A PERIPATETIC JOURNEY
not all who wander are lost
Our plan was to spend a week or two in Bonaire, then continue to Curacao and Aruba before heading to Colombia. We'd be in Panama by Christmas. But we've learned that with sailing, any 'plan' is subject to constant revision due to weather, boat repairs, the location of friends' boats, how conducive a location is to efficient boat school, and how much we like the place we happen to be. Since we are writing this well after the fact, we can tell exactly how it all went down instead:
Bonaire: November 8 – December 1
Santa Marta, Colombia: December 4 – December 29
Panama: December 31 – we are still in Panama
We arrived in Bonaire first thing in the morning on November 8. What was going to be a week or so stretched beyond three weeks. We decided soon after arriving that we wouldn't go to Curacao. This was based on reports from other cruisers as well as how incredible the water and wildlife were in Bonaire. It hadn’t taken us long to realize that Bonaire was the perfect place for us to get our diving certification. So the new plan was to stay in Bonaire until we completed our PADI Open Water course. Then we’d head to Aruba for a few days to break up the trip to Colombia. We expected to be there around Thanksgiving. But once we’d gotten our diving certifications, we wanted to stick around Bonaire a little longer to do some dives on our own, especially since it might be a while before we’d dive again. At this point, weather also became an issue, and we spent Thanksgiving in Bonaire because winds were not favorable for the passage to Aruba and Colombia.
Finally, a weather window opened up for the beginning of December. It wasn’t a big window and we wouldn’t stop in Aruba unless we had a problem with the boat. That would put us in Santa Marta around December 4. We’d stay a couple of weeks, then move on to the San Blas in Panama for Christmas. But once we arrived in Santa Marta the 30 – 40 knot sustained, gusting 45 – 50 knot Christmas winds kicked up (well actually the Christmas winds found us on the last night of our passage, but that’s for another blog post), effectively pinning us to the dock in Santa Marta until further notice. We weren’t alone, however, and had a fun holiday with all the others who hadn’t planned to spend Christmas in Santa Marta either. This gave us more time to explore Colombia and more time to spend with friends (also for another blog post).
But we digress…back to Bonaire.
We really enjoyed Bonaire. Every morning before breakfast we’d go for a morning snorkel. It wasn’t necessary to go much further than the big concrete blocks holding our boat in place to see interesting marine life. There we’d find Christmas tree worms, sergeant majors, a shy grouper, blue tangs, brown chromis, shrimp, and parrotfish. On most days we’d see enormous tarpon cruising through the mooring field and a large spotted eagle ray swim gracefully over the reef. Just a short swim away were shallow reefs and coral heads with an amazing diversity of fish, including spotted moray eels. Photos (and more about our Open Water dive course) can be found in our Bonaire Underwater blog post.
Our mooring was across from a local park that was used for community recreation programs. Two afternoons a week would be water polo; other afternoons would be swim practice (lane lines were ropes stretched across the waterfront), while we’d see adult swim lessons in the early mornings. It was also a popular spot for divers in training to enter the water as there was an extensive reef just a few meters beyond the mooring field (after our certification, we enjoyed many dives on what we came to call our ‘home reef’).
We quickly fell into a routine in Bonaire. School on weekday mornings after a swim and breakfast. Usually, Brian would go to shore to work in a café with fast wifi. Occasionally he would take one of the kids with him for a change of scene and so Kendall could have an easy day of boatschool with two students instead of three. After school we’d either have quiet time to pass the heat of the day or go ashore for shopping, a walk, or some gelato. There would be more swimming and snorkeling, of course. About once a week, Kendall would catch the grocery bus, provided free of charge by one of Bonaire’s grocery stores.
We also had other adventures: one day Brian and Eoin rented a scooter and rode all over the island. On that day they discovered the blo-karts, which are basically go-karts with a sail instead of an engine. It was the highlight of their day and the girls were quite envious and hoped to have their chance to drive a blo-kart. On another day, Kendall and Isla went for a horseback ride that included a swim in the ocean (see Isla’s blog post on this).
We had Thanksgiving dinner at a local resort where we enjoyed traditional American Thanksgiving fare with a Caribbean flair. Although we missed being with family, we enjoyed spending the holiday with other Americans far from home. As our time in Bonaire grew short, we decided to rent a car for a couple of days to see the sights as well as make one last big trip to the grocery store before leaving for Colombia. Finally, the girls had their chance with the blo-karts (please see the Bonaire Road Trip post for details).
McGlynn family 5 (Isla, Marin, Eoin, Kendall, and Brian) sailing Counting Stars
DeLorme InReach map