Thursday, August 10, 2023

Hurricane Season and the Curacao Cruising Community

"I am going to FINISH one of these projects TODAY" Lance shouted as he slid the boat hatch door closed and marched up the dock. I could only shake my head and commiserate. We've been banging our heads against the wall on this simple dinghy upgrade for way too long; what should have been an afternoon project was now dragging into the 5th day.

The rest of the "to do" sticky notes mock us from the wall, waving in the breeze.

The statue of Curacao's first Prime Minister was taken down for refurbishment. Locals watched nervously until he was safely on the ground.

It's been over a year since her Maine spa treatment and Minerva is demanding some attention. We knew we'd wash up here for hurricane season and postponed much of the work as we were expecting a big air conditioned workspace at the marina resort. As it turns out, there isn't any sort of clubhouse at the resort, air conditioned or otherwise. Fortunately locals have kindly offered to share their personal workspace with us for the larger projects such as the genoa sacrificial cover, which will involve spreading the huge sail out flat. The smaller projects are being tackled on the salon table next to Minerva's air conditioner.

Curacao is an island of the Dutch Antilles and the primary language is Papamiento (a blend of English, Dutch, Spanish and Afrikaan). We find that most folks also speak either English or Spanish. The projects involve lots of small parts which are requiring effort to source. We felt bad about constantly hitching rides with our cruising buddy and knew the more abstract items would require some significant legwork to track down; in the end we leased a car for the remainder of the season so we have some hope of getting it all done before November without monopolizing our neighbor's time and car.

Lance, Ken and Apollo teamed together to scrub bottoms of all three boats

Shopping for obscure parts (like an industrial sewing needle) is one of those things most people just don't do daily any more. If I were in the USA, I'd visit no more than 2 local stores before just ordering them directly from SailRite or Amazon and have them delivered right to my door. Shipments like this in Curacao are a lot more complicated, and either can't be done at all or require third party help from the USA at additional cost and delay. So we've been driving around to all the likely shops asking if they have what we need or will order it for us - it's like a throwback to shopping in the 80's - lots of driving, lots of talking to a lot of people (with a lot of hand signals or Google intervention when we encounter language barriers), and lots of incomplete directions to that "other store, I can't remember it's name".

Franko Maps reveal the hidden gems

Last weekend we took a day off and went exploring with A dock neighbors. All eight of us and Chloe piled into two cars and drove to the other end of the island to an obscure dive/snorkel spot discovered on a FrankoMap, then we finished up the day at an indoor/outdoor Thai restaurant. Ventures like this keep me from screaming out loud when we reach the next project roadblock. It's all about balance.

Cruiser dogs join the party at the hamburger joint

On Tuesday night we were invited to cruisers' night at the local hamburger joint. There was an excellent turnout and Chloe roamed freely through the crowd. Before long she fell in with the pack of boat kids running around the property; their friendship hastened and forever secured by shared French fries.

Upon leaving the USA we discovered that the rest of the world communicates on WhatsApp for texting, phone calls, and video calls. Businesses run on it also and if you make a phone call with your regular phone it isn't likely to be picked up by anyone except through WhatsApp. Here in Curacao we use it to chase parts with businesses and have embraced the group chat function of the app to keep in constant contact with the cruisers on the island.

The SuperMoon Rises over Minerva

Last weekend a dinghy float was organized under the SuperMoon which ended with a dozen boats tied together drifting along under the beautiful night skies and a gentle breeze. We pull together everything from scuba adventures to beach parties, lost and found, shared rides to stores, laundry and propane, requests for tools or help, and share windfalls. I found a hairdresser to give me a haircut on the stern of her boat last week. A cruising sailboat at anchor was struck by a drunken party vessel who then fled the scene, and within 24 hours it was all sorted out. Word got out of a disabled boat approaching the dock, so cruisers were waiting to help catch him as he limped in to the dock. 

We are a tight community.