Posted by: rosyroadsadventures | September 17, 2012

(More) Tales of Aruba

N 12° 31.04′   W 70° 02.3′

Oranjestad, Aruba.

Another beautiful Aruban sunset. Love the view from our slip at the Renaissance Marina.

 

The weather forecast is teasing us. A beautiful weather window appears on the horizon, fades, improves, moves up, worsens. We’re making plans to leave the next day and then we’re not.

We realized it was time to check off as many pre-departure tasks as possible so we can move quickly when the time finally comes.  Bob put his book down to attend to various engine room maintenance items. I rented a car to make another big Aruba shopping venture. This was possibly my “last hurrah” in English-speaking markets until we get back to Florida and I felt the need to hoard a few more supplies. Canned no-need-to-refrigerate-before-opening Dutch butter was at the top of the list, along with longer lasting cheeses including cheddar, feta and brie since I was told by other cruisers that the cheese selection in Colombia is very limited relative to American tastes.  American-style crackers and sauces, whole wheat flour, peanut butter, chocolate, dog food and canned corn beef hash – the only food item the Captain can prepare if the cook becomes incapacitated – were other items stockpiled as much as expiration dates and space would allow.  No one, human or canine, is going to starve on the Mar Azul.  I am now the proud owner of 16 cans of Dutch butter plus one I opened to prove to Bob that the product really was a worthwhile purchase after he reminded me of the French box-wine fiasco where I failed to taste before buying. 

The Captain is going to appreciate this stuff while we are in the San Blas

This was the first time I was behind the wheel in 17 months. Driving in Aruba can be an adventure outside the main tourist area since roads zig-zag in every direction and there are few road signs. City planning here – if any – is definitely a change from good old St. Petersburg, FL where most of the carefully numbered roads run parallel in square formations and if you can count and know the difference between north, south, east and west you can easily find your way around. I got to all my destinations without any trouble and was thankful that they drive on the right side of the road in Aruba.  I was lucky to have light traffic with September being one of the slower tourist months here.

Getting small denominations of money for the San Blas where there are no banks or ATM’s was next on the list. We hear there is not a whole lot to buy there other than fresh produce on occasion, fish and the must-have molas, intricately stitched by the Kuna ladies. The recommendation from those who have been there was to have $1 and $5 bills. Changing money will be more complicated once we leave Aruba, which uses dollars everywhere in addition to the Aruban Florin (1 USD = 1.75 AWG). The casino is a convenient money-changing venue and more fun than going to the bank.  No big wins, but I’m only down 50 cents.

One opportunity for savings is to take advantage of duty-free fuel in countries where that type of transaction is permissible. The process for getting the lower rate requires the purchase be made after checking out of the country with Customs. We were able to do this in both St. Lucia and in Grenada . When adding hundreds of gallons the savings, which has ranged from $.10 to $.80 per gallon, quickly adds up and usually makes any additional hassles worthwhile.

In Aruba, the procedure involves taking the boat to the port in Barcadera, checking out with Customs & Immigration, and coordinating with Valero, the local fuel company, to simultaneously deliver a prepaid amount of fuel via truck to the dock. One of our cruising friends had a very bad experience with the process. Valero requires a cash deposit to be made into their account at Caribbean Mercantile Bank before they will deliver fuel. We understand why the company might not want to accept a credit card for a large purchase from a vessel departing the country. In Grenada, we likewise had to pay in cash, and were able to hand the money to the fuel truck driver. In Aruba, they want a pre-pay done via the bank.

Anyway, our friend delivered the cash to the bank a few days before departure and received a receipt to document the transaction. At the end of the banking day, the books did not balance and the teller came up $1,000 short. The bank decided the error must have been with our friend’s transaction. They adjusted the amount of the Valero deposit to reflect the short-fall, in effect charging our friend for the difference since his purchasing power with Valero was reduced by $1,000.  Meetings with bank officials failed to resolve the situation. The bank refused to honor the receipt and suggested that the money must have fallen out of his pocket on the way to the bank. No consideration was given to the possibility that the money was lost or stolen after the deposit was made.

We aren’t really sure how that can happen in a country like Aruba. Maybe someplace else, but not here. How can a bank receipt not be honored?  The folks who live here tell us they are not shocked and that Dutch influence has not completely eliminated a third-world aspect that lies below the surface.  We can only hope that when the evidence comes before the proper authorities the situation will be resolved. Travel lessons learned are to insist on a bank supervisor and multiple witnesses to sign off on any large cash transaction, or to consider arranging a wire transfer instead of dealing with cash.

We will probably take on a small amount of fuel here at the Renaissance Marina and skip the duty-free. It doesn’t make sense to have a lot of excess fuel sitting in the tanks anyway, and will make our exit process simpler.

More time in Aruba gave us the chance to make new friends, learn a little more about the local culture and continue to work on the teak project.  

The arrival of Aruba Governor Fredis Refunjol, head of state and the appointed representative of Queen Beatrix of Netherlands, marked the opening of the 2012-2013 Parliamentary Session and we had a front row seat. An elected Prime Minister and a 7-member Council of Ministers complete the executive branch of Aruban government.

 

The ceremony included an inspection of the Honor Guard of the Royal Dutch Marines and no public speeches. Standing in the sun at 10 in the morning it felt incredibly hot. Good thing these guys wear white uniforms.

 

Got a new heat gun to help with removing the old finish from the teak. A slow and hot task that we are going to be working on for a long time.

 

Fun getting to know our marina neighbors. Some are traveling like us, some residing here. Erik, of S/V Yela, has a fascinating perspective from many years of international business and travels by land and sea.

Had the pleasure of getting to know animal lovers Scott and Leslie and their four beautiful dogs, a pack that includes US and island rescues – Bosco, Dillon, Nellie and Cooper, hiding in there somewhere. They are an inspiring couple, transplanting here from Wisconsin to run Scott’s Brats, a very successful beach eatery.

Tuesday is a promising departure day.  Maybe our next post will be from Santa Marta, Colombia.

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Responses

  1. Good luck and safe travels.


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