Miles so far: 5919
Miles since last blog: 468
Known as the Spice Island, Grenada was our last stop in the ‘Windward Island’ chain before heading west towards Panama. Keen to get a feel for our new lives, Matt’s parents joined us for a week aboard in Grenada. We hired a car, went day sailing and enjoyed catching up and exploring the jungle interior of the island together. As well as all of the good bits of travelling by boat, Bruce and Sandy also got to experience a night in an uncomfortable rolly anchorage, lack of sleep, and witnessed our first ever attempt at mooring stern to (not our finest hour!). All in all, the week was described as an adventure, so probably an accurate sample of cruising life rather than a luxury charter holiday. Future guests be warned!
We were both feeling itchy to head towards Panama, a 1100 mile sail from Grenada. Stopping in Bonaire allowed us to break the crossing in two. The sail from Grenada to Bonaire was our first offshore passage since crossing the Atlantic 3 months prior, since then we had been island hopping in day sails. It was exciting to see Grenada dip below the horizon as we got back into the familiarity of sailing West into the setting sun. The 3 day sail reignited our love for offshore sailing as we set the cruising chute and settled into our watch system, with the weather calm enough to pretty much let Florence sail herself.
Bonaire is very flat and undramatic in comparison to the rest of the Caribbean we had visited. It’s known for its diving but, as every island seems to boast that, we weren’t expecting it to be that different. Boy were we wrong! We have never seen such clear water, with such a huge variety of fish and coral, not just concentrated in one area but surrounding the whole island. Bonaire is a Marine Park and the effort they have put into preserving the reefs really shows. There was plenty to see ashore too so we took a bike ride along the coast in search of Flamingos. We didn’t mind having to stay a few extra days waiting for the wind to pick up enough for us to sail on, as Bonaire became one of our favourite places visited so far.
A fantastic light wind overnight sail under cruising chute brought us the 106 miles to Aruba. Having radioed Port Control to request entrance, we were required to come along side the commercial dock to be boarded by customs and immigration and complete a mountain of paperwork. It took slightly longer than usual as the customs officers were rather large and could only just fit down below to search the boat one at a time. Although official they were very friendly and whole process was much easier than had been made out online. Most importantly, it was free.
With our passports stamped and a wad of papers authorising Florence’s entry we moved to an anchorage close to the upcoming Carnival, our reason for stopping in Aruba. We were so close to the action we could hear it coming so quickly rowed ashore and lifted the dinghy up the beach. We were soon stopped in our tracks by fences surrounding private viewing areas all along the road. Whilst trying to find a box to stand on to stretch our necks over the crowds, a lovely local family took pity on us and gave us a front row spot in their area, even rigging up some extra shade for us. We had a fantastic day chatting with them whilst enjoying the Carnival as they told us more about each of the floats, music etc. Aruba’s tag line is ‘One happy island’ which certainly rang true with the people we met. The carnival did not disappoint and we were in awe of the effort involved in all of the costumes. We have never seen so many sequins, feathers and glitter. We were told that people pay to take part in Aruba’s Carnival (although some are sponsored) and the costumes cost anything from $300 to $3000+ There were too many amazing costumes to take photos of them all.
After 3 or 4 days on one of the most expensive islands in the Caribbean, we realised we had spent the grand total of $2 as it was free to anchor and there were even a couple of floats handing out free beer at the Carnival. We seem to have got the hang of cruising on a budget!
Unfortunately the wind picked up during the Carnival and it looked like we would be stuck on Aruba for a while. The island itself is very westernised and expensive, with big hotels, casinos, designer shopping malls and beautiful but busy beaches . Not really the right scene for a couple of aspiring sea gypsies, so we set about starting to get Florence ready for the Pacific Crossing whilst keeping a keen eye on the wind and coming weather. As the most sheltered anchorage was directly in front of the airport and a beach bar that played the same song on repeat all day everyday, we were desperate for a weather window to move on.