In Curacao   2 comments

Let’s finish this story.
When I last wrote, Lee, Kurt and I had completed our crossing from St. Kitt’s to Curacao. We anchored in a snug little spot but were out of there shortly after breakfast the next morning. After making sure the boat yard that would be hauling Pirat had space for us in their marina, we weighed anchor and hoisted our sails again.

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After just one night of rest from our 4 day passage, it felt good to sail again. The brisk wind whisked Pirat down Curacao’s south coast to Willemstad in no time. We took in the sights as we motored into the busy harbor. There was a cruise ship docked just outside, a giant tanker preceding us in, the swinging pontoon bridge we had to pass through, and a ginormous bridge that even the tanker fit under.

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The marina was way back in the industrial part of Willemstad’s harbor, which had some interesting scenery. Curacao has a lot of oil refineries so this harbor is frequented by tankers and cargo ships.

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Lee steered Pirat into a tricky slip and we headed out to the airport as soon as the boat was secure. We had to go out to check in with customs and immigration anyway. First came customs in downtown Willemstad. Checking in went smoothly and relatively quickly. Then we learned that the immigration office was on the other side of the harbor. The three of us ventured back into the blazing sun to cross the pontoon bridge with all the tourists. We walked along the edge of the harbor, entered an unused cruise ship terminal where a security guard checked our passports at the gate, and proceeded under the high bridge to an unassuming building along and industrial fuel dock. There were forms to fill out at the immigration office but it didn’t take too long. Again, this was a pretty efficient check-in as they go.

We managed to snag a cab that was ferrying another person from immigration to the airport. At the airport, Kurt made it onto a flight to Aruba where he would join Lee’s mom, who had been waiting for us where. Lee and I picked up a cheap and tiny rental car and headed back to the marina. This was just the beginning of our driving adventures on the island (people have an insanely aggressive, sort of European way of driving on Curacao).

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Let’s see, what did we do for the next week+? The first thing I wanted to do was visit the Floating Market – a row of stalls selling produce from Venezuelan boats pulled up to the dock behind them. With my new supply of Antillien Guilders (the local currency) I bought tomatoes, squash, carrots, bananas, mangoes, and a huge papaya (my favorite). This was the first of two trips to the Floating Market and we enjoyed every pound of beautiful produce I bought there. We made many trips to the various different grocery stores on Curacao. I’m not sure I can remember, spell,or pronounce any of their names but may favorite was the first one we visited. It was very Dutch with all kinds of European products and Dutch favorites. There was muesli, big crackers, unrefrigerated coffee milk, hazelnut spreads and sprinkles to top your spread-covered bread (interesting, I didn’t know this was something people do…), spice cake, canned hot dogs (which Lee had to try), and yummy yogurt everywhere. In short, it was “Rachel Heaven”, as Lee likes to say.

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Lee and I goofed off during our first weekend on the island. The yard office was closed so we couldn’t coordinate with them on hauling the boat yet anyway. We visited a pay to enter and then pay for a beach chair beach (bleugh, not our taste). To add to the unpleasantness every other person on the beach was smoking cigarettes. Oh yeah, these are European tourists.

We spent the entire Sunday afternoon driving around looking for a laundromat. We found lots of dry cleaning and laundry service places, all of which were closed on Sunday, but no obvious do-it-yourself laundromat. We patronized the local home improvement chain and found everything about the same as Home Depot in the states except that all the kitchen stuff was sleek and stylish. We ate out at a restaurant downtown where the waitress first addressed us in Dutch. That was the first hint that maybe American tourists are not the norm on Curacao.

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On March 26th Lee and I celebrated our one year wedding anniversary by checking into the Kura Hulanda Lodge out on the end of the island. This luxurious resort was amused me with it’s decor: completely decontextualized Central and South American antiquities displayed in the reception area. There was even a lizard living in the case full of gold and ceramics. I don’t even want to know what unethical dealings brought those objects there.

The rest of the resort was fabulous. Our room was in one of the many small, circular buildings scattered around the lush grounds. There were also ocean-front condo units with huge patios and balconies that looked like they’d be really nice. We swam in the ocean from the resort’s beach and then lounged by the pool. I was super excited to find several palm-thatched huts shading lounge chairs around the pool. I relaxed in the shade and listened to the birds. It was very peaceful. We had a delicious dinner and breakfast the next morning at the resort’s restaurant. It was perfectly romantic and I would not have wanted to celebrate our anniversary any other way.

