Friday, July 31, 2009

Our Day on Tranquilo in Aruba

Aruba Bound
Tranquilo Famous South Side Lunch Cruise
This ranks among our top four things to do. Last year we had an enjoyable time on Jolly Pirates and this year it was time to show the kids in our group what “real” sailing was like and some different snorkeling that Aruba had to offer. We had sailed with Captain Anthony in 2006 and hoped that our friends and their children would enjoy it as much as us. At the end I asked for a show of hands from our group of seven and indeed everyone loved it!

Our day started when we greeted Captain Anthony and his mate Gregory on the beach next to the De Palm Pier. Here is where he takes care of the paperwork and then we are off in his dingy to the awaiting sailboat. Once aboard the Captain gives some instructions and Gregory reviews what beverages he has available to serve from the bar. The day we sailed, it seemed the rum punch and Balashi’s were the most popular adult beverages.

Aruba Bound
We were very fortunate in that the last time we sailed on Tranquilo our day did not start out with the best of weather. Mother Nature was on our side this trip and it was going to be a sunny day. The sail was raised and under a combination of sail and motor power we headed off to Spanish Lagoon and Mike’s Reef. A very important stop on the way to our final destination of Spanish Lagoon is a dockside for pick up of the Captain's mom’s delicious Dutch pea soup.

Spanish Lagoon, in my opinion, is one of the gems of Aruba. The outside of the barrier reef is “Mike's Reef” and is named after Anthony's father who had begun offering tours of those waters in 1977 prior to Anthony's taking over the "family business". His Dad has since passed and in my mind this is an honorable recognition to an Aruban.

Once we arrived at Spanish Lagoon and were anchored. The Captain and Gregory began handing out the snorkel gear. Once everyone was geared up we had the option of swimming over to the platform which straddles the barrier island or taking a ride over on the Captain's dinghy. Once aboard the platform, everyone meets with Gregory for final instructions on the first snorkel. This is a shallow snorkel in 4 - 6 feet of water, out on your own on this shallow part of the reef. Guidelines are given as to how far to stray. My biggest surprise was the amazing recovery of coral in this spot. The last time we had snorkeled here it was looking pretty beat up. This snorkel stop, there were some beautiful corals as well as sponges and the fish were plentiful.

Aruba Bound
Next you have a choice of staying in this spot to continue snorkeling on your own or hopping aboard Captain Anthony's dinghy for the real thrill of snorkeling while drifting on the reef in deeper waters. The waters here were about 25 feet. Admittedly, there were not as many fish as we saw on the shallow snorkel, but in my mind the colors and variety of coral are always awesome.

The procedure for getting back into the dinghy is thoroughly explained. You snorkel and drift more or less follow the direction of Captain Anthony's dinghy. When time is up the Captain, with your help by kicking with your fins, literally hauls you back on to the dinghy. The idea is to kick with your fins in order to get you high enough out of the water to allow the Captain to pluck you up in order for you to be able to swing one leg over the side. Jerry was the first to get back on and kicked his fins so hard that the Captain could haul him up, but dh nearly went flying clear over the other side of the dinghy. I, on the other hand, ended up on the side as I was supposed to, but went I went to pull my second leg over as instructed I ended up on the floor of the dinghy. It is more than likely going to be one of the least graceful things you are going to do in life but it is better than being stranded out in the ocean. I was happy to be back aboard and it was only the Captain, dh and dd already on board, so no audience. We especially did not feel bad when we saw the men coming back aboard as gracefully as I. I felt terrific after watching a svelte young 20 something on her honeymoon land back in the dinghy EXACTLY the same way I did!

After all this swimming and snorkeling, needless to say, we were hungry and thirsty. Lunch was served by Gregory as soon as we were back on board. This is not a gourmet spread, but besides the delicious Dutch Pea Soup, we were served ham and cheese and salmon salad sandwiches on nice soft rolls. Filling and satisfying, even the kids had seconds on the soup. My dd never liked Pea Soup until three years ago when she had Captain Anthony's mom's soup for the first time.

Beverages were refilled and we were soon headed off back “home” to Palm Beach on our long relaxing sail. Captain Anthony had the fishing pole out; Gregory cranked up the tunes and served fresh cut fruit as well as kept us hydrated. All around, this is a very relaxing way to escape the beach for a day.