Out and about in Curacao

Wednesday afternoon we headed off to Mambo Beach again as planned – the weather had improved significantly even though it was still very windy. We took a different route from the car park and walked through the trendy new boulevard and were surprised not to get charged an entrance fee to the beach… We took up residence on a couple of sunbeds and no-one came to collect money from us for them either! Bit surprised but hey not complaining….. We had a good time before heading back for a quiet night onboard.

Mambo Beach Mambo Beach 2 Pirate bobbing

Thursday we decided to have a day out to explore the island a bit more. We had read about this snorkelling site called the Blue Room and wanted to see if we could find it.   So we headed up the coast towards Westpunt…. The first stop of the day was at Shete Boka National Park. This is a wild area with mountains in the background, massive waves pounding the limestone cliffs with loads of blowholes and a cave. We had a lot of fun – with Richard being a bit of a daredevil because he entered a cave which said “Danger – DO NOT ENTER – the waves are too strong today and you WILL get swept out to sea”.  I waited slightly nervously at the entrance as he wandered down inside to have a look – sadly the light wasn’t good enough for the photos to come out – but it looked pretty scary. Another couple also had a look in and asked me whether I had Richard well insured!!!  Thankfully he came back to me unharmed and we continued to enjoy exploring this natural wilderness…..

National park 1 National park 2 National park 3 National park 4

National park 5 National park 6 National park 7

Oh yes – and remember I told you about the security bars at the roadside snack bars – well they even had them here in the national park!  Although it didn’t look quite so bad because of the lovely wall art beneath.

Service through bars Wall art

Leaving the national park we carried on driving until we reached the end of the island and returned down the other side. The roads are pretty good and we were surprised by how green and lush it was in places.   Lots of dead palm trees around – too windy????

Good roads Heading north Surprisingly green

We stopped off to admire the views quite a few times – lovely beaches and coves everywhere on this coast.

Coves and beaches everywhere

We finally made it to Santa Cruz which, according to the rough map we had, was near to the underwater cave. Richard spotted this guy who was sitting there with huge coolers – so we decided to buy some water and ask him whether we could access it from the road. He laughed – all the stuff in the coolers was for his family who were all playing in the surf!   Oops.   But he graciously pointed out a little restaurant / water taxi operation on the east side of the bay which could help us.

Santa Cruz Water Taxi Local restaurant

We walked there and asked about snorkelling trips to the Blue Room – and yes, they did do it and we could go shortly if we wanted.   Fantastic – although feels a bit odd to be paying to go out on a boat!!!   So we went into the restaurant and had lunch. Fantastic food – and great service from the Colombian guy who served us. So after we were fed and watered we headed out with a few other tourists. The coastline is dramatic and the water is beautiful…..

Stunning coastline

We stop at the Blue Room and head into the cave – wow – the colours are just unbelievable!!! This has to be experienced to be believed. Some great fish in there too…. Glad we made the effort.

Into the Blue Room Inside the Blue Room Richard enjoying the water Inside the Blue Room 2

After the Blue Room we were taken to a black sand beach. The Venezuelan captain told us how he had scuttled his father’s boat here to start a new coral reef. He then told us about the tragic loss of his daughter to leukaemia – he had brought her ashes here, encased them in an engraved concrete pyramid, and then dropped it at the stern of the wreck. So as the coral grows on the pyramid it means he has an everlasting living memorial to his daughter. Since then 27 other people have decided to be laid to rest in the same way and he has plans for 5,000 pyramids to be laid in the bay in the future. What an inspirational man!

Black sand beach Living grave

We snorkelled the wreck and did visit the pyramid but unfortunately our camera’s battery decided to die at that point….. so we only have a picture of that. But there were good fish, lots of sand eels swaying in the current, and a baby southern stingray eyeing up the eels for his tea!!!

What a fantastic trip…. it was nice to see more of the island, and we really enjoyed our day out. On the way back we went over the huge bridge again – and I managed to get the camera to give me a couple of last shots!   So this time it was the industrial end of Willemstad.

