Borta med Bengt

En resa

Money ,money, money. Always funny. It’s a rich man’s world. (English)

(More pictures on the Swedish version)

10 June 2019, Spanish Water, Curacao

This morning I took Elisabeth ashore in the dinghy as she was going to take the bus to the airport to visit her family in Sweden. She will be gone in three weeks and after she comes back it will be my turn to fly away, not to Sweden but to Holland. Bengt stays in Spanish Water.

We have been very busy working on Bengt the last 16 days and because of the heat they were very tiresome days but now we are back in the water (both we and Bengt) so down below follows our first English blog update. Hope you enjoy it and please forgive me my sometimes 'strange' English.

We left Bonaire around midnight 20 May and had a nice downwind sail to Curacao. Once we came to the pontoon-bridge 'Queen Emma' we had to wait quit long for a ship that was about to leave the harbour. Waiting outside in a force 7 with a lot of current and big breaking waves was not very funny but after a long wait we finally got permission to enter St. Annabaai and proceed to Curacao Marine where we would take up the boat. After some discussions with the marina we got a place all the way in on the pontoon. It was a long time ago since we had water and electricity, so we cleaned Bengt from the sand of Bonaire and washed a lot of clothes in our washing-machine. One should be careful with both water and electricity usage because it costs extra (water: 0,04 USD/liter and electricity: 0,80 USD/kilowatt). Shower and toilet also cost extra (5 USD/day). Our cat decided to explore our neighbor Roberts boat in the middle of the night. Robert first thought that a rat had come onboard and was ready with a big frying-pan. Fortunately for 'Obama' he soon found out it was our cat.

The marina is not very big, one pontoon, but the storage yard is very big. Most sailors leave their boats in 'storage' and go home for a few months. We walked to town in the afternoon to clear customs and visit immigration. It is very hot here on Curacao, so we were very happy that some other sailors stopped and gave us a lift to the customs office. After a long time, the officers computer stopped working, we could leave the cool office and walk to immigration on the other side of the pontoon-bridge. After we got our passports stamped, we walked back to the boat. This took us about 45 minutes. Once back on the boat there was only one option: a cold shower.

Bengt was hauled-out Tuesday 21 May. Here they use a trailer which we like very much because the rigging can stay in place. The trailer has big rubber pads which are kinder to the hull compared to the slings of a travel-lift. 'Rocky', the driver of the tractor was very skilled and could maneuver his trailer with heavy boat on within centimeters of other boats. We were impressed! Because we have kept Bengt's hull clean it was not too much work for 'the Antillean' to pressure wash the bottom. As on many other boats Bengt had a lot of white stuff on the sides of the hull. This turned out to be calk. We have tried in many years to clean it but to no avail. Paul from 'Kiana' gave us the good tip to use toilet cleaner. It works very well. There are a lot of boats on the hard, but most sailors have gone back to their home countries.

Work began! Curacao Marine is very sheltered from the weather so there is not much wind and it gets very hot during the day. The weak wind could not keep the mosquitos away either, so we didn't sleep very well the sixteen days we were on the hard. Most sailors rent a room in a hotel or hostel because it is so hot during the night but at 100 USD/night this was too much for our budget. Bengt was washed down, the bottom was sanded, all loose paint was removed and then another wash with fresh water. After that we started painting. First two layers of primer (Jotun vinyl primer) and after that followed four layers of anti-fouling (Jotun Non-Stop). The zinc anodes were removed and cleaned to be reused. The propeller was polished and painted with Jotuns primer and special prop-paint. When we had done all this more than a week had gone because we could not work during the hottest hours of the day. Our routine became to work between 06.30 and 9.00 and then again in the afternoon after 17.00.

The yard is situated in an industrial area but fortunately the supermarket 'Vreugdenhil' offers a free bus-service every day at 09.30. The supermarket is conveniently situated close to a good hardware store ,'Dijtham', and the two chandleries 'Budget Marine' and 'Island Water World'.

One evening, when we had finished our paint-job, we got invited by Bob and his wife to share their food which they had cooked on the barbeque in 'the hut'. They must have thought that these two tired swedes needed a decent meal. They had cooked chicken which tasted wonderful with an ice-cold beer. 'the hut' is a little area with bar (coke and beer machines), barbeque and a freezer in which we were allowed to put food and water. Because of the hot climate one drinks a lot of water, so an ice-cold tap water was much appreciated. 'the hut' is also a meeting place for the sailors who work on their boats. Here people would leave things they didn't need any more, books or food that could not be kept during their absence. We also got a lot of fresh food from our Australian neighbors when they left their boat to fly back to Brisbane for a few months.

