Aruba MTB trailing

Round the cacti, over the rocks, through the sand and avoid the thorns. If you can do all that while still enjoying the view and keeping an eye on the GPS, then you are ready to go trailing in Aruba.

A six o’clock start meant we were well on our way by sunrise and had the first trail – Tribu Trail – finished before we met any one else. On the far side of the island there was sand, wind and a loan fisherman casting into the breaking swell.

On the second trail we actually met a few other mountain bikers and Neill got a huge thorn straight through tire and inner tube but that is just part of the fun if you leave the tarmac here.

We finished the tour with a fresh coconut and two beers and were home before it got REALLY hot.

Our track is at GPSies.

Desert Biking

Wikipedia says that Aruba has a hot semi-arid climate. But when you are cycling along a dusty track what you are thinking is “desert!” Maybe it is the dust or the cacti, the whiptail lizards scuttling everywhere, the rattlesnake lying on the road or just the baked rocks? Maybe it is the temperature of above 30°C or the humidity of nearly 80%?

Arikok National Park

Finally we have found an anchorage where the waves allow us to land the bikes and a possibility to store them safely on land. So we are now once again bikers and life is good. Shops, gas suppliers and ice cream parlors are now all easy to reach, at least on the downwind leg. The wind blows constantly at 30km/h from the East so upwind legs are great training and really test your stamina at the end of the day.

Serious thorns!

Today we got up early, rowed to land and headed (upwind) to the Arikok National Park. We entered along a track and were immediately “in the desert”. The park authority had laid two thin strips of concrete for 4×4 vehicles to drive along. Cycling up a steep hill trying not to wobble more than fifty centimeters took some practice. The views were stunning. As far as we could see just stone, thorn bush, cactus, sky and sea. The only rattlesnake we saw was dead which was a shame as they are a seriously threatened sub-species. Huge thorn bushes are everywhere with finger long thorns that wreck bike tires.

When we reached the north side of the island the vegetation was reduced even further by the salt laden air and we cycled through the barren landscape to reach the Quadirikiri Caves which were just being unlocked by a park ranger. We entered the cave and had it to ourselves – apart from the bats that live there and were flying around and the biggest “creepy crawly” we have ever seen. The back of the cave is dome like and has two holes in the roof. It is like a natural version of the Pantheon in Rome – just smaller and minus the crowds. Stunning!

Quadirikiri Caves

Soon after the caves we met the tarmac road and followed it back towards the visitor center where we took a quick diversion up the seriously eroded track to the top of Sero Arikok. Steep, dusty and rocky. At least the quad drivers we met applauded our stamina and cheered us on. At the top we had a panoramic view across the island.

It was now nearly midday so we cycled in to town and bought ice cream, cycled to a workshop to collect our repaired anchor winch motor and then returned to the marina for two ice cold beers. After 50km, 650 meters of climbing and half the way “upwind” we felt we had earned a treat.

The part of the track until the ice cream is at GPSies.

Curaçao kindness

I finished a previous post about the joys of clearing in to Curaçao with the words “I don’t think Curaçao is really trying to encourage cruisers.” It is a real shame because during our time in Curaçao we met some great people and they were all really friendly and helpful.

Robert at the Santa Barbara Plantation answered our emails within minutes – unheard of in the Caribbean, found us a place at the marina and drove us to the bus to clear in.

Jill and Joop were amazing but we have already praised them in English and German. But thank you once again for your friendship, the fun times and all the help you gave us.

scenes from “the party”. Ana cooking. Diana as DJ and everyone having fun

And then there was Ana and Dani and “the party”. We were out for a walk and strolling along the beach at Caracasbaai when Ana asked if we wanted to join the party. She runs a catering business and had invited a few friends for a barbecue on the beach. Her friend Diana was the DJ and together they know how to organize a party. She told us she had great empanadas which – due to our Spanish still being at the very basic level – we misunderstood as bananas. We were pleasantly surprised when we took the first bite. There was officially only beer so I don’t know why we were drinking tequila and vodka. Heidi was dancing in a lineup with Colombian and Venezuelan ladies but she fitted right in. Dancing, drinking, swimming and great food. What a great day in Curaçao.

