Saturday, January 28, 2012

Curaco Report

Good morning everyone.  As I noted yesterday,  I made it safely to Curacao after a minor delay from having missed my 8am flight.  Having learned my lesson of driving around without a proper map of the area,  instead of renting a car yesterday I took a taxi to my hotel.  This made for a much more pleasant trip,  although somewhat expensive.

Most of the day I spent walking around Willemstad.  I was feeling a little under the weather,  so I didn't push myself to hard,  just kind of strolled and sat,  and took pictures where I found interesting things.  Of course,  it wouldn't be an adventure without a story,  and today I have two.

The first is this.  The city of Willemstad is divided in half by a very large natural harbor.  The opening of this harbor is fairly narrow,  and Willemstad sits on both sides of this outlet to the sea.  There is plenty of marine traffic that goes through this harbor,  and especially as there is an oil refinery further back in the harbor,  large ships and tugboats tend to move through here frequently.

In 1888 someone got the idea to build a floating bridge across the harbor entrance.  In 1939 the bridge was renovated,  and still exists today. 

Now,  a floating bridge I have no problem with.  Seattle has 2 floating bridges,  and there's a third out on Hood Canal.  But this particular bridge,  named the Queen Emma Bridge,  swings open and closed.  One side of the bridge is permamently attached to the north side,  on the south side of the bridge there is a small pilot house,  and the bridgekeeper stays in there and moves the bridge when boat traffic comes through.  This is all done of course with the proper loud bells,  gates closing,  etc.  A boat approaches,  and the alarm sounds,  people hop on or off the bridge,  depending on which direction they're going,  the gates close,  and the bridgekeeper fires up the engines for the bridge.  The bridge then put-puts out of the way,  boat goes through,  bridge swings back in,  the gates open,  and people begin crossing again.

A fun note, actually,  is that they don't usually kick you off the bridge,  so you can ride the bridge as it's opening and closing.  Yesterday there was a small musical performing group that just stayed in the middle of the bridge and rode the bridge all day long.

Ok, so,  this bridge,  it is definitely unique.  But it's also kind of insane.  I had dinner near the bridge last night,  and every 20 or 30 minutes or so,  the bells would go off,  people would scurry,  the bridge would motor itself open,  and then close again,  only to repeat a short time later.  And this bridge is some 550 feet long,  this is not a small bridge.  At one point the bridge swung completely open,  and the pilot house was now only 10 feet from the north bank.  I wanted to hop on there and let it take me back to the South side,  but that was sadly not possible.  Oh,  also I should note,  that when the bridge is open for a longer period of time,  there is a small foot ferry that plies the passage back and forth.  I took that instead,  since the bridge was open for an oil tanker that took a good long time to move through. 

So, maybe the bridge is the best design for the area.  A larger draw bridge might have done bad things to the unique and interesting architecture of Willemstad.  (which,  I should note,  looks like a pastel version of Amsterdam)  Or maybe 550 feet is too long for a quickly movable draw bridge.  It's hard to know,  and certainly the swinging bridge is a tourist attraction at this point.  But I have to wonder whose job it is to pilot the bridge.  It's not like piloting a boat,  where you can go where you want,  with the bridge,  you just kind of go back and forth,  and that's about it. 

Ok,  second story.  Last night I was eating dinner in a nice open air restaurant when...sudden downpour.  Like,  really hard, driving rain,  but only for about 15 minutes.  This was towards the end of the dinner hours,  and the few of us remaining in the restaurant moved our tables under the shade canopy.  And then,  like people do,  struck up conversations with each other.  I ended up meeting a man,  Wesley,  who was born in Curacao,  but who now lives in Holland.  He and his wife are here for 5 weeks,  he's got some business to attend to,  but is kind of on vacation as well.  After a long conversation,  he ended up offering to possibly drive me around the island on Sunday.  I'll call him on Sunday morning,  and if things work out,  I will probably have a nice long opportunity to see and hear about things I might not otherwise have had.  This might or might not work out,  we will find out,  but it's very nice to have had the offer made to me. 


  1. Meeting locals and being shown around is a treat! Hope it works out.

  2. Jacques,

    I am looking for you. Where have you gone?


    1. Well! Hello Shelby. This is Jacques, I'm alive and well. I remember that office well...although it did take me a few minutes to realize where exactly it was. :) I'm currently sitting by the poolside at a small but nice hotel in the Scharloo quarter of Willemstad, Curacao. I've been thinking about asking my owner to buy me a t-shirt that says "I heart Curacao" Do you think I should?