Over the bridge again View to the industrial side of Willemstad

Friday we were supposed to be giving the car back – but we had done our sums – and to hire a newer car just for the period we are going to be in the apartment was going to be more expensive than keeping our current one for the duration. So we rang the owner – made the arrangements to meet him on Sunday to pay him the balance – and we were pretty happy with our decision.

So we decided to go to the beach again – but this time to try a new one – Jan Thiel. This is closer to the anchorage and is actually much nicer – as it is a tourist destination and has more of a resort feel to it. We had a lovely chilled day although both of us got a bit too much sun.

Jan Thiel beach Jan Thiel beach 2 Jan Thiel beach 3

We did, however, manage to make cruisers happy hour at the Pirates Rest – which is our ‘local’. We got chatting to the staff and they persuaded us to stay for dinner. I wasn’t hungry so picked the baby Pirates meal of ribs (meant for kids!) and Richard had the pork skewer. Well – this came with unlimited salad and bread – and the food was amazing! They advertise as the best meat restaurant in Curacao and we wouldn’t disagree with that…. Interesting decor too!

Pirates Rest Pirates Rest 1 Pirates Rest 2

Lovely end to a great day – and the sky was incredible when the sun set – and we returned to Morphie around 7.30 pm. Sitting in the cockpit and the heavens opened, the thunder and lightning was rumbling around us but the wind seemed to have subsided a bit. During the night we had a large wind shift which set off our anchor drag alarm a few times… Oh well…..

Dramatic sky

Saturday morning and we were up early as we have decided to start varnishing some areas down below which have suffered water damage whilst Morphie was in charter…. They have been irritating us for a while and the recent high humidity levels have taken its toll….so time to crack on. We were having a cup of tea before we got going and we heard the clank clank clank of someone’s anchor chain being lifted – we looked out the companionway and it was our neighbour behind us. He’s a miserable whatsit so we were quite pleased he was going – well, he wasn’t!!!  He did a 360 and then dropped his anchor in exactly the same place where he had picked up from… What was that all about then? Anyway, he didn’t get set the first time so he did all it again. He was so close to us when he dropped the second time I could have leant over and shook his hand…. He did say good morning as he spotted me in the cockpit from his bow though! Eventually he settled but way too close – in our opinion – to another anchored boat but hey, he’s behind us, so what do we care???

The day was spent rubbing down and preparing the wood…. I also did some stainless cleaning under the rail which meant hanging on for dear life in the dinghy as the waves pounded me…. I only managed to get the starboard side done before I gave up – way too hard!   Port side can wait until we get into the marina on Wednesday. So that was it for the day.

Sunday morning up early…. We rubbed the wood down again and applied a coat of varnish. So then we headed off to meet the owner of the car – and then back to Jan Thiel beach. We enjoyed watching a young kid flyboard and was pretty impressed with his ability to stay upright. But then the experts came out to drum up some custom. They fly through the air, into the water forwards and backwards, and they look like dolphins having fun! Amazing….. Richard quite fancied having a go but at $140 a pop we thought it was a bit rich!

Flyboarding kid Flyboarding display Flyboarding display 2

Monday and we rubbed down the beautiful varnish we had put on the day before and applied another coat. While we were in Bequia we had a master class from Winfield on how to varnish and although it seems crazy to rub down the varnish you have already applied, he assured us that this was the only way to guarantee a good finish! Makes for a lot of work, but hopefully it will be worth it!

We then headed out to Budget Marine and purchased 10 foot of anchor chain – we have an American built-boat, a metric anchor windlass has been installed, but an imperial-sized chain has been fitted. Figure that lot out!!!!  This makes for some confusion so we decided to buy a length to test that it doesn’t jump out of the gypsy and works well before committing to buying the 200 feet that we want. Then we headed into Willemstad as we wanted to top up our Grenada digicel phone …. which, of course, has run out of credit and the website says no! The US Virgin Island one doesn’t work here….and neither do our UK phones…… grrrrrr……

When we arrived in Willemstad we saw the floating pontoon bridge was fully open – the first time we had seen this. So we had to get a free ferry across the river instead. That was a novel experience!