Nurse Heidi working on the neighbor’s mosquito bites

Vernon was “the guy at the dock” who let us use his pontoon and organized us a guy to repair our jib. Luis was that person. He not only repaired the sail but then found us a motor shop to repair the broken winch motor. He taxied us there and the next day picked up the motor for us. You really appreciate such help when you are in a bay at the “other side of the island”.

And as our “payback” for all this kindness, we rescued Brigitte from the rocks with her windsurfer, Heidi nursed Wim’s mosquito bites and we showed a very tired Andreas and Cecilia how to clear in to Curaçao.

Guest Crew – Curacao Days

Jill Venema

As mentioned in another post, we met Jill and Joop in Curacao and had a great time with them. Here is Jill’s guest post about our adventures.

It was Joop my husband, who first happened upon Neil and Heidi. He works as a maritime pilot in Curacao port and came across them as they were trying to get an anchor permit having just arrived here. They were suffering from the usual frustrations of trying to make contact with the right people in order to do this and not getting very far, so he offered to help. I believe he wasn’t able to do much for them  as it turned out so he did the next best thing he could and that was to drive them to a supermarket so they could at least stock up on supplies.

When he got home, he told me about this intrepid couple who had turned up here on their round the world sailing trip.(they actually didn’t like to call it ’round the world’ as when they set out they were not sure how far they would get, but anyway they were here having set of from Scotland and it seemed pretty far round the world to me !  I was very impressed and hoped I could eventually meet them.

After a few weeks had passed, due to them  entertaining friends, we were able to meet up. We met for a beer or two and ended up almost switching off the lights in the bar as we left.  The night just flew by, such was the very convivial conversation and enjoyment of each others company.  We all had so much to say and Joop and I loved hearing all about the journey so far and the wonderful places visited. We were both so pleased they would be staying for a few weeks and wanted to show them the island . We were so impressed that they rode their bikes everywhere to see the sights of wherever they went , Joop  is a very keen cyclist so it was decided they come to dinner and the next day he would take them out for a sight seeing ride. (I decided to sit this one out as although I like to ride, I only had to look at how fit the three of them are to know I would probably embarrass myself !

So as planned both Neil and Heidi rocked up one afternoon and stay overnight . They were very complimentary about dinner and especially enjoyed the beers in the pool after riding over in the heat. Heidi enjoyed the shower she said as there was  no limit to the water and she could wash her hair and take her time, something I hadn’t considered to be a luxury but I suppose when you think about it…and the bed, amazing to think they hadn’t slept on land for quite sometime, we were so pleased to be able to have them stay and enjoy .

The bike ride took place the next day …..I should probably have  thrown in a warning ….Joop can be a bit of a bugger on the bike and if he detects a certain amount of stamina , he will beast you , and he did!  However I think they both enjoyed it and had a speedy tour of all the different environments on the land, coast and cactus road and track and back for another dip in the pool. Later in the week we took Neil and Heidi to Westpunt (too far to cycle) to swim with the turtles which I know they enjoyed.

Neil and Heidi then very kindly offered us a trip in their beautiful boat. We set off  to a lovely local bay  to swim and snorkel and have some lunch. It was a most exhilarating trip ! It all started out with Neil handing over the tiller to me  which was very trusting of him as I found i kept going in the opposite direction ….anyway I didn’t capsize  the boat and Neil was endlessly patient although my constant ‘SORRY!’ was wearing i think !
Once we got out of the bay Joop took over and he absolutely loved it , we were against the waves and I did rather cling on like a cat but that’s just me, the boat felt safe and I couldn’t help but feel OK knowing how far Artemis had come with both Heidi and Neil so how could anyone feel worried ? However, Heidi provided me with just the thing for a nervous sailor, a good slug of homemade Baileys in my coffee mug, I was totally fine after that!Lunch was splendid, I couldn’t believe that anyone could produce first of all four mugs of coffee on the ‘high seas’ and not spill a drop and then such a wonderful lunch including homemade chocolate brownies , the woman is a marvel !

