Call For a Tow

And just a little further, to Curacao


By Liz Tosoni

Spanish Water, near Willemstad, Curacao
Netherlands Antilles, ABC Islands
Caribbean Sea

We’ve been cruising steadily for 18 months since our last haul-out and we need to haul out again. We’ve slid over some 5,000 miles of sea and ocean and visited nine countries in that time and Feel Free is ready for some TLC and her crew, ready to apply the required elbow grease.

Where to do it has been the big question. While cruising the Caribbean over the past few months there was much vacillation over the pros and cons of various haul-out locations, including Trinidad and Venezuela, but by the time we reached Bonaire, we knew it would be Curacao. In fact, we’d already made arrangements with the folks at Curacao Marine over the Internet.

With 15- 18 knots of balmy breeze out of the ESE, Feel Free enjoyed a fine ride, running the 35 miles from Bonaire to Curacao effortlessly.

Nearing the narrow, serpentine, unmarked entrance to the wide and well protected Spanish Water, up went the yellow Q flag as did the flag of Curacao, the 45th country courtesy flag we’ve raised, over 25 years, during our very slow circling of the globe.

At 12 N Latitude Curacao is considered to be below the hurricane belt and Spanish Water, a popular cruiser hangout on the south coast, is known as one of the safest harbours/anchorages in the Caribbean.


Curacao itself is long and arid, generally flat, stretching some 40 miles from southeast to northwest, at much the same angle as it’s sister islands in the ABC group , Aruba and Bonaire. The island is about 10 miles at its widest point, and the area is about 180 square miles, making it the largest island in the Netherlands Antilles group.

The south coastline is irregular, chiselled as if with a sharp knife, with small bays and inlets. The largest indentations are located along the central-east and east end of the island, where Spanish Water and the major port of Willemstad are found.


Most of Curacao's 130,000 residents (amazing linguists, many able to speak four languages) live in and around the historic town of Willemstad. Houses, shops and office buildings are painted in pastels with a well thought out pattern that is pleasing to the eye: yellows, blues, greens, oranges, reds, pinks, the same two colors never placed side by side, different shades maybe, but never the same. It’s a Dutch dollhouse skyline and with its unique colonial architecture and history it is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Trade winds blow constantly from the east. The rainy season, October to February, is marked by short, occasional showers, usually at night, and sunny weather by day. “Occasionally a tropical storm brewing elsewhere in the Caribbean can cause uncharacteristically cloudy weather for a day or two” say the travel brochures.

Besides hauling Feel Free out of the water to do the usual bottom painting and other sundry out-of-the-water jobs, we were leaving her on her own for a short while. We’d checked some hurricane sites to find out about the history of tropical storms that have affected the area. From the Caribbean Hurricane Guide: “The recent Dow Jones Island Index recently ranked Curacao as the Caribbean island least likely to be hit by a hurricane, followed by Bonaire, Grand Cayman, Barbados, and Aruba.” Perfect.

And yet, from another site:

How often is this area affected?
Brushed or hit every 6.32 years

Last affected by
2007, Sept 2nd Hurricane Felix passes just north with 105mph winds while moving west, area sustained Tropical Storm force winds & some flooding.

This areas hurricane past:
1877 Sept 23rd 105mph from the ENE
1886 95 mph Aug 26th from the East.
1892 Oct 8th 95mph from the east.
1932 Nov 3rd 95mph from the NE
1954 Oct 8th Hurricane Hazel passes just north while moving West with 125mph winds

Hmmmm...... So, although the area is supposed to be safe from hurricanes, it is clear that big storms can and do rear their ugly heads in these parts. Here’s a picture of Tropical Storm Omar hitting Bonaire in October 2008.

The thing is, Tom and I worry about where we leave Feel Free, our floating home, and most precious asset, and spend enormous amounts of time ruminating over where, when and how to best accomplish the multitude of tasks “on the dirt”. For us, it’s a very big deal.

