ABC Islands

We have done the A and B of the ABC former Dutch colonies: Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao. If Bonaire sounds French, the capitol is Kralendjik and the word for street is Kaja. The islands were originally volcanic but a very long time ago. The vents have now moved on or else the islands have. Aruba has no surface fresh water so almost all of the water comes from desalination. The terrain looks a lot like the Yucatan and Florida with a  couple conical peaks of 500 or 600 feet. They also have a touch of Hawaii, with left over lava flows and natural bridges. It looks enough like the Big Island of Hawaii that tourists have imported the Hawaiian custom of piling up rocks and making a wish; the locals are amused. They get so little rain; erosion isn’t a big issue. It can go years without raining; last year was an exception.

They have four seasons: summer, mid-summer, early summer, and late summer. The weather forecast for today and every other day of the year is high of 31 C, low of 27 C, and slight chance of rain.  In addition to very little rain, they have no volcanos, no earthquakes, no hurricanes, no tornedoes, and no snow.

Before the Dutch, the early inhabitants were from the mainland of South America, i.e., Venezuela, but didn’t seem to establish permanent settlements. The Dutch mined a few hundred pounds of gold in the 19th century but there wasn’t much economical value until oil was discovered in Venezuela in the early 1960’s. That was still a big deal when I was working at Standard Oil in the late 60’s. The population of Aruba was then about 60,000.

What that has to do with Aruba  is Venezuela doesn’t have any deep water ports but Aruba does. They used smallish boats to move the oil to Aruba and transferred it to large tankers. They soon built a refinery or two. The population was then about 120,000.

The oil market was volatile enough that they kept shutting and reopening the refineries every few years. (As I recall, Venezuelan oil is not particularly  attractive, better suited for asphalt than gasoline.)  Then they turned to tourism, including moving the Eagle Oil Company refinery to build a string of luxury hotels and time shares on what is now Eagle Beach. I didn’t see any eagles.

A quirk in the tax law lets hotels operate tax free for ten years. The result is every nine years and eleven months all the hotels change hands but it always seems to involve the same players (e.g., Hilton, Holiday Inn, Marriott)

Eighty percent of the population is now employed in tourism, which seems more reliable than oil.

I don’t know as much about Bonaire because we spent the day playing in the water off an uninhabited island, called Klein Bonaire (not sure about the spelling but it translates  from the Dutch as Little Bonaire.) My snorkeling practice paid off. I spent the  better part of an hour watching fish off a coral reef within a couple hundred feet of the beach in water 100 meters or more deep.

I spent the day playing at the beach. Doré spent the night before in complete terror about how she was going to get on the boat and the day in complete terror about how she was going to get off the boat.

It actually involved climbing down from the pier into a rubber dingy; climbing up from the dingy up the side of a larger boat and reversing the steps to get off. She did it; the crew kept telling me sit down and stop rocking the boat. They could do it. They did and she did.

Tomorrow is a sea day; I’ll back up to Barbados, which was British and is more about slaves than gold and oil.

2 thoughts on “ABC Islands

  1. Hey you intrepid travelers. What a wonderful log entry about Aruba. I never knew about its specific geography. Thank you very much. Hope there’s a test after you return.
    So glad Doré maneauved the boarding and un-boarding of the boat. Next time will be easier. You’ve missed a springblike 40 degree temp week in Mpls. Don’t worry, winter will return quickly. Keep writing the logs. I love them. Linda

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  2. Nice blog post. It’s great to have some history mixed in with your modern day tales. Dore, (sorry, I don’t have a mark over the e, haven’t figured out the keyboard of my new toy – IPad), I hope you feel more comfortable with the trip, the crew and yourself now that things are truly underway. If I said the night thoughts go away, I’d be misleading you. But, your experiences will reinforce your understanding that they are blown out of proportion. I now think of the bad ones as Trumpitizing me. HA! Oh, wait that’s not funny. HA!!!

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