Eighth Windsurfing Trip To
January - February, 2012
Setting the StageWe left for what has become our annual 2 weeks in Bonaire on January 21. We were hoping for good windsurfing wind and meeting up with lots of the friends we've made over the past years at Bonaire. We were not disappointed on either item! As usual, Ann Phelan, Caribbean Wind and Sun Vacations took care of the details in Bonaire. We had a good visit, got in some good windsurfing, met some old friends, and made some new ones.
Getting there and backWe took the Delta non-stop from Atlanta. The fares were expensive, but there are not many alternatives. We were lucky enough to get free upgrades in both directions based on my Delta Medallion status. The extra room and service makes the 4 hour flight much more bearable. Our outbound flight waited at the gate about 40 minutes for connecting passengers then once we taxied out we were behind more than 20 aircraft waiting to take off. We ended up taking off about 75 minutes late and made up about 30 of that on the flight. Customs/Immigration entering Bonaire was its usual quick and efficient process, with no paper forms required any more, followed by reasonably decent baggage delivery. The Hertz car rental counter was a bit slow since there was only one woman running the whole "office" and checking out the cars. Each rental took about ten minutes and there were two people in front of us. Once we got our car we got to the Sonrisa in just a little over an hour after landing.
Bonaire's Flamingo Airport as we are arriving.
The return flight left on time and arrived in Atlanta about 20 minutes early, so of course there was an aircraft at our gate. We waited about 15 minutes and taxied to the gate. Customs and Immigration in Atlanta was reasonably good but Delta's luggage delivery to the immigration baggage claim was terrible. Our bags finally arrived about 55 minutes after the flight pulled up to the gate.
Where we stayedAs in the prior 5 visits, we stayed at the Sonrisa Boutique Hotel. It is now about 4 years old and the plants and trees have really grown. The coconut trees had some ripe coconuts. There are several new resorts somewhat similar to Sonrisa down the street that looked interesting. As before, Jacqueline was a wonderful hostess and Sonja kept the room and facilities in excellent shape.
Enjoying our afternoon snacks around the Sonrisa pool.
As has become our custom, we took several snacks that are hard to find on Bonaire and had our usual afternoon (after windsurfing) wine, cheese, crackers, and pistachio nuts by the pool. By the end of a day of windsurfing, it was a very relaxing break and a good time to plan where to go for our evening meal.
One of the Sonrisa features is the included breakfast. With a sandwich (whole wheat sub type bread), yogurt, and usually some kind of fruit and sometimes a piece of cake or cookies, it was more than enough for our breakfast. We normally ate one of the sandwiches and then combined the other sandwich with dinner leftovers and had it for lunch.
Windsurfing commentsI'd been watching the wind for several weeks before we headed south and as it turned out, the wind came up and really started blowing about 2 or 3 days before we arrived. It blew good both weeks with only one afternoon when the wind dropped too low to sail. (I tried, but even with an 8.8 meter sail, it just wasn't enough.) We had 16 knot+ winds every day we were there, and a couple of storms that provided winds over 30 kts, although only for a short time. I spent most of my time with 6.6 or 7.3 meter sails and a 120 liter board, occasionally dropping down to a 6.0 sail. We had planned to take a couple of days off and rest during low wind days, but it never happened and we ended up sailing every day. A couple of days after we left the wind dropped to very marginal levels. It appears that we timed it just right.
As usual, we sailed out of Bonaire Windsurf Place, mainly because we think they have better equipment and a better "off the water" facility.
One of the things we look forward to most in Bonaire is meeting up with old friends and making new ones. This year was a prime example! Before we even got out to Lac Bay we discovered that Ellen and Cheryl (from Connecticut, whom we had met two years ago) were staying at the Sonrisa the same two weeks that we were. This time they brought Ellen's husband Jack, their friend Richie, then later, another friend, Heidi, arrived to spend the 2nd week.
The guys at Bonaire Windsurf Place were much the same, with Roger, Elvis, and Patun running the place while Raimy, Gavin, Bjorn, and occasionally Taty, took care of the sails and such. Kenneth now works several days a week as a tour guide so was only at BWP a couple of days a week. Ro is still recovering from a nasty cut and following infection that he suffered almost a year ago, but he came by a couple of times to say hello. We noticed in a local paper that Elvis had recently been Knighted by Queen Beatrice of the Netherlands so we asked him if we should now address him as "Sir Elvis".
Some of the boards at BWP. The new Firemove boards (on the right) were very popular.
Many of our windsurfing friends were there. Probably the first ones we saw again were Caprice and Christophe who have a house on the island and spend several months a year there. They are always fun to visit with and hear all kinds of stories. The last day or two we were there Caprice had a "helmet cam" she used to take some video on and around the water. Christophe also took some videos and edited it then put it on YouTube for everyone to enjoy. See her video at this link for a view of windsurfing on Bonaire. Look close and you will see most of the people I mention in this section. (At about 2:10 into the video, the pretty lady in the pink shirt peeking around the sign is Caprice.)
Lunchtime for some of our friends: left to right are Richie, Heidi, Caprice, Cheryl, Christophe, and Ellen.
Sue and Ian from the Guernsey Islands, arrived just a couple of days after we did and we always enjoyed visiting with them each day. Also arriving a couple of days after us were the two German brothers, Heinz and Werner and their friend Wolfgang. They are always a delight to talk to with plenty of stories to tell.
Werner and Heinz during their lunch break.
