Sail from Eastern Caribbean to the ABC’s (Aruba, Bonaire & Curacao)

Its not a bit like flying

The wind speed and direction, current strength and direction, wave patterns and, in this instance, areas known for piracy, all contribute to when we sail and our direction of sail.

The red line shows the area we have been traveling for the past several years. The yellow line indicates where we were going. The red star marks approximately where we were starting our sail (Bequia, St Vincent and the Grenadines) and the yellow star marks Bonaire, our destination
The turquoise blue lines mark our actual sail path. First sail ~30 hrs St. Vincent to Guadeloupe. Second sail ~90 hrs Guadeloupe to Bonaire

The course we chose

We started with a short hop from Bequia to St. Vincent for the last of a series of dental appointments (another story) and then proceeded on our sail to Bonaire. Our trip was broken into two sections. The first was an approximate 30 hour sail from St. Vincent to Guadeloupe.

Day break passing Dominica

We stayed in Guadeloupe for 5 days until we got a health check for Duhkxy (required by Bonaire) and the winds and waves calmed down. The second leg, from Guadeloupe to Bonaire, took three and a half days. This was, to date, the longest uninterrupted open water sail we have made.

I imagine some will wonder why our heading was not more direct from St. Vincent to Bonaire. This is certainly possible, and cruising friends did just that a short while after we made our trip.

Wind – The Trade Winds come consistently from the east +/- slight deviations north or south. For our sail, the wind speed was low to mid-20s. A direct route would require that we sail with the Trade Winds behind us for the entire trip. Sailing speed is entirely based on the wind pushing the boat. Having the sails angled to the wind is optimal as the wind passing by the sail provides “lift” and greatly improves speed. In order to get far enough west to achieve an optimal angle, the beginning of our sail was with the wind directly behind us. Ice Floe moved right around 5 knots, even as the wind was blowing in the 20s.

Day 1 – Ice Floe sailed with butterflied jibs downwind at approximately 5 knots

Day 2 brought a welcome shift in the wind direction slightly to the south, allowing us to readjust the sails and set a path directly to Bonaire earlier than planned. Wind speed remained the same, but Ice Floe sailed for the balance of our trip at 7 to 8 knots, her top speed; arriving at our destination in 2 and a half more days. We had planned for a 4-5 day continuous sail and finished in 3 and a half days. We did motor sail for a part of the last day to ensure we came in before dark as our destination was new to us.

Based on recommendations from cruising friends we took approximate 6 hour shifts during the night and each caught up on lost sleep with a nap during the daylight hours.

Waves -the forecast called for 4-5 foot waves. We had 5-8 foot waves and a confused sea on our second leg of our trip. Confused seas are when waves are coming from multiple directions. When they intersect you get a larger wave like the 8 foot waves we experienced on an occasional basis. Dependent on where they have formed and how they hit Ice Floe, they often give a wash over the bow, or stern. A side or stern spray can give us an unwelcome bath in the cockpit. it was not optimal, it was also tiring, but it was not ever dangerous.

Pirates – There have been periodic reports of Pirates from Venezuela assailing cruising vessels and the course we set minimized our time close to the Venezuela islands and coastline.

Bonaire first impression

The first question we have been asked by almost everyone we meet in Bonaire is “Do you dive?”. We answer “Once upon a time, now we snorkel.” Bonaire is almost entirely a marine park and is renowned for its vibrant sea life. The themooring field is set along the drop off from shallow to 800 foot deep water with a spectacular underwater wall teeming with brightly colored corals..

The 800 ft precipitous drop-off is where the turquoise blue water (shallow with sandy bottom) meets the ledge of the drop-off and you see the deep dark blue water

We spent a wonderful day snorkeling and look forward to many more.

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