I don’t know if mirages exist (is that an oxymoron?) but after our somewhat harrowing sail from Colombia to Aruba (see our previous post – The Fires of Hell), we know how those adventurers who were stranded in the desert must have felt when they reached that imaginary oasis. Yeah, yeah…I exaggerate but you get the idea. In other words, Aruba is the antidote and we’re not leaving until all memories of that sail have completely disappeared.
In fact, that’s the reason why this post has taken so long. We decided to splurge and spoil ourselves by docking the boat at Renaissance Marina, which is part of the four-star Renaissance Resort and right in the heart of Oranjestad, the capital of Aruba. The marina is completely integrated into the resort and boat owners get access to all the facilities – including two freshwater pools, a fitness center and a private beach club on the resort’s own island. It’s also “downtown” and walking distance to shops, restaurants, bars, casinos, banks and grocery stores. There’s even a great movie theater in the same complex as the marina.
Well, if you’ve been following our posts to this point, you can just imagine what we’ve been up to given all these amenities! We started with 3-4 days and nights of celebrating with our friends Mike and Holly from sailing vessel Wanuskewin who sailed with us from Colombia. Unfortunately, they had scheduled flights from Curacao to Canada in late July so after a few Aruban dinners and happy hours together we said goodbye with a longer-term plan to meet them in Curacao or Bonaire later in the year.
Then, with the initial kissing the ground and celebrating behind us, we had to get back to our “normal” cruising life, right? Yeah, sorta, kinda! We had a long list of boat projects, including a new windlass, that needed to be done BUT we already made an executive decision to stay in Aruba for an extended period so why rush? With that, we agreed to do one job a day and see what happens.
As you probably guessed, we knocked off all the quick and easy jobs first, for example bulb changes, then spent time by pool or the beach club followed by happy hour at the swim-up bar, a local pub or on our boat.
We eventually got past the easy jobs and tackled the big ones, including replacing the anchor windlass that crapped out in Colombia, with a new one that we had shipped to us from Defender Industries in Connecticut. This was a bigger job than expected because we couldn’t get a direct replacement for the old one, which meant I had to cut and drill new holes in the fiberglass deck, install a new breaker, add new terminals to extend the marine grade wiring, and re-wire the switches. Adding to the “normal” installation tasks was the fact that there’s no Home Depot or West Marine close-by so getting those little things that you can grab in 5-10 minutes often take half a day. For example, I needed a 1/2 inch drill bit but the only store that stocked them was a specialty hardware store that took almost an hour to find — on a very small island! At the end of the day, what should have been a one-day job took three days BUT it was totally worth it.
With the project list getting shorter we set out to see what else was going on — besides the pool and happy hour — and found white, sandy beaches; gourmet food stores; and a vibrant night life that includes night clubs, bars, casinos and some big music festivals. In fact, because we were staying at the Renaissance Marina, we snagged VIP tickets to The Love Festival, one of the biggest electronic music parties in the Caribbean. The tickets included transfers from the hotel in a custom school bus “limousine”, which was a party unto itself, and complimentary champagne in a VIP marquee overlooking the main stage. Needless to say, we had an awesome time and stayed up way past “cruiser’s midnight”.
We can’t say that we’ll ever forget the sail from Colombia to Aruba and, to be honest, it will likely become one of the most memorable sails of our entire journey (for better or worse…). However, we can say that if ever there was a place to go to help forget a negative experience, Aruba is it.
We’ve now “parked” the boat there while we visit family and friends in Toronto (via Curacao, Miami and Philadelphia) but we can’t wait to get back to what’s locally known as “One Dushi Island” or “One Happy Island” according to the license plate on the Prime Minister’s Car.