Monday, November 15, 2010

Bonaire, Dutch Antilles

November 15 - Kralendijk, Bonaire

After staying on the mooring, we moved to the Harbor Village Marina in Kralendijk. We decided to get a slip because it was going to be easier to make the necessary repairs. I think it was the right move. To repair the refrigeration, we ended up taking the entire unit out of the engine room (no menial task), and having a local repairman take it to his shop to solder the leaky pipe. Barry spent a number of hot and sticky hours in the engine room diagnosing the problem before the repairman came to get it. In the mean time, Dave replaced the entire battery charging system. Everything is now working beautifully.

Bonaire is a relatively tranquil island. Of the three ABC’s, it is the most environmental conscious island, having its entire surrounding waters designated as a marine park. I found it surprising to see (and hear) so much Dutch - but after all, it does have strong Dutch roots that persist even today.

Lots of people here speak four languages - Dutch, Spanish, English and Papiamento, the local Creole dialect that is a blend of Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, French and Arawak Indian. The history of Bonaire is pretty typical Caribbean. Settled by the Arawak Indians, the Spanish came along and promptly exterminated most of them. The Spanish were then in turn driven off (in this case by the Dutch) in the 1630’s. For a time, the slave trade prevailed as an integral part of commerce. But other forms of trade also grew in and around Fort Oranje, in Kralendijk. 

Today, Bonaire has developed a strong eco-tourism industry, mostly attracting diving,  fishing and bird-watching enthusiasts. It has over 200 bird species, 80 of which are  indigenous, such as the flamingo and a yellow headed parakeet. 

On one of the days here, we rented a four-wheel Suzuki jeep and ventured out to the Washington Slagbaai National Park in the northern part of the island. The park is home to flamingos, lizards, iguanas, goats, wild boar, donkeys. There are limestone caves and a number of dive spots that are accessible from the beach. The most fun we had was hand-feeding bread to groups of large lizards. From the car, we also hand-fed a friendly donkey who just walked straight up to us. We stopped at a dive spot to snorkel. But it wasn’t anything to write home about - some elk-horned coral, and typical tropical fish. As always, though, the water is warm and easy to get in to.

We’ve now fixed everything, are provisioned and ready for the next island - Curacao. Plans are to check out  tomorrow and leave on Tuesday morning. Curacao is only 30 miles west of Bonaire, so it will be a short day sail. Stay tuned.

The rugged limestone shoreline of Washington Park.

Hee-Haw!!! A very friendly donkey that came up to the jeep to greet us and get a snack.

                                                          One of the many varieties of lizards.

A peak at the ocean the  from the door of a restaurant at Washington Park.

Slave huts along the water. These are probably 5'x8', though I don't know how many slaves each would hold.

The crew at the Buenos Aires Restaurant with a cruise ship in the background.