After dodging hurricanes, then pirates; we arrived in relatively quiet Curacao; our swan song port of call in chapter 1 of our SwedeOz adventure.
(Excuse the forthcoming patronising tone as I proceed to spell this phonetically for the Aussies. This is so that if, like me, you have been mispronouncing this your whole life, you may go forth well and truly corrected. It is generally pronounced “Koo-rah-saw” as opposed to the Aussie adaptation; “Koo-rah-kayo.” You’re welcome. I know you will feel much better if you ever find yourself ordering a Blue Lagoon again. Patronising tone over for now, I promise!)
After setting off from Grenada in convoy, we landed here after a lazy 4 day sail west, undertaken with our friends on Delphinus. We were happy to sail together for fun, and also because piracy is a slim possibility in nearby waters. With this in mind we took the safest option and stayed as far off the Venezuelan coast as possible, and travelled with minimal lights, low wattage radio, and no AIS running. We will never know whether these tactics were necessary – but definitely made sense at the time. After an uneventful sail, we were pleased to arrive in the busy atmosphere of the anchorage at Spanish Waters. A lively European/Caribbean fusion at its best: it felt like life was going on unabated here, with few COVID19 related restrictions visible. Wealthy Dutch holiday makers were zooming around on jetskis, and chartered “party boats” regularly thumped past with music blaring, and bather clad youngters lounging around the deck. We were in the centre of a sprawling waterway which is only accessed by a long narrow channel from the sea, so it is very well protected. We were surrounded by other boats, and around the shoreline lay a multitude of resort complexes, many empty due the quarantine requirements on the island.
We decided to come here after a limbo period in Grenada; including a close call with the aforementioned hurricane, no valid insurance at that latitude, and only a shaky possibility of flying home.
Since arrival, we have been sauntering (then dashing) around the island preparing to leave Almazul ”on the hard” as they say in boat speak. It is a strange feeling temporarily farewelling Almazul after 14 months living aboard, for now but wow, what a ride!
Curacao is one of the ABC islands just north of Venezuela, and is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the Leeward Antilles.
Curacao boasts the highest standard of living in Caribbean, and has a few strings to its economy including petroleum refinery and shipment, tourism, and of course Curacao production. (FYI the orange flavoured liqueur comes in four different colours, not only the sublime aqua blue that we all know and love.) The different colours are purely “for cocktail fun” according to our Curacao advisor. It also comes in tamarind, chocolate, and coffee flavours, and they are ALL good.
Our explorations around the island revealed countless incredible beaches, and snorkelling second to none. (Although people assure us that this is NOTHING compared to Bonaire…) The city of Willemstad is pretty; a mini Amsterdam? Inland is quite dry; cactus country actually… but no tequila production we are aware of. We had a small project to determine which cacti are toxic, and which are not. We figured if we were to play Russian Roulette by ingesting any cacti in the course of our research, we have just the man for the job. Magnus has survived an incident with a Manchineel apple (did I mention it is the most deadly fruit in the WORLD!!) – so the cactus toxin did not scare him. Fortunately we left the island before our research was completed, or any hospitalization required.
Some new experiences included:
- A windsurfing lesson! Nearly 40 years after my last attempt; and 20 years since Magnus cut a dashing swathe through the tranquil waters of Lake Mälaren. The lesson was super fun, and it didn’t take long for Magnus to display his former prowess on the board, and I got along quite well too. The young man helping us was concerned about us hurting ourselves, but very kind and cautiously encouraging nonetheless. (We have come to understand that when trying any new activity, if we are older than our coach’s parents…. we are obviously SERIOUSLY old, and consequently in grave danger of really hurting ourselves at any moment. Surreptitiously they think that we should really be playing lawn bowls by now, but unfortunately we still suffer remnants of adrenaline addiction, and so hang on to our “crazy ideas” of being active for a little while longer….. !)
