Cruising In Company: Leaving Curacao and Across To Aruba
I didn’t realise how difficult it would be being part of 40 boats on the rally. There seems to be a lot of people, opinions and personalities sailing around in a small space. We’re just one week in to cruising in company with the OCC Suzie Too Rally and while there are many plus sides, such as the camaraderie and the safety in numbers, I’m struggling to find my calm place in this large group.
But I’m not fazed; there were always going to be teething problems And travelling with a lot of boats is something I have to get my head round, especially as it’s a huge personal adjustment from our normal quiet pace of life and simple route planning of wherever we lay our anchor, that’s our home!
The organisation of 40 boats leaving Curacao was immense. Suzanne, the rally organiser surpassed herself with convincing Customs and Immigration to come to us. A room at the resort where the rally had held its events was taken over by the authorities, complete with government laptops, paperwork and ink stamps and it took less than four hours to check every person out of the country. Boats then left Curacao in their own time, and this staggered departure worked really well.
However, it was a different story in Aruba where, despite boats arriving in smaller groups at different times, it still took Customs and Immigration the whole day to clear us all in.
Two Drifters scores the only ‘yacht-friendly’ position on the cruise ship dock
This time we had to be present with our boats on a cruise ship dockside. There were no cleats to tie to, just rusty loops and bollards. Two Drifters’ arrival was timed perfectly for mid-morning, just after the first group of Suzy Too boats left the dock, so we were able to secure the one space suitable for a yacht as it had no tyre fenders. The other eight boats that came in behind us had to rock up to a dock that was covered in black tractor tyres – not ideal as these can leave terrible scuff marks. Skipper played a blinder as dockmaster helping boats tie up during huge cross winds and strong currents.
Yachts begin to line up behind us, dreading the marks from the black tyres
Eventually after four hours we were lucky to be cleared in. Some boats had a longer wait while others were left circling around in hope of a space on the dock. And this is where my reservations of travelling in such a large group come in. At times there are just too many of us around and some of our ports of call simply aren’t set up to cope with such numbers.
The Suzie Too Rally main anchorage in Aruba
Squeezing all the boats into the one town anchorage, just by the airport, also took several attempts. It was a very tightly packed first night and it wasn’t long before boats opted to head to the north of the island where it was less crowded but the holding was not so good. This area also packs a punch in hotels, day-charter boats, fast boats pulling donuts behind them and jet skis, so it’s not all together as peaceful as first thought.
Mile after mile of international hotels
Determined to enjoy our time in Aruba, I organised a group of us on a tour of some of the highlights in the National Park and beyond. Due to the topography, I opted for a company that specialised in quad bikes and off-road 4WD vehicles and booked everyone on to their preferred mode of transport beforehand. Swapping boats for bikes brought out the big kid in everyone (and some more than most who got petulant when they wanted to change vehicle at last minute)! It was a fun day with lots of laughs and wonderful to see what Aruba has to offer aside from cruise ships, international hotels and designer shops.
We opted for a UTV to explore Aruba, otherwise known as Ferg’s Pope Mobile or, after we’d won a few of the rally girls, it became the Love Shack!
Swapping boats for bikes…the rally takes on a whole new realm of fun
With boats in different anchorages around the island we keep in touch via VHF radio. Suzanne and David, the rally organisers, hold a daily VHF net update each morning, where the group can talk over any support issues or concerns; discuss the all-important weather and also to hear what events are going on. There are socialising opportunities in bucket-loads with yoga on the beach, noodle-fit, cocktail hours at a chosen bar, group outings to the cinema and shops, organised dives and planned Spanish lessons with our forthcoming visit to Colombia in mind.
This support network and community spirit is incredibly useful and fabulous for those who want to be involved in all these activities. Although I just can’t help feeling as if I’ve landed in the sailing version of Hi-De-Hi! All we need next is the ballroom dancing lessons…but perhaps we can swap these for salsa sessions in Colombia!
Next Port of Call for the OCC ‘Suzie Too Rally’ is Santa Marta in Colombia.
This post was written by Nev aka The First Lady.
© Two Drifters Travel