Friday, 14 November 2014

30/2014 Rosario Islands

Hi from Clare,                           Thursday 13th November

When we wrote ten days ago we were in Cartagena Colombia organizing a trip to the dentist and repairs to our AB dinghy which is still under warranty.

The dentist trip went well; we fronted up Tuesday without an appointment but armed with our Spanish-English translator. Fortunately we received help from a Spanish patient, a local lawyer who could speak fairly good English. He phoned his friend a retired English dentist on vacation and asked him to come to the surgery and between them they communicated my requirements to the Colombian dentist. I needed a porcelain front replaced which after thirteen years had cracked and partly fallen off. I was given preferential treatment and ushered into the surgery immediately. The cracked porcelain front was removed, impressions taken and a temporary fitted. The following afternoon the job was completed and for about one third of the Australian price. We were very impressed with the generous help we received and the efficiency of the dentist.

The bubbles in the seam is where the aluminium is corroding under the rubber
Sadly, not so much efficiency with the dinghy repair. We thought this would be easy as AB dinghies have an excellent reputation and are made here in Colombia. However it became complicated because Customs required the dinghy to be imported into Colombia. Importation enables the necessary paperwork for the dinghy to pass in and out of the factory which is a tax free zone. It was said that the paperwork should take two days but in fact it took eleven very frustrating days and "manyana" is alive and well. Eventually the dinghy was transported to the factory on Tuesday for an estimated four day repair. At this stage we think it will be returned next Wednesday which another eight days "manyana" still lives.

Scenes around Cartagena's modern city

We planned to go to Peru for a week and we spent endless time with the travel agents and broken English trying to organize the trip. But with the additional uncertainty of the dinghy repairs, it all became too difficult; South America will have to wait.

So we have moved fifteen miles away from Cartagena Port to the Rosario Islands. It is very peaceful and great to get back into clean 29.6 degree water. Andrew has been busy for the last two days cleaning the bottom of the boat. After installing the ultrasonic Anti-fouling device which supposedly prevents barnacles growing he is a bit underwhelmed by its performance. Granted the largest barnacles are the ones furthest away from the device but there are still many small barnacles everywhere.

So during the last week in Cartagena we have been planning our days around keeping cool. We are 10 degrees north of equator so it is hot and humid. We have had our tarpaulins up over the boat for both sun and rain protection. The humidity is such that we drip perspiration as soon as we are out of the breeze. I have been cooking dinner straight after breakfast to keep the heat out of the boat at night. Most afternoons we hide in an air conditioned shopping centre or café for a few hours and then we have a cold shower at the marina before coming back to the boat.
Kids and the pigeons in an old city park

Our friends on "Saraoni" have ventured onto The San Blas Islands which is reportedly very beautiful but currently pouring with rain. Keith on "Sadiqi" has been great company and we have enjoyed a few dinners in the cool of the cockpit on Eye Candy. Keith has helped Andrew with Clean Up programs for the computer and was hoping to leave for the San Blas this Friday but the Harbour Master is on holidays until Tuesday and so "Manyana" once again.

We will continue on to the San Blas Islands as soon as our dinghy is returned to the boat but for now I must away and practice my tennis shots with the fly swat.

Love Candy xx

At 6:54 PM12/11/2014 (utc) our position was 10°10.92'N 075°44.29'W

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Tuesday, 4 November 2014

29/2014 Colombia

Hi from Clare,                                               Monday 3rd November
Eye Candy under the Sierra Nevada