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The romance ended the next morning when I scrambled to do some of our laundry in the available machines before we had to check out. Success! Now I could put off visiting a laundromat until the end of the trip!

That was when the hard work began. Lee and I spent the rest of the week prepping Pirat to come out of the water. We got a quote for a full-boat canvas from an old Danish woman who told great stories about her cruising days. Unfortunately, her quote was outrageous and we decided to go with shrink wrap to protect Pirat this time. The shrink wrap guy agreed to do our boat reluctantly. He had gotten out of the business recently and didn’t have many materials left. He did have enough for our boat, though, and shrink wrap just seems like the most practical way to protect the deck from the elements.

Our hydraulic backstay sprung a leak that week. Lee didn’t feel comfortable leaving a leaky unit supporting our rig so we consulted a rigger on what to do. Lee removed the hydraulic cylinder and lashed the backstay on with spectra. The rigger agreed to replace that with a turnbuckle for us.

A big part of our work that week revolved around clearing junk our of the boat. Lee went through everything, bow to stern, and came up with tons of things to get rid of. Some went in the trash and the rest we packed up to bring home on the plane. Fortunately, we flew home first class (cause it was $1 more than a regular ticket) so we could each check 3 bags for free. Score! Lee also planned to bring his windsurf board on the plane but spent all week worrying whether the airline would accept it. The boat barely met the maximum size of boards to be checked.

When it finally came time to haul Pirat out of the water we were definitely ready to get out of the heat and the buggy nights. I acquired a dozen new mosquito bites every night we slept on the boat, leaving me with very, very itchy, red, bumpy, and swollen knees and ankles (the bugs liked those best). We planned to have Pirat brought to the storage yard immediately upon coming out of the water since we didn’t need to do any work in the work yard. That meant we couldn’t keep sleeping on the boat (no live-aboards in the storage yard) so we made a hotel reservation for our last couple nights on Curacao.

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Curacao Marine uses a hydraulic trailer to haul boats. This was something Lee and I had never seen in action. All the yards we’d used before had travel lifts. With Pirat completely ready to be put away for (potentially) more than a year, we brought our precious boat over to the ramp. A team of 3 yard workers came over with the GIANT tractor pulling the hydraulic trailer. Two guys came out on the dock to handle the lines and a third drove the tractor. The two on the lines didn’t speak English and the driver wasn’t too interested in sharing his plans with Lee and me. We ended up just standing by while the yard workers did their thing to situate the trailer under the boat and begin pulling it up the ramp. We did first remind the driver that Pirat has a 7.25 foot draft and our depth sounder said we were about the run aground tied up at the dock. He didn’t seem concerned.

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You can probably tell where this is going. When Pirat was allllmost out of the water the workers realized that the keel wasn’t going to clear the ramp. They immediately backed the trailer into the water again, put our boat right back where it started, and drove the trailer away at a god clip. Meanwhile, Lee and I realized that the keel had been scraping along the ramp for several feet before progress stopped. A big hunk of something had fallen off the bottom of our boat…luckily it was just filler from previous keel damage thanks to a previous owner. Oh how I love our solid lead keel!

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The yard workers finally explained that they just needed some extenders on the trailer to hold our deep-drafted beauty. Everything went much better the second time around. I must say that they hydraulic trailer was really impressive. It contorted and adjusted in ways that I didn’t expect and gave Pirat a much smoother ride than any travel lift has.

With that I’m afraid I must leave the rest of the story for one final post. Real life back in SF calls (new job, dog care, dinghy sailing, etc.). I promise there’s more!

Posted April 4, 2012 by Rachel in Uncategorized

2 responses to In Curacao

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  1. Hi,

    I am part owner of the catamaran Catnap, which you must have seen when you were in the boatyard at St Kitts Marine Works.

    Besides wanting to ask you about your time on St.Kitts, I need some info about SKMW.

    Could you please contact me soonest.

    If you have any pics of the boatyard with Catnap in them, I’d appreciate copies. Even if there is only a small part of Catnap in the pic or pics, it will do.

    It’s a long story, which I will tell if you get back to me.

    Many thanks, Etienne

    • Ouch, I know how you feel. One of the next parts of our story is that Pirat was broken into while in Curacao. We haven’t been back to her yet. Curacao marine claims nothing was stolen, just our hatch damaged, but that remains to be seen. We’ll take a look for pictures. Was that large yellow catamaran?

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