Rain. We had plans, but all we got was rain. Christina and Derek wanted to take us to all their favorite dive sites, to all the local snacks, do some cool hikes and check out the west side of the island. Mother nature gave us a big fat NOPE. All of us were just stuck inside as Curaçao received more than its annual average of rain for almost 8 days straight. YUCK.
Now there were moments of still air and no rain, which we did take advantage of by going on the mini hikes in our anchorage. Along with FIN we made our way to check out Fort Beekenburg and the old Quarantine building. We wished we could explore more that day, but we were all way too hot from the lack of wind and were being suffocated by the humidity in the air. It was beautiful despite the heat and bugs and we saw some cool birds too.
We had a full game day aboard Fin, where rounds of Catan, Golf, Cards, and Marbles were played. We met a few other cruisers who were all on the same route as us, all waiting to head north. There were a few times the weather looked promising but nothing held true. We were all starting to get uneasy. At this point we figured we might as well go to Bonaire. The country had just announced that they are raising the mooring prices from $10/night to $35/night. That is a huge jump, yikes.
The very tricky part about Bonaire is the moornings. It is a first come first serve basis and if you get there and there is no ball, well you are either turning around or getting a slip. And the marina is NOT cheap. You just have to hope there is a ball open when you get there. Sure some people have their friends who are already there “save” a ball by tying a fender to it or something, but that really is not all that fair. Think of it like this……
A boat sails from Curacao to Bonaire, bashing into the strong east winds and steep seas that are known in the channel. That boat is tired and just wants to grab a ball, but there are none, cause a person tied a fender to the only open one for their friends who “would be there soon.” (So much for first come first serve.) So now this boat who was in fact first has to go into the marina and pay twice as much. It is not fair. —- The point is…. that it is a gamble if you will get a ball or not.. and when you are on a budget, that is a gamble you have to really think about.
Jon and I thought, okay we should do this too, so we all started to prep. Christina and I went for a big provisioning run while the boys started to get the boats ready to go. We all needed to check out and also return the car. When Fin came to pick us up so we could all go check out together, I could feel the vibe from Jon that he was not ready to leave Curacau, and more likely did not really want to spend the $250 USD to check into Bonaire, on top of the nightly mooring fee ( or worse the slip fee). So when we got to shore, we all went to the Pier to look at weather one last time and have a beer. As of that morning, there were 2 mooring balls open, but there were boats on AIS heading that way. There is no way to know if the balls would still be open when we got there.
Jon and I decided not to go, but Fin went for it. Because we were staying behind, Jon and I could keep the car, which in turn meant that FIN could leave that night with the hopes that showing up in Bonaire at first light the next morning, they could be first in line to grab any open ball.
So once again, sadly we waved goodbye to our friends as they motored off into the dead of night. Lucky for them there was a calm that night and it was a smooth motor for the 30 miles East.
Crazy enough, the weather did finally start to steady back out, and we were back with sunny days, the standard East winds and just a few squalls here and there. With the nice weather, Jon and I hiked to the summit of Seru Kabritu. It was an easy and beautiful hike with a great overview of the anchorage.
We also went for 2 dives. The first was in front of FUN DIVING on Jan Thiel Beach. It felt great to get back under the water! The next was at the famous Double Reef. The wind was very strong for that dive, which made for alot of windage when towing a large diving buoy. But better safe than sorry, I mean the jet skis are everywhere!
The remaining boats at anchor in Spanish Water would all get together and talk about wether and bla bla bla. A window started to shape up, and we were all getting excited about it, but then it faltered. Jon was starting to get nervous that we were going to get stuck down in the ABC’s for a while, or we were going to have a very rough sail north in the coming weeks. Nothing about a rough sail sounds good to me, and I was willing to stay in the ABC’s for months waiting for the “perfect” window. Sadly the facts were building up, Pilot charts all say that November is the best time for this crossing. Come December the trades become reinforced and start to blow more out of the North East. AHHH.
This has to be one of the more stressful parts of cruising. Sure you can look at weather all you want, but when it comes to multi-day passages, once you are out there, you are in it… and weather LOVES to change.
