Guest Crew – Sailing with Heidi and Neill

Jon French

Our friend Jon French and his wife Gertrud visited us on board for twelve days. Here is the blog post he wrote about it.

Well we said that when they get to the Caribbean, we’d love to join them for a few days sailing, and that’s what we did.

On Friday 31 May 2019 we flew out to Curacao. Stayed one night in a hotel. Gave Heidi and Neill the coordinates N12° 07.295′ W68° 58.174′, and they picked Gertrud and myself up at the Hotel Dive center Jetty.  Was kind of cool asking the hotel what depth of water (Draft) their jetty had, so that my crew can pick me up in the morning, lol.

After a warm welcome with lots of cuddles, we motored about 500 meters inland and set anchor, and Neill gave us a safety briefing about the boat, and how to use the toilet. The next day the sailing adventure started. Just a little trip on the map to Spanish Water, N12° 04.766′ W68° 51.531′ against the wind (So it’s about double the distance, if not more). I more or less grew up sailing, so it was a quick refresher course on what rope (Sheet) does what. Neill let me make the route, which I did every time we sailed from then on. At Spanish Water we set anchor (Heidi you taught me well), and the next day had a trip into Willemstad.

Customs and immigration. The one thing they don’t teach you in sailing school is what a pain in the ass this can be. Bureaucracy with a capital “B.” It could be so easy. You could do it all online. But there are a couple of programs out there, but which one does the next country use, and can the people in the office in front of the computer use it. OMG! Enough said.

After booking out of immigration and some KFC (Yummy), we stumbled on a Reggae Bar with good music and even better Caipies. Made lots of new friends and missed the bus.

Next day on to Small Curacao, Rock and roll against the wind for about 8 hours. Small Curacao is a small uninhabited Island Straight out of the Roche advert. White sand and crystal clear water with a light house and a ship wreck. We arrived just as the tourists were leaving, and had the Island all to ourselves. Beautiful sunset.

Next day a walk around the Island, and a Geocache, which had been muggled but was still there.

We decided then to sail in the evenings, which would be better for Gertrud. Sailing upwind was really testing her sea legs. She could then have a tablet and go to bed. We left after midnight, getting some sleep before hand, and sailed through the night to Bonaire. We made such good time that we had to slow down a bit before dawn, otherwise we would arrive at a mooring buoy, N12° 09.552′ W68° 16.923′ in the dark. I Probably looked at the stars to long and had 20 minutes of sea sickness in the night, but then was OK. Whats also amazing about sailing at night is how the plankton lights up in the bow wave, and leaves a trail of light, like small LED’s in the water. And it’s dark with no moon.

Bonaire. What a lovely Island. Clean, customs and immigration are very good, Diving costs an arm and a leg (very expensive) and the ice cream is out of this world Delicious. I did 6 dives there, For the price of 20 dives in Egypt. House Reef with Gertrud on the first afternoon. 2 boat dives, one each day, each boat dive with 2 dives, on Klein Bonaire, a small Island on the west side of Bonaire, Dive sights called “Hands Off,” “Rock Pile,” “Divi Divi Tree” and “Captain Dons Reef.” Last dive cleaning the underside of Artemis with Gertrud. Well we had to pay our rent.

On the last day on Bonaire we hired a 4 wheel drive pick up. We picked it up late afternoon at 17:00 and drove out to see the Penguins, sorry flamingos on the NW side of the Island at Saina Goto, Lake Gotomeer. Oh! a Geocache. Heidi and I found it after dancing among the prickly Cacti. The Frigging birds, sorry the flamingos didn’t exactly do a fly past, but they were there, and we had another one of those beautiful romantic sunsets.

Up early, well like every morning, and jump in the Dingy. Neill rows to land, and off we go to the North side of the Island to the Washington Siagbaai National Park, for a bit of off roading, snorkeling and sightseeing. Iguanas, goats, donkeys and birds everywhere.When we got back, we did a big shopping trip, using the car, and booked out of Immigration and customs, to leave just after midnight and sail Downwind (Yahoo), through the night back to Curacao.

At Curacao we spent the rest of that day and that night anchored in a little bay N12° 03.520′ W68° 50.214′, which turned out later in the afternoon to be quite popular spot with the local young folk, with Daddies boat and big ghetto blasters. Super gymnasts. Nice flick Flacks.

Well we came all this way to service Heidi and Neill’s bikes, and time was running out, so Neill decided to moor in a Marina for two nights, so we could get the bikes out easier. Servicing them didn’t take long, I built them well, lol. Heidi needs a new Gear hanger (Schaltauge). I’ve ordered 2, but you’ve got to come and collect it Heidi.

In the afternoon we had to go to into Willemstad to Customs and immigration again. OMG! we had to book in, and be taken off Captain Neill’s Crew list, otherwise Neill would lose his boat and we couldn’t fly out. Then to top it all off, we have been only coming in and out of Curacao on weekends. This was a Tuesday and the Anchor permit office was open. Never done this before. Upps. A law from 1936 says you are only allowed to Anchor for 3 days in one spot, other than Spanish Water, and you have to tell them NOW where you are going to be for the next 30 days. But only when they are open. Bureaucracy or what!? I think it was to stop spies during WW2. Gertrud and I left Heidi and Neill scratching their heads trying to make up a travel plan to the end of the month. We went to the Brewery Cafe for a coffee and a local beer. The 2 sailors joined us about an hour later with a story of a touchy woman official.

That evening I tried to phone a taxi for the morning to pick us up, to take us to the Airport, which proved to be a task I was to incompetent to do. Heidi got  him in the end, and about an hour later he phoned me back to confirm. He’d obviously got my whatsapp message, but hadn’t checked his phone. Last night on the boat, and as always we played Wicked Willy. Heidi won most of the time. I think Neill and Gertrud won once. Me always last. We played twice on the last night. I won twice, only because Heidi let me win the first game, and the second game I was the only one awake, lol.

Next morning sad farewells. Taxi came at 12, and our flight had been delayed, No browny points for KLM on the homeward flight. Personal were super, but it was, I think, an older plane, with less leg room, and the monitors didn’t work properly. 10 hours with no on board entertainment to help with the jet lag. I watched one film using Gertrud’s headphones with my monitor. It worked. When we arrived late in Amsterdam, our flight had been changed to a Lufthansa flight to München, and we had to sprint from one side of the airport to the other. This apparently happens to everyone I’ve talked to coming home through Amsterdam airport. WHY? A mega rush to wait 20 minutes to board.

A big thank you to Heidi and Neill for putting up with us for 12 days. A real Adventure. I loved the boat. I haven’t mentioned Heidi’s wonderful cooking, as everyone will want to visit them. And using the Toilet against the wind. That’s one experience I don’t want to repeat. But all in all a fantastic time

Thanks both of you and my lovely Gertrud.

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