Bonaire to Curacao

Saturday morning we were up early and took dink along to the dock at the Dive Shop…. This pier is really high and you have to be a mountain goat to get onto it from a dinghy – but no choice as we are taking our gear back to Morphie today as this is our final dive in Bonaire.

Dive Friends

We were doing the dive shop’s house reef again for the third time…. This is a really relaxing spot and we particularly enjoy it because we can get up close and personal with some pretty big – 4ft – tarpons. They are diver friendly and do not get spooked as you approach them…. We went a bit deeper this dive – down to 25 metres – and hugged the sandy bottom to the reef for a little while hoping for a sighting of an eagle ray. However it was not to be. We ended up doing a multi-level dive for almost 60 minutes – fantastic!

Friendly tarpon

Back in the dive shop and we got all our gear cleaned and then it was the moment of truth. We had to pay! We had 15 tank fills each which included our two boat dives. The tank tracker card worked out the cheapest for us each at US $175 for all the fills… We just had to pay a little on top for the boat trip. But, of course, although most of the diving here was from the shore, you need a truck to get around. So if we add up everything we spent – truck hire, petrol, tank fills, boat costs – we spent around $30 a dive. Amazing value compared to guided diving we have done elsewhere….. and of course we used the truck for other stuff too…..

Back on board for a short time and then we went to the bar to watch the Holland –v- Brazil match for third place. We were very surprised that there really weren’t many people around – and the Brazilian fans left in despair at half time! But nevertheless it was a great atmosphere and we enjoyed it a lot. Well done Holland.

Sunday morning and we had a lazy start and spent most of the day doing boat jobs. We went ashore at 4pm to watch the final match between Germany and Argentina – not realising that it had started at 3pm – doh!!!! But never mind – it wasn’t too busy so we got a seat – and we had missed the first half which had ended up 0:0 anyway…. We enjoyed the second half and thought that Germany did deserve the win. There really wasn’t much of a celebration afterwards and the crowds dispersed quickly. We ended up staying to chat with Don and other friends that we had made….and ended up having a late night! Oh well…..

Monday and we were up early noticing that Freewinds the little cruise ship had returned again.

Cruise ship

We had been watching this ship come and go throughout our time in Bonaire and were surprised that none of the passengers appeared to come ashore – although they did come off en masse for a group swim in the harbour once and a rowing lesson with uniformed callers for the oar movements!  All a bit bizarre we thought. Well – it is even stranger than you would think – as this ship belongs to the Scientologists and is a place for people to secure the highest grade within their order. It markets itself as a religious retreat to immerse oneself…  Worth checking out their website if you are curious to know more!!!!

The weather is looking good to sail to Curacao on Tuesday so we have a few jobs to do. First of all it was to the marina to buy some diesel and pay for our mooring balls as we had stayed a couple of days longer than we had originally planned. Then we walked to customs / immigration to check out and get our clearance papers for Tuesday’s departure. On the way we watched a egret who was keenly watching some fish swim in the shallows.  It is amazing that you can see parrot fish this close to the shore through the spectacularly clear water.

Fishing! Can't catch me!

Then we walked to the supermarket for passage provisions – and then to Budget Marine to collect our propane gas bottle. Guess what?!? They couldn’t fill it… What a surprise….. Just have to hope that it’s possible in Curacao….

Finally we were ready to go to sea – and so was Morphie. Getting ready to head back ashore for our final sundowners in Bonaire and the sea started boiling with small bait fish jumping out of the water all around us – and then we saw why! A tuna – would you believe – was chasing them and even he jumped out a few times during the pursuit. He was easily four foot long. What a spectacle! We had a nice chilled couple of hours ashore before heading back on board for an early night, having watched our last sunset…. and so to bed.

Sunset 1

Tuesday morning and we got up early – made up some rolls – and were off the mooring by 7.30 am for the 35 mile run. We enjoyed the views of Klein Bonaire as we went alongside and then we headed off downwind towards Curacao.

Goodbye Bonaire Klein Bonaire

We followed our rhumb line to go between Klein Curacao and Curacao itself and then headed up the coast. The wind was lighter than planned but it was stormy with squalls and stronger currents / larger waves than we expected. Never mind – we had a great sail – averaging over 6.5 knots all the way. And we got buzzed by the coastguard helicopter on this passage – we are clearly a helicopter magnet as this has happened a few times now!!!!

Helicopter buzzing

I had set a waypoint at the narrow entrance to Spanish Water – our chosen anchorage – and it wasn’t obvious to the naked eye where the channel started. Because we were going with the strong currents as we came up the coast we had to take the wind and the waves on our side as we turned towards it. It was pretty rough and not nice!  As we were getting closer we realised that there were rocks in the middle of the channel and the shoals from the other side came further in than we expected from our charts – electronic or physical versions. And of course no channel markers whatsoever! This is a notoriously tricky place so nervously we just went very slowly and eyeballed our way in. Once into the sheltered water of the channel we turned around to look at it and it looked pretty wide when you are looking at the calm side – but definitely not the same experience when approaching from the sea! Phew – made it!

Spanish Water anchorage Looking back at the entrance to Spanish Water

The channel then opened up and we enjoyed the sight of the fancy resort and the splendid houses that hugged the shoreline. There are shallows throughout the area – and none of them are marked apart from the occasional post here and there – so we carried on being very cautious.

