We set off from Bonaire to Curacao at 1000 on Sunday 30th January. The
distance is only 35 miles or so and we arrived and had anchored in Spaanse
Water, a natural harbour to the south west of the island, by 1630.
This exclusive hotel on our starboard side entering and just inside
on our port side this floating party bar
We once again waited to do the customs and immigration formalities until
the following morning. Sorry we bothered, a lot of people do not bother. Firstly
we were obliged to catch a bus or pay about $20 for a taxi each way to get to
the town of Willemstad which does not look very far on the map but took us
almost an hour by the time we waited for the bus etc.
This is what it looks like in the closed position completely
blocking the entrance to the harbour.
Here it is being opened to let ships and ferries
The town of Willemstad is quite impressive and there is this amazing
floating bridge that seems like it has been there forever. It swings open, using
what looks like a ships motor and propeller to drive one end of the bridge while
the other end is fixed to the wall. It opens to let the large ships in and out
and this is quite often every day. No vehicles use it now but once upon a time
it was the only way from one side of this harbour entrance to the other without
making a very long journey around the harbour.
Some of the pretty buildings around the town.
Customs was a pleasure and over in a very short time due to the fact that
they subscribe to the computer system that I mentioned in an earlier blog. Nice
air conditioned office nice location and friendly staff. What a contrast from
the immigration authorities that I had to visit next. Up to now whenever we have
done the clearance procedure it has been necessary for only the skipper to show
up with the documents and passports etc. On this occasion I had to cross the
1000 year old bridge and walk for what seemed forever, getting lost in the
process, and finally getting wrong directions from a dental practitioner. I then
had to go through a security check to get in to the area where immigration was
and finally find the office which was not marked by any signs. Joined the queue
of people before me and all this to be told that Marion needed to be with me.
She was shopping, what else. Off I went in search of my wife and eventually both
of us were in the office. At customs they allowed us to check in and check out
at the same time. This saves us two trips to their offices and on some of the
islands that we have visited in the past, this could mean a half a day of
waiting around etc. We had not intended staying for a long time in Curacao and
you usually get 48 hours to leave the islands after you have done the paperwork.
But no this immigration officer was digging her heels in and insisted we come
back the following day to check out. After lots of nice words and pleads we were
so fed up that we practically told her that she could keep her country and that
we would leave immediately. She was not happy as now she had no choice but to
check us out and almost refused to do it. She insisted that we were gone before
the deadline of noon the following day which she revised downwards from the
usual 24 to 48 hours that you normally get.
We did in fact stay an extra day despite her and provisioned the boat at
the local supermarket, free bus included. We did not however tour the island but
had not intended to anyway as the town of Willemstad is the main attraction on
Some of the pretty little houses around the harbour of
We left Curacao on the evening of Tuesday the 1st of February 2011 with the
fading light for a night passage to Aruba, a distance of some 80 miles. Once
again this was a difficult passage to plan so that we would arrive in the
daylight. We wanted to be out of Spaanse harbour before dark as the navigating
within is tricky, hence our leaving time of 1730 hours but the passage to Aruba
was quicker than expected even though we sailed only on the reefed main for a
large part of it.
We arrived at Oranjestad harbour in the dark and picked our way in through
the reef to the inner harbour which was tiny and with very little room to
manoeuvre and furthermore, no places to tie alongside to. We were tired from the
overnight passage and just wanted to drop our anchor so that is exactly what we
did, in the only free spot in the harbour. Less than two hours into my sleep I
woke to a lot of activity outside and stuck my head out of the hatch to have a
look. Another massive cruise ship had arrived and the local tour boats were
gathering to take the passengers on trips to the outlying reefs and beaches. We
were in the middle of it. Eventually one of them requested that we move and it
was at this point that we learned that the customs and immigration were no
longer in this port but were now situated in a commercial port some 4 or 5 miles
back in the direction we had come from. Furthermore we were obliged to take our
boat there for inspection, if required.
The little harbour is to the right of the breakwater and we were
anchored somewhere close to the building opposite.
We had been warned about the tough rules on this island and that you should
report no less than two hours after arrival so we thought we might be fined for
not complying. We motored back the 4 miles or so but we stayed inside the reef
the whole way back. There was quite a breeze blowing and as we could retract the
centreplate if it got too shallow we felt happy enough even though our chart of
this area was a little dubious. Better than ploughing into a head wind with
lumpy seas. We did find some shallow water but managed to clear the shallows
with only minor keel retraction. On arrival at the industrial harbour we were
directed to a dodgy looking concrete quay wall that had some manky tyres and
spiky bits here and there. There was a strong breeze blowing and by now we were
both very tired not having had much sleep. We tied up behind a Venezuelan
trading boat and Marion stayed with the Toucan while I went across to the
office. Formalities were straight forward and no inspection required. By the
time I got back to Toucan another Venezuelan trading boat had tied up behind us
and was about to rip our pushpit off or at least damage the transom. We were
lucky. These people just do not care. We take our boats very seriously and do
everything to avoid damaging ours and other peoples boats but so many of the
work boats out here do not give a damn.
Wherever you find cruise ships you find fancy shopping malls. This
boat trip takes you to the centre of one.
Formalities completed we set off back to a nice anchorage close to the tiny
harbour where the massive cruise liner towered over everything. The anchorage
was lovely, shallow water white sand good anchor holding and a nice bar on the
beach. We slept well. A very pretty town was explored later in the day and the
following day but once again we did not tour as we under some pressure to get to
One of the rare occasions to use Wi-fi and
The beautiful anchorage, Toucan in the right of the
We left Aruba for Cartagena on the Friday the 4th February for what was to
be one of the hardest journeys of our sailing career.