We filled with fuel and water at the marina and headed out for Spanish Waters, Curacao. We enjoyed a nice broad reach in 3 to 4 foot seas, wind 18 to 20 knots. It was only 38 miles and we arrived by mid afternoon. Coleen put up the yellow quarantine flag and we prepared for the heavy squalls that were forecast for the overnight hours. Thankfully they never materialized, so we headed out in skies filled with dark clouds the next morning. We motored in sloppy seas, a downpour and heavy shipping traffic for four hours before we finally were able to sail in a howling 30 knot wind heavily reefed, making 6 to 7 knots. We were in the lee of the island so there were no seas, and it was actually pretty good sailing, if you don’t take into account being wet and chilly. By midafternoon we dropped the hook in a lovely anchorage at the northern end of Curacao, in a little place called Santa Kruz. Again the weather was to be poor overnight with big seas between Curacao and Aruba so we decided to take refuge and wait it out.
Sailing past Aruba
At 7:45 the next morning we raised the hook and were off… next stop Colombia. We started out with full sail in a 15 knot wind and 3 to 5 foot seas on a nice broad reach. Hey, this was doable! The sun was shining, the skies clear, birds were everywhere. Life was good. And so it went until we were off shore of Aruba. The skies turned a horrible grey, ships were doting the seascape, and as the day drew to a close the seas built to seven feet on the beam. It was time to reef. We put in two for good measure as there was quite the lightening show in the distance. Yes, we were in the dreaded seas around Aruba and it was living up to its reputation.
By 2 a.m. we had put in a third reef and rolled in the jib. We were sailing downwind and it was very, very rolly. I wasn’t even able to sleep in the cockpit floor as periodically I’d get thrown into the air. I was a bit unnerved and decided to just get up and help with DJ’s watch before mine started… just to get used to it all. That strategy seemed to work and by my watch time the conditions were still awful but I was used to it and knew it was not dangerous, just mighty uncomfortable.
We adjusted our watch schedule for this portion of our trip as the 4 to 8 a.m. watch was just not working for Coleen. Teenagers are hard pressed to get up so early. Our new schedule had her on watch from 7 to 9 am, 11 to 1 pm, and 4 to 6 p.m., all shifts during daylight hours. In between her watches, she did school lessons, even managing to take a huge algebra test, and then managed to get a good night’s sleep. DJ and I alternated 2 hour watches overnight which seemed to work well, as neither of us were able to sleep much anyway.
Sunrise at sea is often the best part of the day and it always seems to be so slow in coming that once it arrives you feel like celebrating. I remember thinking that back in my land life, night seemed like it was 8 to 10 hours, because that’s when you slept. It didn’t matter that it was dark during the evening, you were inside with lights on. Half of your time at sea is in the dark with no lights or dim red lights that don’t ruin your night vision. That’s a long time! At night you have the illusion that the boat has picked up speed and you are flying through the water. The sound of the waves is louder too. The waves around Aruba sounded like freight trains as they would lift up the stern of the boat and roar under and rush past the bow. It took a bit of getting used to and I actually put in ear plugs. The waves sounded way scarier than they were.
Colombia’s Peninsula de Guajira
It took most of the night and all the next day to sail around Peninsula de Guajira, the western tip of Columbia. The calm seas and no wind forecast never materialized and we continued to sail with just a triple reefed main all day. Just as we were ready to alter our course and tuck in behind the peninsula where we hoped to be out of the waves, a Colombian Naval ship popped up on the horizon. We didn’t want to cross in front of him so we slowed down to wait, which required dropping the sail. Finally the ship pulled alongside about 200 yards off our beam. We tried to call them on the radio a couple of times, but got no response. After a few minutes they took off, we made our turn and instead of a gradual turn around the peninsula on a broad reach, we got treated to big seas on the beam, my least favorite kind.
Cabo de la Vela
Coleen’s log entry for her 11 to 1 p.m. watch reads, “puked a couple times, all good”. That girl is quite the sailor! Finally around 4 p.m. in we arrived in Cabo de la Vela, Colombia. The area where we planned to anchor was dotted with fish pots, and a dozen or so fishing boats tending their nets. One of the fellows on a fishing boat motioned for us to follow him and he led us around the nets, where we found a good spot, although far from shore and set the hook in a howling 30 knot wind. Welcome to Colombia!
The fishing boat pulled alongside and the man and his sons, the youngest around 4, were all grinning ear to ear. We felt like monkeys in the zoo. They were fascinated with us and our boat. I think especially Coleen’s red hair. They gave us a fresh lobster, which was clearly a gift, given with a huge smile. We responded with a t-shirt and they went away with even bigger smiles. A win for everyone!
Cabo de la Vela is home to the Wayuu Indians who live in huts made of cactus right on the edge of the sea. It is said to be one of the most starkly beautiful places in Colombia, with rocky cliffs, sandy beaches and a backdrop of ocher colored desert. I describe is at the brown place… brown landscape, brown buildings and brown people… all put together very lovely.
We enjoyed a delicious feast aboard Glass Slipper, with our lobster, some pork chops and a good old fashioned potato pancake. We closed up the boat good and tight and I slept the whole night without waking once.