Captain Woody Cruising Adventure

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Curacao to Honduras I (117)

Anyone been to Curacao (say ker-a-sow)? It's not on the beaten path and I had never been. I took a job moving a newer Tayana 48 from Curacao to Honduras. Normally I would pass that opportunity on to my east coast skipper friends to save the owners flight money and of course to reduce the ol' footprint, but since I was going to be in el Carib for the BVI Share the Sail anyway, timing was perfect.

My friend Phil and his wife Vicki run a ranch in CO. They invite me to come up each year to do some ranch stuff and pack-trips into the mountains on horses. I know – very kewl. Phil was one of the first to respond to my crew request email. I invited him on the trip. It was a good chance for me to get him back for all the hospitality they had bestowed on me. I used to take two crew with me on deliveries but have discovered that one works better. Yes, the watches are more often (3 on, 3 off) but travel arrangements are easier and less expensive and there is more room on the boat. If the guy/gal is good, that's all we need.

It would be a tight schedule (a no-no when cruising). The plan was to complete the delivery and leave enough time to get to the BVI to run the Lats & Atts, 6 boat, Share the Sail there. I had figured how much time we would need at sea, added a day and a half on each end for travel, boat inspection and clean up and booked the flights. The sailing distance between Curacao (an island just above Venezuela) and Roatan (an island just above Honduras … which is below Mex) was about 1100nm. Good news, bad news: the trip was to be downwind but scheduled in the last month of hurricane season. As we say, "If it were easy, the owner would do it". On hurricane trips I require a way to get daily wx (weather). I knew Island Time was well equipped with all kinds of safety gear but it also had an SSB for long range communication. We were good to go.

Phil and I arrived in Curacao and met up with the owners, Paul and Maggie, at Hook's restaurant on the beach. Hook's was a bitchin little place, right on the sand and infested with tourists. The ABC's being Dutch, they were mostly the blonde type. I felt oddly at home in this far away place. Paul and Maggie were good people. It's always more fun working with the easygoing, cheery types. After a couple of coldies (I recommend the Amstel Bright), we hopped in their rental car and made our way to the dock. There we boarded their dinghy and headed across the long bay making a right into a cul-de-sac where their boat was anchored fore and aft. Island Time was in great condition. This was good news 'cause you never know what you're going to get on these adventures.

They gave us a thorough tour, getting us up to speed on all the mechanicals and boat quirks. I also like to lay eyes on all throughulls. We don't always have the owners around for the inspection. It saves some time. Paul and I loaded his Skymate software into my mini Eee laptop. I had never seen Skymate before. Satellite and subscription based, I plugged the cord in and had instant access to email and weather, 24/7. Beautiful.
That was enough work for one day. We all retired to the cockpit for a couple glasses of wine and some great grub. Maggie, bless her heart, had prepared a bunch of food for our trip. We sampled lasagna, stew, BBQ sausage and salad.

I usually do the provisioning when I arrive but Paul and Maggie had offered to do it for us. I sent them a list of suggested staples. As it turned out, we would be hard pressed to eat the food they bought for us. It took us three days to mow through the leftovers.

After breakfast in the morning, we headed into town and completed the extensive checkout formalities. We also checked out downtown. It was Dutch quaint with brightly colored buildings and a long floating bridge that had a built in tug boat that powered it open and closed.

Back at Island Time, we still had enough sunlight to get out the pass so I dropped Paul and Maggie ashore. I got and Phil was already restowing stuff. A lot of people don't appreciate the amount of motion that a boat gets in the open ocean. What you don't want is gear falling underfoot at the wrong time. In our case we were headed over the top of Venezuela. Though the path is inside the Caribbean Sea, that particular run is known to be especially bumpy. We secured the stern anchor, the scuba tanks, and boat poles and brought in the lines that were coiled and hanging on the lifelines. No need to risk fouling the prop. Below, we secured bookshelves and stuffed pillows in with plates and glassware. We took in the stern line that was shackled to a boulder ashore before pulling the outboard off and hoisting the dinghy up on the davits. We secured it tightly, tying it crossways to eliminate any movement and chafe.

And finally, we departed through the tight, crooked pass. The boat had in-boom furling so we released the vang, boom brake, and sheet. We then got the boom the right height (87 degrees) before rounding up into the wind and winching up the sail being careful to keep tension on the roller. Knowing that reducing main sail area would require similar acrobatics (and I don't like having to head upwind to reef), we kept the main small and used the furling genoa for easy sail area control. I tend to use more headsail then main on downwind legs anyway.

It was flat and sunny on the lee side of Curacao. We picked our way through the parked tankers and got out to sea. We had a nice ocean swell running with us. The trip was starting out pretty easy. We had calm, light wind conditions and everything on the boat was working – very strange. I pulled out my new Spot device and transmitted our location to my friends and family. My friend Terry sent me the unit. He runs a cruiser friendly dive shop in Manzanillo Mex: aquaticsportsadventures.com.

The next day we sailed by Aruba. We started getting some rain squalls, mostly at night. Island Time had a center cockpit that you could mostly enclose in isinglass. This makes squalls more entertaining and less of a pain. I also liked the way the instruments were above and on each side of the companionway. Most cruisers don't spend much time actually at the wheel. When the autopilot is driving, you sit up by the companionway. The boat had those great folding chairs from Sportaseat.com (not the stolen imitations from West) – comfy.

On day two it was time to fire up the Skymate and check wx. Surprise! The tropical depression that should have gone ashore in Panama had become hurricane Ida and parked south of our destination. In the Caribbean, hurricanes eventually head north. We were headed into the path of Ida.

Part II next month. As always - leave a clean wake.

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