Aruba: At the Renaissance Marina

Beatitude at rest

Beatitude at rest

Our last three days in Aruba have flown by. We’ve not ventured far from the marina, but there is plenty to entertain us close at hand. The farthest our legs have taken us was to the local Protestant church on Sunday morning. The service was entirely in Dutch, so our understanding was limited. Unlike in Bonaire, the congregational songs were unfamiliar, so it was difficult even to sing along with poor pronunciation. Still, it was nice to be in church.

The Protestante Kerk, Oranjestad.  I like the pulpit shaped like the bow of a vessel.

The Protestante Kerk, Oranjestad. I like the pulpit shaped like the bow of a vessel.

We’ve enjoyed the plethora of restaurants nearby. Our favorite is “Cuba’s Cookin.” There is live Cuban music overnight, and Monday night was Cuban dance show night. An excellent young couple impressed us with their moves while we enjoyed dinner. We’ve also enjoyed our brief walks around the area, stopping in small shops along the way.

Cuba's Cookin

Cuba’s Cookin

This was Cuban dance night at Cuba's Cookin.  These two were amazingly good.

This was Cuban dance night at Cuba’s Cookin. These two were amazingly good.

The Careys with the Dancers

The Careys with the Dancers

We've eaten at the Cuban restaurant twice.  It has good food and good entertainment.  Here a few of the kids in the restaurant assisting the vocalist.

We’ve eaten at the Cuban restaurant twice. It has good food and good entertainment. Here a few of the kids in the restaurant assisting the vocalist.

Walking around one of the nearby malls in Oranjestad (actually, taking a break from walking)

Walking around one of the nearby malls in Oranjestad (actually, taking a break from walking)

On Tuesday, we finally took advantage of some of the marina’s amenities. As guests of the Renaissance Marina, we have access to all the facilities and amenities of the two Renaissance Hotels nearby, including access to their private island. So, in the afternoon, we donned our swimsuits, walked to the end of the dock, and boarded the small boat which shuttles guests back and forth to the island. There are two beaches side-by-side on the island, one for adults only and the other for families. We chose Flamingo beach, the adult side, and enjoyed lounging in the sun, drinking piña coladas, and swimming in the crystal clear waters. We’ll definitely revisit. Oh… and did I mention the flamingos. Several beautiful flamingoes graced the beach and were quite approachable. They’re obviously used to human interaction.

On the shuttle to the private island

On the shuttle to the private island

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There are two beaches on the island.  This is at Flamingo Beach, but I can't figure out how it got that name?!

There are two beaches on the island. This is at Flamingo Beach, but I can’t figure out how it got that name?!

Cindy with the Flamingoes.

Cindy with the Flamingoes.

Beautiful flamingoes.

Beautiful flamingoes.

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Trying out one of the hammocks on the beach.  Life is hard.

Trying out one of the hammocks on the beach. Life is hard.

On Renaissance Island, Aruba

On Renaissance Island, Aruba

Today, our time in the tropics has come to a temporary end. This afternoon, we will board our Delta jet and fly back to the states. I, of course, will be working when we return. The need for my services in Maine has dried up, so I will be working at a new hospital in Vero Beach, Florida on this trip. Sandwiched between groups of shifts in the emergency department will be a flight to California where, any day, our first grandchild will be born. We are so excited! Cindy will fly with me to Florida and then to California, but she will stay to be with her grandson for a few extra days while I return to the sunshine state to work again.

Beatitude and Renaissance Marina, which is rather small.

Beatitude and Renaissance Marina, which is rather small.

Over the last three and a half weeks, we’ve traveled over 538 nautical miles, all of which has been downwind thankfully. Yesterday, Cindy said she never wants to go upwind again! I agree! We’ve visited four countries, enjoying Carnival in Grenada before spending time in the Dutch Antilles of Bonaire, Curacao, and Aruba. By the way, it was four years ago, this month that we bought Beatitude and started our blog! Wow, has the time flown!

Colorful Crab at the Marina

Colorful Crab at the Marina

Cindy placing the Julie-designed Beatitude sticker on a post in the marina.

Cindy placing the Julie-designed Beatitude sticker on a post in the marina.

Te Aworo, Curacao; Bon Dia, Aruba!

In recognition of the predominant language spoken on all three of the ABC’s, we have a Papamiento post title. Over the last three days, we’ve concluded our time spent in Curacao and begun our time in Aruba. Time and place pass so quickly in this cruising life.

Thursday was our last full day in Curacao. In the morning we headed into Willemstad to visit the Kura Hulanda, an anthropological museum which focuses on the origin of man and the history of slavery. This island became a center of the Atlantic slave trade, a hub to which slaves were brought for sale elsewhere in the Caribbean and the mainland of South America. I was a little disappointed in the museum. Its exhibits were disjointed and lacked any sort of cohesive story. But, the building dedicated to the history of the slave trade was quite moving.

