Docked in Aruba, with Flamingos

We started our stay in Aruba in the “airport anchorage”, the only anchorage with access to Oranjestad. Our delivery of batteries missed the deadline for the boat we’d expected them on, so we had a little time to kill. First on the agenda: breakfast (Andrew cooking), and a walk around the neighborhood by the local dock. We found some nice street art, as well as evidence that someone had had a very interesting night.

We also walked by a restaurant we would end up visiting later, and some street speakers along the tram line that implied to us that at some point, this area was going to be a bit of a scene. Sunday morning was evidently not that time, because everything we passed was closed and the streets were deserted.

We’d been having some trouble starting the dinghy, so we gave Dinkus’s carburetor a serious deep clean. When that got him back up and purring happily, we celebrated by taking the cat on a walk.

That night featured some impressive lightning in the distance, and we were glad to be surrounded by boats with taller masts. This season, lightning off the coast of Venezuela has been pretty frequent; we prefer that it stay closer to that coast and further than this from ours. We’d already heard from our friends that a tour catamaran was struck by lightning up right next to their boat in the West End anchorage, so the possibility was very much on our minds.

In other night events that lit up the sky, we got to watch the coast guard helicopter chase a guy on a ski-doo up and down the coast. Every hour or so, he’d zip through the anchorage in one direction or another, with the spotlight from the helicopter lighting up his wake, and a parade of police sirens following a few minutes behind on land. And slightly further behind, a small police boat. We learned later that the guy, Johnny, does this semi-regularly, and carries a backpack full of gasoline in case he runs out during the chase. We still don’t know why he’s running, or why the coast guard bothers to chase him if they already know who he is. Maybe it’s just good fun for everyone involved?

The next day we dinghied in to the marina to check out the layout and meet some other sailors for happy hour, half priced drinks at the Renaissance hotel. Here’s the dinghy dock, mostly occupied by the marina owner’s “project boat”. Also pictured: we run across some really interesting boat names in this life.

We checked into the marina a few days before we expected our batteries. We figured that since we were docking anyway, we could get a little bit of cleaning done with the almost-unlimited water. Plugging into AC and having our fridges run overnight was also a plus. Our friends on Nautilife were kind enough to lend us a big fan, which made evenings much more bearable. (Villa has great ventilation, but only at anchor when she’s pointed into the wind.)

They put us in a slightly odd corner spot, right across from the casino. Captain loved being a dock cat for a little while, though he chaffed a bit at having to stay on the boat instead of chasing the crabs.

The berth also boasted a great view of the cruise ships, at their pier just north of the marina.

And we did get some work done. Jazz deep-cleaned our outdoor cushions, while Andrew got through waxing most of the topside before the polisher’s velcro pad fell apart. (Nothing a little glue can’t fix, of course.)

And we took apart the windlass to install a new gear case. We’d noticed a good deal of corrosion on the old one when we changed out the motor in Klein Curacao, threatening to make the gear case no longer waterproof. It had taken a little while for the part to get in, so we received it shortly before leaving Curacao. We expected the swap it to go faster, but then Andrew dropped a clip into the piled-up chain, and we had to stack it all out on the deck to get it out of the way. Jazz had the bright idea of adding some shade, desperately needed in the mid-day sun. At least the anchor locker got a wash out of the deal. Last picture: Andrew comparing the old and new seals for the central crankshaft.

While we were in the marina waiting for our batteries, Drew and Patricia were also getting some work done on the dock, which meant we had friends to go out with. Here’s a group shot from one dinner, and “borenkool stamppot” (a Dutch specialty) from another.

The perk of the Renaissance marina is that it comes with access to the Renaissance resort. This includes a couple of pools, and great access to two local Starbucks. We made maybe a few too many visits to Starbucks, but they had air conditioning, and it was hot.

The resort also had a half-decent fitness center, where we spent a good number of afternoons in the blessed AC. Even while working out, we sweated less in there than we did outside. Seriously, did we mention that it was hot?

But the real perk is access to the Renaissance private island, accessible only by their private shuttle boats. It’s not the best beach, and the food and drink are exactly what you expect from a big resort, but there are flamingos. So we went out and had a nice relaxed resort late-morning.

It’s not all flamingos. There are also these black birds (we especially appreciated how hen-pecked this one was), and a lot of iguanas. Despite the wildlife, the whole thing has a very artificial feel, with the palm trees all numbered and equipped with power, and the big retaining wall trapping the sand in. Probably doesn’t help that the flamingos are imported and mostly domesticated.

After island day, it was time for a little self-care.

We ended up going back to the island another afternoon, thinking we’d watch the sunset. We had a good time with the birds, but we got hungry and went back to “land” before the sun went down. As we left, we noticed the bird-feed dispenser by the path, which explained why we’d seen other people feeding the birds out of their hands. Go figure.

We also made it out to the end of the tram line on a Saturday night, where we found the strip mostly as deserted as it had been on Sunday morning. There was, however, a live local band playing outside the World of Beers, and we got to drink craft imports from across the US and dance a couple of songs in our flip-flops. We are exiting the part of the world where our dancing is impressive, and bound for the parts where it will be cute. Also note the size of the mannequin in the window we passed: clearly there are expectations about the tourists here.

We came home, sat on the back deck, and listened to the half-live music from the bandstand between our boat and the Starbucks. We were feeling a little bit like old fogies, home this early, but it turned out for the best, because we were there to whip the cushions and ourselves inside when the sky opened up and dumped a huge rainstorm on us.

Our batteries ended up getting delayed by Customs staff shortages, which the shipping agent helpfully told us about after the original delivery window. At that point we’d already given the old batteries away, and we had to leave our slip because another boat was coming in. Here’s Andrew taking out the old ones, and the janky arrangement the marina came up with where we med-moored to the end of their dock, anchor out in the channel. Why not just go back to the anchorage and dinghy the batteries out? We’d been told that a customs officer might want to see the batteries delivered, for which we would need to be on the dock. (This didn’t end up happening.)

The nice thing about this arrangement was that, with access to land reduced to a drawbridge, we could leave the windows open at night without fear of Captain wandering off. With the borrowed fan turned into an intake, this actually made for a really cool night’s sleep.

The other nice thing was that, with the batteries out, it was easy to run a new hose from the starboard water tank to the pump. (We thought we’d bought enough for port as well, but fell short; measure twice!) We’d replaced all the hoses the previous year, and while the new hose was able to withstand pressure, it wasn’t good at holding its shape under suction, and had developed some kinks rounding corners. Between that and a slight adjustment to the water pump’s pressure screw, we were back to a water system we could leave powered up without worrying about it running forever.

When the new batteries came, we maneuvered them over the drawbridge, and got them out of the boxes, at which point Captain decided that his moment had come.

We got the batteries installed, and took our newly-powered boat back to the airport anchorage, ready for her next adventure.

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