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March Caribbien Vacation
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Joined: 28 Sep 2009
Posts: 15

PostPosted: Wed Feb 10, 2010 5:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In as much as this thread has turned into yet another spam from Bonaire, as a proper gorger, I will sail upstream a bit here by discussing my November trip to Aruba... Did 11 days in Aruba, +2 traveling. Returned with marriage intact and happy wife.

Weather was excellent the whole time. Booked through Vela and stayed at the Holiday Inn. Had the best "ocean view" room in the hotel, up on the top floor and closest to the beach facing north overlooking the pool and views all the way past the sailing launch up to the lighthouse point. Except for the constant hotel room door banging, the hotel was great. Food at the Holiday Inn is not worth the price so look elsewhere... many better alternatives.

Walking up the beach to Vela was a nice stroll and convenient enough. On days off sailing, walked further up the beach or bussed to good snorkeling spots. Bonus points for quality time with the wife. Busing south to Oranjestad for shopping and dining was another easy distraction (I refrain from calling it an attraction in my perspective), however the 3 tiny bikinis we picked up for the wife did make both of us happy.

About Vela:
For OUR experience, I rate sailing with Vela Aruba only average overall. While Vela had a fairly large board fleet, at that time their sail stock in the 5m-6.9m range was severely limited, like 1 - 5.4m, 1 - 5.7m, 1 - 6.2m, 1 - 6.7m... you get the picture. Upon my last day, a huge shipment of new NP sails arrived... we just missed using those. doh!. So, during our stay, although I was a prepaid guest there was not sufficient equipment available to use optimal sails throughout the day in variable wind conditions.

As a 11 day prepaid guest you might hope to be treated more as a guest than a 2 hour rental walkup. Kudos to Roger, who I commend for his professionalism. He was the only person who cared to recommend better sails (more technically oriented rather than pure opinion) and help dial in the equipment. He assisted a lot with those minor pesky details like adjusting footstraps from other bizarre configurations to something more normal that experienced sailors use. Everyone else there seemed to express a great reluctance to do anything other than at most pulling a sail off the rack and tossing it on the ground for you.

About the sailing quality:
Aruba's offshore gusty conditions make Hood River wind positively smooth by comparison. The Vela launch site is tucked immediately next to a great wall of wind blocking highrise hotels to the south and their cordoned off swim areas. Immediately in front and north is a public boat launch / anchoring area which provides the added pleasure of dodging boats and lines on the way out, then returning at the end of the day (5 pm) dodging boats, trailers and jetskis that are trying to get home. The last bonus in bad locations are the palm and divi trees lining the shore to create a horrible, swirly wind shadow which makes it impossible to sail a sinker here. Oh, don't forget to look out for tubing boats, parasailing boats, wakeboard boats, jetskis.

Most of the better wind is way out offshore and to the north. In fact, sailing to the north point was possible some days. That was fun, passing catamarans and the larger tourist sailing ships out on the "open" water. However you need to stay aware of the true wind direction as heading "north" on Aruba also takes you somewhat west (downwind) of Vela's location. There are many zones where you must follow a big C arc due to the varying wind direction.

Sailing further out is OK, sometimes GOOD. Even on the windier (5.xm) days it was not consistent way offshore, so picking a jibe spot was sketchy to find enough wind to exit powered up. If you are a beginner or plan to sail within a 1/4 mile of the shore, then this is not the place for you. The conditions within that zone (closer to shore) are terrible and very discouraging for everybody.

There is another windsurfing outfit a little north (and better launch spot) called Aruba Windsurfing Center ( which is a bit cheaper than Vela. Their equipment looked good, although I didn't sail it. My wife took a lesson there and was happy with the personal attention. Maybe it was the bikini, I can't say.

As a last bonus[aka shit], between the Vela and Aruba windsurfing launches there is another kitesurfing outfit that has a lot of beginner lessons going on. So there are kites and lines everywhere. Heading north is best to get away from the chaos.

With the offshore winds, rescue boats were busy picking up newbies from both sports.

Summary of key points for our visit:
- sailing equipment (greatly improved with new sail arrival to fill in the range gap).
- Rodger
- sunny weather the whole time
- interesting mix of international visitors
- english spoken everywhere
- non-sailing locals/service very friendly and helpful everywhere
- other activities
- other events
- close to Oranjestad
- load up on beer at the supermarkets, or buy by the bucket at the Marriott bar next door to Vela.
- itsy bitsy bikinis and less.

Not so good:
- very pricey food (look for happy hour food & drink prices)
- very pricey everything.
- wind isn't the best, but the Vela launch area really sucks
- take a good fin than can bring you back from 1/2 mile downwind (out to sea), or be prepared to hope for rescue like many we saw floating into the far horizon.
- Vela service... hit & miss. Best if they cloned Rodger.
- euro marble bags w/o board shorts.
- no topless women found.

Overall we had a great time. I probably would not recommend this as a prime windsurfing spot, but if you want a good mix of activities and can tolerate the tourist hordes, boats, etc... then by all means.
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Joined: 17 Apr 1995
Posts: 1386
Location: Maui

PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2010 11:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

jiberdaddy wrote:
In as much as this thread has turned into yet another spam from Bonaire

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