CURACAO, DUTCH ANTILLES
Bootlegger of Mann Log
Seru Boca Marina, Santa Barbara Plantation, Spanish Waters, Curacao,
Following our arrival on the evening of the 5th of May in Spanish Waters, a large protected anchorage on the east end of the island, we overnighted on ‘Anchorage A’, situated close to Curacao Yacht Club. The following day, the 6th of May we endeavoured to get a berth at the Club by radio but were informed none were available. At lunchtime we took the tender to the Club slip in order to have some lunch, use their WiFi and to try again for a berth. On entering the large open sided Club bar we found just one member at the bar and the barman. When I asked the barman could we have a drink I was told that whilst it was fine by him we would need to get the Manager’s permission, his finger pointing towards a man in his late thirties stood on the stern of a motor cruiser. When I went out and put the question I was told that it was a private yacht club, that we were trespassing and that we must leave immediately ! I responded by saying that all yacht clubs were private, but that they always welcomed visiting members of other yacht clubs pointing out I was a member of the Royal Ocean Racing Club, the Royal Irish Yacht Club as well as the Isle of Man Yacht Club where I was a former Commodore; assuring him that all three warmly welcomed members of other Yacht Clubs into their midst. “I do not appear to have made myself clear to you” he responded with clear hostility and rising irritation in his tone of voice “ I repeat, this is a private yacht club, you are trespassing; get out !!! We did.
I have to say that in forty years of sailing and visiting other yacht clubs I have never received such an unfriendly and hostile reception; quite the contrary. I have always been made to feel very welcome. everywhere I have ever been. The reception we received at the Curacao Yacht Club, the membership of which is understood to comprise of many of the island’s rich and powerful was frankly nothing short of appalling and reflects very badly on the local sailing community and sadly onCuracao as a whole.
Regrettably the Club has the only fuel dock in Spanish Waters so one has no option but to support this aloof monopoly.
Later in the day I radio’d the nearby Seru Boca Marina situated at the extreme east end of Spanish Waters and which forms part of the large Santa Barbara Plantation a golfing, housing, marina and hotel (Hyatt Regency) complex still under development. They confirmed they had space and shortly afterwards we were being assisted in securing Bootlegger on her new berth by the marina’s helpful and friendly staff who, amongst other things, quickly provided and fitted an appropriate plug on our shore supply cable to fit the piller’s American type outlet . Why is it that wherever you go you end up having to fit yet another type of plug that you don’t possess!!! ? I have a locker full of different types but still find myself having to obtain yet another one on arrival at the next marina.
Whilst the marina pontoons have been operational for some three years the permanent infrastructure is still to be completed – marina office etc. The Marina’s Dutch manager Cees (pronounced Case) and his assistant Ruth work out of a Portocabin or mobile temporary structure until their permanent home has been completed.
In addition to all the usual amenities, water, electric, laundry, shower and toilet facilities Seru Boca Marina offers the best security I have ever come across. There’s guards at the entrance gate to the Santa Barbara Estate and another gate within the marina itself with guards patrolling day and night both on foot and in a RIB .
One thing’s for sure, you do need wheels in Curacao. You cannot get by without them. Nowhere is ever close by or within walking distance. I hired a 4x4 to get us into the island’s capital Willemstad for Clearing In with Customs and Immigration and to do a shop etc. That car proved a godsend; it was always in use on Curacao’s very busy and very fast roads. Even if it was only to visit the nearby rambling and just completed Hyatt Regency Resort complex situated on the beach on eastern side of the entrance to the cut leading into Spanish Waters. These facilities, which are several minutes drive away, are available to marina users except the pool or beach sunbeds which we have to pay for. Basically you can use anything in the complex as long as you pay for it. We used it quite a lot as it was near and civilised. Being new the resort is very quiet - the staff told us they were on a four day week rather than a six day week until further notice.
