..is terrific. Lying around in the sun on a tropical island may be O.K. for a while, but by and large it is more fun to be up and doing something, and surely the most fun is to be doing something well, whether it be hitting a sand wedge, casting to a bonefish, throwing up a lob—or just climbing a coconut palm. Highly recommended, since this is a watery world to the south, are sailing and scuba diving. If these are for you, the instructors on this and the following pages and the new fashions just may be for you, too
School For Salts, Old and New
Steve Colgate's classroom is Elizabeth Harbor, off Great Exuma Island, 130 miles southeast of Nassau in the Bahamas. Instead of chalk dust it offers brisk breezes, clear water and white, sand-girt islands to circumnavigate and explore. Boats and sailors are based at the Out Island Inn, near George Town. Colgate (right, raising a sail) is a transatlantic racer and Olympic crewman who runs the Offshore Sailing School, Ltd. for beginners and directs Sailing Symposiums Bahamas Race Weeks, a course for experts. His Offshore course, reputed to be the best such program there is, consists of a solid week of basic seamanship aboard one of nine So-lings. Three instructors manage to cram everything you ever wanted to know about sailing into 20 hours of instruction followed by two days of solo practice. The Symposiums schedule involves six half-day sessions of racing aboard the Solings, which are equipped with the latest in racing gear. Sailors advanced enough to have any technique to sharpen are coached by experts on an Olympic-style course; points that cannot be made at sea from the instructor's boat to the student's (through a bullhorn) are thrashed out at chalk talks in evening sessions. Tactics and techniques are taught by Colgate and such guest experts as well-known racers Bruce Goldsmith, Peter Barrett, Dick Stearns and John Marshall. New this year is an advanced cruising course aboard a Pearson 33 for those who may not want to race but do wish to master a larger boat.
And a Salty School For Divers
"We don't call ourselves scuba divers here. We are mountain divers, because Bonaire is a mountain in the sea." So says scuba expert Don Stewart of the small island situated in the Netherlands Antilles, where the water has been called the cleanest and clearest in the world. White sand beaches stretch from a calm crystalline bay on the lee side to the small, beautifully kept Hotel Bonaire and Stewart's Aquaventure facilities adjacent to it. The island's northern beaches are rugged with coral rock and the white water of the surf, and between the two extremes lies an extraordinarily variegated landscape: rolling acres of green cactus fields, Dutch colonial villages of small pristine houses such as those at right and majestic solar-salt pyramids, products of the Antilles Salt Company, reflected in the pink-and-green waters of the panning fields.
Stewart (below, right) instructs from an extensive file of his own charts and tables dealing with diving theory, general physics and, more specifically, such questions as nitrogen expenditure, decompression and embolism. Before each dive he draws the coral formations and canyons his students will visit; occasionally he even sculpts the diving site in plastic clay. Pupils are made to wear their equipment continuously so they will be thoroughly familiar with it, and he nags them a lot. "I won't do it for you," he says, "because if I do, you won't learn, but I will be working with you the whole time." He teaches with an air of insouciance, but the instruction is solid; his method could be compared, perhaps, with the way he wears his o ring. A spare o ring is a necessary part of any diver's equipment, and Stewart wears his dangling from his pierced right ear.
Way to Go
To get to George Town there are direct, scheduled flights from Miami or Nassau. The Out Island Inn has 88 rooms with terraces or balconies facing the water, plus a pool, tennis courts and a resident tennis pro. Basil Minns' Water Sports service at the hotel rents Flying Scots and Sun-fish, scuba and snorkel equipment and water skis and Whalers with outboard motors for skiing or fishing (bonefishing on the Great Exuma Flats is excellent). From Dec. 16 through May 6 modified American plan rates (room, breakfast and dinner) are $66 per day for double occupancy and $56 for single; off-season they are $44 and $34.
Here Steve Colgate's intensive winter Offshore Sailing School course starts with theory and basics. On the first day students learn how to rig a boat, bring her about, jibe and tack; by the fourth day they have progressed to charting a course and setting the spinnaker. The cost is $165, $295 for a couple, and there are family rates for three or four. The advanced cruising session aboard the Pearson 33 is $195 or $350 for two. The Symposiums Race Weeks course is $255 per person, with a minimum age of 15 and weight of 100 pounds required of crew candidates.
To reach Bonaire one must fly to Curacao, 35 miles north of Venezuela; ALM flies the 30-mile distance from there to Bonaire two or three times daily. Visitors find binoculars invaluable; the island is a bird sanctuary, home to more than 135 species. The Hotel Bonaire has two swimming pools, one of them for children. There are 60 double rooms in the clutch of interconnected buildings, each with a balcony, garden or water view and direct access to the beach. Winter rates apply from Dec. 15 through April 15. On a modified American plan they run $52 or $56 per day for double occupancy, $34 and $37 for single. Off-season the same plan for two runs between $36 and $40, or $23 and $26 for one. European and full American plans are also available.