Some days down island are just inherently better than others. Sometimes those days are merely serendipitous, drawing from the right position of the moon or the timely luck of the draw. Other days achieve their greatness by one simply taking hold of immediate destiny. That is what happened on this particular day. I knew it was going to be a special one as we approached the dock at the Plaza Resort Marina. There was our sailboat rental for the morning, a 21-foot, Dutch-made Valk sloop, called a Falcon in English. Perched high above on the mast of the boat next to the Valk was a contented pelican that peered down at us with his never-ending smile as if to say, You boys are going to have a good time today.
And we did. My mates were Pieter, a guy with years at the helm in the competitive sailing circuit in the Netherlands. And my Canadian cosmic cowboy sidekick, Richard, who hails from Saskatchewan. “You say Sas-Kat-Chew-Ann just like an American,” complains Richard. “It’s s-skatch-wan.” “Richard, you forget I am an American, EH?!”
North American differences are quickly put behind us. We silently put-put out of the marina with the Valk’s electric motor, point into the wind, set the sails, and immediately head south for da Bonaire blue.
We pass the solar salt works a half hour later. Its dinosaur-esque loading device waits patiently for the next freighter. Cargill ships the white stuff to the United States. We fly by Pink Beach, once a lovely strand of delicate pink sand until Hurricane Lenny, a badass Cat 4 monster, dumped the entire beach offshore deep into the abyss in 1999. All that is left now is a row of struggling palm trees and broken bits of coral along the shore. And we tack back north as we see kite surfers carving up the waves at Kite Beach close to the southern end of the island. We get a grand view of White Slave, a salt outpost of African transplants and Dutch colonial masters, a shameful legacy of another time. Never forget.
Now on a beam reach north, the Valk glides smoothly over the Windex-blue water. We’re doin’ da’ blue, baby—my favorite sail along the island. The cosmic cowboy gazes down into the gin-clear water, contemplating possible pirate treasure when he shouts, “Dolphin!”
Two big, gray bottlenose dolphins playfully chase our bow. I’m busy steering the boat so I toss the camera to Richard to get some shots. Peter wiggles past the jib and looks down over the hull. One dolphin, speeding along at our boat speed of 6-knots, looks up at him while it effortlessly swims on its back. “We are looking at each other!” exclaims Pieter. It is eyeball-to-eyeball contact between two curious mammals.
The dance goes on for another ten minutes. I can’t stop from grinning ear-to-ear. This is what living is all about. The excitement and the energy from this encounter is intoxicating. I spot two divers ahead in the shallows about to submerge. Pieter points out the dolphins breaking the water and they flash the OK sign and descend. I steer the boat towards the divers. I can only imagine the eyeful they had as we flew by.
The dolphins disappear as fast as they came. End of show. We steer the Valk back to the bay. Kralendijk, in all of its cheery yellow, passes by. Time is up. We take down the sails and return to the dock. The pelican on the mast of the boat next to our dock is still there. He remains smiling. And so are we now, three happy sailors. How could we not be after doin’ da Bonaire blue.