Global Voyage

A Story About Sailing Around the World

Ray & Jenny aboard the ketch Suka

3 years, 35,000 miles, Nov 1982 - Jan 1986

Ray & Jenny Jardine

Chapter 17: Bonaire page 98 of 109


Chapter 17: Bonaire

“Again let us dream where the land lies sunny
And live, like the bees, on our heart's old honey.
Away from the world that slaves for money
- Come, journey the way with me.”

-Madison Cawein

Desert solace

Our first view of Bonaire.

Six months on Bonaire

Zoom out to see where we are, or click on logo.


It had been a tough two-week sail from Fortaleza, and I was excited about this landfall. Yet from a distance Bonaire appeared drab; it lacked the lush verdure of the tropical islands we had become accustomed to. The land was desiccated; suitable, it seemed, for only cactus and lizards.

Having closed the coast, Suka danced past Kralendijk, (crawl'-en-dike) the island's major town. A hundred feet offshore, the underwater shelf lay distinctly visible through the clear water as a distinct line between dark, inky depths and pale aquamarine shallows. A mile or two past the town we saw masts of boats in a marina, and before long we were entering the small basin. Curiously, most of the slips were empty, so for the first time in many months we tied alongside wherever we pleased; no more chaotic rafting four or five boats deep.

Suka's long haul across the South Atlantic and her visit to the oily harbor of Fortaleza had fouled her usually glistening white hull, so the following day Ray and I scrubbed at the stubborn chain-rust stains drooling from her scuppers, and at the black film of oil at her water line and the sooty engine exhaust on her transom. The sun glared with desert intensity that would have been unbearable had not the strong trade winds played steadily. Because the climate was so arid, the Dutch had built a desalination plant as the island's principal supply of fresh water. So at our slip we used the man-made water sparingly.

Sanding the trailboard with an electric sander, powered by our portable generator.

Varnishing the rubrail.

Bonaire lies off the well-beaten Caribbean cruising track, and here a feeling of isolation and quietude pervaded not only the marina, but the entire island. The solitude and peacefulness appealed to both of us, and kept us lingering. Days turned to weeks, and eventually we relinquished plans of transiting the Panama Canal and completing our circumnavigation before the onset of the upcoming cyclone season.

From the marina we often walked the two miles into Kralendijk to exchange dollars for guilders, to buy our groceries, to visit the few tourist shops, to indulge in an iced drink at one of the hotels, or occasionally to enjoy a restaurant meal. During these walks we began to notice that despite its aridity, Bonaire exhibited all manner of subtle beauties, especially in her bird life. We watched bright orange orioles and tiny, yellow bananaquits flitting among the subfusc foliage. Perched atop the tall saguaro cacti, and pecking at its fruits were parroquets, in brilliant greens and yellows. Sometimes we saw pairs of loras, larger parrots indigenous to Bonaire. Some locals kept these as pets, and more than once we were offered chicks, which reluctantly we declined. Most dramatic, though, were the flamboyant pink flamingos. The briny, inland lagoons are the breeding grounds for these striking birds. Colonies congregate in the salt pans to feed on small aquatic snails. Often we visited the lagoon called Gotomeer to admire and photograph the flamingos, and at sunset we watched them flying south toward Venezuela.

Touring the island by bicycle.

Sea-battered windward coastline

On rental bicycles and motorbikes we explored the sea-battered windward coastline and the intervening villages. Motorbikes were not allowed in Washington Park, at the north-western end of the island, so one day we road through the reserve with friends in a rented car. The area was isolated, its terrain rough, and the dirt roads were deeply rutted.

Usually on these many excursions we packed snorkeling gear and stopped for a few hours at various diving sites. The coral reef habitats surrounding the island and her off-lying islet Klein Bonaire are protected by a Marine Park. Because spear fishing is illegal, reef fish and other sea creatures abound, much to the delight of scuba and skin divers. So far on our voyage I had rarely felt comfortable snorkeling, and so had not gained much experience. But here the conditions were ideal. Adjacent to the marina was a small beach which we came to call our own. The undersea world was fascinating. We spent countless hours snorkeling in the waters fronting this beach. Ray had been a proficient skin diver, and at a nearby dive shop he received his scuba certification.

We enjoyed our almost-daily skin diving forays.

These fruit boat come all the way from Venezuela to sell their produce. A windfall for us.

Its much more comfortable to sleep mid-ships because of the boat's sea-sawing motion. So while in port we make a bed by lowering the salon table and laying a couple of boards across the gap. This arrangement also works out in the cockpit - in the absence of rain.

Indigenous cactus.

Wild Iguana, how close can you get?