Our final encounter with these two  lovely people was to be a few beers before we headed off to town to meet friends….oh well, best laid plans and all that…..we turned up to a local beach to meet them only to find they had become involved in a local beach party (it was a bank holiday) Heidi was ‘twerking’, that bottom thing with the local ladies and Neil was welcoming us with a beer when we arrived….and that was that, plans changed….I went to fetch my bikini  and on with the party ! What a great night, dancing eating and drinking, (it was all on your tab and I did want to pay something but was not allowed to ) thank you for your generosity .

There is so much more I could say, we really did have  some great conversations and laughs,  we are sad you have gone but as you said Neil, the world is round and so we will surely meet again. Safe travels on your beautiful Artemis and I know you will make friends wherever you go as you are just the sort of people that make it a certainty. there will be lots of others waving you off from the shore thinking they would have liked you to have stayed longer….or gone with you in Joop’s case. He is on about buying a boat more than ever now whahhhh!

Gast Crew – Karibik wir kommen!

Gertrud Klotz-French

Hier ein Bericht von unsere Freundin Gertrud Klotz-French die zwölf Tage, gemeinsam mit ihre Mann Jon bei uns am Bord war.

Nachdem Heidi und Neill nun schon über ein Jahr unterwegs waren und wir
schon beim Abschied versprachen, sie zu besuchen, wenn sie in wärmeren
Gefilden sind, war es endlich so weit. Juhu, endlich wieder ein Abenteuer!

Hitze

Der erste Eindruck war: HEISS. So heiß, dass eigentlich jeder Fetzen der die
Haut berührt zu viel ist. Aber da wir ja vernünftig sind und als käsige,
winterharte Allgäuer dort angekommen sind, haben wir uns wie die
Beduinen eingemummelt, um nicht zu verbrennen. Mit der Zeit wurde die
Bekleidung aber stetig weniger. Wir verstanden nun auch, warum wir einen
neuen Windcatcher anfertigen und mitbringen sollten. Falls „Gute Reise“
den Dienst versagen sollte, ist ein Ersatz überlebenswichtig. Ohne ist es
unter Deck kaum auszuhalten.

Segelschule

Für Jon, den ehemaligen Inselaffen, waren die Tage ein Auffrischungskurs
im Segeln, für mich als Mountain Girl absolutes Neuland. Umso cooler, dass
ich auch mal am Tiller stehen und steuern lernen durfte. Ich kenne jetzt
auch ein paar wenige Knoten und einige Bezeichnungen das Boot und das
Segeln betreffend z.B. Downwind ist mit dem Wind segeln, Upwind gegen
den Wind und – ist nicht meins!!! Die beiden Gastgeber waren so süß und
haben immer wieder Entschuldigungen gefunden, warum es mir schlecht
wird: zu wenig Schlaf, zu viel gegessen, zu viel Schlaf… aber ich war einfach
seekrank. Hab’s überlebt! In Zukunft werde ich die Blogs von Heidi und
Neill mit gleichem Interesse, aber noch besserem Verständnis lesen, weil:
Ich war dabei, ich hab’s gesehen, gespürt, berührt, gehört, gefühlt und
gemacht!

Seglerleben

stellte sich für mich so dar: ankern in schönen Buchten, ins Meer hüpfen
wann man will, schnorcheln in türkisfarbenem klaren Wasser, neue
Gegenden, andere Flora und Fauna sehen, tolle Sonnenuntergänge, das
Leben genießen. Aber für einen richtigen Segler kommt da noch mehr dazu:
segeln erfordert körperliche und geistige Fitness, einiges muss simultan
ausgeführt werden, es gibt viel zu tun und viel zu beachten, unerwartete
Probleme lösen und Ideen umsetzen, Reparaturen ausführen UND Customs
and Immigration! Oh mei, für uns ja nicht so schlimm auch wenn wir
deswegen den dreiviertel Tag in Willemstad rumtrotteten. Wir mussten nur
anwesend sein und Heidi und Neill hinterherlatschen, die schon im Vorfeld
alles online gemacht, Papiere vorbereitet und herausgefunden haben was
nötig ist und wohin man muss. Naja, muss wohl sein. Am „Heimweg“
stolperten wir dafür in die richtige Gasse, wo uns Reggae Musik zur
Mojitobar lockte und wir uns erst 1, dann 2, 3 … Caipirinha zur Belohnung
gönnten. Das Zeug schmeckt in der Karibik genauso gut, haut nur schneller
rein. Haben dann prompt den Bus verpasst.

