July 1-31, 2004 - Three Months In Aruba Already?

Time was flying for us. We arrived in May, and the next thing we knew we it was getting on toward the end of July. We had met many new people here, and it was amazing how quickly the time flew. The next thing we knew it was the middle of July and we were coming up on the time when we would either have to leave Aruba or file for an extension. Since we needed diesel fuel anyway, we decided to head to Punto Fijo in the Gulf of Venezuela for a few days.

We watched the weather and waited patiently for a good weather window. You know, one where the wind isn't blowing like snot and the waves aren't the size of small mountains. Well, surprisingly, we got a weather window sooner than we expected so we rushed to get the boat ready to go and check out since the winds were down here in Aruba (down being a relative concept, the winds were blowing 15 to 20 instead of 20 to 30).

On July 28, we checked out of Aruba, and returned to our anchor spot by the airport to perform final checks on the boat and wait for early morning when we would head to Venezuela. Or so we thought. As we neared our anchor spot, the winds increased to above their normal speed, blowing 25 to 35 and stayed that way all night long. We woke up at 5:00 in the morning to check on the weather and rolled over and went back to sleep.

We spent the day relaxing, watching the wind. At 3:00 pm, someone flipped a switch and the wind dropped to 10 to 15 knots and stayed that way all night long.

So, once again we were up at 5:00 in the morning. The wind was blowing 15 so we raised anchor and headed south.

We discovered a number of different things. Even as small as Aruba is, it has a night lee (a calming effect that land can sometimes have on the surrounding winds, calming them in some proportion to their elevation). The winds have been blowing steadily out of the south east for many, many days, and surprisingly, they matched the seas almost exactly.

The roughest part of the trip was the first 8 miles, surprisingly. The wind blew 20 to 25 and the seas were about 5 to 7 feet. After that, we came under the influence of South America, and the winds slowly started to drop a little bit and the seas started reducing.

By the time we cleared the cape heading into the Gulf of Venezuela, the seas were down to negligible and the winds were comfortably blowing about 18 knots. The sail was fun.

After miles and miles of empty sandy beaches, we finally came to Punto Fijo, and we began looking for the marina. All we could see were working boat docks and a commercial dock. We doubled back to one of the working boat docks that had space, and we docked flawlessly (thank God, we had about 30 people watching us!). We talked with a couple of people there, who gave us instructions on finding the Club Nautico dock. We had to go past the commercial dock, which looked like it was very close to shore, and then we would see the sport fishes and that was the dock. We were told that we should drop anchor there, and someone would come out to us.

So, off we went, and sure enough we found the Club Nautico. We anchored and put the dingy over the side because no one would come out, not that we expected anyone to come out. I headed into shore with the boat paperwork and our passports. I was met at the dock and told that we would have to bring the boat in to the dock. We would have to med moor (que ominous music). We were told to go to the south side of the dock, which incidentally was close to shore. Before heading back to the boat, I verified that there would be enough water for us to get in. As usual, with every dock we have ever talked to, they had plenty of water.

I returned to the boat we put the dinghy back on deck and rigged the boat to come into the dock. We raised anchor and headed to the south side of the dock. Just as I was making our pivot turn to get ready to back into the dock, we stopped moving. I looked at my depth gauge, and it was reading 0.0. We were aground. Not only were we aground, but we weren't moving, even when I tried to back us out. Oh, and 30 people were watching here as well. I found that I could pivot the boat, so I pivoted the boat around, being very careful not to hit any anchor lines (not that I could have avoided them if there had been a problem).

We were now facing out of the fareway, but we still weren't moving. Mike shifted the boom to the starboard side and that helped a little bit. We moved about a foot. We put the sail out and the wind was enough to heel us over sufficiently for me to power us off of the grounding and back out to sea. Fortunately it was mud we were stuck in and not sand.

While we were getting unstuck, the folks at the marina shifted one of the sport fishes over so we could come in at the end of the dock.

We shifted fenders over to the port side of the boat and started in to drop the anchor and back into our "slip". I controlled the engines and the anchor while Mike ran around ready to fend off any mistakes I might make, including but not limited to hitting other boats, the dock or various and sundry other dangers involved with docking. Thanks to the expert guidance and hand gestures of the people on the dock, I was able to drop the anchor in the right spot and start backing us in. I needed one hand for the throttles, one hand for the transmissions, one hand for steering, and one hand for letting out additional anchor chain. Mike on the other hand had to control 6 fenders, 4 lines for securing the boat and racing around the aft seating area which is a small obstacle course in itself! We docked flawlessly, again! It was our second time ever med mooring, and the first time we did it by ourselves. <whew>

Since we don't want to tempt the fates again, we have decided to stay at the dock until Sunday when we will head back to Aruba after taking on fuel and looking around Punto Fijo.