- Celebrating our friend Lee’s birthday Caribbean style! The fun began with some magnificent snorkelling and then a cold bevvy in a quirky, ramshackle little bar of sorts on the beach, followed by a dinghy tour of millionaires row complete with red wine in hand, and an informative commentary from the Captain. (see video) The day concluded perfectly with dinner by candlelight at a cosy waterside restaurant, including the obligatory cocktail containing Curacao. (incidentally, of an unrepeatable name! Aren’t they all!?!)
- Snorkelling. At a place called Tugboat beach, the fish were so blasé about humans drifting around an old sunken wreck, they actually bumped into our snorkelling masks. Instead of avoiding us, the tropical beauties seemed to gather around like curious chooks.
- Swimming in Blue room Cave; a spectacular sea cave. Depending on the tide, to enter you must dive underwater for about a meter to clear the entrance. Once past the low mouth, you emerge into an azure blue “room”, a little like The Blue Grotto of Capri, but a lower ceiling. The incredibly beautiful colour and light and the gentle movement of the water and resident tropical fish made for a veritable visual feast.
- Visiting various stunning beaches along the west coast. All scenic, all different. Some were deep little indentations in the rocky coastline, affording warm rock pool swimming in water so clear that it was impossible to determine the depth. Waist deep appeared ankle deep. Some were endless stretches of white sand, lapped at by twinkling turquoise water, and some were shaded alcoves of jade green, fringed by ribbons of golden sand and swaying palm trees. Some beaches had shallow coral reefs that harboured hordes of brightly coloured fish, and suddenly dropped away to sapphire blue depths. The frequent presence of thatched umbrellas just added to the visual magic.
- We also enjoyed resuming some level of physical activity, by adding some very light running to our relaxed schedule. The workload was magnified by the litres of water shed per minute or so.
- Catching 2 fish en route from Grenada to Curacao – it was quite some time since we caught a fish, and the fresh mahi mahi did not disappoint. We had plenty to share with our neighbors, and made a fave cerviche among other things.
- Continuing to enjoy the very social and relaxed life that we share with other cruisers. Wherever we anchor the boat, we soon find new buddies, or even better, old ones rediscovered! We were greeted at Curacao by an ebullient Aussie couple who barrelled up in their dinghy to give us the low down on Curacao bureaucratic requirements etc etc. And also tee up a time to have a beer, of course. This kind of greeting happens often, and is a joyous part of this life. We love that social plans can be made spontaneously, and that most others are friendly, interesting, and have time for a chat. We will miss it when we have to begin using diaries to make social plans back in the “real world.”
- The ceremonial disposal of a much loved (but irreversibly stained and torn) pair of shorts that Magnus wore almost everyday for the past 15 months. They were work shorts, swimming shorts, dinner shorts etc. Extremely versatile, but a little past their due date? To be fair, they were his ONLY shorts after a mystery laundry incident, so although the actual disappearance of his other shorts remains a mystery, I probably have to claim some responsibility for the situation.
- Check in day – a long hot traipse around town by bus, on foot, and finally in desperation, by (very expensive!) taxi. We had to get to three different offices, on a tight time frame due to their weekend office hours, and then one of them was closed. Of course! We were somewhat displeased to have to repeat part of this journey the following day in order to be properly checked into the country. So you can imagine how happy we were when the local OCC chairman offered to run the two Captains into town the next day, and at the same time gave them a mini guided city tour, culminating in a decadent brunch at an upmarket hotel! They were not displeased with this outcome, as you can imagine.