Inselhopping

Vor Klein Curacao ankerten wir und reparierten das Jippsegel, das einen
Riss bekommen hatte. Das war aufregend! Am nächsten Tag erkundeten wir
die unbewohnte Insel mit Leuchtturmruine und einem Riesenwrack am
Strand im Zuge eines Geocaches. Es war einer der wenigen Tage mit
wolkenlosem Himmel, also unglaublich heiß. War dann echt froh wieder ins
Wasser zu kommen und den vielen bunten Fischen zusehen und auch mal
eine Schildkröte zu Gesicht zu bekommen. Dann ging es weiter Upwind
nach Bonaire –extra nachts, damit ich nicht so viel leiden musste. Trotzdem wollte ich auch die Sterne der Karibik sehen und wurde mit dem Kreuz des Südens am Himmel und mit im Wasser funkelndem Plankton belohnt. Und eigentlich ist das hart am Wind segeln voll geil.

Bonaire

als Taucherparadies, galt es natürlich auch unter Wasser zu erkunden. Das
Housereef war insofern interessant, da wir Artemis von unten
kennenlernten und sie nach einem Jahr auf See, mit Spachtel bewaffnet,
gründlich von Ablagerungen befreiten. Das hat dann viele Fische angelockt.
Jon und ich nahmen auch an einem Bootstauchgang teil, d.h. mit einer
Gruppe Taucher in einem Boot raus aufs offene Meer an ein Riff, um dort
mit einem Tauchguide ca. eine Stunde zu tauchen. In unserem Fall war der
Guide taubstumm, was unter Wasser ja überhaupt keine Rolle spielt. Der
hat den idealen Job für sich gefunden! Da mir zwei Tauchgänge
hintereinander zuviel sind, gab Jon vor seinem zweiten Abtauchen Neill die
Koordinaten des Tauchboots durch und so wurde ich von der Artemis
abgeholt. Ich kam mir vor wie eine VIP – Bin durchs offene Meer von
einem zum anderen Boot rüber gekrault. Immer für Abenteuer zu haben.
Der Skipper ließ mich aber nicht ohne Unterschrift gehen, sonst wäre es
sein erstes Mal gewesen, dass er mit 8 Leuten raus und nur mit 7
zurückkommt.

Am nächsten Tag war Jon nochmal tauchen und ich machte mich mit Hilfe
der Crew endlich an die Bemalung des neuen Windcatchers, bevor der
Urlaub zu Ende ist und ich meinen Hauptjob nicht erfüllt bekomme. Heidi
zauberte nebenher wieder mal was Leckeres zu essen und machte Hefeteig
für Brot, dem mein zwischenzeitlich verabreichter Fußabdruck
geschmacklich nichts anhaben konnte. Nochmal Sorry Heidi, wir hätten ein
Foto machen sollen.

Gegen Abend holten wir den Mietwagen ab und fuhren Flamingo gucken.
Jon und Heidi trauten sich durch die Kakteen zum Geocache, während Neill
Cäsar zitierte, aber statt Freunde , Brüder, Römer hörten nur ich und
vielleicht ein paar Papageien zu. Und wieder gabs einen wunderschönen
Sonnenuntergang. Dieser Abend endete spät, nach leckerem Eis, Karaoke-
Gesang, Kartenspielen und yummy Cocktails.

Nationalpark

Eigentlich wären wir lieber mit Scootern rumgedüst, aber in den
Nationalpark darf man nur mit 4×4 Drive und dann wußten wir auch
warum: Staubige Straßenpisten, manchmal steil, meist holprig, führten
kilometerlang durch undurchdringlichen Kakteendschungel und das in
brütender Hitze. Auf dem Pickup hinten drauf hats Spaß gemacht, Jon hatte
seine Freude hinterm Steuer und das Schnorcheln in den Buchten hat sich
gelohnt. Wir mussten noch zu Customs and Immigration, Einkaufen,
Volltanken, Auto zurückbringen, Eisessen, Essen gehen. Für die maximale
Ausnutzung des Mietwagens war logistisches Geschick notwendig. Beinahe
wären wir in Streß geraten, was dank Neills weisem Management und
Rudermuskeln gerade noch verhindert werden konnte. Danke Neill!

