d 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490


1st Report 2005:        Grenadines, Venezuela and the ABC - Islands

When we sent out our last report around New Year, we were near the end of sailing down the Grenadines with Ulf and Pam who were to leave us in Grenada . We were all wondering what Grenada would be like after hurricane Ivan, and which, if any facilities might work. Obviously their flights out where ok, and same day we were also expecting our next visitors, Ulrike and Tom, also arriving in Grenada.


But before we could sail down to Grenada , we would first need to clear out of St.Vincent and into Grenada at the Island of Carriacou . For clearing out we sailed a few miles from Mayreau to Union Island and anchored there in Clifton Harbor . Small as Clifton is, it is an almost cosmopolitan place with friendly people. At any one time, there must be around 50 yachts anchored there and the whole place is oriented towards business with the yachties. That way you can get about anything including French baguettes for a price. Clearing out is simple but includes a walk to the nearby airport to get the passports stamped.
Then again it is just a few miles across to Hillsborough on Carriacou to clear into Grenada . Here no yacht anchors longer than needed for clearing, the reason being a permanent swell that keeps all boats rolling badly.  So Hillsborough is more oriented around the needs of the local people, and the advantages are not so visible at the first glance.  Like most boats we also moved on to near by Sandy Island for swimming and diving. This little sand island used to look as pretty as these little comic islands with three palm trees. It actually had slightly more than three palm trees before a hurricane cleaned them off a few years ago. It is really sad when we look at old pictures, but the diving is still very nice, and the anchorage one of the better ones when a swell is running in from the north-west.


Still on the same day we moved on into the big Tyrrel Bay at the western side of Carriacou. To our delight we find the "SPIRIT OF OYSTERHAVEN" anchored there. Nice folks that we already met in the Cape Verde Islands and the younger part of both ships take off to explore Carriacou for most of the night. Naturally the next day is a lacy one and we just wait for the local sail maker to partially re-stitch our dodger. We plan to come back and get the rest redone, once we have changed crew in Grenada .


For our sail down to the south side of Grenada we chose the windward side, in the hope to have more wind and the distance is almost the same. Unfortunately it was a really rainy day with lots of squalls and very poor visibility. Wind we had plenty most of the time and some 35 knots in the squalls. But it was a fast ride and only took us about five hours for the 40 miles to Prickly Bay .


At Prickly Bay we see the first victims of Ivan washed up on the shore and many houses with temporary foils on their roofs. But generally we are surprised how quickly the folks had cleaned up and repaired many damages. On the shore at Spice Island Marine, where all boats had fallen over on their weak supports, we found them all righted and many already repaired. It was now a very busy place with work going on on many boats and one could say that Ivan had at least helped employing about everybody.



To our great surprise we find BOAVENTURA, Harald's father's last boat there and in very good shape. She is a Rival 41 which was built for my father in 1975 and had been in our family for 15 years. Beate and I sailed together for the first time on her maiden voyage from Southampton to the Med. Seemingly she had fallen over too, but the slight damage on her topsides was already repaired. Unfortunately the new owner was not present and so we left our card hoping to hear from them.


The rainy weather continued and Ulrike and Thomas arrived in pouring rain, they had to change to foul weather gear at the bar near the dinghy dock, before they could risk the ride out to TANIWANI. But they arrived fine and so we were seven on board for a nice evening and one night. The next morning Ulf left, the rain squalls become fewer and we moved on to the lagoon of St. Georges. We really like that place and the friendly yacht club, where you can have a sun downer or a simple meal while enjoying the great view over the lagoon and our boat.


St. Georges is still the pleasant place I remembered from visits 30 and 10 years ago. Certainly Ivan has left some scars, but in general the colorful waterfront still looks as pretty as always. Actually it is now even better since the big cruise ships got a special pier outside and this way do not spoil the view any more.


The next morning it was Pamela's turn to leave for the airport and Thomas went along to fetch the usual lost baggage. Then all except for Harald went on a wet island tour. Still they returned happy and with many interesting impressions. With just two weeks of time, we needed to move on the next day, so that our visitors could get the most out of their limited time. And so we sailed north, back to Tyrrel Bay again. This time we manage to escape the rain showers and we end up having a really nice sailing day to Tyrrel. The sail maker (In Stitches) cannot be found any more and so we decide to move on the next day, but not without visiting the mangroves in the lagoon first.


