A Day at Sea

June 8, 2012

Leaving La Romana, our port city in the Dominican Republic, we sailed on to our next port of call, Willemstad, Curaçao. Our arrival there was in the afternoon, at 2:00, burt given my run the day before, plus a gym workout on the weight machines that evening, I didn’t run the morning we arrived in Curaçao. We didn’t have an official cruise excursion planned, but decided to set out on our own in this interesting port city. Curaçao is part of the Netherlands Antilles, first populated by the local aboriginal population, then by the Spanish, but colonized and owned by the Dutch. The official currency is the N.A. Florint, or Guilder. The architecture is an interesting mix of Dutch gables and island cinder-block. The port is busy, and is a major way station for oil and cargo. In the past, however, it was the major port for the slave trade from Africa to the Americas. A wealthy Dutch gentleman established a museum memorializing the slaves and their suffering. We visited the museum. A good part of it was this gentleman’s collection of antiquities from ancient Egypt, Sumaria, and Rome, after which one gets in to the slave-trade information. It was very dramatic, with illustrations of the ships with their human cargo, chests full of irons used to shackle the slaves, and details of their lives. It was well-curated and definitely worth a visit. Leaving the museum, we ventured out to seek our way to Chobolobo, the old mansion where the famous Curaçao liquor is made. We intended to walk across the landmark Queen Emma pontoon pedestrian bridge to get to the other side of the town to get a cab. The bridge was pulled to the shore, though, to let through some boat traffic, so we got on a ferry instead. The ferry is free, and transports people back and forth across the inlet that divides this capital city. We then got a cab to Chobolobo, up a hill and a couple of miles outside the center of town. There we got to sample the various flavors of Curaçao orange-based liquor, and of course, had to buy a bottle as a souvenir. Following this, we had a few hours to kill before attending a dance class my wife had arranged, in a studio nearby. We hung out at the bar behind Chobolobo, an outdoor rustic bar equipped with two disco balls, clearly a later night hangout for locals. Since it was only 5:30, we were the only patrons. We had an Amstel Bright, the local version of Amstel, and a Presidente, from Dom. Republic, and passed time until our lesson. The dance studio was like many others we’ve attended, small but with an enthusiastic and talented owner/teacher. We took an hour and a half lesson in Bachata, similar to Merengue but not as simple. After an excellent lesson, our teacher’s wife kindly drove us back to our ship in time for our 11:00 PM departure, for our next stop, Aruba.

Our planned arrival at 8:00 AM in Aruba was delayed for an hour for “technical reasons”, which made for an interesting run on the track that morning. I got up to the deck track around 6:30, and planned to run for 30 minutes. During that time, the ship made a full 360 degree turn outside the Aruban port of Oranjestad. As I ran on the top deck, the wind, rather fierce and coming from the east, was a changing challenge as the ship made it’s big turn. At times, it was like running into a wind tunnel. The 30 minute plan was because it gets pretty boring running around a little track where 9 laps equal a mile. We had a promising day planed in Aruba, and it turned out well. We took advantage of a shore excursion on a sailing yacht to various snorkeling sites. The boat was a 1925 wooden two-masted sailboat called the Mi Dushi (my sweetheart), and about 40 people from our cruise were on board. We stopped to skin dive at three different sites, including a sunken and blown up German ship destroyed by it’s crew when it was captured by the Dutch during WW2. Getting into the water was simple, just leap over the side of the boat, off the gunwale, put flippers and mask on, and go explore. Myriad schools of small fish, dozens of striped, foot-long angel fish, iridescent, cobalt blue, needle nose fish, jack, and a variety of coral, star fish and other sea life was present. After the last dive, we were fed on board a very nice lunch of jerk chicken, caribbean-style fish, rice pilaf, fruit and salad. The bar was open for island cocktails, with mine being a Blue Dushi, a mix of pineapple juice, rum and blue Curaçao. The sails were then hoisted for the sail back, with a stiff wind and a close haul setting. It was exciting to see this old wooden boat in good working order sailed by a very able crew. Getting back to the ship, we still had an hour to spare, so we ambled over to a second story, outdoor bar on the main tourist drag for another local brew, this time a Balashi, brewed in Aruba, a pleasant light lager. After returning to the ship and before dinner, I headed to the gym for another round of battle with the weight machines. Basically, I’ve been doing the machine circuit of upper and lower body training, setting the weights to where i can do two sets of twenty reps on each machine. Relative to the machines, my legs are a lot stronger than my arms.

Our ship set sail again at 5 PM, leaving our last port of call and on to two days at sea. This morning, I repeated the thirty minute run, again going over by a few minutes. The temperature was in the mid 80’s, but very humid, so I finished completely soaked with sweat, and still dripping for a god 30 minutes afterwards. Today is a sea day as is tomorrow. I’ll do my best not to pig out at the never ending trough, although the Indian buffet is quite tasty. Another weight training session this evening, then off to dinner at the second seating, 8:15, in the Posh restaurant.

Frank

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