The end of Sean’s holiday with us was fast approaching and he wanted to do the crossing to Curacao. So we said goodbye to our cruising buddies in Kralendijk and headed west. The sail from Bonaire to Curacao takes about 6-7 hours, so we were able to leave at first light and arrive in the early afternoon.
Immediately after getting underway, we put out the fishing gear. Soon thereafter Sean landed his first Mahi. Then his second. And then his third. Three Mahi in one morning is pretty good going (see photos). I taught Sean how to skin a Mahi and then cut off the fillets. The carcass is tossed back into the sea. With all this fresh fish on board, we knew what we’d be eating for dinner!
The main anchorage for cruisers in Curacao is Spanish Water. You access it through a very narrow channel from the coast. It opens up into a large inland lagoon. The island of Curacao is flat in this area, so the land doesn’t provide much shelter from the wind. Being almost landlocked, it does protect you from the ocean swells, but the lagoon is sufficiently large that it gets it own build-up of wind waves.
The first order of business was to anchor the boat. We had just been on a mooring ball in Bonaire and at dock in Grenada before that, so it had been several months since we last anchored. The anchorage was crowded, with probably 75+ boats swinging on their hook. We tried a couple of spots, but found we were too close to other boats. Our friends, Manuel & Nadja, who were already anchored in the lagoon, came over in their dinghy to help us find something suitable. We found one spot that looked good, but we couldn’t get the anchor to hold (this anchorage is known for poor holding, so you have to take your time and get the anchor properly set). We tried another place and the anchor dragged again. When we started to retrieve it, the windlass stopped working! Sean and Manuel had to haul in all the chain and anchor, hand over hand. Wow were we glad to have two strong young guys on board. At this point it was starting to get dark. We were running out of options, so I decided to go back to the dock we passed on our way in and tie up for the night. It was a good call. Your first priority is always to get the boat safe and secure.
The next day we had to clear customs and immigration. They are located in the main town, Willemstad. The old port in Willemstad, called Punda, fronts onto an inlet from the ocean to another inland waterway. This one is much larger than Spanish Water, and can accommodate freighters and cruise ships. There is a pedestrian swing bridge at the mouth of inlet that pivots on one end to open up and let ships pass (see video). It’s quite a marvel to see. Pedestrians can still cross the inlet using ferries when the bridge is open. Punda is a lovely old town, with well-kept Dutch buildings dating back to the early 1700s.
The dock where we tied-up Panache is part of the large Santa Barbara Plantation, comprising a new hotel, golf course and marina complex. The dock also provides a long barrier from the ocean that creates a terrific salt water “swimming pool” and beach behind it. It was Sean’s last day and a gathering was organized for that evening to celebrate someone’s birthday. Cruisers showed up with food, booze and kids. It was so hot we grabbed our beers and sat on the sandy beach bottom, chest deep in the refreshing water. The cruisers who gathered were from all over the world: Americans, Dutch, Canadians, French, Germans, Norwegians, English, Belgian and Danish. As you can tell from the list, most cruisers in the Caribbean are from North America or Europe. You also meet some Latins, but they tend to be the wealthy ones and are almost always on big powerboats. It was great fun hearing their various stories of how long ago they set sail, where they had been and where they were headed. It’s surprising how many young families are cruising the world. In that group, most of the parents are in their late thirties or early forties. The family cruisers are referred to as “kid boats”. They often look for other kid boats to hang out with, so their own kids have friends to keep them occupied. Not surprisingly, more than half of cruisers are from the older demographic, most being couples over 50. Of the group at the beach party, we were the relative newbies to cruising, having only been on the water for 9 months. Most of the older set had been cruising for more than 5 years, with several having been out for more than 10 years. After Mahi sandwiches, beer and a few rum drinks, Benny and I went to bed at a sensible hour. Sean, on the other hand, well, what can I say? We loaded him into a taxi the next morning and he headed home. It was likely a very long flight!
We only had Sean on board for two weeks, but we packed in lots of cool adventures (snorkeling, scuba diving, kitesurfing, fishing, islands tours, sailing, and of course, the “pool party” on Bonaire). I may have thrown a couple of boat chores in there as well, just for good measure. Thanks for coming, Burp! Looking forward to Tahiti next year!
P.S. Today is our 35th wedding anniversary!