Not everything in sailing goes to plan. On our passage from Carriacou to Bonaire at 1 o’clock in the morning our autopilot failed, leaving us hand steering for 36 hours (imagine it’s a bit like playing a computer game where you have to stay on track). It also meant we had to extend our stay in Bonaire while we had a new part made and delivered. We know...not exactly a hardship.
Life in Bonaire was essentially a mix of diving, driving, drinking, dining....and for a bit of balance doing Debbie’s Fitness sessions. The diving is extraordinary. Pretty much the best island in the world for “walk-in” diving....you literally throw everything into the compulsory Hilux, drive to a site, put your kit on and walk into the sea (it’s a weird sight seeing people fully kitted up and walking across the road like very slow turtles). As well as Debbie and Janice completing their Padi, we did over 8 dives and even managed our first night dive (as you’ll see from the pictures we were a little nervous when they told us about the massive Tarpons who liked to swim VERY close using our lights to help them hunt little fish).
Bonaire also played host to 8 Oysters during our stay and once again the social scene ramped up a notch. Hugh’s birthday at La Cantina, a big night on Safiya and an even bigger one on Miss Tiggy with 21 of us gathered for an Aussie BBQ complete with Aussie Songs (look up the words to True Blue if you have a spare moment) and Aussie Burgers (beetroot, avodaco, cheese and egg). Finally after a wonderful 2 weeks in Bonaire our new part arrived and we set sail for the 600 mile trip to the San Blas islands but it probably won’t be our last trip to Bonaire.
First impressions can be misleading. We nearly didn't visit Dominica. There was no 'main' in Main Street in Portsmouth town, just a few locals chillin' in the doorways, and there was certainly nothing to suggest the true richness and vibrancy of the island that we later discovered.
After our initial landing we organised an island tour. As luck would have it the owner of the tour company, Cobra himself was our tour guide for the day - a big warm character with lots of entrepreneurial plans and immense knowledge of the flora, fauna and local landscape. Better still he brought his lovely girlfriend Jamie. Jamie's family is pure Dominican, her uncle designed the national flag and she holds a key role in Dominican government. First stop was impressive waterfalls Syndicate Falls. We hiked through a rich plantation with ferns, grapefruits, sugar cane and coconut trees. One plant mashed up on a rock provided both a shampoo and a setting agent for dreadlocks. Jamie and Hugh demonstrated the shampoo after our waterfall swim or "pounding" (the shampoo definitely worked better on her than on Hugh).
Calabishie (home of the original Carib people) on the coast was wild and dramatic. We pulled up outside a small supermarket and marched through the shop to discover a waterside restaurant with fantastic views. Cobra drank rum with peanut milk and coconut. Interesting. The afternoon included cold sulphur springs, a chocolate plantation and a trip to 'Mars'. Mars was actually an amazing large flat area of red rocks, eroded with gulleys we could scramble over and take in another spectacular coastal view.
Dusk began to set in and we assumed that the last part of the trip, a row up Indian River, would be scrapped from the schedule but no. So in the dark we rowed past white and black crabs, iguanas and Calypso's house in Pirates of the Caribbean (built by Cobra natch) and who knows what else. In the depths of the forest we arrived at the Bush Bar (Cobra's bar natch). More rum cocktails.
Throughout the day Cobra and Jamie had entranced us with their passion for the country, its history and their understanding of what it takes to run a country of 70,000 people and the conversation continued over wine and beers on the back of the boat long after the official tour ended. Dominica touched our souls (and almost Hugh's wallet).
The Meteorite Crew
Debbie, Hugh, Janice and Andy