29 Sep Travel Journey 9 | Bonaire – Venezuela
Travel Journey | Bonaire – Venezuela
10 mei – 1 september
After two full days and nights at sea, our effort is rewarded with dozens of uninhabited islands with white sandy beaches in a beautiful turquoise sea. We anchor at the island of Grand Roque, where we have to clear customs and pay the park fee. Los Roques has been on the World Heritage List since 1994 and you have to pay to sail around. Grand Roque is the only island of more than 350 islands, with bars, shops and apartments for tourists. From here daily boat trips to surrounding islands are made, mainly for kite surfers or fly fishermen. We were prepared for customs clearance to take at least a day, but when we arrived on land, a volunteer immediately volunteered to guide us through the various government officials. Less than 2 hours later everything was filled in and paid for. Fortunately we are able to get a long way with poor Spanish. It costs us $ 180 for 4 people to sail around here for 10 days. We give the man who helped us 2 dollars and his thanks to us seem bigger than our thanks to him. He is one of the many friendly Venezuelans who walk around here. They live from fishing and the few tourists who still dare to come here. So they have the idea of stealing tourists, I think.
We walk on dirt roads between the colorful houses. On the street the many street dogs wag and stroll among the children playing. We only have to remain in a doubtful position or someone will ask what we are looking for. The friendliness of these people is unprecedented. For the first time since this trip we feel really far away from the civilized world. It doesn’t take long before we lose Jos with his camera. Los Roques turns out to be a true mecca for the filmmaker who likes to shoot portraits. The next morning we set off. We wake up to the smell of freshly baked bread from our bread maker. That device has already been worth its money on this trip.
We sail to Madrisky, an island about 2 hours from Grand Roque. We just don’t drop the anchor on the island and let ourselves be blown 30 meters backwards. We are sheltered here behind the mangroves with only 2 other sailing boats. There is 1 small fisherman’s cabin on the white beach, there is nothing else. After this tough journey we treat ourselves to a beer while enjoying the great view. Meanwhile, it is still blowing a good 23 knots and I SUP to the side with my kite gear. Ten minutes later my kite hangs in the air and I surf the crystal clear water. Superlatives fall short when I try to describe the circumstances. Maybe I shouldn’t try it.
We sail between the different islands for seven days. One island is even more beautiful than the other, but all with their own charm. Our anchor is at Francisky, Madrisky, Cayo de Agua, Saki Saki, Crasqui and Nordisky. Due to the still strong trade winds I can use my kite here daily. On the last day I almost lose my kite when we are eating on the boat and the kite blows into the water through a gust of wind. With the strong wind the kite is already a few hundred meters from us within a few minutes. After a quick assessment I decide to go after it with the SUP board. I see that I am slowly getting closer, so apparently I am faster on the SUP than the kite blows away. Eventually I know how to reach the pilot and let him deflate. I wrap the lines around the bar as fast as I can to avoid drifting away. Then the heavy journey against waves and wind starts. I sit on my knees on the kite and paddle, with the wind from the side, as fast as I can towards the tip of the island. Once there, the next challenge begins. With the strong wind it is not easy to lift the SUP board of almost 3 meters long because it catches quite a bit of wind. Where the wind was my greatest friend all week, he is my greatest enemy at the moment. The rescue operation lasts more than an hour in total and I am completely broken when I finally arrive at our ship after a long walk on the beach. Fortunately my kite was saved, and he is still very.
It is now getting dark and unfortunately it is time to leave Los Roques and we set sail for Curacao. In the dark we catch a nice Jack Crevalle who is on our plate an hour later. In Joshua’s night shift, Niels and I are woken up. The supposed lighthouse is getting closer and closer and when the light even seems to come straight at us we experience a few exciting moments. With the binoculars we see a ship of about 40 meters long approaching us with considerable speed. We still have our navigation lights out due to piracy and the chance that that ship will see our gray hull is therefore very small. At the last minute we throw our ship from a wide wind to a headwind and the ship steams past us at about 50 meters.
When it gets light we already have Bonaire in sight when the rod is again crooked. This time there’s a nice tuna on it. We invite Marlies and Wijnand, from the Ocean Goose, that evening for a sushi party on board to end the journey to this unforgettable country. We have arrived at our provisional end station for the coming period. From here I will fly back to the Netherlands in a month to work. Our ship is next to that of Gijs, Janneke and their street dog Kaya. They are our age and bought a 65 ft long ship a few years ago to say goodbye to their working life in the Netherlands and to charter here on Curaçao. We are on board together every day to do odd jobs or have a nice dinner together. It is almost the first time that we meet boat people our own age, the vast majority of boat owners are retired. We are quickly building a social network this month and enjoying the Caribbean atmosphere. Every day we turn on our water maker for a while to provide our drinking water and water to shower. The device that turns the seawater around the boat into drinking water turns out to be worth its money. The solar panels and wind generator keep our batteries above 50% full for most of the time. Every now and then we catch a lobster or fish and Niels grows carrots, radishes, tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce. The self-sufficient life aboard our ship still pleases us very well.
At the end of June it is time to fly back to the Netherlands. From 1 July I will be working at the emergency department in Emmen for 3 months. In the past 5 years I have never been without Niels and our ship for more than a week. Niels will be monitoring the ship and preparing for the next trip in the near future and will be visited by his girlfriend and his father Peter with Ingrid. In nine hours I fly back to the Netherlands, about the same trip that we took with our ship for 9 months. After having lived in the Carieb for over half a year, I appear to be more troubled by the jet leg than I had expected. At night I don’t sleep well and I shiver and then sweat again in bed. Before I know it, it is July 1 and I have a fever in the workplace. I cannot report sick on my first day at a new hospital, what will they think of me?
The first patient I see is a man from Burundi. He crossed the Mediterranean Sea from Africa by boat. When I think about the terrible conditions under which he probably made the crossing, we are well on board. In Africa he dialyzed twice a week, now he is fleeing from his country and he has not dialyzed for 3 weeks. The imbalance of salts in his body makes him have life-threatening heart rhythm disorders and he also has an under temperature of 32 degrees Celsius. Sweat breaks out on all sides. Why exactly, after 9 months of not having been busy with my profession, I find this difficult case. Just when I want to turn around to get an emergency doctor, the door opens and there is an emergency doctor. The patient is stabilized and happily still lives. The following cases are a bit easier and within a week the routine is back in place. I enjoy my job and, furthermore, fall in love with the weather in the Netherlands. One heat wave follows the other again. As soon as the autumn season starts here, I will fly to Bonaire on October 8, after which we will continue our journey to the Panama Canal. As I write, it is getting colder in the Netherlands and I can already look forward to the boat life that is waiting for me from October onwards.