January 13-30, 2011 -- Curacao

Click on the thumbnail for a map during this time period

Curacao Marine

We arrived back at Curacao (and Curacao Marine) on January 13.  We have been mostly busy with projects ever since, but we have also taken a few days off now and then to see a bit of the island.

On on of our first trips, we went to see an ostrich farm.  Sound hokey?  Actually, the tour through the farm was interesting and enjoyable.  The ostriches are raised for meat (and eggs),  which owing to currently low production, are all consumed at the on-premises restaurant.  There are also emus, the Australian analog, but since they are somewhat smaller, they are not butchered and are maintained just for the tourists to see.  The farm attempts to be self sufficient, feeding the scraps from the butchering to the crocodiles that are kept in a well-fenced pond, maintaining a herd of sheep to strip the pens of grass before rotating in a batch of ostriches, since the grass contains enough salt to sicken the birds but not the sheep, they (the sheep) being a special breed from Barbados that have adapted to salty grass, and finally, feeding the scraps from the restaurant to Asian pigs.

An adult emu

Baby emu

Emu (left) and ostrich egg

Black male and grey female

Feeding an ostrich

Chuck takes his turn at feeding

Hand held out will result in the ostrich clamping down on it with its beak

Egg broken to show its construction


Very fat pig

Sheep used to clean the correls of (salty) grass

Standing on an ostrich egg -- demonstrating their strength

Truck used for the tour of the farm

Juvenile heads

Very young ostriches

Young ostriches are kept separately so they can be sheltered if it rains

Ostrich art at the restaurant

On the next day we ventured up to the north end of the island, where we visited the Teka Boka National Park, with its blow holes and natural bridges and petroglyph-bearing cliffs.  Also visited an extensive cave system.


Chuck photographing petroglyphs

Barb in the cave

"Pirate's head" in the ceiling of the cave

Locals at a beach on the north end of the island

In the national park

Later after many days of boat projects, we joined Ian and Westa (Marsha Claire) and visited the amazing Kura Hulanda Museum in Otrabanda.  Housed in an extensive complex of restored 19th century buildings, the museum is the creation of Jacob Gelt Dekker, a 52-year old self-made millionaire who was formerly a dentist in Amsterdam.  Subjects covered include such disparate areas as evolution, slave trade, and art and artifacts from the ancient empires of West Africa.

 The list of boat projects on this haul-out has been unusually long and challenging.  For example, Chuck used a heat gun to strip off the varnish from all of the cap rails.  That was a major project, but one made necessary by the fact that the varnish was inexplicably bubbling up in the heat of the sun.  Some spots were fine, but others were a total mess, and there was no way to make a clean seam between the "fine" and "mess", so it all had to come up.  What was causing the bubbles?  Not at all certain, but last season in Trinidad we employed a worker to clean the fiberglass, and we suspect he let harsh chemicals fall and remain upon the cap rails.  As this is written it remains to use a chemical stripper to remove the remaining varnish that clings to the grain of the rails, and then a few spots will have to be bleached, and then there is the question of how to refinish the rails.

It was time to dissemble the windlass and clean and re-grease the innards.

The caulking around the windlass was cracked and failing, and so that needed to be replaced.

The wind vane had stopped turning at some point during our visit to the States, and so I sat in the bosun's chair and Barb winched me up to the top of the mast, where I removed the vane and brought it down for a stern scolding.  "If you want to be on my boat you have to indicate the correct wind speed.  You got it?"  Those words, plus a tiny drop of PB Blaster followed by the merest smidgeon of Boeshield T-9 has the vane responding to the mildest puffs of wind again.