Walter was around a few days but was spending a lot of time working on his house. When he was there we were usually treated to his "bad joke of the day". Janet, from Coca Beach, Florida was back again and was always pleasant. While it seems like all of the windsurfers are getting on in years, Norm is probably the "senior citizen" of our group. But he still got out there almost every day and was out in some of the worst storms. (I know because I was out there next to him part of the time.) His wife did not sail but would come out and sit and join in the discussions on the BWP deck. Jen and Wayne are two very good windsurfers from Michigan who we met this time. Although Wayne has a bad shoulder, it doesn't seem to impact his windsurfing any. I know I missed mentioning several other windsurfers we talked to, by my memory for names is poor and there were just so many friendly people that I couldn't keep the names straight. We did miss two of our friends, Peter and Tim from Canada, as they had to delay their visit this year.
According to Wayne, he was just resting his shoulder and arm when I took this photo.
The Cruise Ships are still in BonaireThe cruise ships are still visiting Bonaire but the crowds out in the windsurfing area along Sorobon Beach did not see quite as intrusive. Perhaps I'm just getting used to it, or perhaps the major visitation days coincided with some of the rain storms and that discouraged the cruisers from coming out to the beach.
One of the busiest days at the beach when two ships were in port.
Although it may not be related to the cruise ships, there was some major activity going on on the island. They were in the middle (maybe the beginning?) of a major project to install sewer lines. There were several big ditching machines working in different areas laying down sewer pipe. The sidewalks and streets were frequently torn up but you could see that they were making real progress. It didn't make a lot of sense to us that they were working in several different areas at the same time, but I guess (hope?) they knew what they were doing. As it happens, while we were in Bonaire, a project got underway in our neighborhood to replace the water main pipes. From my layman's point of view, it appears that the Bonaire work crews were making much better progress than the workers around here.
Bonaire is the only place we have seen these variegated/yellow leafed Bogenvillas.
Restaurants we visitedAs on our last visit, some of our dinning decisions were influenced by the weather. On nights when rain threatened we headed for restaurants with protected or interior seating. We revisited many of the same restaurants as on previous trips, so I won't provide full descriptions of all restaurants, just comments on new or changed restaurants.
CapriccioCapriccio continues to be our favorite restaurant and we again visited it three times this trip. They had recently moved to a new location along the water front just south of the northern (city) pier. The new facility is very nice and shows off their wine selection very effectively. There is both inside and outside seating and I predict they will soon found a better solution than the electric sliding glass door between the two areas. As usual, the food was very good and Lola's wine recommendations were excellent.
The outside of the new Capriccio in the daytime.
Inside Capriccio, showing one of the walls covered with their wine selection. Lola is at the far table talking to some customers.
At SeaThe people who used to operate the Yacht Club restaurant have moved and opened a new restaurant called "At Sea" located in the old Donna and Giorgio's location. We found the service and the food to be excellent. There were some innovative touches but it was still a very solid and tasty meal. We will definitely be glad to return.
Bobbejan'sThe last couple of visits Bobbejan's has been very busy and disorganized and service has been lacking. I'm not sure what happened, but on this visit, it had changed completely. We tried Bobbyjan's the evening after arriving and it was relatively quiet, there were a couple of tables available, and service was very reasonable. We had the Bobbyjan's special and took with us enough leftovers for the next couple of day's lunches.
CasablancaWe stopped by Casablanca again to resupply our "leftovers" box in the refrigerator. We had seen some puzzling signs on their daily special sign and we were not sure what to expect. From what we could tell, they had just changed ownership and/or management and the new people were trying to make some positive changes.
AppetiteAlthough it is not a new restaurant, we had not tried Appetite on previous trips, so we decided to give it a try. The service varied from very good initially to being completely forgotten (our water glasses stayed empty the entire time we were eating the entree.) The food was interesting, tasty, and presented very well, but the portions were small and the price was high. If we leave a resteraunt hungry after paying top dollar for a meal, we probably won't be back.
The entrance to Appetite restaurant.
Wil's GrillWil's Grill was as good as ever. I'll note it here because we went there one evening when we thought we were safe from rain but, just as we were enjoying our after dinner coffee, it started to rain lightly. (Indoor dining is available, but I suspect it would be stuffy and uncomfortable inside.)
Pasa Bon PizzaWe had our normal Pasa Bon salad and large deluxe pizza and it was as good as usual. It provided enough leftovers for a full meal the next day. And, just to prove that great minds think alike, when we arrived the CT crew (Ellen, Cheryl, Jack, and Richie) were sitting at a table.
Gio's GelateriaIn the middle of downtown Gio's Gelateria has opened up and is a very welcome addition. They offer some of the best gelato I have ever tasted, offered in many flavors.
A welcome addition to the Bonaire restaurant scene!
General CommentsAs last year, we were both healthy and free of any illnesses or other major problems during our visit. Windsurfing usually brings a few bruises and scrapes and we had our share of those, but we had a good two weeks of windsurfing, visiting with friends, and eating wonderful food, all in an environment of warm weather and water while avoiding winter at home. You can't ask for much more than that!
Sunset on the flight home. Appropriate end to a beautiful trip.
Some more windsurfing photos
Sue sailing by while Cheryl gets her sail positioned for a start.
Wolfgang leads his friend Werner across the bay.
Ellen sailing with her now "trademark" scarf on her head.
Janet waiting out the approaching storm. This one hit 37 knots.
Ian is being his normal friendly self by waving hello.
Heinz, one of the German brothers, coming across the bay.
Videographer Caprice (without her helmet-cam).
I had to get one picture of me in here...