Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Very thorough boat search off Curacao

August 27, 2007 Monday
Klein Curacao, Netherland Antilles
11.59.051N; 068.38.727W      Sailed 24 NM

We are moored off a white sugar-sand beach on the tiny island of Klein Curacao.  The work “klein” means small or little.  Klein Curacao is a tiny island just south of the much larger island of Curacao.  There is one inhabited structure on Klein Curacao---which also operates as a restaurant on days that boats or visitors are plentiful.  Several day-charter companies on Curacao bring visitors down to Klein Curacao, only for the day; they do not stay here overnight.  Good thing, because we are on a mooring that belongs to one of the day-charter companies.  It is our understanding that they never arrive here before 10:00 a.m. and we will be long gone by that time tomorrow morning. 

Klein Curacao is the place that I had wanted to sail to whenever the kids were visiting a couple of weeks ago.  I think this place is more like what they expected to see rather than the desert island of Bonaire which is very commercialized and emphasizes diving.  Unfortunately, with one after another getting sick, it wasn’t possible to make the sail down here and back to Bonaire during their visit with us.  Klein Curacao is the kind of place that Bill and I really enjoy because it provides more solitude in a beautiful setting.  The only other boat here is a medium-sized power boat anchored well away from us.  So we have the view of the gorgeous beach all to ourselves.  There was a beautiful sunset with lots of reds and pinks tonight off our stern, and off our bow the full moon was rising at the same time.  Beautiful evening with so much wind that we don’t even need to operate our fans in the bedroom.

Another cruiser (Scott & Heather on S/V SCOTT FREE) told us about this mooring.  They have stayed here several times and had dived on the mooring and verified that it is secure; has a very heavy chain attached to the mooring and the pennant is thick and in good condition.  We would not have tied off to this mooring except for the fact that Scott & Heather told us about it.  We would have assumed that it was a private mooring and that we wouldn’t be allowed on it.  In fact, anchoring is discouraged because Curacao wants to protect the coral.  So if any mooring is unoccupied then you are encouraged to use it.  If the rightful owner should arrive then one must vacate their mooring, of course.

Today was another perfect sail.  Winds ranging from 12-17 knots off our port stern; following seas supposedly were 5-6 feet but appeared flat to us; slightly cloudy during the morning hours and then bright sunshine in the afternoon.  Just perfect sailing conditions.  Tomorrow we will sail up to Spaanse Waters in Curacao and dock at the Curacao Yacht Club.  Our friends, Donna & Bruce, should arrive tomorrow afternoon.  We look forward to a good week of visiting with them on and around Curacao.

August 28, 2007 Tuesday
Curacao Yacht Club, Spaanse Waters, Curacao
12.04.65N; 068.51.25W          Traveled a few miles.

Now I know why most people do not stay overnight at Klein Curacao.  The current overcame the wind during the wee hours of the morning and turned our boat sideways to the wind.  This also caused the boat to move about quite a bit.  Not so much that it bothered us because we are pretty accustomed to sea movement now, but I would bet most people would find that much movement at anchor somewhat uncomfortable for sleeping.  Definitely a “hold on while walking” kind of movement.  We were up and on our way before 7 a.m.  

There is a ½ knot to ¾ knot counter current against you when heading to Curacao from Klein Curacao.  We put up the main sail and mizzen but couldn’t use the genoa without a pole.  We didn’t want to deal with putting out the pole in the washing machine sea action that was going on, so we motor sailed.  We were able to turn off the engine and actually sail for the final 1/3 of this short trip.

And we experienced our first Coast Guard boarding!  About a mile or so before the entrance to Spaanse Waters, the Netherlands Antilles Coast Guard came roaring up to us in a large black inflatable boat.  They contacted us via VHF radio and got our basic information.  They then said that they wanted to come aboard.  So, what do you say except “Certainly; come aboard.”  They pulled alongside and Bill turned on the motor and started taking in the sails.  Three of the Coasties came aboard; one stayed in the cockpit with Bill and our paperwork, and I went below with the other two guys while they checked out the interior of our boat.

They opened every cabinet locker and drawer and checked the storage areas beneath all the beds.  They even opened and checked the battery compartment!  They had me open each of the freezer and fridge lockers and they moved the food around to verify that food was the only thing in there.  Guess freezers and refrigerators are common areas used by drug smugglers.  They opened all the floor storage lockers except the one where our medical kit is stored and the floor locker near the galley that is chock-full of wine.  They just forgot the floor locker where the medical kit is stored because they opened every floor locker around it.  There are so many that maybe they got confused as to which ones they had already searched.  Anyway, I am glad that they did not see the med kit because then I would have had to dig it out and go through all the contents for them to see.  That would have been a major hassle because we have a substantial med kit.  I do have copies of the scripts for every medicine in the med kit, but it would take awhile to itemize and match every one of them. 

The Coast Guard guys were polite and very professional in their demeanor.  Since the Netherlands Antilles is so close to both Venezuela and Colombia, I am sure they get lots of practice searching boats.  BTW, they did not look at one single safety related item on our boat.  If this had been the USCG, then I am certain that they would have wanted to check all the lifejackets, etc.  These guys were just looking for smuggled drugs or guns.  Obviously they would find neither on our boat.  We took a photo as they pulled away after completing their search of S/V BeBe.

We found the entrance to Spaanse Waters (usually referred to as Spanish Waters by the cruisers) and zigzagged through the long channel to find the Curacao Yacht Club.  I drove the boat up to the fuel dock and we filled up the tank as well as our ten jerry cans.  Great price as compared to what we have been paying (except for the exceedingly cheap diesel in Venezuela); less than half what we paid in the Eastern Caribbean.  Then Bill took over the helm and backed the boat into our assigned slip – stern port quarter against a 20 knot wind!  I absolutely hate backing up this boat, so that is totally Bill’s job.  The prop is on the back of the keel, which is a very long way from the rudder.  So you must really power down on reverse in order to back up this boat.  It handles nothing like our previous boat, which I could back up just fine because the prop was within a couple of feet of the rudder and the boat responded quickly.  I am reluctant to power down on reverse enough to control S/V BeBe.   I have visions of ramming the dock as full speed.  Better to let Bill do it.  The bow thruster makes driving it backwards into a marina slip really easy. 

We checked online and the American Airlines flight that Donna & Bruce are supposed to be on arrived a few minutes ago.  They are renting a car at the airport and driving to this marina.  We just found out that there is an electronic gate on the entrance here.  Guess we better mosey on out to that entrance and meet them so they can gain entrance.  Looking forward to seeing them again.

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