From quiet picturesque Bonaire to the busy port of Willemstad, on the island of Curacao, is 45 miles. We sailed off the berth in Bonaire, setting sails as the yards on the Fore Mast were being braced, in order to complete our turn without the use of engines. We had a fantastic sail all the way to Willemstad where we handed sail close to the pilot station. The pilot did not board and we followed the pilot boat into the harbour. Each of the “ABC” islands is a Dutch Protectorate and as we approach it’s clear to see the influence of Dutch architecture with its pretty harbour side of brightly coloured three storey, houses. It almost feels like Amsterdam! Tenacious is certainly the star turn, getting lots of attention from the busy waterfront cafes as we pass by to our mooring. Willemstad is divided by Sint Anna Baai and we are to moor beyond the Queen Emma floating swing bridge, which is amazing and charming in action – and beautifully lit at night.. There is also a little free ferry service if the bridge is closed to pedestrians. The first evening it was very noticeable how much sea traffic comes in and out of the port. It was like the Caribbean M25 with huge bulk carriers, cargo ships and the inevitable cruise ships. The crew hit town in a few small groups and it’s fair to say that one small group must have found every bar and club there was, judging by the time they got back aboard. Purely for research purposes, we’re told.
The next day is an entirely free day to do what you wish. There’s plenty to see in Curacao whether you are sightseeing locally in the world heritage capital, or stray further afield as a few of the crew did, we all agree it was a grand day out. An extremely impressive manoeuvre was made to turn the ship round to get out, which included cleverly taking her stern back a few metres to make certain we had the clearance. The bridge ahead was very close and we would not fit under it. Magic stuff from Captain Barbara. We wave our goodbye and blow our whistle, to the people on the deck of the huge Carnival cruise ship, which docked next to us sometime in the wee small hours…never heard a thing! The wind is gentle and there is hardly any swell so we are sailing slowly along the Curacao coast. A very good time for ‘Man Overboard’ drill then? Poor Penelope was thrown over the side (for those who may be concerned, Penelope is a dummy not a crew member who’s upset the galley staff). Immediately we went to work, bracing the yards to heave-to, the RIB was launched and sped to rescue the poor dear, who by now was floundering and panicking (well, as much as a dummy does). Hauled in and brought back to the ship the patient was wrapped in a thermal blanket to prevent hyperthermia. For this, the very real Hilary was the guinea pig. She reports it was extremely hot in there…at least she suited orange. The whole drill was very well executed and us novices amongst the crew were impressed and very reassured too. Finally, the wind picks up a little and we leave Curacao in our wake and on port side is the coast of Venezuela. Some 60 miles away above the horizon is Mt. Santa Ana, a large perfect triangle like a single piece of Toblerone she sits serenely guarding over all she surveys. And then to cap it all another magnificent sunset. What a wonderful couple of days.