Anyway, the bottom line is, we try our best to find a good spot but realize only too well that we have no control over what Mother Nature decides to dish out.

Spanish (Spaanse in Dutch) Water or Haven (depending on the chart) is where we “parked” to get ready for the haul, and what a good parking spot it is: huge (sometimes 150 boats can be found lying at anchor here), with good holding, free of charge, safe, (as in low crime rate) and sheltered from all wind directions; yet another “home away from home” for Feel Free.

The low lying view from the cockpit is punctuated by hills of scrub, cactus trees, a few swaying palms, small marinas, and red roofed resorts, not inspiring, but the many pluses of the place make up for the rather drab surroundings. An international cruiser crowd comes and goes constantly as it’s a perfect stepping stone for those heading west to Panama, or to the northern Caribbean or even the U.S. and Canada.

Then there’s the semi-permanent group that is more or less based here, appearing content to spend months on end cruising the Dutch Antilles islands and the remote Venezuelan islands of Las Aves and Los Roques, or just to hang out in Curacao. “We’ve been here for 20 years and have no intention of going anywhere else” stated one British couple matter-of-factly. “We probably know the Aves better than anyone in the world” said Barry. The folks in this group seem to be avid divers, snorkelers, birders, biologists or simply like to be in isolated places away from the maddening crowd. They also have no desire to cross oceans.

Some have “set up shop” in interesting and practical ways. Brigit operates the H2O Boat that delivers “fresh drinking water” directly to your boat at anchor (about US 24c per gallon). Coming from Canada with its abundance of water, we can’t stop ourselves from flinching at the idea of buying it, but then, when you realize how scarce it is here, and that it is desalinated, and that it’s ‘door to door’, well..........

By the way, the name "Curaçao" has become associated with a shade of blue, because of the deep-blue version of the liqueur named Curacao (a.k.a. Blue Curacao). It is called “Curacao of Curacao” to differentiate it from other brands of Curacao liqueur that are not original. It’s flavoured with the dried peel of the laraha citrus fruit, a non-native plant similar to an orange, that evolved from the sweet Valencia orange transplanted by Spanish explorers here, back in the 1500s, before the Dutch took over.

Her husband Yo, is a Jack (or shall I say a Yo?) of all trades. You name it, he does it, or will find out how to get it done. Dick and Leanna of the catamaran Isis run the Spanish Water Wifi service. For US $10 a week or $30 a month you can have a great internet connection right on your boat. What a luxury.

We could find out anything and everything about the goings-on of this small island by networking with these welcoming folks. As in any small town anywhere, gossip and rumours abound! The local yachties were also full of all the information and more we needed about chandleries, sail makers, free shopping shuttles, hardware, shipping goods duty free etc. as well as about the fun things like special events. One of them happened to be an important national holiday that fell the day after our haul-out. Of course we had to take a break from all that hard work...............




With our Czech friends Tereza and Ondra, of the beautiful new Finnish designed Nauticat Moomin, we wandered the festive streets lined with food stalls, entertainers like break dancers and singers, and merry makers, most donning orange (orange clothes, orange hair, orange beer), the national colour of Holland, as they celebrated the birthday of the Queen of the Netherlands. Curacaoans know how to whoop it up.

Back in the yard of Curacao Marine, it was back to the work schedule. Our haul-out had been uneventful even though we went through a lot of stress getting there.

Curacao Marine has a trailer system of lifting boats and really, it’s probably the way of the future, but Tom and I had never experienced it before. How can those small pads manage our 25 tons? Isn’t the trailer too small for a boat our size? Won’t the hull be stressed under all that pressure? These are just some of the concerns we queried them about. They nearly cancelled our haul-out for asking too many questions! But in the end, it worked out fine, no problems whatsoever.

So here we are, up on the hard again. It seems like just yesterday that we were sitting high and dry. But that was in Malta, some 18 months ago. Makes you take pause: time passes quickly, life is short.