Rückweg

Nachts downwind segeln war halb so wild für mich. Neill fand auf Curacao
wieder eine tolle Bucht in der wir den Tag verbummelten.
Tags drauf gings in eine Marina, eigentlich ein Campingplatz für Cruiser
bzw. ein Bootsparkplatz. Hey, in einer Marina gibts Duschen und ich dachte, da freu ich mich drauf. Aber ehrlich gesagt, war baden im Meer mit
anschließender warmer Frischwasserdusche aus einem Eimer, fast noch
schöner, als die nicht mal lauwarme Marinadusche. Minimalismus kann
man sich angewöhnen! Jon erledigte seinen Arbeitsauftrag Fahrräder
checken und dann gings wieder nach Willemstad zur berühmten Customs
and Immigration zum Einklären und Jon und mich Ausklären. In meinem
neuen Reisepass habe ich allein von diesem Urlaub 5 Stempel.

Es ist unglaublich was wir alles in diese 12 Tage hineinpacken konnten. Ich
habe das Gefühl ich war viel länger mit der Artemis unterwegs. Es war
weder streßig, noch eintönig, sondern abwechslungsreich, unterhaltsam,
interessant, abenteuerlich, lustig und sooooo schön wieder mal mit Heidi
und Neill zusammen zu sein und eine schöne gemeinsame Erinnerung zu
erschaffen. Ist uns gut gelungen! Nochmal vielen Dank für die Einladung,
fürs Haben, fürs Aushalten, fürs Organisieren, fürs Kochen, fürs Abholen
und Hinbringen, für so viel Spaß und Lachen und Singen, für eure Zeit und
eure Freundschaft.

Schluchz, schnief bis zum Wiedersehn. Bussi,
Gertrud

The Jill and Joop Curaçao experience

We met Joop the first time we tried to clear in to Curaçao and he saved the day. A few days ago we met Jill and Joop at a nearby bar. There are people you just enjoy being with from the first minute and these two definitely fit in that category. It felt like we had only been talking for an hour when we were asked to pay and go home as the bar was shutting.

The next day we cycled the long way round to their house via Willemstad and Fort Nassau (which is of course on top of a hill). We were met with cold beers to be drunk in the swimming pool. This was followed by a fantastic Thai meal and a few more drinks. Jill runs a great restaurant for the select few guests. A few more drinks and it was agreed that we would stay the night and see if we could sleep on land or remember how to use a shower.

North coast of Curaçao. St. Georges Bay

The following morning we were fed up on coffee, muesli and home made smoothies before being sent off for a bike ride with Joop.

As a job Joop used to fly out to ships off Rotterdam by helicopter once the wind reached force 9 and then get dropped by rope on to the containers below. He also tried to stop tugs tipping over in hundred foot waves by hiding up Norwegian Fjords. Nowadays he “just” leaps from pilot boats on to cruise ships or cargo ships. His hobbies are snowboarding, skiing, surfing, mountain biking, road biking and kite surfing. He once cycled up Teidi three times in one day! We should have guessed this wasn’t going to be a gentle wander round the island.

Joop and Heidi out and about on Curaçao

The speed was “fast” but the route was fantastic. We crossed desert, volcanic coastline, cactus forests, salt flats and beaches. We passed blow holes, wind generators, kite surfers and dead goats. A truly amazing cycle ride. A few times we were allowed a quick pause before being reminded “we aren’t tourists” and encouraged to set off again. At a beach we were allowed a stop long enough to eat an apple. If we do this every day we may be as fit as Joop once we reach his age.

Back at the house Jill had prepared another dream meal. We barely had time for the cold beer that was pressed in our hands before plates of mushroom, noodle, prawn taste bud explosion were set before us. This is the way to live!

Thank you Jill and Joop for all your time and a brilliant Curaçao experience.

The route back to the boat is here.

Guest Crew – Sailing with Heidi and Neill

Jon French

Our friend Jon French and his wife Gertrud visited us on board for twelve days. Here is the blog post he wrote about it.