Anchorage off Club Nautico
We are now in Cartagena Columbia after having an excellent 360 mile sail from Aruba. We firstly sailed two nights to the Five Bays on the northern coast of Columbia near the township of Santa Marta. Here we meet Geoff and Alison on 'Saraoni' who we have been speaking to on our radio net for some time. We had drinks on their boat before collapsing into bed for a good night's sleep. The following afternoon both Saraoni and Eye Candy sailed eight miles to Taganga Bay just outside Santa Marta in preparation for starting out at first light the next morning to sail a hundred and twenty miles to Cartagena. This can be a very nasty piece of water with high winds, large waves and usually a counter current. The nearby towering Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (see photo) also produces a spectacular lightning show at night. The icing on the cake is the dirt and debris coming out of the Magdalena River which turns the ocean water to muddy brown. It is recommended to cross the mouth of the river in day light to avoid tree trunks etc. Oh we can't wait; what a treat. Fortunately for us apart from the apprehension caused by the lightning disco lights we had an uneventful trip and arrived into Cartagena at 3am the following morning.
Cartagena city gates

Clares new hat outside the city walls

So now we are anchored in the busy port of Cartagena. The water is too dirty to swim in and very choppy due to power boat traffic. The weather is hot and humid and we experience heavy downpours; Eye Candy is sparkling clean. We have the British warship Argyll on the wharf not far from our boat. On Saturday, Prince Charles the Commander and Chief of the British Navy had a tour of the vessel. We watched the rehearsal and the formal event from the comfort of our cockpit. The only difference was the rehearsal was conducted in brilliant sunlight and the formal event was a complete washout. We watched an entourage of umbrellas shuffling around the deck whilst the navy guys in their immaculate whites stood at attention in pouring rain. Prince Charles also in full uniform delivered his speech from the podium with umbrellas aloft. I suppose it was a case of 'the show must go on' or 'stiff upper lip' and all that, but personally I think given the unpredictable rains, they should have had a fall back plan - anyhow for us it was pretty good.

A Church and another new hat

We have only just scratched the surface of Cartagena. We arrived early Friday morning and Saturday was Independence Day and today is a public holiday. I need to find a dentist and Andrew is chasing up AB dinghies as our newly purchased and still under warranty dinghy is bubbling along the seam at the bottom of the dinghy. Apart from emails to the respective businesses, we haven't made much progress.

No doubt he conquered something
We have friends here on 'Saraoni' and also an Aussie friend Keith on Sidiqi. Keith helped us get a sim card for internet access so we are back on air. Last night we had drinks on Eye Candy with Saraoni and Sidiqi and a fun night was had by all.

Earlier in the day we went for a walk to the walled city. We haven't discovered much about the history of the place as yet but as you can see by the photos, walking through the old city was reminiscent of our time spent in the Mediterranean. Lovely old churches, town squares, grand buildings, narrow streets, festooning bougainvillea, tourists and many touts. Andrew and I bought a hat each which are lovely and light and just the thing for this hot climate.

We are not sure how long we will be in Cartagena. Once our business is sorted we will venture on to the San Blas Islands to enjoy clean water and beautiful beaches.

Love Candy xx

At 10:54 AM1/11/2014 (utc) our position was 10°24.59'N 075°32.53'W

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Friday, 24 October 2014

28/2014 Aruba

Hi from Clare,                          Thursday 23rd October, 2014

Our last week in Bonaire was very busy with four consecutive nights out to dinner saying goodbye to our cruising friends. We also went diving nearly every day and we sadly realized that we may never experience such easy and delightful diving on a daily basis ever again. So as you can guess it was with some regret that we left Bonaire on Tuesday 14th October and headed west forty miles to Curacao. We anchored on the island of Kline Curacao (some 10 miles out from our destination) for lunch and enjoyed a few hours swimming in sparkling clear aqua water alongside a stunning white sandy beach.
Crystal Casino and the Ralph Lauren annex

The purpose for stopping again at Curacao was to refill our cooking gas bottles, however this turned out to be tricky. The gas station said to be unreliable with both supply and opening hours could only be accessed by hiring a car. Some cruisers reported phoning before driving there only to find them shut upon arrival. We only stayed for three days, the first day to check in, the last day to check out and one in the middle to catch up with cruising friends and enjoy happy hour at the bar.
Shopping arcade

