After checking out of Vieques at their small airport (another very friendly Customs Officer), we packed away the dinghy and set sail for Curacao, 420 miles south. The forecast hadn’t changed much, wind and more wind, 20-25 knots from the east which suits us perfectly, especially when it’s just aft of the beam.
The wind on the first night picked up to 30-35 so we put away the main and sailed on just the small jib and the mizzen, much easier on the helm and we reduced speed from 8’s to 7’s. The large waves twisted us around and occasionally after breaking on the side of the boat they launched themselves into the cockpit. Going about our daily routine inside the boat is always a real challenge in this type of sea, the motion resembles being inside a washing machine, not only mid-cycle but also tumbling down a rocky mountain. Cooking, eating and sleeping become difficult, and after a bit of bed swapping on my first 3 hours ‘off’ I finally found comfort in the forward mid-ship twin bed with lee-cloth and several cushions. I felt like a vampire tucked up in a coffin, but at least I was not being launched onto the bookcase.
These conditions eased the following day, calming to a 20 knot wind with kinder waves and joy was restored on Joy. We had a huge pilot whale come right up to us to take a look, it was early morning and by the time I spotted him I didn’t have time to steer around him, he just surfaced right in front. As I dived forward to look at him the whale had already taken avoiding action and gracefully slid alongside the port bow and dived under the boat. That was the last I saw of him.
We reached the east end of Curacao about 6am, and then sailed along the southern shore to the entrance of Spanish Water just as the sun started to break out from behind the building clouds. Spanish Water is a protected lagoon and the recommended anchorage here. The entrance is narrow, with reef and rocks on the port side and a large resort with beach on the other, the unmarked channel with sufficient depth between them is even narrower so we were pleased to have some sun shining to assist. The GPS on our navionics was, for the first time I believe, inaccurate. As we entered the channel it placed us on land over the resort, so it was strictly eyeball navigation and depth sounder. There were a few shallow spots to avoid and we breathed a sigh of relief as we came out of the winding channel and into the protected lagoon.
The authorities here are strict on where you can anchor, with 5 designated anchoring areas within this large expanse of protected water. Of course all were rather packed with boats anchored close together, and some on buoys which poses another problem for us anchorers. After over an hour of creeping in and out of possible spots and then deciding it wasn’t for Joy, we headed back to a reasonably narrow channel we had spotted when we first entered and found that the only free spot suitable for us was actually in between two anchoring zones. Oh well, they can always tell us to move! We dropped the hook in the centre of the channel, allowing us swinging room should a wind reversal occur. We were pleasantly surprised with our location, no nasty chop as with the other anchoring areas as we are in a small channel, rather nice properties in front and some mangrove islands behind.
After catching a bus into Willemstad we spent almost all afternoon checking in with the officials as they were on different sides of the canal which splits the town in two. We walked around the town (actually it’s more like a City) like zombies having not slept an awful lot over the last three days, our search for a Digicel sim card so that we could get internet became a treasure hunt as we were directed from shop to shop, street to street in the hunt. Finally we found the ‘Connections’ shop and they had a sim card in stock, whoopee, ah but they don’t sell top-up cards. Aagghh. Another trail using rather bad directions (go up the street straight on, don’t go left, but then go left and straight on around the bend and it’s on the next corner…) and we finally found a chemist who sold them, thank god they took US dollars. The town was rather overwhelming for us country bumpkins, especially coming from the tranquillity of Vieques, lots of shops, people and fast food joints. Oh, and a very busy ring road the like of which we haven’t seen in over two years. I was glad to get back on the bus and back to the boat.
A day or two of chilling and cleaning, we walked an hour to the supermarket as their free shuttle bus had not turned up at 10am as we had been instructed. After filling a trolley full of Dutch goodies I asked a member of staff if they did deliveries – he was the delivery man, well the bus driver anyway. He drove us back to the dinghy dock informing us that the shuttle bus leaves at 8.30am so we would need to get up a little earlier next time. What a great service. We also found a good deal on a car hire using a local guy Sergio, he very kindly picked us up from the dinghy dock and we squeezed in next to his kids for the 10 minute journey to his house where he has what looked like a car repair workshop. Our car looked as though it should have spent a week in his workshop, it had rather a few dents and scratches (as do all the cars in the Caribbean), but as long as the air conditioning works it is a means of transport other than our weary legs.