Well we said that when they get to the Caribbean, we’d love to join them for a few days sailing, and that’s what we did.

On Friday 31 May 2019 we flew out to Curacao. Stayed one night in a hotel. Gave Heidi and Neill the coordinates N12° 07.295′ W68° 58.174′, and they picked Gertrud and myself up at the Hotel Dive center Jetty.  Was kind of cool asking the hotel what depth of water (Draft) their jetty had, so that my crew can pick me up in the morning, lol.

After a warm welcome with lots of cuddles, we motored about 500 meters inland and set anchor, and Neill gave us a safety briefing about the boat, and how to use the toilet. The next day the sailing adventure started. Just a little trip on the map to Spanish Water, N12° 04.766′ W68° 51.531′ against the wind (So it’s about double the distance, if not more). I more or less grew up sailing, so it was a quick refresher course on what rope (Sheet) does what. Neill let me make the route, which I did every time we sailed from then on. At Spanish Water we set anchor (Heidi you taught me well), and the next day had a trip into Willemstad.

Customs and immigration. The one thing they don’t teach you in sailing school is what a pain in the ass this can be. Bureaucracy with a capital “B.” It could be so easy. You could do it all online. But there are a couple of programs out there, but which one does the next country use, and can the people in the office in front of the computer use it. OMG! Enough said.

After booking out of immigration and some KFC (Yummy), we stumbled on a Reggae Bar with good music and even better Caipies. Made lots of new friends and missed the bus.

Next day on to Small Curacao, Rock and roll against the wind for about 8 hours. Small Curacao is a small uninhabited Island Straight out of the Roche advert. White sand and crystal clear water with a light house and a ship wreck. We arrived just as the tourists were leaving, and had the Island all to ourselves. Beautiful sunset.

Next day a walk around the Island, and a Geocache, which had been muggled but was still there.

We decided then to sail in the evenings, which would be better for Gertrud. Sailing upwind was really testing her sea legs. She could then have a tablet and go to bed. We left after midnight, getting some sleep before hand, and sailed through the night to Bonaire. We made such good time that we had to slow down a bit before dawn, otherwise we would arrive at a mooring buoy, N12° 09.552′ W68° 16.923′ in the dark. I Probably looked at the stars to long and had 20 minutes of sea sickness in the night, but then was OK. Whats also amazing about sailing at night is how the plankton lights up in the bow wave, and leaves a trail of light, like small LED’s in the water. And it’s dark with no moon.

Bonaire. What a lovely Island. Clean, customs and immigration are very good, Diving costs an arm and a leg (very expensive) and the ice cream is out of this world Delicious. I did 6 dives there, For the price of 20 dives in Egypt. House Reef with Gertrud on the first afternoon. 2 boat dives, one each day, each boat dive with 2 dives, on Klein Bonaire, a small Island on the west side of Bonaire, Dive sights called “Hands Off,” “Rock Pile,” “Divi Divi Tree” and “Captain Dons Reef.” Last dive cleaning the underside of Artemis with Gertrud. Well we had to pay our rent.

On the last day on Bonaire we hired a 4 wheel drive pick up. We picked it up late afternoon at 17:00 and drove out to see the Penguins, sorry flamingos on the NW side of the Island at Saina Goto, Lake Gotomeer. Oh! a Geocache. Heidi and I found it after dancing among the prickly Cacti. The Frigging birds, sorry the flamingos didn’t exactly do a fly past, but they were there, and we had another one of those beautiful romantic sunsets.

Up early, well like every morning, and jump in the Dingy. Neill rows to land, and off we go to the North side of the Island to the Washington Siagbaai National Park, for a bit of off roading, snorkeling and sightseeing. Iguanas, goats, donkeys and birds everywhere.When we got back, we did a big shopping trip, using the car, and booked out of Immigration and customs, to leave just after midnight and sail Downwind (Yahoo), through the night back to Curacao.

At Curacao we spent the rest of that day and that night anchored in a little bay N12° 03.520′ W68° 50.214′, which turned out later in the afternoon to be quite popular spot with the local young folk, with Daddies boat and big ghetto blasters. Super gymnasts. Nice flick Flacks.

