A gentle sail along the blue-green crystal waters of the southern Caribbean, from picturesque Bonaire to cosmopolitan Curaçao in the Netherlands Antilles…
A little background
Buying a boat in the US isn’t easy. Dreams aren’t always easy.
Taking 3 months to finalise the boat’s sale in 2008 then trucking Reality (Catalina 470) to Miami for a fit-out before sailing to Florida, Cuba, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic, we need to continue to sail below the hurricane belt before hurricane season.
The Netherlands Antilles
Founded between 1493 and 1499, the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao) also known as the Leeward Islands and the Lesser Antilles, form part of the Netherlands Antilles group of six islands.
The other three islands are the Windward Islands comprising Saint Martin, Sint Eustatius, and Saba.
Bonaire: 12°09.850’N, 68°17.110’W
Klein Curaçao: 11.9913°N, 68.6425°W
Curaçao: 12.1696°N, 68.9900°W
A final farewell to Bonaire and wonderful yachting friends that we’ve met over the past few weeks, before today’s short day sail.
Bonaire is a popular destination for cruising boats from America as is the rest of the Caribbean.
Heading out under the morning’s warming sun and light sea breeze for the 26NM sail to Klein Curaçao, sees a pleasant passage under full sail – no need for the motor today.
Klein Curaçao (or Little Curaçao) is only a 1.7-kilometre uninhabited flat sliver, slicing through the southern Caribbean Sea that from the air almost resembles a teardrop.
Nearing the island’s flatness, the solitary lighthouse protrudes as a constant reminder of time.
Several thatched huts housing the occasional fisherman dot one end of the island, which is renown for diving underwater caves and beautiful coral.
The decrepit lighthouse tower stands at 22 metres and solar-powered although no longer in use as a newer one was built in the island’s interior.
The mining of phosphate on the island for export to Europe during the late 1800s resulted in the island’s level dropping and the plummet of seabirds. Reforestation is currently in progress although I can’t see many signs yet of new growth.
With Reality peacefully at anchor, we’re free to explore as have the island to ourselves today.
The battered lighthouse has succumbed to graffiti and the harsh salty environment. Although a hurricane doesn’t travel this far south, the fury of its wake is felt on the island.
Barren vistas from a desolate relic…
…although an escape is never too far away.
As with many Caribbean islands, Klein Curaçao’s dark history involves the Dutch West India Company transporting many slaves from Africa to Curaçao via Klein Curaçao.
Slaves and passengers that didn’t survive the journey are buried on the island. Sick slaves were quarantined until well enough to continue to Curaçao.
Slave huts still remain on the neighbouring island of Bonaire as a constant reminder of the Caribbean’s ugly history.
Wander around the island and it’s not long before you discover that not only the crumbling lighthouse surrendered to storms.
The shipwrecked Maria Bianca Guidesman tanker is a great reminder of nature’s violent wrath.
Time and the island witnessed five vessels yielding to savage storms over the decades…
…as does the aged bleached driftwood and plastic washed up, rendering dishevelled patterns along the island’s shores.
Time to catch the afternoon sea breeze and sail onwards for the next 10NM to Curaçao as the wind is picking up now…
Arriving in sheltered Spaanse Water (Spanish Water) Bay, it’s a try of several times to anchor. The long slippery grassy seaweed causes the anchor to shift and Reality to drag.
It can be tricky finding a secure spot to anchor in this large unusually-shaped natural lagoon. Although, with Reality safely anchored in a firm muddy spot, it’s time to relax and partake in the traditional sundowner.
Catching the government-run (Convooi) bus into Curaçao’s capital Willemstad, which is around 11 kilometres from Spanish Waters as it’s time to stretch the legs and explore a little of this colourful city.
Willemstad’s natural harbour made the city an ideal lucrative trading port in the southern Caribbean.
Around 12 kilometres north of the city, the Curaçao International Airport services the island and the surrounding ABC islands.
Curaçao is home to over 700 UNESCO-listed buildings in Willemstad, which are restored or internally renovated to their former glory.
The dust-blue-coloured Otrobanda Hotel and Casino blends in with Willemstad’s first colonial settlement: Punda. Punda is a World Heritage site although originally, this quarter was a settlement hub for Dutch slave traders.
These days, many dazzling and preserved colonial buildings house art galleries, sidewalk cafés, and fancy fashion boutiques down its narrow cobblestoned alleyways.
Built during 1888, a close-up view of the opening pedestrian pontoon Queen Emma Bridge – also known as “The Swinging Old Lady” – stretches across St. Anna Bay.
Connecting Willemstad’s Punda and Otrobanda historical quarters, it’s a pleasant stroll across the bridge.
Because everything is quite expensive in Curaçao as the island operates on the Netherlands Antillean Guilder, boats arrive from Venezuela with cheaper fresh produce and products to sell to the locals.
More Venezuelan boats filled with South American goods and fuel…
Some of you may have heard of or tried the smooth blue-coloured liqueur that goes by the same name of Curaçao and usually mixed in cocktails?
The Curacao Liqueur Distillery at Landhuis Chobolobo still produces this deep blue liqueur that is flavoured with the dried peel of the Laraha (citrus) fruit grown on the island of Curaçao. Senior & Co – the company that owns the distillery – still uses a copper kettle that’s 120-years old for the distilling process.
Why not take a tour through the distillery on your visit to Curaçao and whilst there, learn how to make a cocktail or two or indulge in a bottle?
Returning to Spanish Waters
I’m sure we’ll return to Willemstad soon as this is the hub of Curaçao and great for provisioning.
Gorgeous friendly Caribbean faces are plentiful in Curaçao and not bothered about gracing my lens, whilst waiting for an ice-cream.
For now, it’s a bus back to Spanish Waters and Reality for a well-earned sundowner, and also to meet more cruising folk…