Again we stop at Sandy Island on our way to Hillsborough. In Hillsborough the usual clearing out, and then to Clifton for the usual clearing in. There we stay over night and spend the next morning with some shopping before we weigh anchor again to leave for Chatham Bay at the western end of Union Island. Getting out of Clifton was a bit tricky, as an inexperienced bare-boat skipper had thrown his anchor right over ours and was hanging in front of us on way too short scope – and off course they all left the boat right after dropping the hook. But that is life in the Grenadines which are dominated by the Moorings Fleet and so is Channel 16, where about every 5 minutes a boat calls Moorings Base. Turning off the radio is the only choice.


We have never been in Chatham Bay before and were really very positively surprised. We anchored as far northwest as possible and had a very comfortable place, with the additional attraction of the pelicans hunting left and right of us. The bay is well sheltered and so we didn't notice the really strong trades that were blowing through that day. Off course Chatham Bay is not a typical Caribbean Bay fringed with palm trees, but could easily be in Croatia , as Ulrike observed.


The plan for the next day was to sail up to Bequia and so we prepared everything for that in the morning. We knew it was blowing at least 25 knots out there and we would be close hauled for the whole 30 miles. Seemed that most of us wanted to go anyway and so we prepared the boat for a rough ride. But then, just as we were about to weigh anchor, Felix observed that there was no need for an unpleasant ride and now everybody agreed and we stayed in this nice bay for another day.

Next day the weather hadn't changed a lot, but we had given up on the idea to sail to Bequia rather thought we go out and sail north as long as we like and then get into a nice anchorage. We thought Canouan might be it, but then the wind was quite northerly and a swell was likely to set into the long an open bay. So, after a short tack up north we fell off to head into the windward bay of Mayreau . That is the bay where we had the cable car slide from the mast and it is very comfortable when the wind is more northerly. This time we were the only boat there and while quite windy, we had an otherwise very comfortable stay.


The famous Tobago Cays are not far from Mayreau, and if we could go straight through all reefs, just a mile and a half away. The Tobago Cays are three or four little islands, with palm trees and vegetation, which are almost completely surrounded by several big coral reefs. This allows one to anchor just behind the inner reef, to the windward of the little islands and then have in front of one nothing but the full stretch of the Atlantic . Fantastic snorkeling and nice beaches on the little islands make this a very favorite spot for yachts. With charter bases near by, it is usually well filled.


We chose the somewhat narrower south entrance and so our direct one and a half mile only grew to some 4 miles including sailing through all anchorages and around the cays. We finally chose an anchorage in the passage between two of the cays, just off an idyllic beach lined with palm trees. With only another three boats around us, we almost felt lonely. Tom and Felix wanted to spend the night ashore under palm trees, landed there in the evening, mounted their hammocks between the palm trees and started to relax, when a solid tropical rain caught them and drove them back on board.


As nice as it was in the Tobago Cays, we thought our guests wanted to see as much as possible during their short stay, and so we moved on again to check out Canouan. It was a nice sailing day, tacking north between the reefs and shoals. We inspected the bays on the southern shore of Canouan , but found them to exposed, with still a lot of swell going. So we went to the northwest side, which is the standard anchorage, including a Moorings charter base and a beach resort. Unfortunately it was not much calmer there and we experimented with two anchors and springing the main anchor to keep the boat pointing into the waves. With medium success: It was better but not great. In the end a nice dinner in the Resort Bar made good for most of it.


The weather was also getting worse again and we had many rain squalls while we moved on via Mayreau and Union Island to Petit San Vincent, generally called PSV. PSV is just one big resort and they do not like yachties to walk around their island, though anybody can access the beach. The anchorage though was just fine for the weather we had a quiet night.


Next day is a red tape day again: Sail to Clifton to clear out of St. Vincent, then to Hillsborough again to clear into Grenada and then to your final destination of the day. Again, given the rough swell from the north, we picked little Sandy Island as our anchorage for the night. A good choice and all enjoyed the snorkeling there again.


Ulrike and Toms time with us was now nearing its end and we had to now sail all the way down to Grenada . Again we chose the windward route and we thought we'd anchor at Clarks Court Bay for dinner, which is about the same distance either way around Grenada . For half the way we had real perfect smooth sailing, no rain and a great view at the rocks around Round Island and then Grenada itself. But near Grenada the wind weakened so much that we had to help with the engine and shortly before arrival we also had some rain squalls again.


Per plan we went into Clarks Court Bay and anchored in the passage between shore and Hog Island . Unfortunately our shore exploring crew found out the recommended restaurant had been victim to hurricane Ivan and that there was no other restaurant. At to this a mosquito attack and you can understand that we moved on to well known Prickly Bay just before sunset. There we had a nice last evening with our visitors who left us next afternoon.


Now there was lots of room again on TANIWANI and we went back to relaxing and maintenance work. Our washing machine was running almost continuously, leaking windows got sealed in, an additional halyard threaded into the mast and so on.