So we sailed 75 miles to Aruba which is the most western island of the ABC chain. We had heard that Aruba was very industrial and not much of a stop. This is true of one end of the island where the petro-chemical industry is present, but the other end of the island is upmarket and frequented by many cruise ships. There are numerous expensive jewelry and brand name shops, beautiful beaches and first class holiday accommodation. Customs and immigration came down to the wharf when we arrived and the check in process took about one hour. We dropped off our gas bottles at the ships chandlery and they took them away to be refilled at no cost to us - things were looking up.
Cruise ship at the dock
We have been here now for four days and all our business dealings have been a delight. We have spent most afternoons in town sitting in lounge chairs in shaded breezeways enjoying an iced drink and speedy free Wifi - all very civilized and greatly appreciated. The local people are very helpful and very customer focused. One commented that being last in the ABC chain they don't get a lot of business - what a shame.

Early 1920s house restored

We have been catching the very efficient local busses to shop and also have a look around this beautiful island. We went out to Budget Marine and amongst other things purchased a new fishing rod. When sailing to Aruba we caught a big Mahi Mahi but unfortunately he snapped the line and got away. We have lost a few fish recently and so we have now upgraded our gear - look out fish. We also went to a bulk supermarket Price Smart similar to Cosco in the USA. It is usually members only shopping but a one day pass is available for visitors. I was very glad of the opportunity to stock up on nuts and dried fruit and few other hard to find items.
Walkway and cycle path beside the runway

We are anchored next to English friends Mark and Sue on Macushla.  They are heading for the Panama and the Pacific early 2015. We had drinks on their boat a few nights ago and it is our turn to host drinks tonight on Eye Candy. We first met Mark and Sue in the Canary Islands as we exited the Med. After being on the water for nine years I suppose it is small wonder that we run into people we know.

Beach-side hotels

Well this is the million dollar question.
We are debating whether to come through the Panama in 2015 or spend another year here. We would like to visit South America and maybe Costa Rica and Nicaragua. So we are asking ourselves, what's the rush?
Anyhow regardless of the outcome of this debate, we will continue on to Colombia as soon as a weather window is available. At this stage it looks like it could be as soon as this weekend.
Love Candy cc

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Tuesday, 7 October 2014

27/2014 Beautiful Bonaire

Hi from Clare,                                       Monday 6th October, 2014

So the weeks slip by in beautiful Bonaire and we are very happy and content. We have everything we need here, good friends, good shopping and wonderful warm clear water with great diving.
Honeycomb Cow fish

Grey Angel fish
When Aussie friends Patrick and Cheryl were here we averaged two dives a day. However since their departure we are now averaging one dive a day with English friends Jeremy and Susie on 'Joy of Shamrock'. Both Jeremy and Susie are fairly new to diving, Susie having just qualified a few weeks ago in Bonaire. They are both very relaxed in the water and we are having fun sharing the dives together.
Blue Chromis

Spotted Moray Eel
When Patrick came he brought some requested items from Australia for the boat. Andrew has been busy assembling and installing an ultrasonic Anti-fouling device which emits ultrasonic sound and hopefully prevents barnacles growing on the bottom of the boat. He spent one night soldering the components and two nights installing the device including gluing the transducer to the inside of the hull. When we are in the water under the boat we can hear it beeping. We will find out how effective the device is when we are in Cartagena, Columbia as the harbor has a reputation for healthy barnacle growth.
Spider Crabs
Andrew has also installed a switch to the AIS transmitter so we can turn it off and therefore not be seen if we so wish. He has also installed a switch for the radar so we can turn it off and save power, but still have use of the plotter. Patrick gave us some 12 volt USB chargers which Andrew has also installed. It is much easier now to plug in and charge phones, Ipads, kindles etc; no more crawling under the Nav station to turn on the inverter - fantastic. Patrick also gave us some big pegs to secure towels/clothes to the steering wheel or arch for drying. All these little improvements make life on the boat easier, but don't spoil us too much Patrick or we may never get off.
Juvenile Spotted Drum fish
So while Andrew has been busy installing I have been critically appraising the food stocks with the Pacific crossing in mind. Items considered 'nice to have' but no essential have been put to one side for eating before January. I have also been on the internet researching dehydrated foods and vacuum packing. The goal for the Pacific is to have the right foods without weighting the boat down. As we will be there for many months and food supply is variable, there is much to consider.

