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A Day in the Life - Our Passage to Aruba

By Feel Free - Published December 15, 2010 - Viewed 1071 times

 

By Liz Tosoni

 

Island of Aruba, ABC Islands Caribbean Sea

0800 “Not a bad way to kick off the season, love.

“I have to agree. This is the first time we’ve really had the chance to relax since we got back to the boat. It’s downright peaceful out here, seas are slight and we’ll just see what the day brings. There’s no hurry.”

“Plus there are no thunder bumpers up there, no chance of a thunderstorm that I can see and aside from that oil tanker up ahead that’s threatening to mow us down, life couldn’t be better.”

 
 
We started off the sailing season seemingly as content as a pair of kittens. With a gentle northeast breeze just aft of the starboard beam (heading to Cartagena via Aruba, from Curacao), Feel Free was gliding along soundlessly, effortlessly, doing a meagre three knots but we were just glad to be on our way again.

After a summer of work and three weeks in preparation mode, on the hard and then in the water, we were ready to get on with things. The engine problem had been resolved and except for the speedo instrument in the cockpit, everything else seemed to be working.


1000 “Boomer time- whaddya think Liz?”

“Good idea, we want to get there before dark!”

 

 
 
We had cleared out of Curacao, having said our farewells to our friends in commodious but crowded Spanish Water. The main town, pretty Willemstad with its rows of Dutch colonial pastel buildings, was off our starboard beam and we were making our way to Aruba, just 70 miles to the west, with a brief stop at Santa Cruz Bay, 25 miles along the coast of Curacao.

1030 The engine is turned off as winds veer to the southeast and black clouds suddenly make their grand entrance, building in blousy billows up ahead smearing the sky with darkness.

Then oh oh, an engine room check reveals a leak in a fuel line which Tom now must attend to. Next, as if a switch has been flicked to ON, Feel Free takes off like a stallion, bouncing ahead at seven knots with only the mainsail up.

As we are flying along, Tom reappears from below, mission accomplished. Not such a hard fix after all. He beams boyishly as he takes in our new circumstances, “I don’t know how long we’re going to ride this but I’m liking it now.”

 

The freshening breezes have provided cooling temperatures and we bask in the new found luxurious environment.

 

A freighter off the bow is about to be hit by a deep dark squall yet to starboard Curacao is green and lush under a radiant blue sky with gently undulating hills sparkling green in the sunshine.

 

In April the island was dry and arid, appearing nondescript and featureless but after a summer of heavy rainfall, the island glows in green.


Changeable weather conditions are to be expected this time of year. October and November are transition months before the trade winds establish themselves for the season so we weren’t surprised at the fickleness we were encountering. In fact cruising notes for this area state that from August until November “a tropical wave sometimes disturbs the normal pattern and a wind reversal and a northwest swell can be expected.”


1100 Deafening claps of thunder repeatedly shock our eardrums, adding to the weather drama, completely destroying our earlier blissful tranquility. Slim streaks of blindingly bright lightning pierce the sky in throbs.

“The bloody wind is out of 230 now. Not good for our anchorage tonight. But I’m sure it’s just following that little cell.

“Yeah and it’s cold too! I’m going to put some more clothes on.”

 

“If this son of a gun keeps it up, we’re going to get headed. The wind is now forward of the beam. The good news is, I think the lightning strikes are further away. Never trust a lightning bolt. And don’t try to negotiate or reason with it, or it’ll burn ya!” (My husband the funny man.)

1130 Rain. The wind is almost on the nose now, out of the northwest. The engine is once again turned on.

  “This thing (the system) does seem to be forward of us. It’s going faster than we are.”

1200 The wind is still out of the northwest.

“Well, at least Yosh (our engine) is getting a good shake down, and the temperature is beautiful with this wind direction.”

The heavy layers of ballooning blackness have disappeared up ahead and the nasty system is dissipating. Blue sky is making an appearance again and our little world of weather, improving.