 After three days at Prickly Bay we moved to the lagoon in St. Georges. It still is one of our favorite places: A nice waterfront to look at, a cozy lagoon, great yacht club where Harald already had a beer overlooking the anchorage 32 years ago. It is still as pleasant.


So we spent a few more days there, doing further maintenance work, like oil changes or splicing lines to our sun cover, and off course stocking up the food supply.


In the mean time we had decided to slip TANIWANI and apply fresh anti-fouling paint. The yard at Prickly Bay seemed very busy with post hurricane work and we had a good impression of the little haul out in Tyrrel Bay Carriacou, so that we were leaning towards sailing back up there. We exchanged several e-mails with the man in charge and it confirmed our good impressions and we fixed February 1st as the haul out day.


So, on January 30th we said good bye to Grenada and St. Georges, a little bit sorry as we probably wouldn't see it again in quite some time. It is one of the few places where we feel a little bit at home. The sailing north was not as easy as last time with the wind from north-northeast, pretty much right on the nose. And we started to get nervous on our remaining diesel supply – when heeled the gauges read pretty much zero. So we had to tack and Felix enjoyed steering TANIWANI. Somehow this seemed to have upset our autopilot and it didn't want to engage when Felix was done. So we sailed and steered all the way to Sandy Island and where anchored there at 5pm.


We still had a day before hauling out and so we remained anchored at Sandy Island till 3pm and Felix and Harald had a nice SCUBA dive along the reef. Later in Tyrrel Bay we found our first anchorage near the haul out very uncomfortable and we moved to a place north of the dividing reef.


Next morning we start early and by 7:30 we are already docked at the haul out place and by 10:00 TANIWANI is pressure cleaned and blocked up between palm trees. I hadn't believed the travel-lift would clear all the stuff on our sternposts - it is seven meters from the ground to the top of our wind-generator! So I started getting the forestays off, when Roy, the man in charge, showed up and said it would clear. So we had the easier task, of just getting the backstay and the long shortwave antenna off. And indeed it all cleared, but it was tight.


TANIWANI's keel, at its lower part is exposed lead and the previous anti fouling had peeled off in many spots. So for that part it seemed to make sense to strip it all down to the blank lead and then cover it with two layers of epoxy paint and then a primer that helps the antifouling to stick. We also had decided to have the topsides polished and waxed and then off course the regular job of grinding down the old antifouling and applying at least two coats of the new one. All that was done extremely professional by Roy and his team and exactly as promised TANIWANI was launched again three days later.


All that happened in a very nice ambience, under palm trees, the friendly Carriacou Yacht Club next door, the best pizza in a long while a little further down the beach. We also made a bus trip to main town Hillsborough for shopping and after a while found Carriacou a very nice place, maybe one that reveals its great sides only slowly.


We stayed on board, and with holding tanks, full water tanks and 'shore power' it was quite ok. Felix had it even better and went off diving with SHOW to Sandy Island .


It turned out Roy was responsible for recovering the space shuttle booster rockets from the sea and bringing them back for reuse. These too where lifted with huge travel-lifts, so not surprisingly he's an artist with these machines. Last and not least, the prices were the same as in Grenada , about half of what we paid for similar jobs in Europe . So if you draw less then 8 ft and displace less than 50 tons, Tyrrel Bay Haul Out is the place to go – highly recommendable!


Three days after hauling out, on a Friday morning, a shining TANIWANI went back into the water, and we first anchored in Tyrrel Bay to attach backstay and antenna and to wash down the dirty deck. We already had an appointment with WETNOSE at PSV, but first we needed to go to Petit Martinique for fuel. We really were down on the last drop, or at least thought so, and with no wind but a big dead sea running from northwest we moved there slowly and as economic as we could. When we arrived at the pontoon, a larger local fishing boat had already tied up and we had to wait. After half an hour, the fishing boat appeared to be done, but then they only moved to the other corner of the dock, as the waves were throwing her right onto the pilings.


Another half hour went by, the fishing boat filling loose barrels on deck and us watching nervously, worried whether we would be able to handle the waves at the dock. But it all worked out – with plenty of fenders and spring lines we could keep TANIWANI under control while taking over 600 liters of fuel. At about €0.37 per liter, this was also the best price TANIWANI had ever found in 5 years.


So on we went to the anchorage at PSV to meet up with our friends. WETNOSE we had not seen since we left the Cape Verde Islands , but we had been in frequent radio and e-mail contact. They had spent quite some time in St. Lucia with their ongoing problems with the brand new water maker. Unfortunately when they left they had to find out that it still wasn't working longer than 45 minutes and now Spectra, the maker of this thing, was going to send a new unit to Grenada .


