Friday, October 6, 2006

Sail Tranquilo Aruba

Aruba Bound
We sailed aboard the 43 foot sailboat, Tranquilo in September. They offer a couple of different types of sailing excursions. We chose to do a 6 hour Lunch/Day Sail/Snorkel Tour. Unfortunately we awoke that morning to pouring rain. In 14 trips to Aruba we had never seen it rain so hard for so long. Dh phoned Captain Anthony on his cell and we were still "on". By the time we made it to our pick up spot at the De Palm Pier on Palm Beach, the rain had stopped and you could see the sun was making an effort.

Overall the day ended up overcast with some drizzle and a shower. Luckily the showers were while we were snorkeling so did not make any difference whatsoever. We had a two hour sail back to Palm Beach and the skies cleared and the sun came out in all it's glory. Almost made up for the weather the rest of the day. All in all, given the weather, snorkeling was a better way to pass the day than sitting under a palapa in the showers on the beach.

There were a total of 9 guests aboard that day and 1st mate Gregory made sure that no one wanted for anything. Plenty of room to spread out aboard the boat. Anthony and his 1st mate Gregory were very sociable and more than happy to answer everyone's questions about Aruba. Gregory kept everyone supplied with beverages from start to finish. Definitely do try Aruba's own Balashi beer. I never drink before 5 o'clock and had two Balashi's myself. The Aruban beer is brewed only a mile or so from Mike's Reef.

Aruba Bound
The sail was under power to get to our destination. Just too far and too much wind and not enough time to tack the way there. On the way back makes up for this fact. The sail takes you to a private island reef on the south coast of Aruba. On one side of the reef is an area known as Spanish Lagoon and the other side is a reef called "Mike's Reef" which is named after Anthony's dad who had sailed those waters for many many years prior to Anthony's taking over the "family business". His Dad has since passed away so this is a fitting tribute to an Aruban.

The first snorkel is on your own on the shallow part of the reef, closest to the coral outcropping separating the lagoon and the ocean, which is in 4 - 12 feet of water. Gregory will hook you up with any of the snorkel gear that you need. The shallow area of the reef has been really chewed up by people standing on the coral. Simply pitiful for sure. In the 10 years we have been diving Aruba we have seen the coral go from being pretty excellent shape to now alarming. There were plenty of fish here, but don't expect any breathtaking National Geographic moments.

Aruba Bound
They do save the best for last though. Captain Anthony then took us by dinghy to the deeper part of the reef. The depth of the water here is on up towards 40 feet. Here there were many more fish and the coral was in much better condition. He drops you in the water and you drift with the current for 20 minutes (about a quarter of a mile) with Anthony following in the dinghy. One of our fellow snorkelers discovered a hiding 8 foot Green Morary Eel. Dh and I have been diving for the better part of 10 years and have never seen a fellow THAT big! Wow, our daughter was snorkeling for the first time and was already in awe. This just put her over the top.

I was very curious how we were going to get back into the dingy, well actually I was nervous. I am a "worrier" and not exactly thin and trim so do worry about these types of things. No worry here though. Captain Anthony is a big guy and he just tells you to kick with your fins on and he hauls you over the side of that dingy like a fish at the end of his line. Speaking of fish, did I mention that the Captain trawls for fish while we are underway? Ask to see some photos of his prize catches. Wow wee we were snorkeling with those guys?

After all this snorkeling we were of course hungry. Out comes lunch. By no means fancy, so do not expect gourmet, but a novelty of this sail is the homemade Dutch split pea soup made by Anthony's mom. It was so delicious, my daughter had 2 cups and she does not like pea soup. Also served at lunchtime were ham and cheese sandwiches and watermelon. Of course Gregory kept everyone plied with any beverage of their choosing: rum punch, beer, soda or just plain old water. I did not sample it myself, but a fellow sailor said that it was the best rum punch she had ever had and she made it sound as if she had some experience. Interesting to note also that some snorekel excursions in Aruba charge extra for beer. The Balashi beer (delicious local beer brewed a mile or so from Mike's Reef) was free flowing on Tranquilo. And need I say cold and delicious?

The sail back to Palm Beach is most relaxing and besides the good company, Balashi and pea soup, for me was one of the highlights of the day. Anthony and his 1st mate Gregory were more than happy to answer everyone's questions about Aruba without getting an attitude that you were bugging them. At one point during lunch Anthony pulled out a sailing magazine for his own enjoyment, but I was not paying him to be entertained.

This is an excursion which should be done at least once when you visit Aruba. There are repeat visitors to Aruba who sail with Anthony year after year. This has to tell you something. Our next visit I think I might like to sample his Sunset Sail cruise.

Note that Tranquilo only accepts cash or traveler's checks no credit cards. Never a problem as long as you are prepared right? If you are not, there is a ATM machine in the casino right there at the Radisson.