Friday, May 11, 2007

Sunday 6th May


12 31.034 N
70 02.411 W

As the sun rose we were both tired and cranky, we had a makeshift breakfast and continued to sail towards our destination. Approaching Aruba we were disappointed to see the landscape was pretty bleak, with an oil refinery and industrial complex dotting the shoreline – it was a stark contrast to the beautiful leeside shore line of Bonaire. Aruba has some regulations which are different to everywhere else we have been, for example you must have an anchoring permit as well as customs and immigration clearances. We had planned to only spend 2 nights maximum in Aruba so we thought we would circumvent the need for an anchoring permit ( which takes 24 hours to obtain) and take a slip in the marina, but first we had to clear in. The clearing in process can be very simple but Aruba has made it more complex by having you report to the port authority first who tell you where to tie up before proceeding to customs and immigration. We called them and were told to tie up behind a Panama registered car carrier on the commercial dock, Gerry asked if we could go into the dock lagoon to tie up instead but was told that we had to tie up behind this car carrier. The dock was a typical commercial dock with large black fenders hanging off enormous chains along the sides and huge bollards spaced at about 50 foot intervals to be used as cleats – there were no other cleats or tying up points on the dock. We circled the area a few times trying to decide how best to get alongside and how to tie the boat up to the dock – it wasn’t going to be easy and of course there wasn’t anyone on the dock to help with lines. We came up with a plan, put out our own fenders and attached our longest and strongest dock lines to our deck cleats; then it was a case of Gerry steering the boat in towards the dock until the beam was close enough for me to be able to jump off with the ends of the bow and spring lines and tie us up as best I could. Yes the wind was blowing us off the dock; I had visions of landing in the water as I leapt towards the dock or worse, being dragged into the dock as I couldn’t hold the boat against the prevailing 20+ knot wind. Gerry steered the boat in, I jumped, he screamed to tie a line on, I ran to the only bollard within reach and secured the spring line, Gerry yelled to get the bow on, I saw the bow was about to hit the dock and yelled at him to steer away whilst I fended off the bow and then dashed to secure the bow line to the same bollard (none of our lines would have reached the next bollard in either direction) Then it was time to get a stern line on, you guessed it to the same bollard, Gerry jumped off the boat and attached the stern line then tried to pull the bow in closer, I had to run to the stern of the boat to stop the stern from hitting the dock whilst he pulled the bow in. What a fiasco! Puffed out and shaking we adjusted the fenders and silently cursed out the port authority for the aggravation and anxiety they had put us through; we were however tied up where they had told us to be. Gerry called the port authority so that they could send the customs and immigration officers down to the boat (as per their way of doing things). We waited for about 20 minutes and suddenly an immigration officer appeared in his car. He was very pleasant and polite but questioned why we were tied up at the end of the commercial dock; even he couldn’t understand the port authority’s reasoning when we explained that this was where we had been told to tie up. Anyway we filled out forms and Gerry went off with him to customs, returning a short while later with all formalities completed for clearing in, clearing out had to be done separately on the day we left – there was no provision for short stay clearing in and out at the same time. We had tried, without luck, to contact the marina for a slip whilst waiting for immigration to appear; once Gerry had finished with customs he walked around to the marina which was just behind the port authority dock and tried in person with still no luck – he was told that he could just tie up to a slip and they would sort it out in the morning. Gerry (remember tired and cranky) didn’t like this idea so he booked us into a nearby hotel for the night and asked the customs people if he could leave the boat in the lagoon tied up next to the police boat; they said yes so he came back to the boat with the news that we were going ashore for the night. First we had to move the boat from the commercial dock to the lagoon, another round of planning to decide how we were going to get off the dock safely. Gerry wanted the stern and spring lines off first, he would then motor forward so I could release the bow line and jump back on the boat at the bow. Sounds like a plan fraught with danger doesn’t it? It went OK until the wind took the stern out quickly and the boat was hanging on to the dock by the bow line only, the tension was so great that it snapped the fairlead (yes sorry Bob, the very same one that you sent us from sailor’s exchange!) in half, flinging the broken bit into my arm (a glancing blow – no damage) and then into the water. Gerry had managed to motor the boat forward by then and yelled at me to let the bow line off and jump on the boat. Oh *! #@, I let the bow line off and the boat immediately began to drift away from the dock, I jumped at the nearest point – the anchor, whilst screaming to Gerry to come back in. I landed one foot on the top of the anchor and wrapped an arm around the forestay, carefully placing my other foot inside the boat and grasping the safety line I scrambled on board cursing the day I ever agreed to do this trip. I made it back to the cockpit where Gerry said that one of us needed to jump off and tie us on to the rings (not cleats) in the lagoon – lucky me, I won that one too! We got around to the lagoon and the dock side is lined with tires at short intervals, Gerry said he would try and get as close as possible, great except the dock walls were uneven. Again I took a precarious leap to the dock and hastily tied us up, and then it was time to clear the cockpit of our stuff, secure the boat, pack an overnight bag and head to the hotel. Gerry had booked us into the Renaissance Hotel which was a delight, a king size bed with clean, not sticky salty, sheets, Hollywood showers with as much water as we wanted, little bottles of stuff to make even the grottiest of yachties smell like a whore’s handbag, a flushing toilet, toilet paper that hasn’t been vacuum packed (note to self – need scissors in toilet to open the vacuum bags, they are a devil on the teeth!), electricity at the touch of a switch, ice on demand, television programs in English, room service – what more could we want! We took full advantage, even went out for dinner dressed up, OK so it was only Chinese but Peking duck never tasted so good. We both slept like a log and even if it was extravagant of us it was worth every cent!



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