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The route from Grenada to Curacao has two potential dangers: 1. Piracy off the North coast of Venezuela, which evidently, is worse than the piracy which we had expected off the Somali coast in the Gulf of Aden – so, we sail well offshore from the Venezuelan Islands of Blanquila and Los Rogues! 2. Strong easterly winds, which build up towards the Gulf of Mexico, after their long journey across the Atlantic.
The Predictwind Offshore service which we are subscribed to, indicated a favourable four day weather window starting on the 7 th November 2020. The expected wind strength for the 440 nm (815 km) distance was around a 15 knot Easterly with swells of 1 – 2 metres. Ideal for Esprit with a poled out jib and full main, going dead downwind. We set sail from St George’s in Grenada on the 7th at 15:00.
To remind us of the high rainfall in Grenada and as a farewell present, we were hit by a severe squall with torrential rain, two miles offshore. After this, Harry the Hydrovane took control and we were sailing downwind at 9 – 11 knots SOG (Speed Over Ground). With no further rain and a consistent wind, we had a wonderful trip downwind for the next two days.
Weather, according to MetBob in New Zealand (Bob McDavitt), is a mix of pattern and chaos. It therefore comes as no surprise, when the wind suddenly dies down on day three, despite the predictions. We had to start the Yanmar engine and motor for the last 30 hours, before anchoring in Curacao – averaging 6.1 knots over the total distance. As passages go, this one was both good and frustrating.
Although Bonaire is the first island in the Netherlands Antilles to be reached, sailing from Grenada, we passed it by as Bonaire required 14 days quarantine on arrival. It is a small island, but has good diving.
South of Willemstad the capital of Curaçao, is a substantial body of sheltered inland water called Spaanse Water (Spanish Water), accessed by a narrow channel. Yachts anchor here in five designated bays during the hurricane season. Although we have now reached the end of this season, there are still many permanent boats anchored here, mostly from the USA, Canada and SA, who uses the bays as a base to cruise the region.
You can’t blame these cruisers, as the island (a self governing province of the Netherlands), is well developed with modern infrastructure and services, but more European than the islands of the Windward and Leeward Islands. The Island was settled by the Dutch around the same time in the 1600’s as Cape Town in SA, so architecturally the Dutch Colonial style buildings with the Amsterdam gables are similar, but more colourful in Curacao. Because it is a world heritage site, modern buildings have to conform in a stylised fashion.
The official language is Dutch, but culturally, the island has many influences such as Spanish, Portuguese, French, Afro-Caribbean, Latin American, Asian and Jewish. English is widely spoken, but the native tongue is Creole of Portuguese descent.
The morning after our arrival, we took a bus into Willemstad and walked for miles to check in with Customs, Immigration and the Port Authority, staffed by friendly and efficient people, all apologising for the fact that the offices are situated so far apart. In the evening we had Ed and Natalie on “SV Safari” from Canada over for drinks – they had helped us in the morning with information on how to get around. They have a beautifully restored Morgan monohull and two dogs.
Ed and Natalie have a car and they invited us along on their weekly shopping trip to the supermarkets two days later. The supermarkets are well stocked with fantastic cheeses and cheap Amstel beer. The selection of fresh fruit and veg is of good quality and reasonably priced. We look forward to exploring Curacao further, until the end of November, but in the meantime, we conclude with a few photos around the Spanish Water.