Sunday, September 2, 2007

Hurricane Felix while we were at Curacao

September 2, 2007 Sunday

Okay, I admit it.  I have totally lost track of times and events of past week.  Let’s blame it on Hurricane Felix.

First, we are perfectly fine.  The hurricane passed 43 miles north of where we are docked at Curacao Yacht Club in Spaanse Waters.  Felix was a category 2 hurricane at that point.  We were extremely fortunate to be on the south side of the storm and in a very protected area.  The experience was basically a repeat of what happened when Hurricane Jeanne passed north of Tortola in September 2004 while we were at the Mooring docks.  It was truly a “non event.”  And we are so thankful that it was!

Donna and Bruce helped us prepare the boat for the approaching storm.  S/V BeBe was tied securely alongside the dock.  We had every fender against the dock, including our old car tire in a heavy plastic bag and our huge inflated orange teardrop shaped fender.  The outboard motor was on the rail and the dinghy was securely tied upside down on the mizzen deck.  No way that dinghy could have blown up and away.  Bill furled both the main and mizzen sails completely into their masts.  The genoa was furled and the jib sheets were wrapped round and round the lower part of the forestay.  Then we took a halyard and wrapped it around the upper and middle parts of the forestay; so there was no way for wind to cause the genoa to unfurl.  Bill took a spare line and wrapped it around all the halyards on the main mast, just as a precaution in case one of those started to flail about in the wind.  Everything was well secured.

We all went to bed early, expecting to be awakened by high winds and rain about 2 a.m. Each of us did wake up off and on all night long, but it wasn’t because of the really bad weather that we had expected.  Bill and I took turns getting up and checking the computer for latest coordinates and satellite imagery. 

The anticipated high winds never materialized.  Highest wind was less than 30 knots.  And the barometric pressure never dropped like we thought it would.  Stayed slightly above 1008 the entire time.  Spaanse Waters is totally protected from the seas with the multi-dog-legged narrow entrance to this huge fingered lagoon.  We expected to be blown against the dock by the westerly winds and water as the hurricane passed, but the conditions never got bad.  No worse than a regular rainstorm.  Again, we are so thankful that this area was spared from the bad storm conditions.

Donna and Bruce arrived last Tuesday afternoon.  It is great to see them again.  They brought a large duffle bag of boat parts.   Bill had provided Bruce with a list of parts that we needed.  Bruce shopped for the best prices and hauled all that stuff down here to us. They also surprised me with a new set of dinnerware.  Bill had asked Donna to find and buy new dinnerware for us; that is his anniversary gift to me (or our gift to each other?).  Bill trusted Donna to choose whatever pattern she thought best; he trusts her good taste.   The Amel dishes we have were looking a bit tired and Bill knew that I wanted a nicer set.  Donna made an excellent choice.  The new dinnerware matches the wine glasses that I bought in St. Martin.  Donna and Bruce rented a car and we have enjoyed seeing the island.  We haven’t sailed at all yet; hoping to do that tomorrow and Tuesday.  They will depart on Wednesday.

We have visited the Punda, Sharloo and Otrabanda sections of Wilhemstaad.  Each section has its own special flavor.  Punda means “the point” and Otrabanda means “opposite side.”  I don’t remember what Sharloo means.  Sharloo was the financial district in many years past, inhabited mostly by Dutch Jews.  Sharloo is home to the Maritime Museum, which we enjoyed visiting one afternoon.  Punda is the site of the old Waterfort and has more shopping and restaurants and is more interesting than Otrabanda.  But one musn’t miss out on seeing Otrabanda as that is where most of the museums are located. 

We visited the African Slave Museum and would highly recommend it.  We each learned tidbits of history that were very interesting.  The most interesting thing Bill and I learned is that the slave trading business was started by the Moors.  The Moors captured more than 600,000 Europeans and transported them back to Africa as slaves.  So the actual business of slavery was started by blacks.  That was shocking news to us. 

Otrabanda held no interest for us except for the museums.  There is a major renovation being performed at the Riffort area with lots of shopping and restaurants being added.  That looks like it will be very nice once completed and should help Otrabanda district garner more tourist dollars.

Punda and Otrabanda are connected by a floating pontoon pedestrian bridge that also acts like a drawbridge for shipping traffic in and out of the industrial harbor of Wilhemstaad.  The bridge swings open widely to allow large container ships egress to the harbor.  Would hate to have that job as bridge tender; doing nothing all day long except swinging that bridge open and closed.  There is also a ferry across this harbor entrance.  Both the pedestrian bridge and the ferry are free.

Another day we went to the Seaquarium.  As we were walking to the ticket booth a young lady stopped us to give us a schedule of activities at the Seaquarium.  She also told us that if we were willing to listen to a 45-minute tour of the timeshare resort that they would pay for our lunch.  So, uh, okay; why not.  We have nothing but time so listening to a sales pitch for 45 minutes seemed fair to us.  Turned out that we had a nice lunch and also gained free entry to the Seaquarium, a value of $98 USD for the four of us.  Not bad just for sitting and talking to a very nice man.  Plus he answered many questions that we had about Curacao and the island’s relationship with Holland and the building expansion that is occurring on Curacao.  The amount of building and development happening on Curacao is amazing.  The timeshare resort was nice.  If we were the slightest bit interested in owning a timeshare, this would be the place.

Yesterday we drove out to the Hatu Caves on the northern side of the island.  Unfortunately it started to rain heavily as soon as we arrived.  It is not possible to do the tour in the rain, so we piled back into the car and drove back to the yacht club.  Bill got concerned about being off the boat with the weather turning so bad so quickly.  The hurricane was approaching Curacao much faster than had been predicted.  Returning to the boat was a good idea because that allowed us plenty of time to prep the boat in anticipation of the approaching hurricane.

Tomorrow maybe we can actually take Donna and Bruce out sailing – they should appreciate that since sailing is the reason they came down here to visit with us!

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