Late Thursday afternoon we went ashore to Pirates to get internet access – and I published the blog. Then we walked down the road to The Pier where it was cruisers night and they were doing a special chicken skewer meal. We weren’t there for the start of the event – and so people had already broken into little groups by the time we got there – but we were pointed in the direction of the guy who did the VHF cruisers net and had a chat with him. Then we all sat down to eat on one long table – the woman opposite Richard and the guy next to him were chatty – but my end of the table continued to speak Dutch and/or German and really didn’t want to engage with me in English despite all my efforts. So we didn’t hang around for long once we had eaten our meal. And they did all speak good English because they – surprisingly – started to chat to us as we said our goodbyes. Oh well, guess we tried!!!! Didn’t really feel that welcome though.
Friday morning and we were up before the sun – we had arrangements to pick up our hire car at 6.30 am!!! Our rent a wreck was just that – a little Ford Focus – which is pretty tatty with no working air conditioning but totally legal and not very likely to get stolen! At only £13 ($22) a day who are we to complain?!?!
The Dutch car owner has lived on Curacao for four years now and loves it – apart from the criminality – and proceeded to tell us about the drug problems and the fatal shooting incident at the airport the day before…. We had already heard this from people in Bonaire – so we’ll definitely be vigilant while we are here!!!
After breakfast back on board we headed out – we have a couple of things high on the list today. To find the boatyard where Morphie is hauling; to have a look at the attached marina; and to find an apartment to stay in after she is lifted out. The roads here are busy – two or three lanes wide in places – and there is a big ring road that circles Willemstad. Sounds fine – except the maps are rubbish – and the road signs are often on the junction rather than giving advance warning. So yes we got lost!!! Eventually we ended up at a naval base asking directions of big guys with guns – thankfully they were very helpful and gave us very good instructions. Phew – finally we made it – and pulled up outside the boatyard (cars are not allowed in during working hours). We walked to the office and it was closed for lunch. Oh well…..so we wandered the tiny marina and had a look….and then sat down on the benches outside the office to wait.
While we were waiting we discussed our dates. This small marina is in the middle of nowhere and there are no facilities here whatsoever…. so without a car you really can’t get anything other than cold drinks / chocolate out of a vending machine or a few bits and bobs at the tiny Budget Marine on site. So the original plan of being in this marina for five days or so to get the boat ready for the lift didn’t really appeal – no pool, no bar, no snack bar, no beach, no mini-mart…. nothing at all, just the surrounding industrial / port areas.
An additional factor we had not catered for was that our cabin sole is in need of some tender loving care after all the footfall it has had over the last six years – so we have decided to bring that work forward and do it ourselves before we leave this year…. Hmmmm…. time to reconsider our plans….. When the office finally re-opened we introduced ourselves and said that we might like to move things forward, would that be OK? They said yes, whatever we wanted would suit them, Have to say they are pretty accommodating here! We felt happier having come to this decision and went off to try and find somewhere to stay until we fly early on 12 August. Revised plan is to be in the marina for a couple of nights only – to get sails off and dink cleaned and positioned on the foredeck – and then haul into the working yard on 1 August, with Morphie’s final movement into the customs No Man’s Land storage yard early on 11 August.
We had already tried to search for an apartment on line but had failed miserably….. They don’t really have travel agents here either. So we drove back into Willemstad and started looking around – a few places were really helpful although didn’t have any availability and a couple of others looked us up and down and decided we couldn’t afford even their basic rooms (which started at $200) although we were offered one swanky villa for $4,000 a night!!!! Eventually we found two options – one hotel room which was in a great location and one apartment which had more facilities but not such a good location. But the receptionist at one of the boutique hotels was particularly helpful and gave us a website to look at. So that’s for another day! By this time we had had enough…. so headed to Spanish Water, picked up dink and back to Morphie…. The wind is still howling through here but she is a good girl and stays where we put her!!!! We had a quiet night on board.
Saturday and we were up reasonably early – sorted out our laundry and got our gas bottle out to try and get it filled – again! Before that we were going to visit a guy onboard the catamaran Isis to get internet access on the boat sorted out…. for a fee of $10 a week… not bad! Well – the guy was expecting us – but wasn’t there…. so we headed off to find Budget Marine and Island Water World instead. We had a list of things we needed to purchase for the wood project as well as the basic decommissioning stuff. Island Water World was shut for stocktaking… and Budget Marine had very little in store. But we managed to find a laundry – there are a few self-service launderettes on the island but the cost is pretty much the same as the service washes…. so we left it at “Wash, Dry, Fold” for a Monday collection.
We then headed back to Pirates for a soft drink and another go at finding somewhere to stay….this time online. And we struck lucky! Hurrah! Got a one-bedroom duplex apartment in Willemstad for a very reasonable $100 a night including tax from 1-12 August. We got the confirmation e-mail immediately from the booking site and were very happy – and relieved! After that we headed off to get our propane gas bottle filled – everyone was confident that this was possible here in Curacao. Oh dear…another failure….didn’t have the right adapter. This is so frustrating – we really hope that the new adapter we have purchased will work for the future – in the meantime our back-up solution is to live on BBQ meat with salad as we do still have an almost full 6lb gas tank for that!!!
