Curacao to Aruba
05 March 2008 | Aruba
A scuffle seems to be brewing between Colombia and Ecuador/Venezuela. From what we hear the Colombian government hit the FARC but crossed the border into Ecuador doing it. Ecuador began shouting foul and now Chavez is grandstanding as well. Not what you like to hear just before transiting the waters at the Venezuela Colombia border.
The trip from Curacao to Aruba is a bit further than the hop to Curacao from Bonaire so we began getting the boat ready at 06:30 this morning. It is about 90 nautical miles from hook to hook and we were shooting for an arrival before 17:00. As can happen in a crowded anchorage the boat in front of us was floating on top of our anchor. They were helpful though and when we hailed them the master got up and hauled on his anchor chain in his underwear until we could bring our anchor up.
We motored out of Spanish Water in the quiet of early morning. It made me think how much of a difference one transit of an area makes to your knowledge and confidence when piloting. No matter how much you read about a place it never amounts to more than a sliver of the experience of actually passing through even just once. You still stay all over the sounder and keep a careful watch but you are in a very different place the second pass. The entrance to Spanish Water is particularly beautiful and I appreciated it much more on the way out.
It was a scattered cloud day, as it has been for most of the last month or so. We put up the main and rolled out the jib but didn't have enough wind to kill the starboard engine and still make our arrival target.
As we came up to Willemstad a rather large USCG cutter announced itself. Bush's answer to Chavez threatening Colombia? I know they don't like folks passing close in the homeland so I asked if they minded if we stayed on the same tack passing just off their stern. Not a problem came the courteous reply.
The seas became mixed as we got out from behind Curacao with some south and west in the wave pattern. It had also become pretty overcast with clouds streaming off of Curacao. We just kept motor sailing at 8-10 knots, put in a jibe and after nine hours of fairly eventless sailing we reached Oranjestad well up the industrial coast of Aruba.
The port of Oranjestad is more or less the bit of coast running along behind an extended sandy reef area. You can enter from the north or the south but the big cruise ships seem to come and go to the north. Oranjestad is a working port and has a small container facility and room for about five cruise ships. The bad news is that this is where you are required to tie up your little plastic boat to clear in.
Upon arrival you must announce yourself to the harbor control so that they can tell you where to go and ensure that you don't get creamed by a tanker or the like. After attaching to the 6 foot high concrete dock you await immigration whom the harbor master has already called for you. After immigration you walk over to customs to clear there. Once in you get permission to leave again and make way to the Renissance Marina, which is about the only place to park a yacht in Aruba.
The marina is nice though and the staff are great. There are some skinny spots in the marina area that deeper draft vessels will have to creep around. The swell gets into the marina a bit.
If you like being in the middle of things, this is your marina. It is pretty much the center of Aruba. Restaurants everywhere within walking distance, a casino across the street, and as a Renaissance guest you have access to the private island and the hotel facilities.
Since we started looking into the whole circumnavigation thing, Hideko and I have had a fun time trying to find Asian participants in the cruising world. You don't find too many. About a year ago some Internet friends on a Switch catamaran introduced us, remotely to Wakamizu and crew, a Japanese flagged and crewed Lagoon 470. They are bound for Japan from Spain. Hideko had kept in touch with the skipper and over the last few weeks our courses have been converging. A week or so ago we decided to try to meet up in Aruba.
As we motored into the marina we saw Wakamizu for the first time. They were not only in the best spot in the marina but they had saved up the spot on the end of the T right in front of them. They were waiting on the dock to help us tie up. It was so great to meet them after all of the time chatting over the Internet. We shared a bottle of champagne and stayed up late (for us anyway) sharing sailing stories and talking about the places we'd been and where we were going.