Also at the anchorage was SPIRIT OF OYSTERHAVEN, who we already met several times, and somewhat later also SHOW came in from Sandy Island , where the anchorage had become uncomfortable. In situations like this, with a northwesterly groundswell running, this is one of the best places and so it was also better filled then a few weeks ago.


We remained anchored at PSV another full day, and Harald was able to fix SPIRIT OF OYSTERHAVEN's alternator, so that they didn't have to run their petrol generator on deck, and TANIWANI received a bottle of fine Irish Whiskey in return.


Unfortunately we will not see either SPIRIT OF OYSTERHAVEN or SHOW again, as we will have to move on westwards, SPIRIT will be based in the Caribbean and spend the summer in Trinidad and SHOW plans to continue cruising up the island chain and return to Europe via the northern Atlantic. WETNOSE though we should see again at the latest in Panama .


So, we all wanted to spend the evening at a nice little restaurant in Petit Martinique, they would even come to the anchorage and collect us with their barge. Unfortunately we learned from a local boat that this anchorage, between the territories of St. Vincent and Grenada , was not safe and that thieves overhear the radio communication between yachts and restaurants to figure out which boats will be left unattended. Given this information, we could not take the risk and called off the evening ashore. And indeed, when darkness fell, a dubious looking boat came quite close to inspect our boat and took off again.






For a long time we had been quite unsure about our cruising plans relative to Venezuela . Plans ranged from several weeks there and our visitors flying to Isla Margarita instead of Grenada to skipping Venezuela all together. Our worries were based on several piracy reports, including two shot skippers in the last two years. The deadly incidents were both at sea in the vicinity of a small island group called the Los Testigos. You pass these islands very close when going from Grenada to the large Isla Margarita and in previous years it was seen as a nice stop for a day or two.


Some 250 miles further west, Venezuela has another beautiful group of off-shore islands, called the Los Roques and even further and more remote the Las Aves islands. All these were considered perfectly safe, so our plan for a while had been to sail from the Grenadines straight to the Los Roques and skip the Venezuelan main land and Isla Margarita. A small problem is that legally you would need to go to a regular port of entry first and those would be on the mainland or at Isla Margarita. Some information on the internet suggested that the coast guard at the Los Roques would tolerate boats coming from outside Venezuela, at least for some time and our friend Steve Schmidt who has spent the last 10 years circling the Caribbean Sea in his Santa Cruz 70 HOTEL CALIFORNIA TOO, has told us the same and given us great advice as to what anchorages to visit. Unfortunately he was up in the Virgin Islands at the time, so we couldn't meet.


But we also had another source of input: Some time in October we received an e-mail from a gentleman in Caracas , who was interested in buying a similar boat, had already been to the Najad yard and had a long list of questions. We had told him we could possibly meet in the Los Roques, so that he can see the boat and go for a little test sail with us. This gentleman, Isaac Feuerberg, a neurosurgeon in Caracas , had concerns about going straight to the Los Roques and possibly not clearing in at all. He also felt the piracy danger rather low and said he had not ever been bothered sailing his HR 36 LAVRION in these waters. Add to this that we thought some shopping in Venezuela might be nice and you see why we changed our plans and offered to Isaac to meet him at Isla Margarita and take him along the on the 190 miles sail to the Los Roques.


So all was set, Isaac had rescheduled a few operations and we set of from PSV on Sunday Feb. 6th at 10:20. We had timed it so that we would pass the dreaded Testigos in the dark and arrive at Isla Margarita the next morning. Winds were rather light and so we had to assist with the engine from time to time. The first part of the night, southwest of Grenada, we had lots of steamer traffic, cruising ships and tankers, and at some time we were together with two cruise ships and three freighters in just about a five mile circle. But later it got lonelier and nearing the Testigos we shut down our navigation light as well as the radar target enhancer – now we were almost invisible. We kept scanning the horizon with the night vision glass, so that we would so any unlit little boat. –Nothing to be seen- We passed the Testigos at 4am and at sunrise we were some 15 miles from Isla Margarita.


We called Isaac on his boat on VHF, got instant response and when we arrived at the marina entrance he was already there with the folks from the marina awaiting us. At 10:20 we were tied up stern to the dock with our bow anchor out. This marina, somewhere between Pampatar and Porlamar, is relatively new and well protected. Locally it is referred to as the Hilton Marina since it is close to the well run Hilton hotel which seems to tolerate visiting sailors using their pool and shower facilities. The marina was never completed because much like with many other projects in Venezuela, foreign investors withdrew when Chaves came to rule, and now things go a lot slower. They claim though that work will commence shortly. Right now only part of the berths, those occupied by local yachts, have power. Water or fuel is brought in truck. Fuel though is VERY cheap at about 6 cents a liter at the gas station and maybe 10 cents including the delivery. Our tanks were pretty full at the time, so we didn't take advantage of these good deals.