Robert came by everyday for a chat. It felt good to talk some dutch again. He had bought a sailboat here via a broker. The owner, a Norwegian, had promised that the engine was almost 'brand-new' but when the boat was put in the water it turned out that the 'new' Yanmar was water-filled and had to be repaired for a lot of money. The Norwegian had disappeared and neither Robert or the broker could get in contact with him. Robert has lived many years in Dordrecht, my hometown, and it felt good to meet another 'kaaskop' and share memories of old-times. Things don't go fast here on Curacao but Robert could finally leave port and sail to St. Maarten and further on to Holland.

Apart from me there was another Wim and his wife Marjorie. They were changing boat because the one they had was 'to little'. Instead they bought a big sailing-boat on Sardinia and sailed it to Curacao in 6,5 weeks. Wim is 79 and has had a wooden leg for many years but is still going strong. Instead of a car he and his wife hired a Vespa which they drove around with on this very car orientated island. It is not without danger to drive a vespa or to bicycle here, they drive like crazy. Other people we met were Sören and Vibeke from Denmark, John from Holland, Paul from Canada and Paul and Linn from the USA. Together we organized a barbeque on 'the huts' charcoal barbeque. There are also two propane barbecues, but they are for staff use only.

Work progressed slowly in the heat. The topsides were washed down (lots of sand and dirt in the air) and sanded down by Elisabeth with the help of her old sander. It died after half the hull was done. Even our grinder died, it burnt its motor and started smoking. Because we needed a sander we took the free bus to the hardware store 'Dijtham' to buy a new one. This was not easy because they mostly use 110-volt here on Curacao and that meant that 220-volt tools were expensive but we found a nice Bosch sander and got 20% discount plus a box of sandpaper.

When we visited St. Maarten in May we bought all our paint there and that turned out to be a good thing to do. Here everything is more expensive and both chandleries have little stock. They can order (from St. Maarten) but at a price plus that it takes some time. Unfortunately, we had bought to little black enamel (Epifanes Polyurethane) and deck-paint (International). We got hold of a can of deck-paint but not black enamel. A visit to the hardware store gave us locally made paint at a good price.

Now nearly two weeks had gone, and the only job left was the deck. We started with washing of all the dust and sand that had collected during the two weeks on the hard. After that all loose paint, rust and epoxy filler was removed. Two layers of rust inhibitor and two layers of primer were applied and thereafter all the holes and dents were filled with a one-component filler (I am allergic to epoxy). After that it was time for our new sander to prove itself worth of the money we spend on it. It did a great job. Because of the heat it was important to paint very early in the morning before the sun could warm up the deck. We had to paint two layers of deck-paint, 'cream' color, which we had to get used to, but it turned out to be a very nice color in the sun and very eye friendly.

At the end of our time on the hard Sören and Vibeke from 'Johanna' and we were invited by Paul and Linn from 'Kiana' to their hotel so we could splash around in the pool and join them for a very long Happy Hour. Like many sailors Paul and Linn stayed in 'The Ritz' which has been, in the old days, Curacao's ice-cream factory.

Bengt was ready again and we ordered a time to be put back in the water. Meanwhile we let the paint harden a few days. We walked all the way to the other side of the pontoon bridge again to visit the harbour office to get an anchor-permit for Spanish Water. One is only allowed to anchor in certain areas in Spanish Water, A, B, C, D or E. We choose A because it is closest to the fisherman's harbour wherefrom the busses depart to town. The cost for this permit, which is valid for 3 months, is 10 USD. If you want to visit another anchorage (like Klein Curacao or Santa Martha) you will have to get a new permit which is only valid for 3 days. Since Spanish Water is very far from town most sailors don't bother with it although the coastguard checks permits from time to time.