We fed out all 300+ feet of the chain for the primary anchor, a 110-lb. Bruce, with the intention of reversing end-to-end, but ultimately decided not to do so since it looked in good shape probably because we were on moorings for a lot of last year and didn't use the anchor all of the time.  We did change out the swivel and shackles though

The secondary anchor, a smaller CQR, has mostly rope rode with perhaps 30 feet of chain at the end.  A few of the end links where it feeds into the chain locker were rusty, and so I decided to remove them.  (Actually, it was the Admiral's decision.)  I should have used a hacksaw to remove the links, but I was anxious to avoid getting rust spots on the foredeck, and so I used a bolt cutter.  One long handle down on the deck, the other gripped by my two hands as I bounced on the arm, struggling to break through the link.  When at last the link broke, I fell with a lurch and hurt my right ankle and my right (new artificial) knee.  As I only now reconstruct the "accident", the handle must have smacked my calf just below the knee.  As the days progressed my calf became increasing sore, and we began to fear that I had a blood clot.  A call back to the office of the surgeon in North Dakota resulted in the advice to get an ultra-sound assessment ASAP.  We learned a lot about seeing doctors in Curacao in the process.  A non-productive visit to an emergency room after 5 pm.  A visit to a private doctor on night call, who provided the all-important referral to a private clinic -- said to be the best on the island -- which we visited the next morning.  After being shuffled to at least three different crowded waiting rooms, with relatively long waits in each, we had a visit to one of the doctors who runs the clinic.  Another important piece of paper is obtained, this one marked (in Dutch) "urgent" and requesting the ultra-sound.  Alas, the admonition is ignored.  By the time the ultra-sound is conducted and the report obtained, it is well past noon.  We return to the waiting room of the clinic doctor, but none of the three clerks now knows where the doctor is, nor when he will return.  I get the distinct impression that he has gone for the day.  The report is in Dutch.  The clerks decline to translate it for me.  But the doctor who conducted the ultra-sound had clearly said that there was no thrombosis but that instead there was a bruise on the calf muscle with some blood in the tissue.  A torn muscle and/or some hematoma didn't sound nearly so scary as a blood clot, and so we returned to the boat.

Some projects were "farmed out", either because Chuck needed to baby his knee and shoulders, or because the task required a bona fide mechanic.  We had the boat washed and waxed, and had the bottom painted with anti-fouling paint.  We had the heat exchangers for the John Deere and the stabilizer removed and cleaned.  We had the cutlass bearing replaced, which required the removal of the propeller and shaft.  We took the life raft in for servicing and repacking.  We were told that the price would be $200 plus whatever the restocking of out-of-date items would cost.  So we were not too happy when the total turned out to be a whopping $1223.17 (and that was after Barb talked them into a 10% discount on the supplies).  Supposedly everything was expired and all had to be replaced.  They did give us all the old supplies and we kept the flares and medical kit.

John Deere heat exchanger removed but not yet cleaned.

Preparing to remove the drive shaft

Drive shaft after removal and before being cleaned

The old cutlass bearing had to be cut out

New cutlass bearing partially inserted

Barb has been busy conducting a top-to-bottom inventory of all of our spare parts and tools and supplies.  We finally decided it was time to update the 2008 list after we spent days looking for parts for a number of our projects.  Somehow replacement parts don't always go back to where the previous spare was kept.

On Saturday, Jan. 29, Barb, Westa - s/v Marsha Claire and Elaine - s/v Dr. Flue decided to host a pot luck for the marina.  So Barb made up some posters and Elaine's husband Martin talked to the management about getting a gas grill.  The party was very well attended and was great fun -- especially when it was discovered that some very good musicians were in attendance.  The guitarist Gerry was from the s/v Northern Sky and the banjo player Jimi and trombonist Tad from s/v Chi Ching.  The party lasted well into the night, culminating in a New Orleans style march around the marina, led, not coincidentally, by the trombonist Tad from New Orleans.

Tad, Gerry and Jimi

Jimi - s/v Chi Ching

Gerry - s/v Northern Sky

Chuck with Mark and Karen from s/v Susurra

Other unfinished business includes the repair of the water maker, but we have decided that can best be accomplished after we are back in the water, owing to the difficulty of getting the unit out of the boat and down to the ground while we are on the hard.  And also, to the extent that repair measures will be stepwise, it will be much easier to test the results of any given step if we are in the water.

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