September 1-10, 2003 -- Wonderful Aruba

On September 1, we raised anchor at Boca Santa Cruz, and bid farewell to a beautiful anchorage and headed for Aruba. It was another fun trip, though with higher winds and seas than the trip to Curacao.

We docked at the Customs Dock in Aruba at 2:00 PM, and after much walking and talking with people, found the Customs office and cleared customs. They called Immigration for us, and they promptly came out to check us in. The only problem with Aruba is that Customs and Immigration insist that you come to the Customs dock to clear in and out. It isn't as cruiser friendly as other countries in the Caribbean.

Anyway, from there, we headed to the marina. It turned out that the side tie dock that we were supposed to tie to was unavailable because the current boat occupying it had engine problems and was unable to leave. It was med-moor or go to the anchorage. In order to med-moor, you have to drop your anchor, and then back between two other boats with no finger pier or pilings to keep you from hitting their boats, and the marina charges you for the length of your boat instead of the beam of your boat! Thank God we had the Precocious Gales with us! The wind was blowing 30 knots on our starboard quarter.

Mike manned the anchor, and Ray, Gail and Ashley manned fenders and lines, while I backed us in to the "slip." We did this successfully without damaging our boat or (as I later found out) the brand new catamaran that the wind was trying to blow us into. Unfortunately, the bottom in the marina is a very soupy mud and the anchor had problems digging in, so the manager of the marina grabbed his dinghy and we dragged our anchor out as far as his dinghy would carry our 140 pound anchor and ½ inch chain and then dropped it. We let it settle in to the mud and then drew the chain up to keep us off the dock.

We cleaned ourselves up, and then set out to explore Oranjstead a little bit. Actually, we were in search of dinner. We wound up at Carlos and Charlies, which has great atmosphere but really bad Mexican food. But, we were in great company and the wait staff was very entertaining.

We had two days before Gail's parents were due in, so we spent that time with Ray, Gail and Ashley showing us around since they have been in Aruba before.

After being in Bonaire where you have to time your trips to the grocery store to coincide with the supply boat coming in, and then never quite sure what you would find available there, it was great walking into these huge grocery stores that had everything! So, just about every day, we would go to one of the large grocery stores to see what was available and to purchase provisions that we haven't seen since leaving the United States. While we could get most stuff in Margarita, it just wasn't to the same level as Aruba. Thus are the days of a cruiser's life, a highlight is a really well stocked grocery store!

We spent 10 days in Aruba exploring the grocery stores and other facets of life in Aruba (Baskin Robins, Dunkin Donuts, and a McDonalds that serves breakfast). We found it to be a very comfortable place, and we felt very welcome there. We decided on our third day there that this was certainly a place that we would come back to.

We enjoyed meeting and getting to know Dory and Del, Gail's parents, and wandering around with the entire gang through the different shopping districts.

Finally, September 10, we left the marina and went to the customs dock to clear out. Ray and Gail helped us move the boat there, and then left to catch a plane back to Bonaire. Ashley would ride back with us.

Now that I knew where to go, Customs was a much quicker experience. Unfortunately, immigration took several hours to get to us this time, but that wasn't bad. So, after clearing customs and immigration we moved the boat to the airport anchorage to wait for a weather window to head east.