Thursday, October 29, 2015

Aruba is Fascinating

I had no idea Aruba was so interesting. I knew it's history was long and complicated, but the variety of languages, peoples, and cultures surprised me.

For instance, although Dutch is the official language, English, Spanish, and Papiamento are also spoken. Papiamento is an old blend of Portuguese, Spanish, and Dutch that originated in Curacao to enable the slaves to communicate with their's  Spanish owners. Indeed, the word "Papiamento" comes from the Portuguese verb "papear" which means to ramble.

It's nice for us to have English so widely spoken, but I still say Gracias and Buenos Dias every now and then, and that's okay too because so many people speak Spanish. The coast of Venezuela is only 20 miles away.

Speaking of Venezuela, we all know about their terrible problems: crime, inflation, failing government. Those problems are affecting Aruba too. The clever Venezuelans come here, and using debit cards, withdraw all their money in American dollars at the official rate of one dollar to 6.3 Bolivars. Then they travel back to Venezuela and sell those dollars on the black market for 630 Bolivars each, deposit them into their accounts, and do it all again. They also do this thing with gasoline where they buy it at the official super cheap price in Venezuela, then drive over the border to Colombia and sell it at a great profit. I think their "government" actually condones this because the higher echelons are in on the take. What a mess.

The architecture has a nice Dutch influence because the Dutch have been in control since 1636, except for a brief period from 1805 to 1816 when the English took over. We see statues and monuments everywhere of Dutch royalty.

Over the years Aruba's economy has been dependant on gold mining, phosphate mining,  cochineal production, and aloe farming. At the turn of the twentieth century Aruba was the world 's leader in aloe production. More recently, oil refining an important industry, but now tourism has taken over as the primary industry.

Aruba is very popular with the cruise ships; yesterday there were three of them in port, today there were two different ones. The attraction is the perfect weather, the friendly people, and the beautiful beaches. The weather is much more pleasant than Panama or Colombia because of the drier climate and the cooling trade winds.
Consequently there are wonderful entertainments available to tourists: skin diving, parasailing, fishing, windsurfing, birding, horseback riding, biking, ATVs, tennis, and even a submarine tour.

Truly, Aruba is fascinating.

Getting to Know My Boat

After a particularly frustrating, hot, sweaty, oil everywhere, tools everywhere, getting taken off my chore and sucked into a job that wasn’t mine, boat maintenance in a rolly anchorage kind of day, I posted my frustration on a Facebook group to which I belong. One of the first comments told me to “Get to know your boat and you will not be so frustrated when this happens.”

So in the interest of “getting to know my boat” I have compiled a list of ways to do that and checked off the ones I’ve done.

   Spend hours hanging your head in the bilge changing hoses, wires, and equipment.

        Go to the top of the mast to repair lights or clean and inspect the rig.

        Dive for hours cleaning barnacles off the bottom; repeat monthly.

        Spend an hour with your arm wedged in the bow thruster in a rolly anchorage cleaning off barnacles.

       Spend hours in the chain locker installing a new windlass. 
      ✓        Crawl into the chain locker whilst beating to weather to stuff things into the hawse pipes.

        Spend hours behind the engine replacing all the belts and hoses.

        Wrestle a 4” x 30’ exhaust hose out from under the engine, batteries, and lazarettes then weasel the new one in its place.
      ✓        Remove the old head, hoses, and holding tank.

        Remove the mast with your own crane, install all new rod rigging, and re-install it with your own crane. (Admittedly, I didn’t operate the crane, but I was down below giving the proper hand signals to guide the butt onto the mast step.)

        Lay under the cockpit floor for hours removing the steering idler and rotten wood, then replace the idler, chain, and cable.

        Spend hours wedged into the tiniest spaces running new wires up through the deck and into bow pulpits and such for new lights, radios, and antennas.
      ✓        Paint your boat's bottom and wax the topsides at haul outs.

      ✓        Rebuild or repair things whilst bashing to weather.

Now live aboard for over a year whilst cruising in foreign countries, cooking three meals a day (even underway), living at anchor (we haven’t seen shore power in over six months), making your own water and electricity, showering only on your boat, and I think maybe you will “get to know your boat”.
Oh, wait, I’ve already done that too. Maybe I have “gotten to know my boat” after all.