On the way back to Morphie we sorted out the internet and then went back onboard and tried to log on. Of course it didn’t work – so we radioed the guy – and he tweaked it but it still didn’t work…. So Richard went back in the dinghy to revisit him and finally got it sorted. So – hurrah – internet access onboard albeit very sloooooooowwwwwwww….. We logged into our e-mails and found we had received a confirmation e-mail from the apartments – to find they were quoting an additional $500 for the 11 night stay. Sent them an immediate e-mail attaching our booking reference and the guaranteed ‘value’ price bit and, of course, by now no-one is answering… Nothing we can do….but just hope we can get all this sorted out. Feeling a bit stressed! Another quiet night on board….
Sunday and everything is shut – so we decide to go to the beach for the day. Drove down to Mambo Beach and paid our entrance fee – the equivalent of £1.50 each – and then found a couple of beds and paid the same again for them. It was a very busy Sunday so good for people watching…. We settled in and enjoyed a chilled day, with a bit of bobbing, and then a splendid Mexican lunch – sharing some with a cute little yellow bird – at one of the concessions in the large boardwalk area running behind the beach. Oh yes, and when bobbing, we came across a little eel swimming freely across the sand. We spent hours hunting these little guys while diving and here is one playing by our feet! Amazing…
People watching here makes you realise what a diverse population there is in Curacao. The island’s history starts with the Spanish discovery in 1499 when they enslaved the indigenous Indian population. Then the Dutch defeated the Spanish occupiers in 1634 – attracted to the Caribbean by their need for salt for their herring industry – and by the 1700s the slave trade was the pillar of the economy. This became one of the most important centres for the slave trade in the Caribbean with native Africans being shipped here by the West Indian Company and then sold on and shipped to other destinations, including South America. Holland finally abolished the slave trade in 1863. The spoken language here is Papiamentu which originates from different African languages, complemented with words from Dutch, Spanish, English and Portuguese. It is very different from any other language that we have heard on our travels… but everyone we’ve met has, thankfully, spoken English! Oh yes, and the Chinese seem to have a strong population here with most of the mini-markets, food takeaway stands and laundries being operated by them….
Had a lovely time at the beach and returned back to Morphie…. to find another e-mail from the apartments which confirmed that the previous e-mail price had been an error with their apologies! Phew…. very relieved about that. We had another quiet night on board.
Monday and we went off to look at the area where the apartment is located. This is a rapidly developing trendy neighbourhood. This part of Curacao used to belong to the upper class but became a ghetto during the last decades of the 20th century after the 200 year-old storm-damaged mansions and workers cottages were abandoned…. Since 2000 they are slowly being renovated and restored to their original state and transformed into apartments and suites – with many shops and bars having now opened too – creating a lively and safe part of Curacao which is within walking distance of the heart of Willemstad. As we were there we popped into reception to say hi – and our apartment is currently unoccupied so we were given a guided tour. It is in one of the workers cottages and we have a little outside area as well as a couple of plunge pools within yards of the back door – along with all modern stuff like air con, wifi, fridge, cooker, coffee machine, safe etc etc etc. That will do nicely thank you very much!!!! Lovely area and reminded us a bit of Cuba in places….
So now we have confirmed the apartment we headed back to Curacao Marine to sort out revised arrangements. All done – and relax!!!! Popped into Kooyman along the way – a large Homebase type store – and got quite a few things off our list. Things like sandpaper, brushes, electrical extension leads etc are all much cheaper when it doesn’t have ‘marine’ in front them. Back to the laundry to collect our stuff – and then headed back towards the anchorage. Oh yes – and you know we mentioned security here. Well, the local takeaways all serve through metal grills – enough said???
Back on board by the middle of the afternoon we put everything away, revisited shopping lists, and chilled for a little while. We are both getting a bit fed up with the constant howling wind and grey skies…. which makes this anchorage particularly unwelcoming and for a very wet ride on the way back from the dinghy dock! Oh well…what can you do???? We decided not to go out again so had a movie night on board.
Tuesday morning and we headed off to the Hato Caves. These limestone caves are pretty spectacular as they have an active colony of small bats and are full of pillars / caves / stalactites and stalagmites and interesting formations along with embedded fossils as these islands were formed by movement in the tectonic plates pushing them up from below the sea…. Fascinating tour by a very engaging and amusing guide…. Oh yes, and some unusual looking tortoises here too….
Back to the car – and we headed back to Island Water World and registered as a boat in transit to get goods duty-free. Got that sorted – purchased everything we needed – and received a 10% loyalty discount too with our card…. Excellent! Oh yes and we ended up having some lunch at KFC along the way…. KFC, McDonalds and Burger King are hugely popular here and have massive restaurants all over the place…. The smaller local places – which we would prefer – tend to sit on the side of minor roads in the middle of nowhere and we are unsure of whether it is safe for us to be there – so sadly we are avoiding these places and are stuck with fast food if we want to eat while we are out and about….
We drove back to the anchorage via the ring road – going the other way – so that we could cross over the huge bridge and enjoyed the spectacular views below of Willemstad.
These major roads all have a reasonable speed limit – which no-one adheres to – and so they are pretty fast and furious with Richard enjoying driving around at speed again. Me – not so much!!!! Back on board and we had another movie night – watched The Wrestler – really good film.
Today – Wednesday – and we’ve decided to head to the beach this afternoon after doing boat jobs as the sky is definitely a little clearer. Hopefully this tropical wave is finally going through – but the wind continues to howl with future forecasts for 30+ knots – we even heel over whilst at anchor!!! Please – enough – stop…..!!!
Bye for now