1230 The wind has clocked some more and is now out of the northeast. Hallelujiah! Time for lunch- leftovers from last night’s ‘Coq au vin’.

 
 
And temperatures are back to being tropical, so off come the T-shirts and time for a “spritzer”. This new gadget of ours, an insecticide sprayer, has got to be one of the best pieces of equipment to be introduced to Feel Free in years. Filled with H2O instead of insect poison, it functions perfectly to cool you off. Remove the spray nozzle and it produces more volume and voila, you have a cockpit or deck shower. Ours is the three gallon variety and it’s easy to fill and to transport and you end up using less water than with a regular shower or solar shower.

 

 
 
Of course you can’t discount the merits of a good salt water splash at sea.

1400 We’ve just arrived at our little bay, Santa Cruz, but the wind is onshore again, out of the south. Dammit.

The plan was to head in fairly close to shore, drop the hook and spend a pleasant afternoon and evening snorkelling, dining alfresco, then getting a few hours sleep before setting out around midnight for Aruba. That would have us arriving early enough during the day so that we could check into the country and make our way into the anchorage at a relaxed pace, during daylight hours.

 

The onshore winds make us nervous about going in too close to shore though, and as we are discussing where to anchor, a helicopter buzzes and whirrs overhead coming so close the waters become turbulent.

 

“Feel Free, Feel Free, this is Curacao Coast Guard, do you copy?”

“Curacao Coast Guard , this is Feel Free.”

“Feel Free, you cannot anchor there because of the coral. If you stay, you have to take a mooring.”

“Roger that Coast Guard. Are the moorings safe for a 22 ton vessel?”

“I can’t confirm that. Have a pleasant stay.”

We were confused. Before leaving Curacao, we had obtained permission to anchor in this bay, so we called them back.

 

“Curacao Coast Guard, we have permission to anchor in Santa Cruz Bay. We paid the fee and we do have the paperwork.”

“Well, in that case, no problem. Anchor, but be sure to anchor in the sand to avoid the coral. Thank you for your cooperation.”

Great. So we drop the hook. The bay is gorgeous with a postcard perfect beach, steep sided cliffs, caves and clear turquoise waters, although it is a bit rolly with the onshore breezes. We don snorkel gear to scope out the underwater scene.

1800 I’m just starting to think about what to put together for dinner when.............

 

“Decision time Lizzy. My vote is to head out now. The winds are light so we’ll just go slowly and arrive at dawn. If the winds pick up, we can reduce sail. No problem.”

 

“Hey wait a minute T, I thought we’d already decided to leave at midnight. That way we don’t have to cook at sea and we can get a few hours of shut eye before leaving. Plus, there won’t be a chance of getting there too early and having to ‘heave to’ outside the harbour. You know how much we dislike having to do that.”

The debate went on but in the end, we left a few minutes later. I gave in, and I must admit I was cranky about it. But not for long.

“It was my idea to leave early so I’ll make dinner.” (My husband the peace maker- how could I resist?)

Winds were very light to start out with but gradually strengthened to provide perfect conditions: winds of 15 knots out of the right direction (northeast) and kind seas. The three quarter moon rose around midnight during my watch, appearing like a brightly lit space ship on the horizon at first. It was mesmerizing to observe its slow, magical transformation, as though a heavenly artist was shaping and playing with this lunar object before my eyes. Finally, it resembled a giant, luminous watermelon wedge floating across the clear night sky.

‘Heaving to’ was not necessary since we carried only a minimal amount of sail area throughout the night, arriving at the Aruba harbour entrance around 0700. After contacting Port Control, we followed their instructions, slowly negotiating the narrow, marked channel, then tied up to a Venezuelan fishing boat before being cleared into the country.

Like every passage, this mini one was not without its ups and downs. I guess you could say, it’s just like life- you can’t appreciate the good without the bad. It’s all part of the package. Now we get to enjoy some more of the good: exploring yet another fascinating landfall in this world of wonders of ours.

 

Tom and I send best wishes of the season to Each and every one of our dear readers!

 





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