - NICKY ATE THE SASHIMI AND WENT BACK FOR MORE. She has also eaten Octopus in a restaurant in Cartagena.
Yellowfin Tuna

We thought we would try to find a bay in the national park near Santa Marta, and pushed the VW engine hard to try to get us there in the dying of the light.  However, heading into a poorly charted set of bays after the sun had gone down seemed a bad idea, so off we were again for the 3rd night.  Crossing the mouth of Rio Magdalena and sailing down to Cartagena max wind again was 25 knots, so we managed our passage successfully without the 35 knots and big seas others had experienced 10 days earlier. 
Nick and Alexia with Nicky - Klein Curacao
So Alexia, after months of worry about "some of the worst weather in the Caribbean or anywhere in the world", and all of us sailed over 500NM in 3 days in what felt very much like an offshore passage away from it all, well looked after by Calliope.  We are getting the feel of the boat, Nicky is so observant of anything round her and jumps to.  We have now sailed over 1100 NM and have only used 40 hours of engine and the same of generator.

Cartagena door knocker
Cartagena is a jewel.  The walled old city is at the head of a ten mile bay, has narrow streets and shady courtyards.  Buildings have the feel of Moroccan riads, excellent restaurants, boutique hotels and trendy bars abound.  But all this is in a city where you are surrounded by locals, kids going to school, so it is not a tourist ghetto.  The smallest yellow cabs get you anywhere for $2. For excellent sailing the first mate has acquired a stunning emerald necklace and earrings.  The Museo del Oro gives a sense of the civilisations that have lived here for over 2000 years; no one speaks English, but are all amazingly friendly.   Put Colombia on the list, and we have only seen a tiny corner of this beautiful country.  Off to the San Blas islands this week.

I think I have understood Lightroom to get small photos onto this blog, but please follow manbyc or nickymanby on Instagram, or Facebook to see more.

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Juan del Mar restaurant with Nick and Alexia

Friday, 17 February 2017

Leaving the windward islands–new destinations

Where did we leave you?  Laluna – Indigo Villa – in Grenada overlooking Morne Rouge Bay gave us 5 days of luxury living in John and Tim’s beautiful and tasteful villa with delicious meals at Laluna restaurant in the laid back and very cool hotel.
Indigo villa
We had meant to explore more of Grenada but relaxation got the better of us and so we topped up the tan, swam across the bay, and did a little bit of boat maintenance and cleaning, aided or not by Curtis who thought that by taking all morning to wash one side of the boat, he would get another day’s work.
Maarten and Hein joined us, and after an aborted attempt to sail back to Carriacou – gentlemen don’t sail to windward – we spent the night on the south side of
Grenada and left for Bonaire at 9am on Saturday.  400NM and we arrived at lunchtime on Monday.  The first 24 hours was breezy at times, mainly Force 5, on a broad reach heading 285 so a little north of course, but speedy in 3-4m seas. The second 24 hours we poled out the genoa and headed directly downwind to reach the north side of Bonaire.  A good knot of current helping us on our way.
Sleep?  Not for the first night as rolly on the reach, with 3m seas which every so often gave a big lurch.  Lee cloths are tied to the ceiling in the cabins to give you a nautical equivalent of the Pine Board that you remember from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  Maarten and Hein took 7-10pm and 1-4am, and Nicky and I were on for 10-1 and 4-7.   Nicky had cooked a lasagne (and three fruit cakes) at Indigo so we had a delicious supper eaten out of the dog bowls which kept the food safely. 

The second day the wind faded on us a little to F4, the seas flattened and the poled-out rig meant Calliope sailed herself with Mr Auto for 24 hours.  Good teamwork and pleasant companionship.
It was a full moon and clear skies.  Venus ahead of us, Jupiter and his companion star Spica astern.  So much moon you could almost see the horizon all night, Orion above the mainsail.  In the morning four flying fish on deck.  I read Nicholas Nickleby on the passage, which took two days and made me think of “Dickens-in-a-week” for the English undergraduate at Oxford.  We sailed with AIS on silent and no nav lights on in case of Venezuelan pirates, saw one fishing boat and three freighters near Bonaire. Otherwise the sea was ours.  The second night we had all acclimatised and slept well in flatter seas.
So to Bonaire - a curate’s egg in my view; fabulous diving with amazing coral and crystal clear water.  I had one compulsory practice dive and two more, plus I tried out our mini scuba kit, while Nicky and others snorkelled. 
Nicky said she spent the first half keeping an eye on the big “scuba fish”, and then the second half observing little fish once the big one had come up for air. A well organised marine environment with no anchoring allowed.  Salt pans cover the southern end of the island where Cargill extracts vast quantites of bright white salt from vast pink lakes. Flamingos fly across your path, which is distracting when you’re driving a motorbike.  A national park in the north with cactus and scrub that looks like Mexico.   We ate very well in a number of restaurants, and provisioned in van der Tweel, which is the Dutch Waitrose.

But Bonaire has no strategy as to what it wants to be. Planning rules seem non-existent with too much random building of industrial units and low grade tourist housing,  One or two cruise ships a day disgorge 3000 large passengers to be served by a host of vendors who sell T-shirts, Harley-Davidson bike tours, or just food.  It is an artificial imported environment and the mostly pleasant and friendly locals have been tempted into becoming too much “Mzungu” hunters to borrow a phrase from Alex. An under-managed marina and noisy neighbouring boats which ran their generators all night: their Colombian owners knew nothing of marina etiquette, and the harbour master was surprised we were complaining.  Dalliance, SunSuSea and Meteorite as fellow OWR participants made for jolly company.  We are rather the fleet back markers.
Nick and Alexia joined us and we picked up a hitchhiker, Laurens, a kite-surfing instructor and are now sailing towards Curacao.  Nick arrived with two Chelsea FC caps which have been banned in the forward cabin and which I plan to serve as fish food.  We plan to spend a day in Curacao, then move on past Aruba towards Colombia where the weather round the dreaded point looks as though it may be most gentle on Monday and Tuesday.