Isaac explained that the marina is perfectly safe and that we could even leave your boat unlocked. The anchorage at Porlamar however has problems with theft and the folks anchoring there organize watch keeping shifts across the boats for 24 hours a day. Strangely the marina seems safe despite the fact that it is open to access. There must be some unwritten rules of where it is ok to steal and where not.


Another small problem was that we arrived during Carnival and there was no way to clear us in until Wednesday. The guide book says this should all be done through an agent and other yachts using the named agent reported no problems other than waiting for their papers for a day or two. The agent listed in Doyle's cruising guide checked in a neighboring yacht for $60 plus the official fees. After our experience, this is the recommended way of doing it.


Isaac had called an agent who wanted $300 to check us in during Carnival, and so we decided to clear immigration at the airport and do all the remaining clearing in two days, when they were back in business again. Isaac knew a local man who would drive us around for all this. And so our first tour was a one hour drive to the airport and we enjoyed all the new impressions. Us clearing at the airport seemed a bit unusual for the officer, but with a copy of our clearance from Carriacou, (the original we needed for the harbor office), and some $10 extra into his pocket we were stamped into Venezuela with a temporary visa.


Felix found a new friend, about his age and mind set, from an Australian boat and went for dinner with them and then spent the night in what seemed to become his favorite place on Margarita: The night club "Senior Frog". Beate and Harald were taken out for dinner by our nice new friend Isaac. This was really a nice coincidence as we learnt so much about Venezuela , which we would otherwise have missed.


For the next day Isaac had arranged a rental car and drove us all around the eastern part of the island, showing us nice beaches, picturesque fishing villages and a boat tour in a huge maze of mangroves. It was a really delightful day which was unexpectedly topped by getting trapped in a long Carnival parade.


The next day, Wednesday, was planned for clearing in and out, as well as shopping. On Thursday we wanted to leave for the Los Roques. The clearing then turned out incredibly complicated and it would have been virtually impossible to do without our driver and interpreter. It is one of those things that are fun doing once, as it is so crazy, but we would not do this again. We had to drive back and force between Pampatar (Harbor office, Coast Guard,) and Porlamar (Customs and National Guard). We also had to buy stamps (a form of paying the various fees), and go to a bank and wire money to the account of the Coast Guard. It stopped short from sending us back to the airport, as we had not started in the right order. All in all it took about three hours and we were cleared in AND out and were ready to move on. The cost was roughly like that: Driver $35, official fees $40 and $25 'unofficial' fees.






By our standard, most things in Venezuela are inexpensive so shopping food and the like is really good there. We went to a bigger super market by cab and loaded up.


Thursday morning, when we were about ready to go, Isaac came over and told us that the weather was really bad, with rain squalls in the Los Roques and serious problems in Caracas, where land slides had been killing people. His family seemed very concerned, though here in Margarita only a 150 miles further east we did not notice much. After Isaac phoned a fisherman in the Los Roques and heard about rain and swell and other unpleasant things, we agreed to defer our trip by a day.









Friday did indeed look better, though at first it looked like we might have no wind at all. We had to motor out of the marina and around the corner, but then a light wind set in from behind and gave us an opportunity to demonstrate the spinnaker to Isaac. We had a few nice hours, gliding along the south coast of Margarita until the wind decided to come from exactly the other direction – a local effect. So down with the spi and close hauled with Genoa and Main . This also lasted only an hour but that way Isaac could see how well Taniwani sails to windward. Eventually the regular trade wind set in and we were on a fast reach moving along with over 8 knots. Very nice sailing at least until midnight when the wind weakened and around 3 am we had to help with the engine to keep going at a decent speed.


At 09:45 we were at the southern ( Sebastopol ) entrance into the reef chain of the Los Roques. But we were quite safe with Isaac's local knowledge, Felix up in the spreaders looking for the shoals and Harald had in the mean time readjusted the quite large position error on all charts with the help of the radar. Interestingly, most error is in the north-south direction which in the old days was quite easy to establish rather accurately. And it seems that one copies from the other as three independent charts, two electronic one paper, all had exactly the same offsets.