We went back in the water on Thursday 6 June and were allowed to stay on the haul-out pontoon overnight. In the evening somebody knocked on the boat. It was Harry, the owner of the yard. It was his birthday this day and he invited everyone to a barbeque in 'the hut'. Even if we were very tired we couldn't resist free food and drink. It turned out to be a very nice evening with good food and ice-cold 'Amstel'. This was also our goodbye to everyone we had got to know during our time on land with Bengt. Obama, our cat, decided to take a walk in the middle of the night and met the yards two guard dogs. Being a cat, he climbed up a palm-tree and refused to come down. I had to take a long ladder to get him down. During the rest of the night he was locked up in the toilet. Needless to say that he went very sour and refused to speak to me for a long time.

So, what did it cost for Bengt (45 ft. overall)? One day in the marina, 16 days on the hard, 17 days toilet and shower (85 USD), haul- out and in, pressure wash of the hull and rent of the stands.
Total costs: 1200 USD
Costs for paint etc.: 2000 USD (Yes!!)

We have talked to many sailors here and most of the 'ordinary' ones find that everything is getting far too expensive. Curacao Marine is not the most expensive yard, but we have to pay in USD which costs. Paint, boat stuff and repairs are very expensive everywhere in the Caribbean. For example: one liter of deck-paint costs 60 USD and five liters of anti-fouling cost 328 USD (tax-free). We have been very meticulous with the painting this time, so we hope that we don't have to haul-out Bengt during the next two or three years.

Not only maintenance and harbour dues eat up one's budget. Visa, clearance, cruising permits, anchor permits and so one cost a lot too. Another example: costs for a visa in Panama is 105 USD p.p., a cruising permit costs 185 USD, clearance costs 170 USD, customs fee with exit cost 40 USD. Visiting Panama costs us more than 5000 Swedish crowns. On top of that comes the canal fee (1500 to 2000 USD). One wonders if tourists who come by plane pay the same amount. Here in the Caribbean and South America people see sailboats as 'rich' and everybody tries to get as many dollars out of you as they can. It is like the 'painter', whom we met on Nevis, said ''You are white, so you are rich''. We think that it has a lot to do with how the Americans with their dollar-bills behave here. Sailing clubs and boating organizations have to few members to make a stand. Sailors are per definition individualists and don't organize themselves so easily to protest against for instance extremely high fees (a boycott is very effective). Because more and more people with lots of money start sailing it gets more and more expensive. This will kill the 'old' way of cruising. We used to say that nowadays you meet mainly 'tourists with boat' and not many 'cruisers'.

Anyway, we have decided to continue to Patagonia and sail around Chile. After that we sail back via Islas Malvinas (Falklands) and St. Helena to the Azores. Bengt will keep himself mainly in Europa after that. Most likely the Azores and The Canary Islands but if we feel like it we might cross to the Caribbean once in a while to go for a swim. We will avoid countries with undemocratic systems (like the USA, Thailand and Turkey) or countries who charge exorbitantly high fees just to visit them (like Panama, Australia and some islands in the Caribbean). We feel that the world has to change and if we, some individuals, not do anything nothing will change and greedy people like Trump and his likes can continue to destroy our planet.

I have written before about 'Panem et Circensus' (bread and circuses) and 'divide and conquer' on our blog. Both keep people on a leech and makes them behave like sheep.

We left Curacao Marine Friday morning after breakfast and sailed to Spanish Water. Unfortunately the skipper, me, had forgotten to close the front-hatch and lots of water entered once we started hitting the waves on the nose. The cat, on deck under the dinghy, got wet and very scared so he hid himself under the table behind the gennaker until long after we had anchored in Spanish Water. Again he was very sour on me.

Things have changed here since my last visit in 1985. Then there were only two boats in 'Brakke Put'. Now there are dozens and many are neglected or abandoned. The beautiful beach in the entrance 'Barbara Beach' now has a long pontoon along it and belongs to the enormous resort that stands there. Exclusive and expensive. Abba's ''It's a rich mans world'' seems not so far from the truth. I liked it better in 1985. It seems that we are walking 'backwards' with closed eyes into the future and I feel often like the Swedish songwriter Michael Wiehe wrote in one of his songs: ''if this is what we call for forward, I am not going anywhere''.

Me in Spanish Water in 1985, Anna (24 ft) in the background.

For the moment Bengt is not going anywhere either since we have some work left and both Elisabeth and I are flying back to our respective home countries to visit our family. After that our voyage to Patagonia will continue so ...Stay tuned.