We made it to Bonaire safe and sound. We made a successful multi-day passage which was a huge relief since it was by far our longest sail yet. It wasn’t a perfect sail but sailing from Antigua to Bonaire went much better than expected.
Brian and I love Antigua, but after five months in the country, we were ready to go. Checking out was so easy but a little sad too. Over our last weeks in Antigua I realized what a special time we had there and I’ll always cherish the memories.
Ready to Sail
We received our approval to enter Bonaire on Friday, June 26th, with an entry date of July 1st. Our provisioning was already done except for a few last minute foods which we bought in Falmouth on Saturday afternoon: hummus and pitas, and peri-peri chicken. Otherwise, Sava was packed up, filled with gas and water, and we were ready to haul anchor and set sail for our longest trip ever!
The Trip: Sailing from Antigua to Bonaire
The trip from Falmouth Harbour, Antigua to Kralendijk, Bonaire is approximately 495 nautical miles(knots), so we figured it would take 3.5 days. The wind comes from the east, pushing us westward, and wind predictors were calling for wind between 15-20 knots for most of our trip.
Most of the trip is blue water. The only island we passed after Antigua was Montserrat on the first day. After that it was the ocean and the sky and whatever was on it or under it that came up to visit.
We and our buddy boat, S/V Whiskey Jack, pulled up our anchors at 830am, let out our mainsails, and pointed west.
We looked at the wind predictions for days leading up to our departure and were disappointed when we started sailing because they were all wrong. On Sunday, the wind never rose above 10 knots, there was a current going against us, and Monday was even worse! The wind was clocking less than 3 knots for part of Monday afternoon. This meant our longest sail on Sava was going to be even longer. The good news is, it made for a comfortable trip. I didn’t feel close to seasick even once because it was so calm.
The sail took 4 days. On the first two days we motor-sailed most of the time just to keep moving, but we gave up on speed once we realized we wouldn’t make it before sunset on July 1st. We took down our jib and just used the main sheet on Tuesday, which ironically, was when the wind started to pick up finally.
We didn’t want to arrive to Bonaire just after dark and have to tack back and forth all night long, so we took our time getting there. Because the marina opens at 8am, we had to tack back and forth for a few hours waiting, but they let us in right away on Thursday morning.
Since we were moving so slowly and had autopilot, we didn’t have much to do while Sava sailed. We read, listened to podcasts, ate, talked to each other, did crosswords, and looked at our surroundings. Like I said, we were surrounded by blue water and nothing else. We even lost sight of Whiskey Jack on the first day when their spinnaker filled and they moved ahead and south of us. A couple of boats appeared on our AIS, but we never saw any in real life.
The best entertainment on the sail was the wildlife. Several flying fish tried to stowaway on board. Sadly, those little guys didn’t make it and Domino wasn’t interested either.
Birds came by, especially on the last day when we were approaching land. But none of that compared to the dolphins!
I can’t tell you what a boost of morale the visiting dolphins gave us! Monday afternoon when the wind still hadn’t risen, I was feeling a little low, but then I saw a fin out of the corner of my eye. Whenever I see a dolphin I have the same reaction everytime: I squeal “OOH DOLPHIN!” in a very high pitched voice. Brian’s used to it. Especially after sailing from Antigua to Bonaire with all the dolphin visitors.
Dolphins visited us 4 times in 3 days! Each time they would race over to our boat and swim around the bow. We saw babies and adults and some were jumping and others were chasing each other. Twice they came in the morning while we were having coffee (around 8am), once after lunch in the early afternoon, and the last and best time was before sunset on Tuesday.
Living on a Sailboat Underway: Meals
Brian and I had only done a few 24 hour sails before this passage so traveling for days on the boat is new to us. It was easier than I expected! Because I thought it would be harder, I pre-made a lot of food, cut up apples, and generally had a lot of snacks on hand. But I was able to make a salad one day, and we made coffee without spilling it every day!
We tried to eat 3 meals a day, but I wasn’t always hungry. I didn’t feel sick to my stomach like sometimes, but maybe the lack of physical effort suppressed my appetite. I don’t know! We ate well for the circumstances. Some of the food we ate underway included chili, peri-peri chicken, frozen yogurt, sandwiches, salad, hummus and pitas, and fruit.
Sleeping On Passage
Sleeping was not so bad either! I did better at this than Brian, but he’s a light sleeper normally. We decided to take turns but not commit to an amount of time for our overnight shifts. If the person on shift got tired, they were to wake the sleeper, but that never happened as we rarely slept more than 2-3 hours at a time. I found it got easier to sleep as the days passed: maybe I was getting used to it, or maybe I was tired.
I slept either outside or down in the salon. Because there was no wind, it was hot down below so I usually would fall asleep outside and then move below to sleep for my second sleep shift. I kept a log of my sleeping schedule:
- Night 1: Slept 4.5 hours. 9-11:30p and 2-4a
- Night 2: Slept 6.5 hours. 9p-2a and 6-7:30a
- Night 3: Slept 5 hours. 10p-12a and 3-6a
- Night 4: Slept 2.5 hours. 10-11:30p and 5-5:30a. This was the night Brian finally got some sleep
I napped one afternoon for about an hour too. So it wasn’t all bad. Don’t worry, we’re making up for it in quarantine!
We were very lucky this trip. So many things can go wrong when you’re sailing but our problems were relatively minor and didn’t affect our sail.
On the first day, the head stopped working, as in it wouldn’t drain. But, we have two heads, so we just used the other one as we didn’t need to use the holding tank because we were so far from shore in very deep water. Could have been worse!
On the last day, Brian noticed that our dinghy – our new dinghy! – had a hole in it. We didn’t do a great job securing it and the metal part of the straps punctured the tube and deflated it a bit. He says he can fix it.
Neither of these things affected our trip, so we’re very happy with our experience sailing from Antigua to Bonaire.
Domino is a boat cat! She was such a trooper on this voyage. She spent a good portion of the trip in the aft cabin hiding out with her stuffed toys, but she also ventured out on occasion, for food or to watch us eat.
Now a full-fledged boat cat, Domino really rose to the challenge and even she didn’t mind the 4 day trip.
She is happier in the marina watching the birds and fish, but she did very well on the sail.
The Best Parts of Sailing from Antigua to Bonaire
Obviously the dolphins were the absolute best part of the journey, but there were a lot of positives.
It was nice to not have internet for 3 days. Turning off all the news and noise was easier than I expected, and once it was back on, we hadn’t missed much. I also liked sleeping outside and looking at the stars.
We were fortunate that there was no marine traffic as we didn’t have to avoid boats or constantly watch out for obstacles. Brian and I even watched a few movies – with periodic checks of course.
If the worst thing you can say about a journey is it took longer than you expected, you’re winning! After all, isn’t it about the journey? I wish every passage could be as good as this one.
Now, because of Covid-19, we are in 2 week quarantine after sailing from Antigua to Bonaire. Anybody have any suggestions for how to spend our quarantine time, or reactions to our sail? Share in the comments!