Cruising up north behind the fringing reef wasn't difficult, as we had mostly sun and the shoals were easy to spot. Only at one time a squall came through and we slowed down before going through another narrow pass. Quite at the end and close to the main island of Roque Grande , Isaac took us along a shortcut and said to concerned Beate that we will at least have 3 meters of water.  So at some point the depth dropped rapidly to exact 3 meters, making us hold our breath, but then we were over the shoal happily moving on. Beate looked at Isaac and said: "Isaac, it looks to me that you are a gambler!"


We turned into beautiful Francisqui, a wonderful bay surrounded by little islands and reefs, perfectly sheltered. It is close enough to Roque Grande to make it there by dinghy and it also has water taxi connection. Roque Grande is indeed a large rock that adds a nice appearance to the otherwise shallow sand islands. It also has a low lying part with a little airport. It is a favorite vacation place for folks from Caracas , but now, so shortly after Carnival it is rather quiet. The clearing procedure is a small version of that in Margarita, not needing immigration again we only had to visit 4 different places. At the last one you pay the park fee that gives you a 3 week permit to cruise in this nature preserve. For us three plus the boat this amounts to $140.-


In the mean time Felix had discovered a Kit Surfing school right at the entrance to Francisqui and so it was clear that we will have to hang out at that place for a few days. But that is not so bad, as this is one of the most beautiful anchorages we have been. Per dinghy Isaac showed us into the neighboring bay and across a reef where we found some of the finest snorkeling in rather shallow water. This place was full of all sorts of fish, and because of the relatively shallow depth brilliantly illuminated by the sun.


It was really great to have Isaac around and show us the best places, also his company was nice and entertaining and we are now all experts on brain operations. It was a pity we couldn't meet the whole family. Isaac left us as planed per plane on Sunday evening.


While Beate and Harald had some relaxing days at anchor, Felix was working hard at the kite surf school. Unfortunately these kites need a lot of wind and for one whole day Felix couldn't do much and had to wait. Still after three days he managed to zoom back and force across the bay with the kite and was very happy. And so we moved on to the next nice anchorage at the Noronsquis. Again it was a lot of eye-ball navigation, but then a deep pool to anchor in.


For the next day we had planed to go to the westernmost cays, called Cayo de Aqua, so that we would have the shortest passage to the Las Aves Islands. But on the way there, we looked into an anchorage called Carenero and found it so nice that we stood there instead, adding about 5 miles to our route tomorrow.


Next morning we weighed anchor before sunrise and slowly slid out of our shelter. Still in the shallow waters of the Los Roques we caught two smaller Kingfish and a small Tuna. Out in the deep we didn't catch any more, but the sailing was nice and fast so that we were hopeful to arrive in the difficult waters of the Las Aves still with lots of good light. The Las Aves are actually two separated groups of reef fringed small islands. Our destination was the more western group called Aves de Sotavento. At 13:00 we are at the southeastern end of the group and started to establish chart corrections via radar. Like the Los Roques these were also off, but even more. In north-south direction we found over half a mile difference.


Later when we swung up, to sail north in the lee of the group we caught a nice Barracuda, but we were too nervous about Ciguatera poisoning that we sent him back to the water. Shortly afterwards we get the next one, about same size. This one we do not throw back, but we sail up to a small fishing boat to ask the locals.  When we show them our catch, they wave a similar one from their boat and indicate that they are good to take. So we keep it and move on to find a place to anchor.


It is a strange place and you have the feeling that you are out in the middle of the ocean, and not near land. Most of the reefs are just under water and there is one somewhat larger island at the southern edge, which also has the coast guard station. To the east and north three are just reefs and the west side has a few very small islands. We went to try to anchor in the lee of the middle cay called Long Island . Long in this case is less than half a mile. Holding is very poor, but if you drift it is quite a long way before you hit Bonaire .


You can also go inside and behind some of the cays, but it is strictly eye-ball navigation and the charts are not even close to reality in many places. We found even the relative position of the cays to be inconsistent. But exploring by dinghy is just fine and we make a few trips to check out Lighthouse Island to the north of us and Round Island and its reefs south of us. When we arrive, we saw a Norwegian Yacht anchored near Round Island and when they left next morning we were the only yacht in the whole place.


Next day Felix and Harald went by dinghy to look for good dive sites, but the area is simply overwhelming and wherever we looked it seemed that it got interesting when you came to the edge of a reef, where it falls off to some 20 or 30 meters. So in the afternoon they went to such a place with SCUBA gear, had a real nice dive and came back with two big lobsters.


Last day's sushi dinner was already a treat, but now we had lobster as a starter and nice Kingfish filets for the main course. We could also keep enough of both to make a nice sea food salad to receive our friends with.






