Off to San Blas

The wind has settled down and we are ready to leave for San Blas. We took the bus into town this morning to check out but, contrary to the advice they gave us when we checked in, they wouldn’t let us…. Customs and immigration now insist they have to see the boat. So tomorrow we have a 2 hour sail in the wrong direction in order to clear out and present the boat and ourselves to the officials… We don’t mind following the rules but it’s frustrating when they change from day to day! 

It’s about 700 miles to Sam Blas which should take us 5 days or so and we plan to spend a couple of weeks there before heading to Panama. It’s unlikely that we will have Internet access but we will try to do regular position updates on http://blog.mailasail.com/Rehua

Anyway, here’s a quick update from Seathan too:

Aruba Aroooba, it’s time to leave this beautiful but over populated Isle, we have endured 11 days of maintenance and happy hours, do Yanmar make a liver filter? 

On the boat side some great improvements have occurred, the most rewarding, a thorough clean up of the wiring on the DC side of the boat has been completed and we are now free to make water, keep the fridge and freezer running whilst under auto helm just on solar power, obviously a cloudy day is not welcome! this is a huge relief heading into the Pacific where the doldrums will put our diesel supplies at a premium!

The Caribbean has been special, a great wind down from the last crossing, we are entering new territory and with it comes the vagaries of weather around Columbia, we will take a more northerly route to avoid the permanent low we have been monitoring. Panama, San Blas in particular beckons, let’s hope they have not been changed to the degree we have seen in the Eastern Caribbean.

We will keep position updates via Inmarsat otherwise it’s silence for the next two weeks, that should mean we are in Paradise, here’s hoping!

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Swimming pools

It’s still blowing hard! So we decided to wait a few more days in Aruba before crossing to San Blas. Yesterday, Seathan and Stef went off to do some sand-kiting in the north of the island and Sandra and I decided to take the kids swimming. From where we are anchored we can see many big resorts lined up along the beach. Usually, if you take a few drinks or have some lunch at the pool bar, you are allowed to use the facilities. Here in Aruba that doesn’t seem to work though. The first hotel we stopped at seemed perfect and as we looked for a couple of empty sun loungers we were approached by a security guy who told us we were not allowed to swim. We asked if we could have lunch at the bar and apparently that was allowed. So we went to the pool bar and the waiter immediately offered to help us out and told us that he could get us a couple of blue towels (required to sit by the pool) but that we had to wait until there was a change in security guards. Anyway, it all sounded very complicated so we decided to try the second hotel. There, everyone was wearing a special bracelet and soon a security guy spotted us too, so we left. At the third hotel we didn’t even make it through the gate as security was stopping everyone who was trying to walk in and we weren’t even allowed to buy a drink at the bar. So we decided to settle down at a little beach bar to do our schoolwork with our feet in the sand and then go back and try our luck with the barman at the first place. Luckily, by the time we returned the security guy was gone and replaced by someone else so we took our chances. The kids jumped into the pool and Sandra and I had a drink at the bar. After a generous tip the barman happily gave us a couple of the standard blue towels so we could pretend we were hotel guests. But that didn’t fool the new security guy. Somehow he had worked out we were frauds (maybe because we were the only non-Americans in the resort?) and came over to ask us where we got the towels from. He was worried we pinched them from a chair and other guests would subsequently be missing their towels (for which apparently they have to pay a 25 USD deposit). We assured him we didn’t pinch them but also didn’t want to get our friendly barman into trouble. After some pleading he believed us and we were allowed to stay for the afternoon. Needless to say the kids had a great time! 

ABC

We had a pretty rough sail today from Curaçao to Aruba (25 to 30 knots with a peaks of 35 and a very agitated sea) but we were all fine and at least we got here fast! After a two night stop in Bonaire we continued to Curaçao where we left Gert and his 30 year old boat. He made it in one piece but we sailed beside him all the way just in case something went wrong. He’s now safely anchored in  the bay in Curaçao and considering the repairs he needs to make. 

The ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao) are part of the Netherlands but enjoy a large degree of autonomy. The Hague is now only responsible for defence and foreign affairs. Each island uses a different currency (although the USD is accepted everywhere and in Bonaire that’s their official currency). Dutch is the official language and the local language is Papiamento which has elements of Creole, Portuguese and some African languages. For me it’s been a treat to find lots of delicacies from back home in the supermarket and we’re now well stocked up after a big supermarket shop yesterday. Luckily the supermarket agreed to drive us and all the shopping back to the dinghy dock where we loaded everything into the dinghy and then ferried it onto the boat. Packing and storing everything took a few hours!
Clearing in the ABC has been the most cumbersome on our trip yet. As we arrived in Bonaire late afternoon we decided to check in the next morning. It’s what we’ve done everywhere else and it’s never been a problem. The authorities were not impressed though and threatened us with a 100 USD fine for not having checked in that same evening. Also, as normal, Seathan went to customs and immigrations on his own but they insisted everyone had to come along. So we had to wake up Aeneas (who likes a lie-in) and drag Tyrii away from his schoolwork (well that wasn’t so hard) and all make our way to customs and immigrations. At least they were only a 10 min walk away from the dinghy dock. In Curaçao we had to take a bus for 30 mins into town and then walk another 20 mins to find customs and after that we had to walk another 30 mins across town to immigration (luckily the boys had brought their scooters). If it wasn’t for Gert we would have struggled to find them as their office is in the middle of nowhere near the docks. Again we were told off for not having checked in the same evening we arrived… Even though the pilot book mentioned one can check in within 24 hours after arriving. What a palaver! We checked in and out at the same time and left early this morning. We arrived in Aruba late afternoon and it looks like we still haven’t learned our lesson as we decided to do the clearing-in tomorrow morning 😇
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