One boat was keeping to the plan of leaving on Wed Nov 23 in the morning. So on Tuesday night we all went out to say our goodbyes. And wouldn’t you know it the next forecast update showed a more favorable passage once again. Classic. The rest of us, all thought okay, when we wake up in the morning, if it still looks good, then we will leave Thursday. We had a few buckets of beer and then said good night to our new friends.
The next morning, the weather still looked good, okay we are going for it! Wow, we have a lot of shit to do now. Jon and I were off the boat by 8 am, first stop was the grocery store, then went back to Prism to unload and get rid of as much trash as possible. Next up was to check out, we used the car we were borrowing to make the drive back to the main city. Check out with Customs took less than 10 minutes, then it was on to Immigration. That also took about 10 minutes…. man that was easy. Next we needed to drop off the car. This is where we were going to loose most of our time. It was now 1:45 pm and the place where we needed to trop the car was about 10 minutes away from the port, but getting back to Spanish waters is what would take us a while.
We dropped off the car, sent pictures to our friend to let him know his car was safe and sound where is belonged, and then started walking towards the BUS. we needed to take a bus back towards Punda. Then transfer to another bus that would take us back to our anchorage. We learned 6 months ago that the last bus back to the anchorage is around 5 pm. We did not want to mess that up again.
As we waited at a bus stop, a local cab stopped and asked us if we wanted to hop in for a ride to down town. OKay, the bus would have been $2 gilden each but it was not going to be there for another 38 minutes. So for a total of $6gilden we took the cab. He dropped us off at the walking bridge. This way we could easily walk across to the major bus terminal. We made it to the bus with 10 minutes to spare, lucky us. We were back at the anchorage by 3:20pm. That went way smoother than I thought it was going to.
Now I needed to get to work, I like to prep all the meals before we head out. I knew that this passage was going to be “to weather” that means we would be going against the wind. I do not like to cook while under way as it makes me feel sick. Plus I really do not eat much, so I make meals for Jon who is always hungry. I made the Neely family goulash, a curry stir-fry, rice for both of those and a big pot of chili.
As I was cooking, Jon kept hinting that the earlier we leave the better it would be for us, and he kept asking ” how much more time do you need for the food?” Around 8pm I was cleaning up the mess I made from the 3 meals, then sat down to have dinner for the night. Prism was almost all the way ready, there were just a few things left to do.
-one last trash run
– lift and store the dinghy on deck
-move stuff from aft cabin to pullman berth then make up the bed in the aft.
-store the last of the galley and other miscellaneous crap.
It was now 11pm and we were ready to go. Originally we planned on leaving around 5 am, but the sky was clear and we had a good window to make the 30 miles east to Bonaire in relatively light winds.
Okay, here we go! We brought up our 60lbs Ultra Anchor, raised the main and slowly motored our way out of the inner lagoon that is Spanish Waters.
As we approached the tip of Curaçao, we were ready for the seas that like to build up in the channel between the two islands. Yea, yea we could have been “real sailors” and tacked our way back and forth for hours and hours till we cleared Bonaire, but we are not. So we motored directly to the North tip and that was that.
I hit a wall before we even cleared the corner of Curacao, so Jon took the first watch
Around 4 am we were approaching the edge of the island, and FIN came up as a target on our AIS. They were about 2 miles ahead of us. FIN & PRISM back at it! Though that did not last long. As the sun came up and we cleared the island, we were met with the trade winds and the open waters of the Caribbean Sea. We raised our sails and held on as we fought the wind, waves and current.
Lucky for us, the seas never got as big as forecasted. Prism kept her bow pointed at Ponce, but she needed help from the motor to do so. Slowly with their finer entry and longer water line, FIN pulled away from us, first 6 miles, then 10 and then they were out of site and out of AIS range.
The passage went smoothly, and all the boats who took it say the same thing…
" It was not a great passage, but it was also not a bad passage"
Fin dropped off a few degrees and was able to sail for most of their passage, but they ended up on the West side in Puerto Real, while Prism used her iron spinnaker like money is growing on trees and made it to Ponce.
