The wind has settled down and we are ready to leave for San Blas. We took the bus into town this morning to check out but, contrary to the advice they gave us when we checked in, they wouldn’t let us…. Customs and immigration now insist they have to see the boat. So tomorrow we have a 2 hour sail in the wrong direction in order to clear out and present the boat and ourselves to the officials… We don’t mind following the rules but it’s frustrating when they change from day to day!
It’s about 700 miles to Sam Blas which should take us 5 days or so and we plan to spend a couple of weeks there before heading to Panama. It’s unlikely that we will have Internet access but we will try to do regular position updates on http://blog.mailasail.com/Rehua
Anyway, here’s a quick update from Seathan too:
Aruba Aroooba, it’s time to leave this beautiful but over populated Isle, we have endured 11 days of maintenance and happy hours, do Yanmar make a liver filter?
On the boat side some great improvements have occurred, the most rewarding, a thorough clean up of the wiring on the DC side of the boat has been completed and we are now free to make water, keep the fridge and freezer running whilst under auto helm just on solar power, obviously a cloudy day is not welcome! this is a huge relief heading into the Pacific where the doldrums will put our diesel supplies at a premium!
The Caribbean has been special, a great wind down from the last crossing, we are entering new territory and with it comes the vagaries of weather around Columbia, we will take a more northerly route to avoid the permanent low we have been monitoring. Panama, San Blas in particular beckons, let’s hope they have not been changed to the degree we have seen in the Eastern Caribbean.
We will keep position updates via Inmarsat otherwise it’s silence for the next two weeks, that should mean we are in Paradise, here’s hoping!
It’s still blowing hard! So we decided to wait a few more days in Aruba before crossing to San Blas. Yesterday, Seathan and Stef went off to do some sand-kiting in the north of the island and Sandra and I decided to take the kids swimming. From where we are anchored we can see many big resorts lined up along the beach. Usually, if you take a few drinks or have some lunch at the pool bar, you are allowed to use the facilities. Here in Aruba that doesn’t seem to work though. The first hotel we stopped at seemed perfect and as we looked for a couple of empty sun loungers we were approached by a security guy who told us we were not allowed to swim. We asked if we could have lunch at the bar and apparently that was allowed. So we went to the pool bar and the waiter immediately offered to help us out and told us that he could get us a couple of blue towels (required to sit by the pool) but that we had to wait until there was a change in security guards. Anyway, it all sounded very complicated so we decided to try the second hotel. There, everyone was wearing a special bracelet and soon a security guy spotted us too, so we left. At the third hotel we didn’t even make it through the gate as security was stopping everyone who was trying to walk in and we weren’t even allowed to buy a drink at the bar. So we decided to settle down at a little beach bar to do our schoolwork with our feet in the sand and then go back and try our luck with the barman at the first place. Luckily, by the time we returned the security guy was gone and replaced by someone else so we took our chances. The kids jumped into the pool and Sandra and I had a drink at the bar. After a generous tip the barman happily gave us a couple of the standard blue towels so we could pretend we were hotel guests. But that didn’t fool the new security guy. Somehow he had worked out we were frauds (maybe because we were the only non-Americans in the resort?) and came over to ask us where we got the towels from. He was worried we pinched them from a chair and other guests would subsequently be missing their towels (for which apparently they have to pay a 25 USD deposit). We assured him we didn’t pinch them but also didn’t want to get our friendly barman into trouble. After some pleading he believed us and we were allowed to stay for the afternoon. Needless to say the kids had a great time!
We had a pretty rough sail today from Curaçao to Aruba (25 to 30 knots with a peaks of 35 and a very agitated sea) but we were all fine and at least we got here fast! After a two night stop in Bonaire we continued to Curaçao where we left Gert and his 30 year old boat. He made it in one piece but we sailed beside him all the way just in case something went wrong. He’s now safely anchored in the bay in Curaçao and considering the repairs he needs to make.
Where to start? The last few days have been amazing. Islas de Aves has probably been the best stopover on our trip so far. And to think that we nearly sailed past those small blobs on the chart! We were heading directly from Grenada to Bonaire but after 48 hours sailing (which was very pleasant with good winds and decent waves) we noticed these two small island archipeligos belonging to Venezuela on the chart, just 50 miles before Bonaire. Although we had been advised not to stop in Los Roques (or Venezuela in general), we decided these uninhabited offshore islands were low risk. So on Saturday afternoon we approached Aves de Borlavento alongside our buddy boat and weaved our way through the numerous reefs and sandbanks into the anchorage. There were two other yachts (one Canadian and one Swiss also with kids) already anchored. The islands take their name after the numerous birds that live and nest here (pelicans, red footed boobies, frigates, herons, and many more). They are perched by hundreds on the dense mangrove trees and make an incredible noise. Soon after we arrived one of the Canadians came over to tell us they were having a bonfire on the beach in the evening and we were welcome to join them. So we all met on the beach in front of a cozy fire and barbecued some fish Taff Tumas had caught. Sandra (who is from the Pacific) also prepared a Tahitian salad (slices of fish marinated in lemon and coconut milk with cucumber, tomatoes and carrots), which was delicious. The kids had their own fire and spent the evening burning sticks and had a great time. The next morning we took the dinghy to explore the mangrove lagoon and admire the birds from close-by. The red-footed boobies apparently are unique to this island and the chicks were nesting in the lower branches. As they get older they move up and than start “flying school” from the top branches. I never imagined myself enjoying bird watching but it was an amazing experience. The day only got better as we dinghied out to the reef and explored some of the beaches there and then went snorkeling off the edge of the reef. This drop-off into the ocean is where most fish and plants can be found and when you dive you descent into an amazing underwater world. For me personally it was the most spectacular snorkeling I have ever done. The colours of the plants, corals and the fishes where unbelievable. And the fact nobody else was there made it even more special. The reef is enormous and inside it’s like one big swimming pool with clear turquoise water which the kids loved of course. We went back to the boat for lunch and cooked a stoplight parrotfish on the barbecue. Delicious! During lunch Stefan came up with the brilliant idea to organize a treasure hunt for the kids on the nearby small island. We came up with questions and a course (based on compass readings the kids would have to follow) and the men went off to set everything up. I’m not sure who had more fun, the dads setting up the treasure hunt or the kids working their way from one milestone to the next by answering the questions and following the compass instructions. Needless to say that we all had a good nights sleep after so much fun in one day.
When we ventured out to the reef we also met one more boat anchored in the next bay. On board was Gert, who has been cruising for thirty years. He lives on the boat on his own and was in a spot of trouble as his boat has been taking in water and needs repairing. It had been patched up but he was worried nonetheless about getting safely into Curacao. So we decided to sail alongside him in case something went wrong. We all left Aves de Borlavento on Tuesday morning and sailed over to Aves de Sotavento and anchored there for the night. On Wednesday morning we left early and sailed over to Bonaire. And here we are. We plan to stay for one or two nights and then continue to Curacao.