On Long Island there is just one palm tree and a few huts and we found a signpost where others had left their signature. So we also set up a sign pointing northeast to our home town Köppern.














Sunday evening, our friends from California , Wendy and Joel were expected to arrive in Bonaire and so we left the Las Aves early morning to be there well ahead of them. It is only 44 miles to Kralendiek and so we were tied up at the little Marina at 12:50, hoping to still find somebody at the marina office as the book said there were open on Sundays till 1pm. This was off course too optimistic and so we remain at the fuel dock for the night. Another possibility would have been to pick up one of the mooring buoys in front of the town. Anchoring is altogether forbidden around Bonaire . We had told Wendy and Joel to come to the Marina and so we stayed put. Harald walked into town for clearing in which is comparably easy with only a small caveat that one needs to surrender any spear guns at the customs office. So we were asked to bring ours in later.


At the police station Harald met again Bernd from NIS RANDERS, who we had last seen in Grenada . In the evening, while waiting for Wendy and Joel, we are fiercely attacked by very small hard to see mosquitoes. This is the worst attack we have so far experienced and we think about going out of the marina again to a mooring. But for this first evening we will stay.


Quite on time Wendy and Joel show up. Like with all our guests, not all the baggage did make it. But in their case it is less surprising, as Joel brought his hi-tech windsurfer along for Felix to keep. While this is a small one, just 2.7m long and 120 liters, with its spars and two sails it is quite a bit of baggage. But they had seen it arrive in Aruba, so chances for it to arrive in Bonaire next day were rather high.


We off course had a nice first evening chatting with our old friends about the good old days and what everybody is doing. And Felix took off after dinner to check out the town together with Daniel from NIS RANDERS.


The whole night we get tortured by these tiny mosquitoes, but then in the morning we decide to stay another night. Main reason is that the marina provides WIFI wireless hi-speed internet access and we hadn't had so much speed and bandwidth since leaving home. In the middle of our cabin we have a crystal clear internet phone connection with Markus at home. So, especially Felix wants to make more use of this. Also we thought it would be nice for our batteries to get a real soft long charge for a change. They had been cycled a 150 times without a full recharge since we don't want to run our generator endlessly trickle charging.


In the mean time the windsurfer had arrived and Wendy, Joel and Harald took a taxi to the airport to fetch it. Felix was now certainly overwhelmed with all the good things: A real fine windsurfer, an i-pod that he had been saving money for and Joel got for him and broadband internet access. Just too much for one day!


Bonaire is mainly a diving place and otherwise a rather boring island, especially for us sailors, as we can just stay in one place. So we wanted to try at least the diving and we went with our dinghy out to adjacent Klein Bonaire. The snorkeling there was indeed fantastic and we all snorkeled along the reef edge for quite a length, before getting back into the dinghy and completing the circumnavigation of Klein Bonaire. One could imagine the quality of the SCUBA sites, but since our friends don't do SCUBA diving we didn't try it in Bonaire . Also our boat is too big for the day moorings that are provided at the best dive sites, up to 38ft you can go with your yacht.


So we spent a last night on a mooring, with a lot fewer mosquitoes and then left in the morning for Curacao . We first sailed to a smaller island called Klein Curacao, just south of real Curacao . It is a nice little place with day tourism from the larger island, a little private beach club, a few ruins and an old abandoned lighthouse. The swell however sets around both ends and makes the anchorage a bit unpleasant, especially for our less adapted visitors. So we just had a nice break there, and then went on to real Curacao .


Curacao has many very nice and sheltered anchorages and is much more attractive to sailors than any other of the three ABC-Islands. There is the big and deep Sint Annabaai with the main town Willemstad , but that is more a place for big cruising ships and cargo ships and most yachts go into the spectacular Spaanse Water. It has a very narrow entrance, much like a little river, but inside widens into widely forking water world. Once in, it is more like a lake, with water front restaurant, a few marinas and lots of space to anchor to your desire.




Twice we had dinner at a little seafront restaurant called Sarifundies, half of the place floats on empty barrels, the other half sits on piles over the water. It seems a favorite gathering place for cruisers, has a fine dinghy dock and every day a shuttle bus service to a major supermarket.








Now, in Spaanse Water with lots of wind and a smooth sea, this was the opportunity to try the new windsurfer. Joel gave a demonstration both on fitting it together and then on properly sailing it. That was off course not so easy and Felix had many, many tries. One direction seems to work fine for him, but he's still struggling with the other. So for the next days Felix would try for a while until he had drifted way to the leeward, then Joel would get into the dinghy, drive up to him and trade. Joel then sails the surfer upwind back our boat and the whole cycle starts over again.