Caribbean Parakeets, usually seen in pairs.

I found dry rot at the base of the mizzen mast so repaired it with a piece of Silver Quongdong carried from Bundaberg.


During most of these daily diving forays we visited the same pile of submerged rocks, and soon had trained the small reef fish to come out of their holes and crevices to accept scraps of bread from our fingers. The usually shy squirrelfish were territorial, and would chase away their neighbors. The sergeant-majors were so aggressive we had to wave them away to allow the others to reach the food. Foot-long trumpetfish would position themselves by Ray's or my outstretched arm, uninterested in the bread, but waiting instead for an unwary live meal to swim close by. The various fish became so accustomed to our presence that we could touch some of them. The tubby parrotfish hardly flinched when Ray grasped them lightly behind the head. And the trumpetfish would barely twitch when we gently stroked their bellies. Also swimming about the rock pile were blue tangs, blennies, gobies, small trunkfish, blue-headed wrasses, lizardfish, and occasionally an angelfish or a butterfly fish. Near the surface, needlefish congregated over us, feeding on whatever stray bits of bread floated their way. Wherever we swam, these pencil-shaped fish were not far behind. On the opposite end of the scale were the nearby deep-water denizens, the three to five foot long snook, aloof but showing us little fear. Camouflaged on the seabed were octopus, small flounders, and scorpionfish, while hiding in niches in the coral were moray eels. On one occasion, an unassuming octopus became threatened by my advance, and displayed a defensive maneuver by rising up on its tentacles, ballooning to three times its normal size, and changing color from a sandy, mottled gray to an improbable chartreuse.

During our stay in the marina we devoted many hours to boat-wise maintenance and cosmetic work. Powered by our generator, we used a power sander to remove old paint and varnish from the topsides, working during the morning hours before the onset of the day's heat. Rain was uncommon, and the combination of constant trade wind and hot tropical sun shortened the drying time - not only for paint and varnish, but for my laundry as well.

Together we dismantled the self-steering gear, which needed rebuilding for the fourth and hopefully the final time. Also, we disassembled and rebuilt the dinghy's outboard motor, victim of the incessant salt spray. In the calm marina we removed, inspected and recalked the bobstay/keelsen fittings, and removed the main mast spreaders for maintenance and painting. When the mast stood once again secure, its white spreaders gleaming against the deep blue sky, the mast now looked dingy. So on the main halyard Ray hauled me aloft in our homemade boatswain's chair, and secured my safety harness with the jib halyard. Over my shoulder I wore a sling from which dangled a ditty bag holding sandpaper, paintbrush and paint. Beginning at the mast head and working my way down, I sanded and painted, while propping my feet against the mast and rigging to keep away from the wet paint. The wind was at the same time a blessing and a nuisance: it dried the paint quickly, but it tended to blow the drips off the paint brush, requiring great care.

And so our days on Bonaire passed with few worries, and with just the right combination of work, recreation, and relaxation.

Generally the locals were a happy and content lot. Papiamento is their native language, but most could also speak Dutch, the official language. Many could also speak English and Spanish. The majority led rural lives, tending small garden plots and raising chickens, pigs and goats. These goats were handsome, hardy animals with variegated black, brown, white and tan hides. Their roaming about, browsing, was a common sight. One of our favorite restaurant meals was goat stew. Many locals fished for a living. Some collected conch, and others raised it to sell commercially, and in fact, the grocery store sold fresh conch meat cheaper than imported ground beef.

Tied to the town wharf were the stout wooden crafts of the Venezuelan fruit vendors. Summoning what little Spanish I knew, from the crews I bought fresh tropical fruits: pineapples, papayas, plantains, bananas, and mangos, as well as tomatoes, onions and potatoes: commodities unavailable in Kralendijk's grocery store. The men in their gaily painted fruit boats remained at the wharf for a week or two until they had sold their produce, then they would chug the 60 or 70 miles south to Venezuela to resupply with more. This colorful bit of South American culture was an interesting change of pace from the Dutch influence.

Often on the weekends, sailboats and powerboats from nearby Curaçao Island would pull into the marina. Sometimes a Venezuelan vessel would arrive, and we found these crews generally friendly, easy-going, and hospitable. Invariably they would invite us, even implore us, to visit and tour their country.

One day an American motor-yacht called in. Debborah, one of the crew members, was about my age, and we soon became friends. Debborah was an incurable rover, and when she learned that Suka would be sailing to Panama she asked to come along. Ray and I talked it over, and decided we could use a third watchkeeper during the passage to Panama, and the extra hand with the canal transit.