We will probably be in Bonaire for another week or so. We have had a wonderful holiday here and we will be sad to leave.

Love Candy xx

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Wednesday, 24 September 2014

26/2014 Patrick & Cheryl in Bonaire

Hi from Clare,                    Tuesday 23rd September 2014
Pirate Patrick

Cheryl (pirates wife)
So we have been busy for the last two weeks with our Aussie visitors Patrick and Cheryl and what fun we had together. During their visit we did 24 dives and, as I mentioned, Patrick couldn't talk underwater but silly me I forgot about hand signals.
Patrick & Cheryl photographing fish

Andrew hiding behind Elephant Ear Coral

It was a treat for them to dive in tropical waters with twenty metre plus visibility. The colorful fish and pretty coral were well photographed and videoed by them. Each day we would set out in search of the more elusive varieties with limited success, but hey no one complained. When Patrick and Cheryl return home they are doing a presentation on Diving Bonaire for their local dive club in Jervis Bay.
Trunk fish

Balloon Fish

We did two night dives at Patrick's request. I have only done one night dive when training to be a diver. Andrew has done two or three extra night dives. So our first night dive in Bonaire was going well with plenty of light from our touches until we were surrounded by moon jelly fish the size of lamp shades (Google them). Apparently they come out when it is a full moon and were attracted by our touch light. I was freaking out afraid of being stung as I had bare arms and legs. Cheryl was hit in the face with one as we zigzagged our way back to the boat. Much to our relief we discovered later that they are totally harmless and really quite beautiful; Patrick shot some great footage. .
Vase Coral
Our second night dive was thwarted by a huge tarpon fish (also harmless) about the size of a shark who kept swimming between us and nudging us out of the way so he could gobble up any small fish within our torch beam. The only good thing about that dive was Patrick and Cheryl got to see the frog fish which are a little more active at night. Anyhow so now Andrew and I have done a few more night dives but we can't see ourselves reaching double figures.

Pretty soft corals
Apart from all the beautiful fish and coral no dive holiday in Bonaire would be complete without diving on the wreck of the Hilma Hooker. It was a Dutch cargo vessel measuring 72 metres long and 11 metres wide. In 1984 it had rudder problems off the coast and when towed into Bonaire harbour, customs officials discovered 11,000 kg of marijuana on board. However (surprise, surprise) no one knew who owned the vessel and nobody came forward. Eventually the Hooker was towed out to a dive site and I sank providing a nice dive feature. The Hilma Hooker is a very popular dive and when we were there the commercial dive boats were dropping numerous divers into the water continuously.

With four of us diving Eye Candy became our dive boat. Each day we would take her out to a dive site and tie up to the dive buoy. Quite often Andrew would tie his own rope from Eye Candy to the metal ring at the base of the buoy for extra security. When it was windy or choppy Andrew and I would dive first and then Patrick and Cheryl next and in so doing we always had someone on the boat. We didn't relish the thought of coming up after a dive to find Eye Candy had drifted out to sea.