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Aruba is One Happy Island

Two Happy Cruisers at One Happy Island
Aruba is a delightful island and we are anticipating a pleasant stay here. After checking in with Customs and Immigration Sunday, we motored over to Surfside Beach, the anchorage at the west end of the airport. That afternoon there was a strong squall with pouring rain so we stayed on the boat to make everything was okay in the anchorage.
Aruban Florins
Monday morning we went ashore to get acquainted with the town. We found the Tourist Information Center and had a nice chat with Emily about where to go and what to see. Then we walked to the area around Renaissance Marina and the cruise ship dock. A Carnival ship was in town so the streets were crowded with sunburned passengers. We found an ATM and got some of the local cash, had lunch, tried the Chill beer, bought a courtesy flag, some groceries, and a new battery for our water tester, and just enjoyed the sights.
Compared to Cartegena the prices are high here. The exchange rate of 1.79 florins per American dollar is favorable, but things are just way more expensive. (Except the cheese; the cheese is cheap and big!) The ATMs should give dollars because they are accepted everywhere here, but they won't because of the horrible inflation in Venezuela. The Venezuelans come over here and withdraw all the American dollars they can, then go home and sell them in the black market and make a 700% profit. It's crazy, so to get dollars you have to go inside the bank which we will do tomorrow. 
The local brew
Marble Statue of Queen Wilhelmina
Huge Rounds of Gouda Cheese
Today it was really windy so we stayed aboard and fixed things (windlass switch, running light, compass light) and cleaned and washed the salt out of the chain locker. We also visited another chandlery and picked up a few things we needed. Tomorrow is laundry day, then Thursday we plan to be tourists and go see everything there is to see on this 19.6 mile by 6 mile island.

Bonbi the Blue Cododo Lizard Mascot of Aruba

Monday, October 26, 2015

Location Map October 21st to November 2nd, 2015, Aruba

Our Passage From Cartagena To Aruba

 Or The Ugly, The Bad, and The Good
(because I always like to finish on a positive note)
Well, we did it; we made the four day, 420 mile (should have been 380, but we tacked a lot) upwind passage from Cartagena to Aruba. Some said we couldn't do it, and sailors say this is one of the worst passages in the world and I know why now. We started with a nice five day weather window though, and things worked out pretty good for us.



The worst thing about this passage was the sea conditions. This sea is nothing like the Pacific with its long gentle swells. The waves are much closer together here and seem to come from everywhere at once. Add to that the strong current that flows around Peninsula de Guajira towards Cartagena, and you have very confused seas. Several times on this passage we would be bashing along and a wave would sneak up and slam us from the side, soaking the whole boat in gallons and gallons of water and sending some down the open companionway. Normally, this doesn’t happen because we have a spray dodger over the companionway and the spray is usually coming from the front of the boat. We have another hatch between the main companionway and the mast that has its own little dodger, and water even splashed in there. These conditions make every movement or task a carefully choreographed affair, but even with forethought, surprises happen and we have bruises on bruises. This morning when I woke up I felt like I had been in a bar fight. Not that I’ve ever been in a bar fight, but I imagine that’s how one would feel the next morning.



We should have put more time into calibrating the autopilot. After we installed it in Cartagena we spent at least two hours calibrating it, but during this passage it wasn’t always able to hold a course to our satisfaction especially when we made any kind of sail adjustment. We quickly learned to disengage it, set our new course manually, then re-engage it.

We also should have spent some time plugging all the holes in the foredeck. Every boat has some holes in the foredeck; you need to access anchor chains and rodes somehow. We have two hawse pipes, one hole where the anchor chain goes through the windlass, and fourth hole through a belowdeck anchor well. We have gone to weather before, but never with so much green water constantly over the bow. Needless to say, it was a downpour in the anchor locker…..which is below the water line so it has no drain…..and it flows into the bilges……which were awash when the bilge pump finally said, “Nope, not gonna do it any longer!”  We discovered that the strainer was totally clogged. There isn’t anything much more fun than taking things apart underway, but we disassembled the strainer, cleaned out lots of gunk, put it back together and pumped out all the water. Then I crawled into the anchor locker and stuffed pieces of pool noodle into all the holes while salt water rained down on my head and the boat thrashed me around like a mechanical bull. Great fun.

Our third issue was with fuel filters. There is nothing like pounding to windward to stir up all the gunk in your tanks and clog your filters. So the second day found us fixing stuff underway again, but for this repair we hove to. (For my landlubber audience, that is when you begin to tack, but don’t pull the jib across to the other side. The boat tries to move forward because the mainsail is full, but it can’t because the jib is backwinded, so basically the boat just bobs in place, slowly drifting downwind and the ride is so much calmer.)  Under these calmer conditions we removed all the filters, cleaned the strainers, installed new filters, primed the system, and got things running again. Thankfully, we had the tools, the spares, and the stomachs to do this.