Swanky houses line the shore Fancy resort at entrance to Spanish Water

Within Spanish Water there are designated anchorages and you have to anchor within these zones or the coastguard will move you on. We were hoping to get into Zone A as this was nearest to the Fisherman’s Harbour where there is a dinghy dock and a short walk to the bus stop to go into town, although it is more industrial this end. We felt our way in and anchored just behind the yellow buoy, right on the edge of the zone. We got a good set into mud straight away – and then set up waypoints on our charts to make sure we were within the designated area – wouldn’t fancy being moved on after dark here! Check out our huge neighbour in the next bay!!!

Anchorage zones in Spanish Water Monster neighbour!

All set and we know that to get legal here in Curacao takes a while – so decided to put ourselves in quarantine, raise the yellow flag, and not go ashore. Sadly we were unable to connect to any internet services onboard. So a relaxing afternoon and an early night followed.

Wednesday morning and we were up early and on the 7.55 am bus into Willemstad, the capital of Curacao. We had vague instructions of where to find the customs building – but, of course, we couldn’t find it. We asked a few times and eventually we found it – no signage whatsoever on the outside at pavement level. Entering the building and we were told to go through another unmarked door – and a cleaner tutted at us and we were told to wait until she had finished washing the floor. OK – so we waited until it had dried! The welcome was fine – but was a long and drawn out process. Not sure why he had to have four copies – all individually signed – of the clearance plus then an electronic scan of them all, including our passports. Oh well – part one achieved!

We then found the floating bridge that connects both sides of Willemstad and enjoyed the views as we crossed over. When we looked back to admire the waterfront view we realised that the customs building has a huge sign at the top, but of course you can’t see that from the side we approached!

Floating bridge Customs building

Oh well…. As we got to the other side of the bridge sirens went off and we watched it open to let a little boat come through – we will have to do this when we go into Curacao marine for our haul out – so was good to get an idea of how it all worked!

Bridge opens to let boat in

The instructions were to turn right as you cross the bridge and the immigration / port authority buildings are under the huge 160 foot high road bridge. OK – so we followed the road – admiring the old Dutch buildings as we went – and ended up under the bridge but in a motorway viaduct!  Definitely not right!

Huge bridge with 160 feet clearance

Old Dutch buildings Old Dutch buildings 2

So we retraced our steps and asked at the cruise ship checkpoint – and we were pointed in the right direction between some broken down warehouses, and graffiti strewn rocks, inside the secure area. Would never have guessed this!  Eventually we made it and the process at Immigration was easy and then to the harbour authorities. Yep – more forms – and the best bit of all was that we had to hand draw a picture of Morphie for identification purposes. Richard made a very good effort although I’m not 100% sure we would be recognisable from it LOL.

Not the most obvious route!

Phew…. exhausted with walking in the very hot and humid atmosphere…. and we headed back into town, amazed at the huge cruise ship looming over the town, crossed back over the pontoon bridge and marvelled at the floating fish market and the floating fruit and vegetable markets. These boats come across from Venezuela to sell their wares….

Cruise ship towering over the city

Floating market

Wandering around town we enjoyed the sights and sounds and knew we were in the right place when we came across the huge sign saying Curacao!

Willemstad 1 Willemstad 2 Willemstad 3 Willemstad 4 Willemstad 5 Willemstad 6

Back to the bus terminal we waited patiently for a number 6A and got back on the bus to Spanish Water. Walking from the bus stop we came across a bar called Pirates where we could get internet so had one cold one while we caught up with everything on linel. This was a bit of luck actually as we managed to organise a very cheap rental car for Friday morning while we were there…. We had another quiet night on board – well, I say quiet, what I mean is quiet as in no traffic, no people and no sounds. But the wind howls through here at 25+ knots all of the time so it is not actually that peaceful…. although the wind generator is keeping our batteries topped up very nicely!   And the sunset was spectacular.

Curacao sunset

Thursday morning – today – and we were up early to listen to the cruisers net. Not much going on although we did found out about a cruisers’ happy hour later so might go along to that…. Oh yes – and the stormy weather continues with some torrential rain this morning. Pretty unusual for this area but hey, nothing surprises us any more!

Stormy in the anchorage

We dinked to the Fisherman’s Harbour and waited for the shopping bus. It turned up at 10.00 am and this complimentary bus took us right to the supermarket. Great as it had an ATM inside as well…. We had got US $ drinking vouchers out in Bonaire but didn’t realise that Curacao used the Dutch Guilder. This was the same situation in Sint Maarten but there everyone used US dollars most of the time. Well here – they take the US dollar – but give all change in guilders. And this means that we are never quite sure of whether we are getting the right change or not – so we now have Guilder drinking vouchers to hand LOL!  Good supermarket – got everything we wanted – and back on the bus to the Harbour. In our two seasons onboard this was actually the first complimentary shopping bus we had ever used – so another first this season!  Back on board and Richard is running the generator to make water while I’m blogging……

Tomorrow we pick up the car so are looking forward to exploring the island before we start the hard work of decommissioning Morphie for her lift out of the water on 5 August….. We also need to find somewhere to stay after she is hauled and before we fly….

Bye for now