So apart from all the wonderful diving Patrick and Cheryl hired scooters and had a day discovering the island. We also had happy hours at Karel's bar, shopping for souvenirs and dinners and lunch out at the local restaurants. Our good Dutch friends Martin and Ellen were leaving to return to the Netherlands for a month so we had farewell drinks on Eye Candy. We will miss Martin and Ellen, they are terrific company and always with happy smiles. There is a good chance that we won't see them again until they venture out into the Pacific in a few years. Andrew has enjoyed numerous conversations about boat stuff with Martin and Ellen has been a wonderful help to me in the supermarkets with advice on local products and reading the Dutch labels for me.
Clare, Patrick & Cheryl

Andrew, Ellen, Martin and Clare at drinks on Eye Candy

Yesterday Patrick and Cheryl flew out of Bonaire with many happy memories and we are left here to readjust to the silence. We thoroughly enjoyed their company and a good dose of 'Aussie' was greatly appreciated. Next time we spend any length of time together will probably be on their boat in Jervis Bay - what a great arrangement.

We will stay in Bonaire for a few more weeks enjoying the diving. We ultimately want to head for Columbia and the Panama. But we will wait for the weather to improve as Columbia is currently experiencing tropical rain and humidity.

Love Candy xx

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Sunday, 31 August 2014

25/2014 Matt's short stay

Hi from Clare,                       Friday 29th August 2014

The highlight since our last newsletter was a visit from Matthew (Andrew's son). He arrived in Bonaire Thursday night 21st August and soon relaxed with an evening dip and a few beers in the cockpit.
Happy Hour at Karel's

Even happier

Andrew, Matt, Bruce (Vixen) and Johan (like Dolphins)
Friday we took Eye Candy out to Klein Bonaire and had two dives from the back of the boat. Matthew enjoyed the warm water and easy diving conditions and spent hours chasing fish with his video camera. That evening we joined twenty cruisers for happy hour at Karel's Beachside Bar, see photos.
Spotted Drum fish

On Saturday Andrew and Matt went for two more dives from the dinghy. It's a bit crowded with three in the dinghy plus dive gear so I opted to stay at home. Saturday night Matt, Andrew and I went out for BBQ ribs. The family restaurant is only opened at the weekends and is situated in their back yard. It's very nicely decorated with potted plants and hanging lights. It's a firm favorite with the cruisers as the price is right and the food is good or lecker in Dutch. This is one of the few Dutch words we have learnt but it seems to be used quite a lot, so we are doing OK.
Matt and Andrew

Sunday we left Bonaire and had a very pleasant thirty miles downwind sail to Curacao. We were booked into Curacao Marina on Sunday night in preparation for our appointment with the rigger the following day. It was very hot and the water was too dirty for swimming. Fortunately for us we are on the outside pontoon and in the breeze.
Harbour front entering Curacao
The high bridge at Curacao

Monday morning we took the dinghy into town and checked into the country. Andrew had to get back to the boat for the rigger. Matt and I stayed in the city and enjoyed strolling around the tourist area and taking refuge in the air conditioned shops when we got too hot. A morning coffee in air conditioned comfort was rejuvenating and lunch in the shade by the waterfront was also very pleasant. We got back to the boat late afternoon and wondered what sort of a mood we would find Andrew in. Thankfully the rigging inspection went very well and Andrew was greatly relieved and ready for a cooling sundowner.

Sadly, Tuesday was departure day for Matt. We decided (that as the marina is out in the middle of nowhere) a hire car was the best way to get Matt to the airport. After many aborted phone calls, due to either language difficulties or non availability of cars, we eventually got a hire car from Budget. Andrew and Matt were picked up and taken to a hotel to collect the car: so far so good. The rot set in when seven minutes after they got the car the gear stick disconnected. Andrew bumped the car up onto the curb and there they sat. After a few more phone calls to Budget it was evident that a speedy rescue wasn't happening and Matt, who was running out of time, should walk back to the marina, collect his bags and get a cab to the airport. Poor Matt had a very hot walk back and was dripping with perspiration when he arrived. He only had time for a quick shower and a bite of lunch before the taxi came. Meanwhile Andrew stood in the sun waiting for the tow truck to arrive and a lift back to Budget. We eventually got a replacement hire car around 1pm but it was too late for Matt.