Pontoon bridge completely open Free ferry trip

Anyway…into the only Digicel shop on the whole island….and the queues are out of the door. We wait patiently for our turn and this helpful assistant came down the line asking what people wanted. When she found out it was only a top up for a Grenada phone – she took us off to one side to sort us out. Of course it took her longer than if we had stayed in the queue – so a bit frustrating. Anyway, vouchers purchased, and we struggled to understand the Dutch / Spanish instructions. Guess what?!?  Didn’t work!!!! Queued up again to tell her – and we are then told you can’t top up a Grenada phone in Curacao. Great…. Thanks for that!   So we need a new SIM card – but we have to rejoin the queue – but at least the SIM card queue was short. Then the assistant working that line decided to close down her station and everyone had to go to the back of the other queue…..which was out of the door again. The shop was due to close in an hour – so we just gave up in frustration – there was no way we could have got served before the shutters came down. Grrrrrr…..

Heading back to the anchorage in a bit of a bad mood we spotted Richard and Nancy from Sailing Diver walking…. So we picked them up, gave them a lift, and ended up back in the Pirates Rest for a couple of cold beers. We had a fun time socialising with them and were back on board before dark for a curry and an early night.

Tuesday we rubbed the varnish down again – and applied another coat. This is going to be the final coat at this stage – we can do more when we return later in the year. You can see the before and after pictures now – we are pretty pleased with our first attempts at doing this!

Grate damage - before Water damage near companionway - before Grate damage - after Water damage near companionway - after jpg

Well – we still need that phone – so we headed back into Willemstad. We had some lunch and picked up a really good internet signal – so thought we’d try again with the Digicel Grenada website which, to date, has rejected us at every attempt. In fact, last time, it told us that our phone number didn’t even exist!!!  Well – wonders will never cease – it only worked!  Hurrah!!!  In a good mood that we had avoided a repeat visit to the store we drove over to Curacao marine as we needed to get the car there for when we arrive on Wednesday. We arrived – got permission to leave the car in the yard – and bumped into some people we had met in Bonaire. That was fortuitous as they told us a “quick” walking route into Willemstad. We struggled up a hill in the heat – and were rewarded by some views of the marina – before walking beneath the motorway and then down a long flight of steps into Punda. Then we wandered to the bus station and waited. It was probably only a couple of miles but felt a long long way in the heat…. Eventually we found a little bus for Montana who agreed to take us – so we got back to Morphie around 4pm. Phew – we really are turning into cruisers eh???? Walking for miles to save $20 on a taxi???? Not like us at all – but think of all those drinking vouchers we have banked as a result!!!!

Curacao marine

Back on board we tested the chain in the windless – yippee it works – so we’ll order that soon. We also pickled the water maker ready for storage. Getting busy now….. and the real hard work starts Wednesday once we arrive into the marina and then move onto the hard on Friday. We had a final quiet night on board in Spanish Water.

This morning – Wednesday – we got ready to leave early to head the few miles down the coast to Willemstad having awakened to a squally day. We had a brisk downwind sail with a following sea – and radioed the Port Authority as we got close. They eventually answered us – and we requested that the floating bridge be opened. They said they would open it in about 10 minutes so we stooged around close by waiting…… While we were waiting and going around in circles we were being watched by lots of cruise ship passengers and we were videoed quite a few times as well!

Waiting for the bridge to open Smile - you are on video!

Eventually the sirens went off and the bridge opened. We waited for a barge to come out before we headed in…. What an experience!

Our turn to go through

Going through..... Going through 3

And that wasn’t it…. moving closely along the side of the cruise ship …. and then under the huge road bridge we had travelled quite a few times now. Amazing…. Into the industrial area, admiring the huge ships, called the marina, and got our slip info. Phew – we’ve arrived and are safely alongside.

Goodbye cruise ship Made it under! Approaching the huge road bridge Into the industrial zone

We are all systems go now…. So far today we have washed Morphie; finished cleaning the stainless; taken off the sails, washed them and flaked them into their bags; taken down the sun screens, washed and bagged them; dismantled the wind generator; and cleaned out the anchor locker – phew been a busy day.    We are now sitting outside the marina office in the yard getting our wifi fix.

More hard work tomorrow before Morphie comes out of the water on Friday into the working yard.    Bye for now – definitely time for bed!