The time had come to leave Bonaire (“again”) and it was much harder the second time around. Matt and I had been here close to 70 days, met a lot of good friends, got into a comfortable routine, accomplished a lot of projects, and dove a lot of beautiful sites. But we needed to head to Aruba.
On Friday, Jane, Cindy, and I went on our normal early morning walk and had planned to end it at Gio’s Gelataria and Cafe. As we finished our 5 mile walk, we padded into Gio’s all nice and sweaty. To my surprise, all of our spouses were there awaiting our arrival for an impromptu going away party. Jane and Cindy brought brownies, provided a super cool Bonaire hat, and stunning photo cards. It was so sweet and touching and made me feel so incredibly blessed to have met such caring and generous friends.
After a full day of cleaning and preparing to leave, we headed to dinner with our friend’s on Ad Astra: Eric, Max, and Kyle. We went to Blue Garden, the Brazilian place which was a fabulous night of tasty food, great company, and lively conversation! Unfortunately, I did not manage to get a group shot – slacker that I am!
It was time to go as our good friends from Texas (Shawn and Sharon) are due to arrive in Aruba soon. We decided that it would be best to leave Saturday around 1500 for the best weather and the best shot at arriving in the morning. The weather apps and charts indicated a 12-14 hour downwind sail. After a little mooring shuffle, we set off toward Curacao. Our plan was to sail over the western tip of Curacao to Aruba’s lower tip.
Matt expertly set our big spinnaker and we were on our way. At a comfortable 8-9 knots we were going to be really early and would arrive at dark, but we held our course and sail plan. Matt set the fishing rods and teasers with the hope of catching some fresh fish, we ate dinner, and got ready for the night sail.
After several hours, we decided that we could not hold the course as we were heading directly for Curacao. So, we took the kite down and put up the main canvas with one reef in the main. At least now we should be able to point better and go around Curacao rather than through it.
I don’t do well at night when I cannot see the horizon, so I decided to take the first down shift to catch a few zzz’s. The hope was to have the moon come out to light our way. However, after a few hours, Matt was still going strong and told me to sleep some more. This routine happened several times.
During this time, Matt had turned on the engines when the wind died, then turned them off again when the wind returned. Lots of sail tweaks, but maintained course.
It was not until 0400 that the moon finally came out, as a sliver, barely illuminating our path. I finally took the helm and gave him a small reprieve. Normally I am not this useless on a night passage so it felt good to be at the helm for a small bit.
We arrived at 0830 just in time to clear in.
We had received some good intel about the check in process and even received a photo of the dock where we had to meet customs and immigration.
On the way to the dock you pass by the cruise ship terminal between the cruise ships and the reefs. Makes for an interesting passage.
We had heard the dock is hard on your boat as they have large, black tires which often mark up your hulls. But evidently, enough sailors complained so they put out a 40′ section of plywood between the tug boat landings.
Matt had a good plan, we approached the concrete wall, on the port side, in between two tug boats slowly to get a look at it. We then passed it and circled back to have a starboard approach. Just as we were approaching, and I was preparing to jump off, an official hopped out of his car to catch our lines – yeah!
The officials were super nice, very friendly, and extremely professional. They come aboard, hand you the paperwork, leave and wait for you to finish completing it. Then they take all of your paperwork and passports back to their office to copy it. Kind of weird arriving into a new country and handing your passports off to someone you don’t know and they drive off. But they came back. They did a quick check of the boat, processed our paperwork, and gave us some advice on anchorages.
After we were legal, we decided to head to the anchorage in front of the hotel row to check it out. We did a drive by and then turned around to park Sugar Shack in the airport anchorage, Paardenbaai Key. As we were getting ready to drop the hook, we received a call on the VHF radio and a friend of ours, Barry on “White Shadow” from Curacao was here – giving us a welcome.
More from Barry, Adventures of an old Sea Dog later.