CHECKING IN : Checking us and Bootlegger into Curacao was a process best described as arduous, not to mention circuitous. Customs and Immigration are not only far apart from each other but also separated by a wide canal or cut leading to an inland waterway with its refinery and bunkering facilities. The canal splits the island’s capital into two parts, the Punda (where the Customs are) and the Otrabanda ( where Immigration is located ). The two sides are linked by a famous swinging pedestrian footbridge at the port entrance - or ferries when the bridge is open to allow shipping to come in or out. Further down the canal there is a high road bridge over it that forms part of Willemstad’s Ring Road. We found and tackled Customs first, whilst I went through the mill Karl took a walk with the camera snapping up the main features of Willemstad being the brightly painted, colourful buildings with their Dutch architecture that line either side of the canal or cut , the Venezuelan boats and open air market located close by the Customs House, where a wide range of fresh produce from that country is on display. When Customs had finished with us we had to go find Immigration somewhere on the other side; the Otrabanda. After crossing by the pedestrian footbridge we set off in search. An hour later after walking miles, climbing hills in intense heat and asking several locals we finally stumbled on Immigration tucked away in the dock area. A half hour later we were ‘good to go’ .
WILLEMSTAD The painful Clearing In process at least gave us the opportunity to see both sides of the island’s capital so to speak, the Punda and the Otrabanda. After a beer or two at the famous Iguana Bar and Café just by the footbridge on the Punda side we took a wander. Both sides have many stores of every type and quaint little piazzas with adjoining street cafes, perfect to watch the world go by. On the Otrabanda side I particularly found the Kura Hulanda – a collection of old houses beautifully and tastefully restored and developed with their cobbled streets into a small enclosed luxury resort and museum thoroughly charming. I have subsequently made several return visits to its piazza during my time here in Curacao to use the free WiFi whilst having a beer or a coffee or to simply people watch.
ECONOMY: Curacao’s economy was initially based on the slave trade , the island being a Spanish then later Dutch colony that was a centre for the subsequent sale and distribution of slaves to surrounding locations. Following the abolition of slavery by the Dutch, the island’s economy took a severe nose dive. It was not until the exploration, discovery and exploitation of nearby Venezuela’s oil by Dutch Shell that things improved considerably. Shell built major facilities on the island to refine the oil before shipping it on as well as providing bunkering facilities to the new oil burning ships that called in en route to or from the Pacific via the Panama Canal. Worth noting that Venezuela’s oil fields are now nationalised and that Dutch Curacao’s vast oil refining facilities are now owned and operated by Venezuela.
Sadly Karl had to leave me on the 12th to return home with KLM via Bonaire and Amsterdam.
I have subsequently done some cruising and exploring of the island’s bays and inlets, anchoring in some of them and staying some days. I have also explored the island by car. Whilst it is industrialized Curacao boasts many beautiful white beaches rolling down to the crystal clear turquoise waters from the tall swaying palm line.
20th of MAY: Flew home to the Isle of Man via St Maarten and Antigua for several weeks leaving Bootlegger in the care of another yachtsman based in the marina. This was in the absence of the marina staff who had left for the weekend not to return. I briefed the other boat owner on the essential maintenance issues such as battery care ( just had complete set of new, heavy duty batteries installed) and the turning over of certain motors to ensure they didn’t seize up. I was assured this would be done. I left written instructions confirming all on the Nav. Table . On leaving the boat as usual I switched everything off including the battery isolator to conserve the fully charged battery levels.
On my return I found for the first time in my entire experience of owning a yacht, my batteries completely discharged !!! All flat as a pancake. How??? Given everything had been shut down and battery isolator switched off? On top of this I found both heads electric toilet macerator pumps to be completely seized up. They proved un-repairable!! Result, I had to order up new pumps through Budget Marine that proved costly in terms of delay in my planned departure to Aruba and financially - $1,160 + carriage and tax.
It took days to get the batteries up to the required levels which due to their total discharge and re-charge are no longer as efficient as previous. I was delayed by a week as a result of all of this and awaiting parts.
I consequently had to - at even further cost, re-arrange my American Airlines flights back home from Curacao from the 20th of July to the 26th of July in order to make Aruba and put Bootlegger to bed there, thus missing events I was due to attend at home etc etc. All because someone didn’t do what they promised they would that would have taken just minutes each week.
FN 14 07 2010