In the end, we had good weather, none of our portholes or hatches leaked, we ate well, had no injuries or sickness, had no really serious mechanical problems, and we had our buddy boat, Seahorse V, right next to us. When we arrived at the Customs Dock in Aruba, we had a little impromptu party in our cockpit as we celebrated the successful completion of this difficult passage. We drank adult beverages before noon and we didn’t feel guilty at all. And then after we had moved to the anchorage, Aruba greeted us with a strong squall that washed all the salt off our boat. So we can already check one thing off the “after passage” chore list. Thank you Aruba!


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Plaza de la Trinidad

Our last evening in Cartagena was spent at Plaza de la Trinidad hanging with the locals, eating giant hamburgers, and watching the kids kick a soccer ball around.

In the last three days we have topped up our diesel, filled our reserve propane tank, bought groceries, and done laundry. Tomorrow we will pull up our anchor, scrub off six weeks worth of barnacles and weed, and head towards Aruba.

I don't know how long my Tigo SIM card will work so don't expect any posts for a while. But check Facebook where I will post updates with the InReach.

The Colorful Homes of Cartagena

I want to share with you the diverse colors of the homes in Cartagena. Everywhere you look there is color, color, color. Many are freshly painted, but even the ones that aren't have a certain faded, peely charm. It just makes me smile to walk around this city and experience these beautiful colors. I hope you enjoy them too.


Monday, October 19, 2015

Street Art in Getsemani

There is a lot of amazing street art in this neighborhood and we walked around early this morning taking photos. We also bought coffee from a street vendor and enjoyed the company of two stray dogs for most of our walk and we ate arepas for breakfast back in the Manga neighborhood. We love this city and are finding it a little sad to be leaving.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Evening in Getsemani

We spent a wonderful evening last night with Rachel and Steve from Il Giro. From the marina we walked barely a mile to the Getsemani neighborhood which is right next to Centro, but poles apart.

While Centro is for tourists, Getsemani is for Cartagenans. While Centro is all tidy and upscale, Getsemani is full of graffiti, food carts, dogs, kids, and families just hanging out enjoying the night air.

Our goal was Plaza de la Santisima Trinidad and the music was so loud it practically pulled us there. We started with beers from the corner store. Next we sampled patacones and watched a wedding party enter the Church. Then we tried barbecued beef on a stick while we watched break dancing. Finally we shared a HUGE burger on the church steps and capped it all off with Nutella and strawberry crepes on the way back to the marina.

We had so much fun! How did we miss this area in all the weeks we've been here? I want to go back again!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Getting Ready to Leave Cartagena

We have decided to start heading towards Aruba next Wednesday so we finished our generator maintenance today. When Malcolm changed the oil a couple of days ago he noticed a water leak so he took the seawater pump off and we pressed out the shaft and replaced the seal and impeller. The job went quickly and we had all the spares onboard so it was cheap too.
Pressing out the shaft
Water pump all apart
The old leaky seal on the bottom. New seal on top.
However, the provisioning we did today was not cheap. We spent 1,302,680 pesos on non-perishables (that's about $450 dollars), and we still have to get meats and veggies next week. I try to keep tasty little things like olives, artichoke hearts, pesto, sun dried tomatoes, sauces, capers, and pickles on hand to perk up the basic ingredients that you find everywhere. And of course we needed coffee, tea, rice, pasta, crackers, snacks, beans, condiments, and box milk. We have heard that things are expensive out in the islands so we filled up the lockers like we did when we left home one year ago, but now all the labels are in Spanish.

Friday, October 16, 2015

But What Do You DO All Day?

I'm sure some of you wonder how we keep ourselves busy all day. You probably think we lounge on the foredeck drinking cocktails with little umbrellas in them. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here's a little list of the things that keep us busy.
1) We spend a lot of our time searching foreign stores trying to figure out what's what. Not only are the labels in Spanish, but the stores are arranged differently and what we think should be in a certain aisle often isn't.

2) When we are in port we often go out to lunch with friends.

3) When we need diesel we run jerry jugs to the fuel dock.
4) Shopping for groceries occupies a LOT of our time. The stores vary from open air markets to big name superstores, but mainly we shop in whatever store the locals use which typically don't have the things we are used to. Consequently, we scour every shelf looking for familiar, or at least similar, items.
5) And of course there's the never ending laundry issue.
6) We spend quite a bit of time maintaining the boat. We like to keep her in good condition so we maintain and inspect things regularly to avoid nasty surprises.
7) We spend a couple of hours each day doing normal house stuff like cooking and cleaning.

8) And we watch a lot of sunsets. Now if we just had some of those little umbrellas...