Hello from sunny Curacao! We have returned a year on, and hurrah hurrah, Almazul is back in her natural salt water habitat.
We left chilly Sweden just as the temperature began to dip below zero and have quickly grown accustomed to living simply, working with our hands, and drinking our body weight in water every day.
The boat looked OK generally speaking, and apart from a a thick layer of filth, was relatively unscathed after a year up on stands. Up the ladder and aboard we went, pulling the suitcases bulging with boat parts up behind us with a pulley.
We spent two weeks living aboard out of the water tending to all kinds of recommissioning tasks, renewing old acquaintances, making new ones, and generally acclimatising. Most days were filled with hot dirty work-and the cold shower at the end of each day served to and restore both our spirits, and normal skin colour.
We had been looking forward to getting into the water, because it’s hot, sweaty, and dusty living on the boat in the yard. Most people are painting, or sanding, or performing all manner of dirty work, and there are lots of mozzies and really no breeze to provide respite from the heat. Sitting in the shade under the boat with the stray dogs and iguanas was the best spot to take refuge in the sweltering afternoon. I hand sewed all our mozzie nets over several days in this distinguished company!
Not a moment too soon we were collected by a huge trailer and lowered into the water. As we landed gently, we scurried around checking through hulls, and were relieved NOT to discover any leaks. However our equanimity evaporated somewhat when the engine didn’t start. This was followed by a short sequence of further unfortunate events, requiring us to spend the night in situ, and hope to solve our problems in the morning. This seemed reasonable enough. But as the evening wore on, our joy at being afloat became unease as the boat just didn’t feel right. This was because we were actually standing on our keel, and as the tide went out, the whole bow was out of the water, stern submerged, due to the slope down into the water. This put us at quite a jaunty rearing angle. Magnus had to stay on the port side of the boat, because he could really unbalance it by going starboard. We probably would’ve been supported by water had we tipped a bit, but we were pretty keen not to be tipped into the jetty. Apart from an uneasy night, all was well and in the morning, the boat yard guys brought the trailer out and lifted us out a bit further, allowing us to float. We were then able to start the motor and move around to our current berth on the jetty. (The motor starting was a relief, having spent the evening jump starting it from a service battery, and picking impeller bits out of the cooling system.)
The big news is that our mast is off, and so we will remain at this jetty for the foreseeable future as we await delivery of new rigging, having removed, inspected, and measured our old rig.
We have learned a lot about our mast and rig during this process; such is the beauty of doing these things at least partly yourself. We were lucky to draw on the expertise of an experienced and highly recommended rigger, who turned out to be an all round nice guy as well.
- A beach day. After 4 weeks of boat work, with occasional walks to town and meals shared with boat neighbors, we bit the bullet and went to the beach! The day we chose was really windy and for the first time, we were fleetingly cold!
- Regular walk/runs up to Fort Nassau, which affords a panoramic view of Schottegatt Bay, the largest harbour in the Caribbean, and the second largest in the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
- Grandbaby still recognising me and laughing at peekaboo games on video calls. (And meeting another boat’s grandbaby over video call!)
- Regular gatherings with fellow boaters for Mexican Train (dominoes for the uninitiated), pot luck dinners, BBQs, music making, sundowners… This quiet social aspect of boatyard life is a comfort to us all I think – and as well as a chance to share knowledge, ideas and spare parts! Everyone here is either working to prepare their boat to leave, or to be left, so everyone appreciates a bit of relaxation and a chat in the evenings it seems.
- Being accosted on several attempts to leave the boat yard for aforementioned exercise by aforementioned friendly neighbours inviting us to join them for dinner or a drink as we passed by. Once we actually managed to leave the boat yard and were walking down a dusty backroad, when we were beckoned by voices from the shade. Our neighbours had taken refuge from the sun in a tiny bar consisting of three outside tables, one variety of beer, and Coca Cola. Each time we sit and talk with others we learn a little bit more about boats, or cruising, or where to source different parts, laundry tip etc etc. This week’s hot tip was that professionals use a toilet cleaner to clean fibreglass hulls before waxing – much cheaper and more effective than any “marine” cleaner!
- Our sewing machine has taken some time off for a mid life crisis, and seems impossible to coax back into service by the island’s most experienced sewing machine repair brain. Now what?
- Seeing a LARGE black dog laughingly enjoying being chauffeured around on a paddle board by two small English children, whose combined body weight would not have equalled the dog’s, by quite some measure! (He was a GIANT Giant Schnauzer named Moses, with the temperament of Gandhi , from a beautiful boat named Aria.)