Well we came all this way to service Heidi and Neill’s bikes, and time was running out, so Neill decided to moor in a Marina for two nights, so we could get the bikes out easier. Servicing them didn’t take long, I built them well, lol. Heidi needs a new Gear hanger (Schaltauge). I’ve ordered 2, but you’ve got to come and collect it Heidi.

In the afternoon we had to go to into Willemstad to Customs and immigration again. OMG! we had to book in, and be taken off Captain Neill’s Crew list, otherwise Neill would lose his boat and we couldn’t fly out. Then to top it all off, we have been only coming in and out of Curacao on weekends. This was a Tuesday and the Anchor permit office was open. Never done this before. Upps. A law from 1936 says you are only allowed to Anchor for 3 days in one spot, other than Spanish Water, and you have to tell them NOW where you are going to be for the next 30 days. But only when they are open. Bureaucracy or what!? I think it was to stop spies during WW2. Gertrud and I left Heidi and Neill scratching their heads trying to make up a travel plan to the end of the month. We went to the Brewery Cafe for a coffee and a local beer. The 2 sailors joined us about an hour later with a story of a touchy woman official.

That evening I tried to phone a taxi for the morning to pick us up, to take us to the Airport, which proved to be a task I was to incompetent to do. Heidi got  him in the end, and about an hour later he phoned me back to confirm. He’d obviously got my whatsapp message, but hadn’t checked his phone. Last night on the boat, and as always we played Wicked Willy. Heidi won most of the time. I think Neill and Gertrud won once. Me always last. We played twice on the last night. I won twice, only because Heidi let me win the first game, and the second game I was the only one awake, lol.

Next morning sad farewells. Taxi came at 12, and our flight had been delayed, No browny points for KLM on the homeward flight. Personal were super, but it was, I think, an older plane, with less leg room, and the monitors didn’t work properly. 10 hours with no on board entertainment to help with the jet lag. I watched one film using Gertrud’s headphones with my monitor. It worked. When we arrived late in Amsterdam, our flight had been changed to a Lufthansa flight to München, and we had to sprint from one side of the airport to the other. This apparently happens to everyone I’ve talked to coming home through Amsterdam airport. WHY? A mega rush to wait 20 minutes to board.

A big thank you to Heidi and Neill for putting up with us for 12 days. A real Adventure. I loved the boat. I haven’t mentioned Heidi’s wonderful cooking, as everyone will want to visit them. And using the Toilet against the wind. That’s one experience I don’t want to repeat. But all in all a fantastic time

Thanks both of you and my lovely Gertrud.

Fun entering and leaving Curaçao

When you enter Martinique you stroll across to a marina, ships handler or cafe and fill in a formula online and get it stamped by an employee. Leaving the country is just as simple.

When you enter or leave Antigua you fill out everything online then go to one office at the port of entry where they print the stuff out and you sign it.

When you enter Curaçao you can also fill everything out online. This doesn’t change the fact that you have to travel to the offices in Willenstad. The offices are right next to the dock but you aren’t allowed to enter the port so you anchor in Spanish Water and take a bus in to the town and then walk to the customs building. There you find a sign saying they have moved so cross a canal (this was a dutch colony) and look for the office down a side road, up some stairs and round a corner. There are of course no signs.

waiting for the harbour master

At customs you tell them that you filled everything out online so that they only ask you a few more questions, ask to see proof you left the previous country, check all your papers and then give you a clearance form. They then send you on to immigration in the blue building you can see from their window. Walk downriver, cross two more canals and the river (by ferry or swinging bridge) and then walk back up river to the blue building. Fail to find immigration so ask someone who points at the green building.

You can also tell Immigration that you have filled out everything online but they don’t care so you get lots of papers to fill out by hand. Do that. Give them all your papers and passports and receive more papers in return. Ask where the Harbour Masters office is and be directed upstairs in the blue building. Also be told that the harbour master closes from 11:30 until “twoish” for lunch so you just missed them.

Enjoy the unexpected long lunch break before returning at “twoish” to discover that the entire office has taken today (Friday) off as yesterday was a holiday but will be back on Monday.

By Monday we had decided to sail to Bonaire so we revisited customs and immigration again and went through the whole process again. Practice makes perfect.

