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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.