The way we look at it, we were going to have to motor to Ponce one way or another, we could have maybe sailed a bit more and made land fall in Puerto Real like FIN, and then motor East from there to here, or we could have done what we did.
In the end we are in PUERTO RICO BITCHES!
November 23, 2022 through November 26, 2022
Euro Model/ Windy.com
Thursday: E 13g18, E 5FT@ 7sec
Thurs Night: E 17g22, E 5ft @ 7sec
Friday: ENE 15g21, E 6ft @ 6 sec
Friday Night: E 16g21, E 6ft @ 6 sec
Saturday: ENE 16g20, E 6ft @ 6sec
Sat Night: E 13g17, E 4ft @ 6 sec
GFS Model/ Fastseas.com
Thursday: E 15g17, NE 5FT@ 7sec
Thurs Night: ENE 15g17, NE 5ft @ 7sec
Friday: ENE 16g17, E 5ft @ 6 sec
Friday Night: E 18g20, E 5ft @ 6 sec
Saturday: E 16g17, E 5ft @ 6sec
Sat Night: ESE 12g13, E 4ft @ 6 sec
From Prism Log: "Actual Weather"
Wed night 11pm: up anchor, leave Spanish waters and motor towards the north tip of Bonaire.
Thursday, 7:30am- Passed Bonaire, Winds NE 15knts. Seas 4ft @ 6 sec. Dbbl reef in main, staysail and yankee. Motor sailing with engine at 1500 RPM. COG is 9°, SOG is 6 knots.
Squeezed right past a few squalls, no rain yet.
Thursday,4pm- Winds NE 17g20. Seas 6ft @8 sec. Dbbl reef in main, staysail & yankee. Motor sailing, engine at 1500 RPM. COG is 12°, SOG is 5.7 knots. Wind and seas continued like this till morning. We would turn the engine on and off as needed. If we started to go too fast, Prism’s bow would hammer the seas.
We had just a few rain clouds that gave us a bath, but no heavy squalls.
Friday, 8am- Winds ENE 17g22. Seas 4ft @ 8 sec. Dbbl reef main, staysail & yankee. Motor sailing at 1500 RPM. COG is 15°, SOG is 5.5 knots
Sun was out all day, no squalls.
Friday, 6pm- Winds. ENE 15g20. Seas 4-5ft @8 sec. Dbbl reef main, staysail & yankee. Sailing; COG is 15° and SOG is 5knts
Friday, 8pm- whoa hey squall! Gusts into the mid 30’s, lots of rain. Lasted about 15 minutes. Weeeee, road it out with the dbbl reef, yankee and staysail up..
Squall took most of wind. Turned motor back on, and then off, then back on… through out the night.
Saturday, 8am- Winds ENE 13g17. Seas 4ft @ 6 sec. Sailing Dbbl reef, staysail & yankee. SOG is 5 to 6 knots
11am- shook out reef. ENE 10g15. Sailing SOG 5 to 6 knots
1pm- recieved text from Bill “if you can get above 17° then the winds will wrap and help you, but you have to be there by 5pm” Winds NE 10g17. Motor sailing 1700RPM. SOG 6knots
7pm- made it to the point Bill said to, it worked out! ENE 18g20. Seas E 1-3ft. Sailing, 1 reef in main, staysail & yankee. SOG is 6.5 knots.
8pm- another text from Bill ” Huge squall forming, you might want to try and get to the entrance of Ponce by 11pm.” Okay, we can do that. Winds ENE 18g20 1 reef, staysail &yankee. 2100 RPM, seas small on beam. SOG is 8.1 knots
11pm- at entrance to channel, text from bill “That squall died” HA!
11:20pm- Anchor down in Ponce Harbor!
Start date: 11/23/22 @ 11pm
Start Engine hours: 1144.2
Average RPM: 1500
End Engine hours: 1197.3
End Date: 11/26/22 @ 11:20 pm
Total Time: 72 hours
Total time motoring: 53.1 hours