- Our great joy each time we arrived at our destination with nothing having fallen off an old bomb of a car we borrowed from a kind neighbor. At each of the first few stops we celebrated with a sigh of relief, a relaxing of our white knuckles, and a subdued high 5. We gained confidence as the afternoon wore on however, as we understood that the sharp rattling, various clunks and spontaneous revving were not immediately fatal. “Rent a wreck” is popular among boaters, who don’t really need a car often, but DO need many boat parts which are are often beyond walking distance. Our borrowed wreck was not the worst, at least it didn’t have a tarp tied over the roof to keep the rain out!
- Frank discussions with other boaters revealing that the universal clarity of hindsight is even more keenly felt amongst this community, and refreshingly freely acknowledged and admitted to! We are part of a colourful mix of cultures, languages, dreams, sailing experience, and boat types; bound together by being “in the same boat” so to speak.
- Frequent encounters with iguanas. They are not shy, let me tell you! At lunch one day, one sat almost on my feet, checking the flavour of my toes with an occasional nibble, and eventually sauntered laconically away, OVER my feet! The feeling of his spindly toes on mine made me recoil, and it was all I could do not to squeal and drop kick him over the fence!
FOOD AND BEVVY HIGHLIGHTS:
- Loempia (Dutch version) – a delightful type of pastie, filled with bean shoots and chicken, eaten at a supermarket cafe.
- A local mix, including goat stew and a pumpkin pancake, alongside workers on their lunch break in town, at a place called Plasa Bieu, which is a series of small market stalls selling food, a bit like the food hall at the Dandenong Market I guess.
- Shoama; a small pita stuffed with deliciousness.
- Beef tenderloin and plantains with cinnamon BBQed by neighbors at a pot luck dinner.
- A Turkish platter, of giant proportions.
- The. Perfect. Paw Paw. Huge, sweet, bought at the local market – eaten in one sitting.
- GIANT avocados – almost the size of a Sherrin, cheap and plentiful. An occasional avo smash for breakfast seems a no brainer! (FYI Sherrin is the type of footy used in Australian Rules Football)
- General recommissioning/moving back on board stuff; cleaning, getting everything out of storage bags, and with great trepidation opening the sealed plastic box in which we had left flour, pasta, dried beans and sundry other pantry items. This box gave us both nightmares from time to time throughout the previous year. The more we thought about our (stupid?) decision to leave food aboard, the more we were sure that boat would be filled with not only weevils, but ants, mice, cockroaches etc etc as is apparently common.
- Sanding and painting the hull with antifoul. We are unwilling experts at this, having done it three times now. This is unusual in such a brief space of time – but we learn a little more each time.
- Removing melded masking tape adhesive. In the name of protecting our windows and hatches, we diligently applied lashings of blue paper masking tape in an effort to secure blue tarpaulin coverings to our precious plexi glass. The good old blue tarp turned out to be ridiculously sun susceptible – and it must have fluttered off in a strong wind almost immediately, leaving the remains shredded, dangling forlornly like streamers from a long forgotten party, secured by the blue tape, which had become one with the fibreglass deck. This meant calling in the big guns when it came time to remove said tape. (Unfortunately the big guns consisted only of feeble arms delivering a LOT of elbow grease aided by detergent…..) It took 3 solid days of soaking and scrubbing to remove it. This is the same stuff that falls off when you most want it to stay put. Of course.
- Service of steering chain
- Scrubbing of deck
- Polishing fibreglass
- Removal of mast, measured and ordered rigging. This sounds much more straightforward than it actually was – but we are much the wiser for the tribulations.
- Hand sewing of mosquito nets – we are really trying to avoid mozzies, as they carry some nasties here, and the little buggers are tenacious to put it mildly
- Dinghy repair
- Fan installation in forward cabin and saloon
- Changed impeller, and cleaned cooling system
- Changed starter battery
- Unblocked sink drain
- TRIED to fix toilet pump – so far unsuccessful, awaiting new pump.
- Surveyed anchor chain
- Remounted solar panel and started wind generator
- Fixed leaking tap in forward head.
Our featured dinner companions this week were an American/French Canadian couple who have been sailing around the world for 28 years, interspersed with working at home (California) as a duo of long haul truck drivers, or on location from the boat in any number of jobs. They dropped their previous professions to become truck drivers to fit their sailing plans, and to help to gain work in most places if they so desired. Their stories are funny, hair raising, inspirational, informative, and always interesting. They began their sailing as rookies, and before GPS and electronic charts etc so they certainly encountered some difficulties, and willingly share their experience. Their boat is a Flamingo 42, a beautiful wooden ketch that has taken them thousands of nautical miles, across every ocean on the planet.