Last night we had drinks with German friends Robert and Ursula on 'Yara'. They were part of the cruising community in Bonaire and like us are now in Curacao Marina for some maintenance. We had a very enjoyable evening and it was good to put the work aside for a few hours and just talk boats - I can't believe I said that!
In our last newsletter I said that with regard to the rigging inspection we were hoping for a speedy, inexpensive and excellent job. Well just for once our wish was granted. The only thing that needed replacing was the starboard D2 and our whole experience with the rigger was a good story.

Tomorrow morning we will leave the marina and travel eight miles to Spanish Waters to join the cruising community anchored in the bay. We have some friends there and I believe it is easier to get into town. We will wait there in the hope of calmer conditions to travel back into the wind to Bonaire.
Our Aussie friends Patrick and Cheryl are arriving in Bonaire on 6th September to spend a few weeks with us diving. It will be funny having a dive holiday with Patrick as he won't be able to talk under water. For those of you who know Patrick - you know exactly what I mean.

Love Candy xx

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Monday, 18 August 2014

24/2014 A Birthday in Bonaire

Hi from Clare,                          Sunday 17th August 2014
It is now week five in Bonaire and we are very contented. This is most unusual as over the years we have become sea gypsies and we tend to get restless after a week in one spot. For us it really does prove the theory "time flies when you are having fun"

Yellow Frog Fish
Eyed Flounder
Spotted Eel
Blue Tang
Yesterday we planned to have a day off from diving to varnish the bathroom door. The plan half worked, the door was sanded and two coats of vanish applied. So what else is there to do while waiting for the varnish to dry? Go for a dive of course. I photographed a yellow frog fish (see photo). The first time we saw this fish I couldn't make head nor tail of it. It just looked like a piece of yellow coral but yesterday it was out in the open more - what a strange looking creature. The flounder sleeping on the rock (see photo) was also wonderfully camouflaged; such sights are a thrill. Unfortunately my little camera is not up to taking panorama photos or you would see that often we are surrounded by many fish. It is truly a beautiful experience and one I doubt we will ever tire o

This week we celebrated Andrew's 62nd birthday. According to him the bad news is, he is getting older. The good news is, Andrew thought he was already 62 so his birthday didn't change a thing. We commenced the day with an early morning walk along the boulevard by the waterfront followed by a leisurely coffee on 'Acapella' and an unexpected birthday gift from friends Ellen and Martin. We went for a dive in the afternoon and then out for the evening. We had pre dinner drinks at Karel's Beach Bar with Ellen and Martin and also Maria and Maurice from "Cattiva" followed by a very nice three course meal at the Patagonian Steak House (see photos).
Maria, Andrew, Clare, Martin, Ellen & Maurice
Dinner at the Patagonia Steak House
So while I'm typing this newsletter Andrew has given the bathroom door another couple of coats of varnish. He is now pumping water out of the bilge as the hot water heater has a leaking seal or maybe its the watermaker. So rest easy folks - it's not all fun here, sometimes we work all day.

When touring the island with Ellen and Martin they took us to a remote cave to see some rock carvings/paintings which date back to 300BC. This particular cave called "Mati" (meaning high up there) faces north and from there an 'ancient astrologer' looked at two northern horizon lines - the sea horizon and the horizon of the coastline. He then used the large rocks on the coastline, in combination with the stalactite points hanging in the outer edge of his cave, as star tracking co-ordination points. We thought this was pretty cool.
Ancient Astrologer
Ancient rock paintings showing the stars
Andrew's son Matthew will be joining us for a few days later this week. He has a meeting in Bogota in Columbia and has organized (clever lad) a five day break before returning back home to New York. Unfortunately his wife Mim won't be joining us, which is a great pity, who's going to make the cocktails? However we are looking forward to Matt's visit and I'm sure he will enjoy a break from his busy professional life for some diving and a sail to Curacao.

We have an appointment with the rigger in Curacao on 25th August. We are hoping for a speedy, inexpensive and excellent job - what are our chances?

love Candy xx

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