Northern Aruba for Halloween

We started out anchored off of Arashi beach, which had good access to a couple of dive sites and not much else. It felt like a reasonably nice place to be after so long in the skanky airport anchorage, despite the constant light roll, poor holding, and occasional close passes by enthusiastic tour boats. At least our view of the sunset was only obstructed by drying dive gear.

We cranked out a couple of minor projects, like cutting the frayed section out of the davits’ wire rope, and replacing the battery in Andrew’s air pressure transmitter. Oh, and of course, doing tricks with Captain, who would always prefer that we just open the treat container and step away.

On the day of our Arashi wreck dive, we were repeatedly beaten to the ball by professional dive boats. So we killed time by doing dishes and scoping out the boats at other anchorages to the south.

We got out of the water and got a “free freshwater rinse” for a little while, to Captain’s chagrin. But the sun eventually came out again, and we had a lovely sunset. Captain always watches sunsets, and if he can pull it off, he does it from the Captain’s chair.

Having pulled off the dives we’d been looking for, we’d hoped to head straight to Colombia. But after a phone call with Chris Parker in which he said to wait a week, we took the boat a mile or so south to anchor in front of the strip of hotels. Jazz had to dive the anchor to pull it out from under a rock shelf to get us out of the first spot. The picture of Jazz swimming is as she dove the anchor in the new spot, where we were much more pleased with the holding. The only “snag”? She also found an undersea cable some thirty feet left of our boat, despite the charts placing them at least 500 feet away in each direction. Not close enough that we were likely to hook it, but still uncomfortable knowing the charts were so far off.

That night, we were treated to a fireworks display, courtesy of a private party in front of the Ritz. It lit up the boats in front of us nicely, and made us glad we hadn’t pulled up as close to shore as they did.

This anchorage proved to be even more full of tour boats, including two pirate ships. Each one passed us several times a day, and several had interesting entertainment setups that we vowed to steal for Villa in the future – like this poled-out trapeze swing.

The “fishermens” dinghy dock proved to be convenient to get to and relatively cheap at $10 a week. So we took a couple of walks along the public beaches in front of the many, many resorts. We saw at least three weddings being set up, despite the fact that it was Halloween weekend: apparently the crunch for venues after the COVID lockdowns has spread to destination weddings as well.

Several local businesses had put up some serious Halloween decorations, which we took to be a good sign.

So on Halloween, we suited up in our now-trusty pirate costumes, and headed out on the town. We had a nice dinner of tacos at Lola, a quick stop in the club around the corner, and headed back along the beach at a relatively respectable hour. The longer we spend on the boat, getting woken up by the sun, the less we feel like staying up late.

The next morning Nautilife came back up from the southern anchorage, and we had a quick snorkel at the wreck of the Pedernales. Verdict: barely any coral, bad visibility, but some big schools, and some unusual spots on the smooth trunkfish. Plus, we had a (saddled?) blenny hold unusually still for the macro lens, so that was nice.

After that, we had a little bit of cat maintenance to do, and a last stroopwaffel to commemorate our time in the Dutch islands, before it was time to prep for Colombia.

So, parting thoughts on Aruba. This was our least favorite of the ABCs, mostly due to a combination of bad access, high prices, and dead or nonexistent coral. All the dives are wrecks, and we suspect that’s because people expect Caribbean islands to have diving, so locals sunk things so people would have something to look at. (Antila’s unplanned wreck having started the trend.) On the positive side, the beaches in the northwest are lovely. If your ideal of a good vacation is long walks along continuous beach followed by cocktails under palapas, this is the place for you. We heard more east-coast American accents than anything else, so this seems to be a popular destination. But as a cruiser, especially with a small motor, the required check-in and check-out on the dock at Barcadera is inconvenient, and especially with the cost of COVID tests added in, it feels like the island is more expensive than the visit is worth. But hey, another country checked off the list.

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