Posted by: rosyroadsadventures | August 10, 2012

Tranquility in Curaçao

N 12° 04.6′   W 68° 51.1

Spaanse Water,  Curaçao.

 

One of many spectacular sunsets in Spanish Water

We missed a weather window to leave  Curaçao. The Captain had left the decision up to me since I was unnerved by the bee encounter. We had been here such a short time I thought we should give this location a second chance. Even with a few bees still hovering around. There is no need to rush through our itinerary at this point.  Curaçao is a beautiful and one-of-a-kind place.

Time to plan is another advantage here. There are lots of knowledgeable people in the anchorage eager to share their experiences and plenty of time to surf the web, even if the internet is slower here. Being at anchor lends itself to a relaxing pace and fewer distractions.  Marina stays, although usually very pleasant, are a different experience and for all of the conveniences, seem to lack the essence of true cruising.   For the next three ports after Curaçao we feel that marinas are the best option.  It may be many months before we find ourselves at anchor again. 

This is the “busy season” with cruising boaters using the area as their hurricane haven. Very few tropical storms make their way this far south. Some folks made the trip directly from Hispaniola or the Northern Caribbean without making the Eastern Caribbean hop, mostly in the interest of getting here before the storm season. Some split the season between Curaçao and Bonaire to overcome customs and immigration time constraints that complicate a long stay. From here some, like us, will go west, a few brave souls will battle the trade winds and go east, and many will remain until the end of hurricane season then make a long passage north to somewhere between the Dominican Republic and the Virgin Islands and travel the traditional route along the Eastern Caribbean island chain. Some would stay here forever, immigration willing. Everyone has a different and interesting story.

There are organized weekly happy hours, pot luck meals, domino matches, hikes, and dining excursions thanks to cruising volunteers who organize the details. It is a multi-national group and Americans are a minority. At the moment, English prevails at the various gatherings. Two of the supermarkets dispatch buses daily to the Fisherman’s marina with an hour allowed to shop. The public buses are a good way to visit the downtown and we timed them better on our second trip to the city. The Limestone Holiday Resort rents cars by the day to boaters, when not in use by their guests, and they have a convenient dinghy dock.

We found a better place to walk the dogs at the Asiento Club, a small and humble marina and boatyard with a low, un-crowded dinghy dock and a mile of rural road to walk along. There was a small fee, but it has been worth it for the convenience. The boatyard dogs are friendly there and one cute little guy we call Sparky joins us most days for our trek. So there are things to do, friendly people to meet and ways to more easily get around. We still haven’t entirely explored the expansive harbor.

A few bees still visit, probably brought here by the scents of the many bees that met their demise last week, even though we scrubbed down the boat. Bob had put out a plea on one of the Cruisers forums for advice, and received many replies, including a former beekeeper who was a great resource. We now think that had we just gone below for 24 hours and ignored the situation, the bees might have left on their own. Bob has been converted to a bee admirer and now gently shoos any stray bee that gets in the cabin to the exit. If he wasn’t allergic, he would make a terrific beekeeper. I’m not feeling as gracious and have restocked the wasp spray supply.

We have been armed with more first-hand information about our upcoming route. The trip in and out of the Southwest Caribbean has a reputation for being challenging. With the long fetch of water from the east, unbroken by land masses, strong currents and heavy weather generated off the coast of South America, the seas can be large, steep and uncomfortable. There is a rainy season and a rainier season as we head west and south. We have found that lots of rain makes life aboard unpleasant and we are trying to avoid the rainier months in Panama. There is likewise a windy season and a windier season and apparently they have “Christmas Winds” in this part of the world too. The ideal scenario for us is to be in Colombia during the fall months and head to the San Blas Islands of Panama in December or January. It might be April or May until we can find suitable weather to head north from Panama. Then it will be a much quicker-than-we-would-like dash back to Florida ahead of next year’s storm season. This is all according to the Pilot Charts, which document historical weather patterns.

The opportunity to see the San Blas Islands is one of the reasons we wanted to take the western route. Inhabited by indigenous Kuna Indians, the culture is fascinating and the waters dotted with hundreds of tiny islands offer a remote and protected place to cruise. Other than adopting cell phones, the Kunas live primitively. There are no stores for hundreds of miles, maybe a few Kuna boats selling fish, fruits, vegetables, eggs. We could end up there for 3 to 5 months. I am struggling with a plan to ensure the Mar Azul is self-sufficient and all aboard are well nourished and happy campers during this time, without total reliance on beans, rice & pasta to keep us going. The Captain, likewise, is revisiting the spares inventory. The San Blas would not be a good place to be in need of boat parts.

The other piece of the puzzle is that our departure point for the San Blas will be Cartegena, Colombia in about 4 to 5 months from now. I had envisioned stores there similar to the fabulous “supermercados” in the Dominican Republic. From what I am now hearing and reading, Curaçao and Aruba will be my last chance to stock up on American and European products. There are provisioning tips for the San Blas available on the online Cruisers Network and everyone we meet who has been there has suggestions to offer about what to buy and where. We have enjoyed trying new items in different countries and I can’t imagine that we won’t find things we like in Colombia. Even so, it would be nice to have a good stock of our favorites among the provisions if possible. I’m working on a short list of things we really don’t want to do without that can be stored for the next 6+ month to put at the top of the  Curaçao-Aruba shopping list.

Seems like everywhere we go is the “last chance” to find this or that. We have done fine so far, but still, 5 months in the San Blas might break our track record.

The passing of Tropical Depression 7 to the north of our location may provide an opportunity of lighter winds for us to move on to Aruba, our next stop.

 

The downtown is filled with colorful buildings and pretty architecture. This one in the Punda shopping district. Found lots of inexpensive housewares from China, clothes from India, and US chains including Columbia Sportswear, Benetton and Timberland in this part of town.

Finance is one of the major business endeavors here and there are banks to be found on almost every corner. Reminded us of how it used to be back home.

The floating market in Punda, where small boats from Venezuela bring produce to sell. The market stalls are on the other side of the dock. Most of the boats did not look like they could survive a rough passage, and in any case the trip would probably not be pleasant. We assumed the small boat being paddled was a tender or a local boat.

Another pretty evening in “Spaanse Water”

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Responses

  1. Glad u guys r enjoying the islands. Just came Back from 2wk vacation from guyana.love your bee experience since i am a bee keeper
    Have fun
    Tony

    • Offshore cruisers plan for many adverse situations, but a bee invasion never crossed our minds. We have heard from boaters in parts of the world where it is very dry that they have had problems with bees being attracted if fresh water is used, such as clinging to damp laundry hung out to dry. But not in a swarm. We could have used your expertise, Tony!


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