Friday, November 3, 2023

Curacao, Desert Island Hurricane Hideout

Curacao has been a lovely place to hide Minerva from hurricanes. It's a desert island of just over 170 square miles, and from our protected latitude under the hurricane belt we've witnessed several gnarly storms pass by harmlessly to the North of us.

The Queen Emma bridge between Punda and Otrabanda swings open on a raft of small boats. The bridgetender gives a very short alert before starting motion and pedestrians are often caught by surprise when it opens or closes while they are in the process of walking across it.

The island is just large and modern enough to offer up most everything we need. There's been a refreshing diversity of snorkeling, restaurants, groceries, and boat supplies. We were quickly welcomed into the cruising community and after we moved into the marina we formed our own sub-community there and freely shared rides to events and markets, tools, and windfalls such as the night we split the giant tuna the local fishermen gave us when they couldn't find a way to stuff it into their cooler. That fish fed several cruisers on A dock that week.

Much of Willemstad is covered in murals and this is one of my favorites.

We imagined we'd be doing lots of scuba diving off the boat when we got here, but the tanks haven't escaped their locker much. Mostly it's a logistical issue. Moving the boat requires permission from the government and a small fee paid each time, getting to the government office is a hassle. The diving is not where the boat is, which means loading the gear into the car or hitching rides with others for long dinghy slogs, and there always seems to be something else to distract us from making all that effort. Someday we'll anchor Minerva where the diving is and fall off the boat and dive there. Wherever that is.

We found respite from the heat in regular snorkeling trips and afternoon cooldown swims at the local beach. Adding this to our routine became something we looked forward to each afternoon.

This is a Chi Chi - proud, strong, Caribbean. There are several around the island and each one is different depending on the artists' interpretation of what these words mean to them. This one is in downtown Punda close to the Queen Emma bridge and is certainly the most colorful one we've discovered. There is a beautiful Chi Chi in delicate Danish blues at the local Sandals resort but the security guards there are quite tenacious about making sure nobody photographs her. Maybe she's camera shy.

We arrived with a long To Do list for Minerva, and tackled it with fervor, making every effort to balance out the laptop work with the boat work and a healthy dose of fun. The ungodly heat definitely threw a wrench in the schedule though, carving out hours in the middle of the day that defy any action at all aside from laying on the floor and just trying to breathe. Although we didn't get everything done, we did get the important things done. A dive boat captain in Monterey once told me "it's not IF something on the boat is broken, it's WHICH of the broken items needs to be most urgently fixed that is the real question." Wise words from an experienced captain I respect; I put the rest of the To Do sticky notes away for another day and will do my best to suppress the shame of not conquering it all before departing.

Typical Dutch architecture in Punda. The locals tell us if the building has a red roof you are wealthy, if the building has a black roof you are ridiculously wealthy. We can only presume because it means you can afford the air conditioning bill that goes with a black roof. Or, in the days before air conditioning, you could afford a posse to follow you around waving giant fans.

Curacao was once inhabited by Native Americans, then Spaniards, then the Dutch and only became a fully independent self-governing nation in 2015. Most locals can trace their family lineage back to sailors or slaves or some combination thereof and the echoes of all these influences are still prevalent in the local architecture, language, clothing, dance and cuisine. I  am fascinated by the colorful hair wraps, and was about to select one to tuck my long hair into on windy days when I was informed there is a whole host of reasons that is inappropriate, not the least of which is that the color of the wraps and they way they are tied is an unspoken language developed over hundreds of years, mostly signaling that I am looking for male companionship and, well... I am far too uninformed to wade into all that miscommunication. So no pretty hair wrap for me.

Another great mural in Willemstad

Just this week the weather has turned from hot and dry to hot and occasionally raining cats and dogs. This is the cue that hurricane season is coming to an end and it's time to plan our escape. The marina and anchorage are becoming emptier as boats left last month for Columbia, Panama, and Venezuela and this month are leaving for destinations North. Our plan is to sail North in mid-November, shooting for St. Martin but remaining flexible to fall back to St. Croix, Puerto Rico or Dominican Republic if the wind and waves are too much to comfortably greet head-on. Since we are under no schedule constraints for this next leg and the destination is less important than the journey we can afford to be picky when selecting our weather window. This time we'll be sailing across the Caribbean Sea with a buddy boat so the 500+ mile ride will be less lonely. Friends await our arrival on the other side.

We intend to see the rest of the Caribbean islands in a clockwise fashion over the winter. We have seen the British and US Virgin Islands, everything East and South of that will be new territory for us. So much exploring to do.

The Winter 2023-24 lineup