The morning after arrival we had to go to the main town Willemstad to clear in. Except for Felix all of us took the hourly bus to town. Customs is not far from the central bus station and was quickly done. For immigration however we needed to cross the floating pedestrian swing bridge, which pivots on one side and has a built in tugboat and then along the other side all the way to the cruising ship dock. The friendly officer cleared us in- and out at the same time, so that we don't have to come again. 

Apparently Curacao is a good place for ship chandlery, one of the dealers dropped off a pricelist and it seems the prices quoted in US Dollars were consistently lower than at Budget marine or West Marine and some like stainless steel anchor chain or Yamaha outboard engines were particularly interesting. But again, we had everything and so didn't buy any of the stuff.


Curacao seems to thrive on the Venezuelan oil industry more than on tourism and this makes the island feel more normal and balanced. The big refinery further up north didn't bother us and any smog is blown off over the sea by the prevailing winds. A big oilrig was parked just outside of Spaanse Water, probably for servicing and was wonderfully illuminated at night.


Had we had more time we would have explored more of Curacao and its anchorages, but Wendy and Joel just had a week and we needed to go on to Aruba from where they would fly on. This was almost 80 miles to go and we wanted to have at least a day together on Aruba , so it was Saturday that we sailed with plenty of wind. Unfortunately the wind was exactly from behind on the longest stretch, with a big cross sea running, not perfect comfort and speed, as like most boats TANIWANI sails best a little bit off the wind. That we had for the last 15 miles when we turned 15 degrees further north and than we moved along not dropping under 9 knots. This way Wendy and Joel had a perfect last stretch.


Once at the main town of Oranjestad we called harbor control to ask about clearing procedures and where directed around two big cruise ships to tie up at the customs dock. The customs office is right there and while filling out the forms the officer asked how much alcohol we carry. "About 10 liters of spirit and some whine", I answered – "OK". Then he called immigration and handed me the phone: "Sir, I'll be right at your boat, but it'll take half an hour, I have to finish a job here at the airport." "OK, no problem, see you there in while". Then the customs guy again: "I'll come with you to your boat." Looks like he wants to check us out – this is first time in a while. "Where's the boat, oh all the way out there, we'll take my car." Then in the car: "That spirit you have, what is it?" "Mostly Rum, some Whiskey." "Is it good Whiskey?" "Yes we only have good Single Malt" "Ah good, can I have a bottle?" "OK, do you want to come on board?" "Oh no, I'll wait in the car!"


So that was our introduction to Aruba and we started to wonder what the immigration man would want, given that he comes from the airport just to clear us in. But he was a real nice guy, blue-tooth headset in his ear and in steady communication with his office over the cell phone. Lots of paperwork as everybody needs to fill out a form like the US visa waiver form. But he did half of the forms so that we only needed to sign. Really friendly, polite and helpful – what a nice surprise. So sure he got a TANIWANI ball pen and lighter.


Now we called harbor control again and told them we were cleared in and asked to proceed to an anchorage and were told it's all yours, go where you like. So we went out close to the runway end for the night. Flight traffic is not so bad that it would really disturb one, but the wind was blowing strongly so that we couldn't mount our large sun cover. Next morning some last swimming around the boat and then into the marina for a last dinner invitation by Wendy and Joel.


The marina belongs to the huge Renaissance hotel and resort and the marina price includes the use of all these facilities including the shuttle service to the little private island a mile from the harbor. Aruba is totally crazy; the town with all the jewelry shops and casinos feels like a huge open air airport, a bit unreal. Here is probably the biggest selection of Rolex and similar stuff that one might ever see in a lifetime. Any possible restaurant or fast food chain is represented here and everything is aimed at elderly retired Americans that either reside in one of the resorts or come in one of the many big cruising ships. At time we think we are moored in the middle of Vegas!

On Wendy and Joel's invitation we have dinner in a fancy steakhouse and Felix is really delighted with a 22 oz steak that is even enough for him.


Very early on Monday morning Wendy and Joel leave us for the airport; they have a long trip home.


We found that food shopping is really good here at the big supermarkets, just a bit out of town. The selection is bigger than even in the Canary Islands and so we decide to really fill up TANIWANI here.


We plan to relax here for a few days and then sail on to the south end of Panama on Saturday, March 5th. It is about 550 miles to Obaldia, the Panamese village (Port of Entry) next to the Columbian border where we want to clear in. From there we will sail up the interesting chain of San Blas Islands for about two weeks. It should be quite a contrast to here being with the very original and largely unspoiled Kuna Indians – we will see...


Link to next report:  

 March-May  2005, Panama, Galapagos, and Pacific Crossing