- Dinghy wrestling, and the complimentary sport of dinghy running, and/or dinghy tug of war. Solving the puzzle presented each time we arrive at our local dinghy dock often involves one or all of these extreme sports; requiring brute strength, cunning, persistence, and balance. Let me explain. Dinghies with outboard motors are every cruisers’ commuting vehicle, and so the dinghy docks are like carparks, but usually comprise of a pontoon, several meters long, that are often empty, but at peak hour, completely overwhelmed, like the Outh Eastern Freeway in Melbourne. It is considerate to tie your dinghy on a long string, so that others can push their way through the maze of dinghies to get to shore and disembark, and so on and so on. BUT the limited capacity, combined with dinghies on short leashes, often necessitates wrestling your way to shore, pulling yourself hand over hand along the other dinghies until it is possible to reach land. Sometimes it is not possible, so then the secondary sport of dinghy running becomes necessary. This is not for the faint hearted, as it involves clambering as quickly and lightly as possible into and over several other dinghies, which form your wobbly access bridge to land. It is important not to get your foot caught in others’ possessions, nor puncture anything, nor fall into the water en route. Once near land, you must clamber up the side of whatever part of the pontoon you have been able to reach and then try to win the tug of war that ensues as you try to pull your own dinghy close enough to tie up to something solid, and consequently enable the other person to also climb ashore. The complete disembarkation may take several trips, depending on how much garbage, laundry, etc we have to carry. When we are both on land, we take a deep breath, fumble around to check that neither phone or keys have fallen into the water, rectify the dishevelment that invariably occurs during any round of dinghy sport, and go forth: triumphant, if a little breathless.
Food and Bevvy highlights:
- There are so many! We have found Curacao to be a great place to occasionally eat out, even on a tight sailing budget! The service at every restaurant we have visited has been prompt, friendly, attentive and efficient, and the quality of the food belies the tiny cost. A wonderful surprise!
- And at one such beautifully situated restaurant, we have enjoyed the weekly “cruiser’s dinner.” This event both supports and is supported by the local restaurant, and is organised by a sailor with an interest in building the sailing community bonds in Curacao. Our dining companions were a beguiling mix of locals and visitors, living on boats and on land – but all with fascinating past or present sailing lives. I was particularly impressed by a woman who made her first solo sail to Curacao, alongside her husband in another boat. She had sailed as a first mate for years, but circumstances required her to skipper a boat solo for the first time. I love to be inspired like this… life goals!! Meeting so many amazing 50+ yo women in great health and physical state doing incredible things really inspires me to do more and be better….. the limits are only self imposed I guess, (until health fails big time of course….!)
- Local delicacies we have tried are funchi; a polenta like dish, local meat balls, and a local sauasage.
- We have also bought Dutch versions of everyday things; sometimes similar, and sometimes completely unexpected. One day we bought lollies…. licorice actually. Need I say more?
- Avocado, Hass type! Hallelujah! Cue avo on toast, guacamole, etc etc.. The avocados we have had so far in the Caribbean have been cheap and ENORMOUS! (Some akin to a Sherrin footy) Win win you say? Well…. yes and no actually. The texture is just not as creamy as a Hass. Call me fussy, but I do like a creamy avo on toast. The watery ones just make it soggy. But I know, shut up, first world problem….
- Blue Curacao. Of course. I know you understand that no explanation is required from a couple whose glory days were in the 80s/90s… As an aside, much of the water around the island is the exact shade of blue Curacao. Nice!
A full clear out and clean. In theory, only items that we would like to find here next time we are aboard remain. Considering we filled the boat from an overstuffed car, and have made multitudes of purchases of both useful and unnecessary equipment over the past 15 months, there is a fair amount of overflow to be dispersed. Dispersal options include; throw out, give away, repurpose, recycle, or carry home in carry on luggage. Needless to say we purchased some luggage allowance on our homeward flights…..
As well as a thorough emptying and cleaning. we;
- Removed Genoa
- Cleaned anchor chain
- Treated teak deck for moss
- Cleaned, deflated and stowed dinghy
- Stowed all on deck equipment below; liferaft, table etc etc
- Removed all canvas
- Emptied carburetor on dinghy engine
- Removed halyards
- Washed all lines/sheets/halyards
- Washed all cushion covers
- Thorough clean inside and out.
- Reorganization of all inside and outside storage
- Catalogue of everything on the boat
- Created excel and video inventory – to name a few of our decommissioning tasks!
Almazul is decommissioned FTM, and stored safely in the hands of Curacao marine. We are both currently in Sweden. So long for now beautiful boat… 😘