A week later we were back in Curaçao so bus, customs and immigration again. Customs had us in their system so that was easy but immigration had never heard of us so we filled everything out again. Then off to the harbour masters office. This time they were open and only to happy to issue an anchor permit as long as we told the lady on exactly which day we intended to be in which anchorage (and in one case which part of the anchorage) and for how long and were willing to pay $10 per anchorage. Of course we could change our mind at any time as long as we personally took the bus back to her office and told her (and paid some more dollars).

I don’t think Curaçao is really trying to encourage cruisers.

Frenchies on board

When we left Germany, lots of people told us that they would be “popping out” to see us. Until now only Max had managed it but the last two weeks we enjoyed having Gertrud and Jon on board. They flew from Germany to Curacao and immediately began to melt in the heat. We collected them at the hotel pier, allowed them to move in to the “master suite” and then took them for a hike under the midday sun to do some shopping.

They told us that over half their luggage was made up of things that we had ordered in Europe and had sent to them. Luckily they managed to buy enough while they were here to ensure they had some luggage to take home.

Frenchies on Holiday

We introduced them to the joys of clearing out with immigration and customs and then from Curacao we sailed three days against the wind to Bonaire. Gertrud is definitely not an upwind sailor so on the third day, after a stop over in Klein Curacao, we continued in the night so that she could sleep and wake up in the next port – just like a small cruise ship.

Bonaire calls itself “Divers Paradise” so Gertrud and Jon were in the water more than out of it. They scraped all the plant and animal life off our hull while diving and returned after each trip with a list of fish and corals they had seen.

Out of the water we visited the national park in the north of the island where Jon showed off his off-roading skills in a rental 4×4. We drove through a cactus forest, snorkeled among thousands of fish and enjoyed the unspoiled nature. It was a satisfying but tiring day and once again we ended up in the ice cream shop before we once again “forced them” to play cards and drink alcohol.

in the national park

The Frenchies had sewed us a new wind catcher on which they painted our Yin-Yang logo. Jon gave the bikes a quick service and when we wanted to sail, they both had the boat prepared before we left. Probably they need a rest after this holiday – especially as everything happens in at least thirty degrees centigrade.

From Bonaire we sailed back to Curacao through the night and anchored in a lonely bay before berthing in a marina to clear in and then putting our two guests in an air conditioned taxi and sending them back to a cooler climate.

Jon was kind enough to write us a guest post.

At sea in the Caribbean

We were two days out of Marigot on St. Martins, about two hundred miles from anywhere in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. It had been a good day with lots of sun and little wind. In the morning we had changed to our Parasailor and thus maintained our momentum despite the missing wind.

We had also modified our prototype deck cover to give us more headroom and more shelter – another project that is progressing well through fast prototyping with pegs, ropes and a bed sheet.

We now have a data logger keeping track of both system voltage and fridge temperature so another ongoing project is optimising the one without sacrificing the other. Who would have believed a tenth of a volt plus or minus ciuld be so interesting or that tracking the sun with the solar panels so rewarding.

Artemis at sea in the Caribbean

In the evening we cooked dinner which we ate in the cockpit direct from the saucepan. The only other sign of life was a huge ship just visible over the horizon. Perfect timing allowed us to follow our meal with a glass of chilled wine as the sun set. As we ghosted along in the breeze a pod of dolphins joined us to play at the bow. With the wine finished, thoughts turned to Neill getting some sleep.

And then …

The wind came back. Suddenly the boat was healing and being dragged upwind by a fifteen knot wind in the Parasailor. Luckily we are an experienced team so lifejackets on, boat turned downwind and Parasailor snuffed. At which point the AIS alarm started trilling to let us know the huge bulk carrier was no longer over the horizon but heading our way. Ships seem to be magnetically drawn to us. They have millions of square miles of ocean but always seem to want to pass close by to look at the “little boat”. Or maybe we are just paranoid.

With the Parasailor stowed, the “normal sails” set and after ducking behind the ship we were off again at over five knots. After half an hour of tidying up ropes and dish washing, it was time for a second try at an evening drink – this time a shared can of beer.

And then it was time to switch on the navigation lights and see what the night watches had waiting.