Weathered a tropical depression, which quickly became tropical storm Julia after passing us and became hurricane force as it approached the coast of Nicaragua. Our friend Ryan, who had agreed to be our weather contact while we were sailing to Aruba, had warned us on the sat phone of the arrival of the depression. Luckily, it was nothing more than big winds for a night and a day. The worst was 25-30 knots for the entire night. It took 2 days to go back to normal trades which commonly gust in the 20ies and we stayed for two days on the boat. By the end, we were ready to go out!!
Visited the capital Oranjestad after our long days on the boat and were not convinced. The city, and the island in general, mostly caters to cruise ships and resort tourists, which meant not much culture, a lot of souvenir/luxury things to buy and everything very expensive. In three worlds: not our scene. The archeological museum (which was free) and one of the things we were excited about was closed on the day we went (on the weekend! How do working people get a chance to see it?!). We still enjoyed the nice street art and a correctly priced restaurant by the harbor but were taken aback by the price of the laundry and the supermarket.
Bought Aruba flags in a general store a bit off the beaten path (and by that I mean two blocks away from the made-up touristic city center) and an old vendor talked to us, amazed that we were buying the Aruban flag. He made us confirm a few times that we were buying it and we explained in Spanish that it was a courtesy flag. It took a few back and forths for him to understand we had our own boat and were not on a cruise ship as he repeatedly asked "at what time is your boat leaving?". Yalçın found the experience quite stressful while I found the old man cute and genuine (finally a real person in this tourist-oriented mood). Back in the boat, we got a (possible) explanation for the surprise of the man. Instead of a single flag, we had bought a line with a dozen Aruban flags all tied together - no surprise he found us a little too supportive of his country!! 🇦🇼🇦🇼🇦🇼
Saw a keg throwing contest on the beach (!!!) It turned out it was a strength competition, with all the comments in Dutch. We stayed for a bit and had probably the most expensive beers of our lives on that same beach (in exchange for a wifi password possibly in reach of our wifi antenna on Tire-Bouchon): $6 for a 225 mL beer. Polar from nearby Venezuela for Marie and Balashi brewed in Aruba for Yalçın, so really no excuse!
Wrote blog posts and worked on the computer in the gorgeous Renaissance mall. The marina by our first anchorage was owned by the Renaissance (owned itself by the Marriott chain), quite a high-end resort. Since a slip at the marina gives access to all the resort facilities including pools and a private island with flamingos, we contemplated gifting ourselves one night there. But as it turned out the flamingos' wings are clipped and you can see some in the wild in other ABC islands. Also the water in Northern Aruba is as clear as any swimming pool, plus the marina was quite full. We decided to save the money but still go to the beautiful hall of the hotel to work at Starbucks. It was not cheap (American prices) but the inner sea water lake gave it a naturally cool atmosphere and we got stuff done.
Checked out the North anchorages, saw a boat almost sink and got the anchor stuck - it's our last blog post! But the water there was gorgeous, probably the most turquoise we've ever seen! For the first time, we would dive and see the chain go all the way down (15 feet/5 m) and go back up along the slope. It wasn't set hard as we only saw it lie on its side but it held us up against some badass gusts without (too much) dragging. We stayed for three nights, just enough to do some boat work (coming next), check a beach by the lighthouse and snorkel with many many many fish by another beach before the many many many tourist boats arrive (cats, tall ships dropping people for snorkeling also, trailed parachutes or inflatable rafts, you name it...).
Dove a wreck and swam with a turtle. As we left the North anchorage, we boldly decided to take one of the tourist boat mooring balls by the wreck marked on the chart and dive for it, or more precisely snorkel it. It was there, a huge metal boat just beneath the surface. The once German ship Antilles, which we learned had been sunken on purpose by its crew at the onset of WWII, was now a heaven for the fish. It was so big it was difficult to identify what part of the vessel we were looking at. We took turns snorkeling, unsure of the mooring and of the welcome we'd get from incoming tourist boats. When my turn came (Marie), a sea turtle swam by me next to the ship. I was in awe as I had been trying to spot, not to mention swim with tortugas since Mexico. I had perfect visibility and a long time to see her calmly fly in the water. As I was gently following her at a distance, she turned around and ate a piece of grass/algae that was floating there before disappearing. That was worth many wreck sightings for me and new boats were incoming. We decided to vacate the mooring before any conflicts appeared and sailed back to the South part of the island, jib-only with a lot of wind as always it seems here.
Visited the plant that produces the water and power for the whole island. After checking out a new, very shallow but calm anchorage for the occasion, and an hour hike along the road from the marina, we participated in the very interesting, free tour of WEB Aruba. It detailed how the power is produced on the island (badass generators running on HPO but looking to switch to "greener" natural gas) and how using 10% of this, fresh water is produced from seawater. The principle is reverse osmosis, exactly the same as what people do with a watermaker on a boat... only a little bit scaled up!!
Anchored in probably the shallowest place so far with 4 feet, roughly one meter, under our keel. In order to visit the water plant, we checked out a new anchorage in a sort of protective lagoon by a marina. It was quite calm, even though windy (welcome to Aruba!!) and when we dragged when anchoring the first time, it was amazing how little chain came back up. Really really shallow, but beautifully surrounded by mangroves and with a nice free dinghy dock and restaurant (not free!) at the marina.
Of course, did some boat work! Upon arrival, we discovered the installation of the windlass and remodeling of the anchor locker hadn't been done properly by the previous owner and, in fact, we had two holes in the boat!! Yes, you read correctly, the anchor locker, which is meant to be watertight, had two unfilled gaps between the wall of the locker and the deck, which were responsible for the water we had found in the V-berth after two days of beating up. Epoxy, fiberglass and woodworking, boat yoga... the full package, in case we were bored in this turquoise water paradise. Luckily we found a nicely protected anchorage to complete the job while waiting and consciously checking on our weather window for Curaçao...
We stayed in Aruba for 12 days. Check-in on Tuesday, October, 4th 2o22 and check-out on Monday, October 17th 2o22. For the record, check-in/out and anchoring were free, restaurants were American-priced, beer was beyond expensive (drink cocktails!) and supermarket and laundry were outrageously expensive. We found two chandeliers on the island reasonably stocked, 1.5-2 times more expensive than the US (kinda expected) - good for emergencies. The money in Aruba is the Aruban Florin but everybody accepts US dollars and prices are often in both currencies. There's a fixed exchange rate of 1.75 florins (AWG) = 1 USD. Most people spoke English or occasionally Spanish, and Dutch (which of course we weren't able to verify) but locals speak Papiamento among themselves, which is apparently a mix of the three languages, and outside of touristic places, stuff is written in Papiamento - it was a fun experience to tell in which language to address people when we were a bit outside tourist spots, most often Spanish was preferred over English, which reminded us memories of our past years...