Sculptures at the Kura Hulanda Museum

Sculptures at the Kura Hulanda Museum

"Mama Africa"

“Mama Africa”

From the Slavery Exhibit

From the Slavery Exhibit

A replica of a slave ship hold for slaves.  Oppressive.

A replica of a slave ship hold for slaves. Oppressive.

We spent that afternoon on the beach. This time we tried Cas Abao, a beautiful crescent with swaying palm trees and white sand. It was much larger and had better facilities than Playa Kalki, but there were still quite a few rocks and stones along the beach. The water, however, was equally as clear and refreshing. The piña coladas were amazing. The snorkeling was good, although not quite as good as Playa Kalki. The bottom line, though, is that it was a wonderful afternoon at a gorgeous beach, soaking up sunshine and playing in crystal clear waters. What more could one ask for?

Aaaah!

Aaaah!

Cas Abao

Cas Abao

Beautiful Caribbean Waters

Beautiful Caribbean Waters

A Beautiful Aruban Beach

A Beautiful Aruban Beach

Friday was primarily dedicated to preparations for leaving Curacao in the evening. In the morning, we took the rental car to customs and immigration. Clearing in and out are not the most convenient processes on this island. You can’t dock your boat nearby customs or immigration, which means you need transportation to reach the offices. And the offices are not all that close to each other. Other than the difficulty of reaching the offices, however, the process was painless (and free! None of the ABC’s charge a dime for visiting on your boat!). After we were legally cleared to leave the country, we stopped by a grocery store, returned the rental car, and were transported back to Seru Boca Marina. We then dealt with the formalities of clearing out of the marina and were ready to depart by mid-afternoon.

Cindy is sewing fender covers for Beatitude's fenders

Cindy is sewing fender covers for Beatitude’s fenders

Just before six o’clock, we released the dock lines and wended our way out of the harbor of Spanish Waters and out into the Caribbean Sea. Our journey would cover seventy-nine nautical miles, mostly under cover of darkness. It seemed we had just begun the passage when the sun set and our night watches began. We intentionally kept our speed down so as not to arrive in Aruba until after eight in the morning. We had following waves of 4-5 feet and 15-20 knot winds from astern. After passing as close as fifteen nautical miles off the coast of Venezuela, we neared the Aruban island just as the sun was rising.

Goodbye Seru Boca Marina

Goodbye Seru Boca Marina

Making our way out of Spanish Waters

Making our way out of Spanish Waters

Sunset on the Caribbean

Sunset on the Caribbean

By 8:45 a.m., we had hailed Aruba Port Control on the radio to obtain permission to enter the port and had tied Beatitude alongside the designated quay awaiting the arrival of the customs and immigration agents. We hadn’t had a clearance procedure like this before. We had to tie alongside this very rough wall, against which the waves and winds were bouncing Beatitude the entire time. We were there for close to two hours by the time the officials had come and gone. This was also the first time the customs officers had actually come on board and searched our vessel. He had quite a surprise when he opened one of our galley cabinets and a glass fell out and shattered all over (things tend to shift during passages). But, all went smoothly and soon we had pulled away from the wall and were headed toward the Renaissance Marina, right in the heart of Oranjestad, the capital of Aruba.

Early morning sight of the refineries of Aruba

Early morning sight of the refineries of Aruba

In Oranjestad Harbor, passing the marina en route to the customs dock

In Oranjestad Harbor, passing the marina en route to the customs dock

Tied to the Customs and Immigration Quay in Aruba

Tied to the Customs and Immigration Quay in Aruba

The marina staff was extremely nice and helpful. They even hailed us on the radio after we had called customs and immigration to see if we’d like them to dinghy over to the dock to assist us with our lines. We, of course, took them up on this offer. Upon approaching the marina, we were directed into a slip adjacent to the fuel dock which allowed us to top off our tanks for future passages. After checking in with the marina, we collapsed in bed for a two-hour nap, after which we felt refreshed and fit for public interaction. So, we showered and dressed, and walked around Oranjestad to scout out churches for Sunday morning. On the way back to the waterfront, we stopped at the Renaissance Hotel (associated with the marina) to get our cards allowing us access to all the hotel’s facilities. While there we were drawn into the Crystal Casino because Cindy enjoys playing the slot machines. It’s definitely all for fun. With our $20.00 self-imposed limit, it provides for a few minutes of fun and excitement as we try to leave with what we came with. This time we left with $31.05, so we consider that a great and successful evening. After collecting our massive winnings, we ate at a lovely Cuban restaurant, complete with a live band playing Cuban music. It was a delightful conclusion to our first day in Aruba.

Beatitude at her slip in Aruba

Beatitude at her slip in Aruba

Sunset in Oranjestad Harbor

Sunset in Oranjestad Harbor

Sitting in the lobby of the Renaissance Hotel

Sitting in the lobby of the Renaissance Hotel

Wandering around Oranjestad after dark

Wandering around Oranjestad after dark

Dinner at Cuba's Cookin!

