As is not unusual with the hurricane season coming to an end there are still tropical storms forming in the North Atlantic Ocean just above the Caribbean Sea. They are not strong enough anymore to reach hurricane status and they also do not reach the Caribbean Islands. They normally turn north and then follow the Gulf Stream to Europe where on occasion they create havoc in England where it is then realized that the even a country where it rains a lot is not always ready for a wet present from the Caribbean Hemisphere. What it does do here locally is not “enhance” the Trade Wind. In a simple way I always explain it as “a tropical storm development will suck the wind strength out of the Caribbean”. The weather guru’s will have a very technical explanation for this with moving high and low pressure areas but the end result is the same. The Trade Winds reduce in strength. And that is very nice as it means that instead of having 25 to 35 knots of wind on the portside hull and balconies, it was now barely 20 and thus in port barely 10 to 15 knots as the island creates some lee for the harbor.
So we have a gentle breeze blowing at the moment, a breeze that could be a near gale, while still being considered “nice” weather. No extra ropes to day to keep the ship alongside or worrying captains about whether the ropes will be strong enough or that a tugboat is needed as some cheap insurance. The port of Aruba (called Paardenbaai in Dutch, or the Bay of Horses) is prepared for these strong winds and has added extra bollards to the piers. Bollards which are more inland but can accommodate ropes which are nearly on a 90o angle with the Trade Winds for the days when the turbo version of that wind blows.
Today there were three ships in port, us, the Freewinds and the Norwegian Dawn. The Freewinds is here most of the time and must provide a very steady income to the port with port taxes. It normally occupies Berth F which nowadays is seldom used as it is too short for most of the cruise ships unless the really small ones are visiting. A ship as the Prinsendam just fitted, a ship as the Veendam had a little overhang but anything bigger and you cannot set any proper lines to keep the stern alongside. As will be known the Freewinds is a ship from the Scientology Church and does not sail that often and if it does so, often not further than Bonaire, just to the East. I still like to look at her as for me she symbolizes the start of the Cruise boom to the Caribbean as in 1968 under the name of Boheme, it was the first ship built for cruising with the option to take your car to the Bahamas from Miami. As far as I can recall that was not so successful, taking the car I mean, but cruising took off big time. I visited her a long time ago when she had just become Freewinds and visitors were encouraged to come and see the ship. The only request was to fill out a survey form after the visit, with the result being that there was all sorts of things wrong with you and that they could help fixing it. Now I already know for a long time that there are all sorts of things wrong with me, my wife reminds me about that every day, but after 30 years those things are still not fixed and knowing myself they never will. So I am not going back to the Freewinds to fill out another form as the results will be the same. Plus I know that she has hardly changed inside. But I do like looking at a piece of living history.
Because of only three ships being in, we were parked at the old container pier. This used to be the largest cargo pier of the island in the 60’s and 70’s and was then transformed into a container pier. Now a new container terminal has been in operation close to the airport and since about 18 months ago the whole terminal has been removed and is now in use as a cruise ship pier. It is still under development and if I understand the plan correctly eventually there will be a state of the art cruise facility here as well.
We are staying here until 2200 this evening and then slowly sail to the east and dock at Curacao tomorrow morning. We will sail behind the Norwegian Dawn which is going the same way but we have to overtake her somewhere as the Zuiderdam is going to Mega Pier 1 and the Norwegian Dawn to Mega Pier 2. The mega piers are two piers built outside the harbor of St. Anna Baai to give space to the Mega-Liners. So tomorrow we are also considered to be a “Mega Liner”. Do not really know if that makes me happy or not.
My blog will stop for a few days as I am transferring tomorrow and will leave the good ship Zuiderdam in Willemstad with the objective to go to the Koningsdam. The plan is to pick her up in Malta and for that purpose I will make the grand tour of Curacao – Panama – Madrid –Valletta. But I will have 2 days to get over my jet leg so I will have the opportunity to have a good look around. Normally that means the “Big Red Bus” but Valletta has an excellent local bus system and for $ 2.50 you can tour the whole island for the whole day. And that is good value for a Dutchman. From Malta the Koningsdam will sail to Civitavecchia and start on 31 October on her transatlantic crossing with first calling at a few European ports before plunging into the North Atlantic Ocean.