Our kids, Lindsay and Sean, both live and work in Canada. We are keen to have them participate in our adventure, so we give them a ticket to join us each year. Lindsay spent three weeks with us in the Exumas last Jan/Feb and Sean picked Bonaire. This was the first time that he had seen Panache, other than in photos. We were very excited to finally have him on board.
Bonaire is known as one of the best dive spots in the Caribbean and it is certainly by far the best we have seen to date. As you may have noticed in the feature photo at the top of last week’s post, there is a light blue shallow area that rings the island before dropping off into the deep. This is where we snorkel. Large schools of fish hide under your boat during the day, presumably enjoying the shade (see the video below).
We are lucky to have a dive compressor and three complete sets of dive gear on board Panache. This makes diving life easy. While the Caribbean has plenty of places where you can rent tanks and equipment, it is really handy to have your own compressor when you are in remote spots.
Our first dive was right off the stern of Panache. We literally jumped in the water and swam 30m to the edge of the drop-off. Manuel and Nadja were diving with us. The fish life was incredible and at one point, Nadja was completely enveloped in a circling school of silver fish. A fantastic sight (and the fish looked good too!). The only disappointment is the fact that this was the first time I forgot to bring the GoPro! So there is no video. Not to worry though, as we went on other dives and were able to capture some decent footage (see video below).
Another thing that Bonaire is famous for is kitesurfing. Kiting requires quite a bit of wind and doesn’t work well in light air. In normal circumstances, Bonaire enjoys steady trade winds of about 15-25kts. However, the hurricanes that were passing north of us were sucking up all the wind, making the opportunities for kitesurfing few and far between. Obviously, this is a minor problem relative to the carnage that was happening elsewhere. Neither Sean nor I had kitesurfed before, and I was nervous that it might be a bit challenging for me. Interestingly, kiting is not about strength, it’s about technique. You wear a harness around your hips to which you attach your kite. You don’t need much arm strength, as the kite pulls you up by the harness. What you do need your arms to do is control the kite. This is tricky and takes a fair bit of practice. We started on land using a small training kite. This allows you to get a feel for the kite and learn how to maneuver it. Once that is accomplished, we learned how to set up our rig. Then it’s into the water with the real thing.
Otto, from Kiteboarding Bonaire, was our instructor. Each instructor has a small open boat and the three of us climbed in with the kite floating above us. Otto jumped into the water to give us a demo. He sure made it look easy. Then it was Sean’s turn. The first thing you learn is called “body dragging”. If you lose your board, you need to be able to use the kite to “drag” yourself back to it. Once that was mastered, it was on to practice water starts. This is the part where you maneuver the kite to “pop” you up and out of the water (see a video of Sean below). That’s also tricky, as too much power and you are launched into the air like a rocket. When it was my turn, I did a pretty good imitation of one of those North Korean rockets that takes off to get fanfare, quickly fizzles and then falls unceremoniously back into the sea. At that point, we were nearing the end of our 3-hour lesson and the wind was dropping. There was just enough for Sean to practice using a board. He was able to get up and going in both directions! I have absolutely no idea how you could possibly learn this sport without proper instruction. Thanks to Otto, our fist day was a great success. We kept trying to book a second lesson, but the lack of wind continued and we were unable to do so. I’m hoping to pick it up again when we get to Curacao.
Leopard catamarans have a design feature that is different from other brands. All new Leopards have a covered forward seating area, which we call the “front porch”. It has 3 main benefits: (i) it always faces the breeze when the boat is at anchor, so you get a nice breeze (ii) it’s covered, so you can stay out of the sun (this is critical, as the last thing we want is more exposure to the sun) and, (iii) there is a large plexiglass door between it and the main cabin which we constantly have open to facilitate air flow. Prior to purchasing a Leopard, when I asked other owners what they liked best about the boat, they all said the front porch – we completely agree. It’s our preferred venue for drinks and appies, so it’s used every day! See the video below of Manuel and Nadja visiting us for happy hour.
Next post – Pool Party and Bonaire Days
Click on the photos below for a larger view.