Willemstad, Curaçao

Willemstad is a big town, but easily walkable.  The city is divided by Sint Annabaai channel, a waterway which leads to the largest natural harbor, now used primarily for petroleum refining and a large shipping port.  The oldest section of town, Punda, has buildings dating from the mid-1600s, including Fort Amsterdam which now houses the government.  The later buildings from the 1700s illustrate what has become known as the Dutch Caribbean style where the facades are painted pastel colors to eliminate glare from the sun.  The city really is an architectural historian’s paradise.  There is also a colorful floating market where Venezuelan merchants offer produce and souvenirs.  

The channel was spanned in the 19th century by a bridge built by an American entrepreneur.  It was replaced more recently with a pedestrian walkway that opens for transiting ship traffic.  We actually rode the bridge as it moved for a freighter.  (What cruisers will do for fun!)  The bridge allowed the development of Otrobanda, the other side of Annabaai, and became a middle-class residential area.  In the 1970s, the Queen Juliana bridge was built for vehicle traffic.  On this side of town a developer bought about 20 buildings to create the Kurá Hulanda museum and hotel.  The museum is dedicated to the history of the slave trade and African art.  The gardens were a welcome respite for us after we had traipsed all over town touring one day.  

In the heart of Punda is the synagogue, built in 1732.  It is the home of an active Sephardic congregation, Mikve Israel-Emanuel.  The temple is a large building within a walled courtyard and has a sand floor, the tradition recalling the days of the inquisition and the conversos.  We contacted the synagogue and were able to attend during Yom Kippur.  The services were mostly conducted in English and Hebrew, though during aliyahs, some of chanting was in Ladino, the language of the Sephardim.

On another foray into town we spent some time in the Maritime Museum, across the water from Punda in Scharloo.  This part of town, originally built by Sephardic Jews, had some large mansions.  One of these old mansions, was rebuilt for the museum.  The 500-year maritime history of Curaçao is fascinating, and the museum does a decent job of covering it.  

September 20 - October 12, 2011... Catching Up in Curaçao

Has it really been a month since we updated our blog?  Don’t know where the time goes.  After our return from Ecuador, we provisioned in Bonaire and set out a few days later for Curaçao,  stopping overnight at Klein Curaçao, a small uninhabited island a few miles off the SE coast of Curaçao.  It was a pretty stop -- just us, one other cruising boat, some fishermen, and swooping pelicans.  But, towards morning as the prevailing winds died, the anchorage got rolly, so we only stayed the one night and made our way to the main island.

We chugged into Spanish Water, a large inland bay on the south side of the island and spent a good 1/2 hour trying to figure out where to anchor.  There are restricted anchoring areas established by the harbormaster, so that transient boats don’t clog all the channels used by the fishing and pleasure boats docked in the bay.  We got a spot in Anchorage ‘B’ and stayed there a week or so till we moved to Anchorage ‘C’ in Kabritenbaai, a small protected cove.  Here we wake up to the birds singing and the morning sun shining on the colossal rocks that dot the shorelines all around the bay.  

There are about 80-100 cruising boats here at any time, mostly Dutch and other Europeans, some Canadians and South Americans, but very few from the USA.  (Curacao used to be part of the Netherlands, but is now a completely independent country that is part of the Dutch Kingdom.)  Many boats spend the entire hurricane season here, leaving for Bonaire or Aruba, then returning to restart the clock on their 90-day immigration visas.  Spanish Water is a comfortable anchorage with a morning VHF radio cruiser net and the obligatory happy hour hangout near the dinghy dock.  Several supermarkets send free buses to pick up shoppers, a great convenience.  And, the bus to the capital of Willemstad is just a short walk away.  We love the kayaking and hiking opportunities here; it took four kayaking excursions to circumnavigate the bay and we still have lots of walking and hiking trails to discover.

Close to the anchorage is one of the old forts on the island.  This one, Fort Beekenburg, has been restored enabling you to climb to the top and get some great views over Caracasbaai, Baya Beach, the Caribbean, and Spanish Water.

Klein Curaçao:  11d59.207’N 68d38.779’W
Spanish Water, Curaçao: 12d04.675’N 68d51.522’W (Anchorage ‘B’)
Spanish Water, Curaçao: 12d04.316’N 68d51.556’W (Anchorage ‘C’)