At the end of August we began preparing for our passage. Debborah moved aboard and began helping with our preparations, while telling us of her South American adventures. She worked indefatigably, helping me sand and paint the masts and refurbishing the topsides and brightwork. As had Annette during the passage on the Indian Ocean, Debborah enjoyed cooking, and I welcomed her ideas and the respite from the galley.

After spending nearly six months on Bonaire, Ray and I were assuredly well rested. We looked forward to the next leg of our journey.

Suka's main salon. Home sweet home!

Motorbiking around the island.

The trumpetfish would hardly twitch when we gently stroked their bellies.

Checking Suka's rudder.


Jenny caulking the mizzen spreader.

Home-made bosun's chair and safety lines.

Jenny and Debborah.

Debborah crewed with us for the next four months.

Trophy fish. I caught a bunch of these one evening using a small line and baited hook. Pan fried them for dinner.

Debborah painting the mizzen mast.

Note our two shadows on the water.

Painting the main mast.

Repairing the weather fax machine. Sending it back to the States wasn't an option, so the company sent me a schematic and replacement parts to solder in. The good news: it worked.

Sergeant Majors



The story has 109 pages. This is page 98.
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Page Links
GV 001: Title Page
GV 002: TOC
GV 003: Dedication
GV 004: Preface
GV 005: Prologue
GV 006: Beginnings
GV 007: Work Done
GV 008: Making Ready
GV 009: Departure
GV 010: Sailing Credentials
GV 011: First Lesson
GV 012: Sextant Navigation
GV 013: Safety Harness
GV 014: Murphy's law
GV 015: Spirit of Adventure
GV 016: Holding On
GV 017: First Big Storm
GV 018: Storm Intensified
GV 019: Rolling Violently
GV 020: Mizzen Sleeping Bag'sl
GV 021: Freeing the Propeller
GV 022: Visits by Birds
GV 023: Crossing the Doldrums
GV 024: Nearing First Landfall
GV 025: Land Ho
GV 026: Fatu Hiva
GV 027: Trek Inland
GV 028: Anchor Watch
GV 029: Passage
GV 030: Hiva Oa
GV 031: Skin Diving Circus
GV 032: Almost Like a Jungle
GV 033: Polaris Missile
GV 034: Taiohaie Bay
GV 035: Cascade Hakaui
GV 036: Taipi Bay
GV 037: Cyclone Lisa
GV 038: Cyclone Nano
GV 039: Passage of Patience
GV 040: Tuamotu Archipelago
GV 041: Tahiti
GV 042: Cyclone Reva
GV 043: Secret Sharer
GV 044: Moorea
GV 045: Cyclone Veena
GV 046: Aftermath
GV 047: Good Weather in Papeete
GV 048: Huahine
GV 049: Raiatea
GV 050: BoraBora
GV 051: Rarotonga
GV 052: Tonga
GV 053: Fresh Air
GV 054: Tongan Feast
GV 055: Excursion to Maninita
GV 056: Mariner's Cave
GV 057: Fiji
GV 058: Ndravuni Island
GV 059: Mara Island
GV 060: Aneityum
GV 061: Noumea
GV 062: St Elmo's fire
GV 063: Breakwater Reef
GV 064: Bundaberg
GV 065: Life on the Burnett River
GV 066: Engine Sabotage
GV 067: Flying
GV 068: Aground in Round Hill Creek
GV 069: Gladstone Confinement
GV 070: Tropical Queensland
GV 071: Trip into Townsville
GV 072: Cairns Sojourn
GV 073: Cramped Cooktown
GV 074: Lizard Island
GV 075: The San Michelle
GV 076: Lost Mummy Cave
GV 077: Land's End
GV 078: Darwin
GV 079: Christmas Is
GV 080: Passage
GV 081: Cocos Keeling
GV 082: Crossing the Indian Ocean
GV 083: Rodriguez
GV 084: Mauritius
GV 085: Reunion Cirque de Mafate
GV 086: Reunion Cirque de Salazie
GV 087: Passage to Africa
GV 088: Kruger National Park
GV 089: Richards Bay
GV 090: Durban
GV 091: Port Elizabeth
GV 092: Cape Town
GV 093: Storm Passage
GV 094: St Helena
GV 095: Passage to Brazil
GV 096: Fortaleza
GV 097: Passage to Caribbean
> GV 098: Bonaire
GV 099: Passage to Panama
GV 100: Panama
GV 101: Panama Canal
GV 102: Medidor
GV 103: Costa Rica
GV 104: Passage to Acapulco
GV 105: Acapulco to Cabo
GV 106: Baja
GV 107: Home Port
GV 108: In Retrospect
GV 109: Next Time
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 1981 Baja8 Ed 
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