Askari Cruise Page 19

Askari Cruise — As told to Diane M. Byrne — April 2003

The Time of Their Lives, Part III
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• Part 2: Kate’s Diary
• Part 3: Kate’s Diary
• Part 4: Kate’s Diary
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The view under the motionless, crystal water was like visiting another world. The myriad fish that greeted us as we paddled around the huge brain coral and elk horn coral structures were of great variety. We were immediately encircled by massive schools of fish. There were silver swimming machines as far as our eyes could see! They swarmed around us fearlessly, as if we were one of them. We watched in amazement as they darted from plae to place in one large pack, as if playing a combination of the games Follow the Leader and Crack the Whip.

It was a calm and breezy day, perfect for sailing the laser, our small, two-person sailboat. Dad and I jumped into the hull and immediately positioned the sail so that the wind was directly behind us. After gaining our balance, we were ready to sail. We pulled in the main sail and turned the rudder upwind, and the gentle wind propelled us slowly forward. We sailed happily to our hearts’ content, and then we beached the sailboat and played on the shore.

After walking up and down the long, sandy shore, we tricked one of the crew members into letting us bury her in the sand. We transformed Geri, my “big sister” onboard, into a sandy sumo wrestler mermaid. We all laughed hysterically when Geri begged one of us to scratch her nose, but no one volunteered. Unable to bear the itching sensation, we were surprised when Geri jumped out of her sand costume and sent the sculpture crashing to the ground. Covered in sand, we ran into the water to rinse off and then radioed the dinghy for a pickup.

Once again, our adventures led us to appreciate nature and its never-ending beauty.

Our westward exploration of the lower Caribbean Sea brought us to a small group of islands off the shore of Venezuela. Known as Los Testigos, these scarecely populated islands are home to about 160 people of Venezuelan descent. It was strange to see such a beautiful island free of commercialization. Instead of souvenir shops, restaurants, and hotels decorating the beachfront, a small series of tiny, hand-built houses occupied the space along the shore. In addition, a church, small school, and one general store occupied another portion of the island.

As night fell, we were surprised to see a few lights penetrating the darkness light bright burning candles illuminating the sky above. The island appeared to be free of electrical lines, so we came to the conclusion that the island must have been powered by small generators. We wondered how people survived on such limited resources, and we had a sudden appreciation for such simplistic living when we observed a group of young boys laughing and rough-housing on the water near the shore. The children were obviously complacent without computers, televisions, and video game systems; the magnificent whit sand and the shallow, crystal-clear water that surrounded the island served as an enormous playground to utilize as they pleased.

Although the view from the leeward side of the island was fabulous, we were anxious to find out what surprises awaited us on the windward side. To satisfy our curiosity, we jumped in the dinghy and rode to the base of a giant sand dune that protruded through the thick tangle of mangrove trees and cacti. The hike up this massive mound was treacherous, for the hot, dry dune instantly swallowed our feet and shins with every strenous step upward. The incredible view from the zenish of this towering sand mountain was well worth the struggle. We were stunned by the beauty of the vast ocean and the white sandy beaches that outlined the jagged outer edges of the island. In the distance, our eyes followed the trail of islands that appeared to float effortlessly in the turquoise sea. We watched in awe as enormous boulders, forced one on top of the other by the amazing power of the sea, stood as firm as oceanic acrobats performing a one-of-a-kind, gravity-defying, balancing stunt in a spectacular aquatic circus.

Stretched in between the gargantuan stone statues were gorgeous and uninhabited white sand beaches. On our trek across this portion of the island, we encountered myriad foreign objects that had been delivered to the shore by the continuously racing current. The most interesting items were the lonely, mismatched shoes that had been lost at sea and laid to rest on this beach that we jokingly named The Shoe Graveyard. After paying our respects to the poor “soles,” we rustled up the strength to hike down the sand dune and continue our adventures on another island in Los Testigos.

After relaxing on the boat for a few hours, we headed out for some more fun in the sun with a competitive spirit. Equipped with a net, a ball, and a beach, what better activity to take part in than a little game of beach volleyball? We gathered a tarp and an ice chest, threw in a few drinks and sandwiches, and called it a picnic! We challenged the crew to a volleyball match, and after a few hours of exhilarating fun, we packed our belongings and called it a day. This was one adventure in paradise that we’ll always remember, and we look forward to having this much fun in the months to come.

What do you get when you add a quaint town, a tropical island, and some of the best scuba diving in the world? You decide, but my answer is the beautiful Dutch island of Bonaire. Located in the Netherlands Antilles, this island haven has a rather arid climate, but wildlife thrives. Among the numerous animals that call this place home, wild donkeys and free-roaming flamingoes are two creatures that draw tourists’ interest. Bonaire is a spectacular place to get away, and I was shocked at the small amount of tourism present.

While enjoying our stay, we had the rare opportunity of seeing the Prince and Princess of the Netherlands Antilles touring on their honeymoon. The people proudly embellished the island in preparation for the festivities, and the decorations were an incredible sight! A Netherlands flag adorned every streetlight, and the shop displays and windows became plastered with pictures, streamers, and paint, welcoming the newlyweds. A small parade was held in their honor, and a large celebration in the streets concluded the festivities.

Fortunately, the excitement did not end there. We embarked on numerous diving excursions along the gorgeous reefs that surround the island and experienced some of the world’s best diving. The waters around Bonaire are national marine park property, owned by the Netherlands, making the diving sites immaculate. The coral reefs were almost fictional in their beauty, and the rewards of protecting the environment were obvious. We were mesmerized by the magnificent variety of marine life that flourished on the steep coral wall. A large percentage were species of fish, including parrotfish of amazing size and vibrant color as well as green moray eels, with the brilliance of a green traffic light.

Next page > Diary, Part 4 > Page 1, 2, 3, 4

This article originally appeared in the March 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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