Dinner at Cuba’s Cookin!

Dushi Curacao

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Dushi is a Papamiento word meaning “sweet.” It is often used to describe the island (as in “Dushi Curacao”) We thought we’d check out more of what makes Curacao “sweet” on Wednesday. First, we hopped in our rental car and drove to the north side of the island near the airport to visit the Hato Caves, formed below sea level millions of years ago. The first inhabitants were the Arawak Indians, 1500 years ago. During Curacao’s slave days, escaped slaves would hide in the caves. Portions of the ceilings are still black from the smoke from their torches. The limestone caves have numerous stalactites and stalagmites, and also house a colony of over 300 long-nose fruit bats. Pictures were not allowed in most of the cavern (including where the bats hung over our heads), but we were allowed to take a few photos.

Cindy in the Hato Caves

Cindy in the Hato Caves

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Rock Flow in the caves

Rock Flow in the caves

The Madonna, the most cherished stalagmite formation in the caves

The Madonna, the most cherished stalagmite formation in the caves

Walking to see the cave carvings

Walking to see the cave carvings

A Petroglyph (cave carving) from the Arawak Indians a millennium and a half ago.

A Petroglyph (cave carving) from the Arawak Indians a millennium and a half ago.

Another carving.  I couldn't make out anything substantial in the carvings.  If it weren't for the "arrow signs" I might have missed the carvings. :)

Another carving. I couldn’t make out anything substantial in the carvings. If it weren’t for the “arrow signs” I might have missed the carvings. 🙂

From there we drove another 30 kilometers along the northeast coast of Curacao to the Shete Boka National Park. Shete Boka means “seven inlets.” There are hiking trails to four of the inlets which we visited. Boka Tabla is the first. Here, large waves crash into an underground cavern which is easily accessed. Unfortunately, the waves were not all that impressive on this day, but it was still a cool cavern. We then hiked a small trail to Boka Kalki before hiking another to Boka Pistol. The incoming waves at Boca Pistol were fun to watch as they rush into the small inlet which has a circular cut in the rocks at its head. When a large wave comes into this round cut, it is shot up into the air as if it comes from a pistol. Lastly, we hiked over to Boka Wandomi to see the natural bridge. The park was a very beautiful place to spend an hour or two.

Cindy on a Giant Iguana at Shete Boka

Cindy on a Giant Iguana at Shete Boka

Boka Tabla

Boka Tabla

A rocky projection near Boka Tabla

A rocky projection near Boka Tabla

On the Trail to Boka Kalki

On the Trail to Boka Kalki

Boka Kalki

Boka Kalki

On the trail back from Boka Kalki.  Mt. Christoffel (named after St. Christopher), the highest point on the island (1200 ft.) in the background.

On the trail back from Boka Kalki. Mt. Christoffel (named after St. Christopher), the highest point on the island (1200 ft.) in the background.

Boka Pistol

Boka Pistol

Boka Pistol

Boka Pistol

Cindy being creative with the rocks at Boka Pistol

Cindy being creative with the rocks at Boka Pistol

In the 1970's, in Bible College in St. Paul, Minnesota, I wrote Cindy's name in the snow on the hillside for all to see.  I can't take credit for this one.  It was already spelled out at Boka Wandomi.

In the 1970’s, in Bible College in St. Paul, Minnesota, I wrote Cindy’s name in the snow on the hillside for all to see. I can’t take credit for this one. It was already spelled out at Boka Wandomi.

The natural bridge at Boka Wandomi.

The natural bridge at Boka Wandomi.

Cindy atop the Natural Bridge

Cindy atop the Natural Bridge

He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock.

He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock.

Lastly, we drove the short distance to the lee side of the island for a visit to Playa Kalki, a beach on the western tip of Curaco. We were at first unimpressed and a little disappointed. I had read it was a really nice beach, but the narrow strip of sand was quite rocky and our entrance into the waters was difficult due to the rocks. However, when Cindy decided to head back in for a little work on her tan while lounging on a beach chair, I donned my mask and snorkel and enjoyed a surprisingly nice thirty to forty-five minutes of communing with the fishes. In about eight to ten feet of water, I found an abundance of various fish species in beautiful clear water. There were numerous parrotfish, angelfish, snapper, tangs, and damselfish. We ended up having a great time, but I definitely wouldn’t recommend this beach as a swimming beach.

Sunbathing on Playa Kalki

Sunbathing on Playa Kalki

Playa Kalki, a great snorkeling beach.

Playa Kalki, a great snorkeling beach.

Since the afternoon was passing quickly, we decided to head back down the island to our marina. It took well over an hour to travel the twenty-five to thirty miles. The traffic is pretty horrible on Curacao. I think there are more cars than were intended when they designed the roads. But, our day was rewarding. We have one more day to play before preparing to leave for our next island adventure.

Sunset at Seru Boca

Sunset at Seru Boca

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