Sailing in Aruba

Aruba is a windswept island where stiff breezes have sculpted incredible scenery but also offer a welcome respite from the hot sun. They may also encourage even the most hardened landlubber to want to sail off into the sunset.

There is something magical about sailing, how the boat’s hull and perfectly trimmed sails can master the force of the wind and waves and propel you gracefully across water. How such a simple advance in technology has been so central to civilization as we know it, fostering mobility and trade throughout the ages.

Sailing the high seas is sure to be one of your most memorable Aruban experiences, whatever floats your boat! It’s hard to beat the feeling of just you and the wind – whether it’s the excitement of a fast-moving catamaran slicing through the waves; the exhilaration of high-tech navigation; the romance and serenity of a sunset cruise; the fun of dinner, dancing and cocktails at sea; or the back-to-basics feeling aboard a wooden schooner as it explores hidden coves.

Adventures at sea

Sure you can snorkel off many of Aruba’s beaches, but imagine the thrill of reaching that perfect snorkeling site by sail, your boat dropping anchor in a secluded bay along the island’s leeward coast. Explore the reef and maybe even a shipwreck along with hundreds of beautiful tropical fish. Classic wooden vessels of oak, mahogany and teak, some built almost 100 years ago, offer authentic voyages worthy of the most adventurous among us, and powered only by Aruba’s glorious trade winds. Spend a day of rollicking good fun jumping off the rope swing, snorkeling and beachcombing, or making new friends around the buffet table. Then pick the best spot on deck for the sail back into harbor, with the sails billowing overhead, the wind in your hair and the sea spray in your face.

The need for speed

Two hulls are better than one if speed is what you’re looking for as nothing harnesses the wind’s power quite like a catamaran. With two narrow hulls, there’s little to slow a catamaran down and the result is an exhilarating opportunity to literally ride like the wind. Because catamarans generally have more space topside for lounging in the sun and watching the waves rush by, they are popular with tour operators who offer daily full and half-day snorkeling excursions. The winds tend to die down a bit as the sun sets and the exhilaration gives way to relaxation for dinner and sunset cruises.

Sail off into the sunset

Although Aruba is known for some of the finest dining in the Caribbean, few island restaurants can top the atmosphere and ambience of being surrounded on all sides by sparkling waves. Sunset and dinner sails offer you the chance to recline with a cocktail and let yourself be lulled by the waves as you sail off into the sunset.

Cocktail hour is that much more memorable when it’s enjoyed leisurely on deck, so consider a sunset happy hour at sea before that fine dinner on terra firma. Or, why not make a whole evening of it and dine on board? Some of the island’s finest restaurants cater these dinner sails, where gourmet food and champagne are on hand as you watch for the spectacular green flash as the sun dips below the horizon. And when the moon is full, a moonlight sail is just the thing for stargazers and hopeless romantics alike.

Take the helm

A truly unique adventure awaits when you chose to charter your own sailboat. If you already know the ropes, you can opt for a bareboat where no crew or provisions are included, just the boat. Or you can decide to really live it up, by hiring a boat with it’s own skipper, crew and chef. It’s hard to beat the flexibility of coming and going when you like.

With so many options on the horizon even the most hardened landlubber is sure to find their sea legs. As you sail off into the sunset, and the picture-postcard view of Aruba’s coastline with its lowrise and highrise hotel areas grows smaller, keep an eye out for the lavish homes of the Malmok area. Tiny cars follow the winding road to and from the ever-watchful California Lighthouse while the waves crash against the rocks, sculpting the landscape for generations to come. Make sailing Aruba’s high seas part of your vacation memories, you won’t regret it.

Tips for Smooth Sailing

Taking in the stunning scenery, with the wind blowing and waves lapping, it is easy to forget about the hot sun, so be sure to apply sunscreen often, keep your hat and sunglasses on at all times and drink lots of water. Staying well hydrated is also a good idea if you’re worried about feeling a bit unsettled as is trying to keep your eyes gazing at, but not fixed on, the horizon. Also, remember that seasickness is actually less prevalent on a sailboat than on a powerboat because a sailboat’s keel prevents the side-to-side roll.

Sailing Terms

• Sound like a real first mate by learning some sailing terminology.

• Aft The back of the boat. The aft is also known as the stern.

• Bow The front of the boat.

• Port The left-hand side of the boat when you are facing the bow. Associated with the color red.

• Starboard The right-hand side of the boat when you are facing the bow. Associated with the color green.

• Windward The direction in which the wind is currently blowing. The windward side of the boat is the side the wind hits first.

• Leeward Also known as lee, leeward is the direction opposite to the way the wind is currently blowing (windward).

• Heel The incline or tilt of a boat under sail.

By Lisa M. Giustino