The first week in the shipyard

We have to get up early on Monday morning. At 9 o'clock we have the appointment to slip the boat. The nautical map does not explain the way to Varadero, it simply shows a non-mapped area under which large stones are supposed to be hidden. The others make it to Varadero too, so we give it a try and are almost never less than three meters deep. That calms you down. The heavy rain that suddenly set in and completely soaked us both is less reassuring.

On the way to Varadero

A clean buoy line greets us at the direct access to the marina. The employee who looks after us at the radio gives us precise instructions when and where to enter the buoyed area and emphasizes several times that we should never leave the center. We don’t. We'll bring Sissi safely to the slipway.

Sissi is ready

When the rain stops, a couple of shipyard workers appear, who first maneuver Sissi onto the wagon. When it rains, Aruba generally does not work, at least not if the worker could get wet. They work routinely and make sure that the ship is raised straight.

Sissi is picked up

Then the load slowly starts to move and more and more of the underside becomes visible. The boat looks better than you would expect after nine months in port.

We slip everyone

A large part of the growth can be removed with the high-pressure cleaner. The old paint is also partly washed off. It looks like Sissi is bleeding.

Cleaning with high pressure

While Sissi is being pushed to her future parking lot, I am delighted to see who our neighbors are - Jo and Stewart from the Patronus. We chat briefly, they've been here for two weeks, waiting for their paint job to be finished. Since both are over 70 years old, they don't do the work themselves, but let the shipyard do it. This takes a while.

Rainy season

It's raining heavily again, we're still waiting for the car that will take us to the Donkey Sanctuary. We live there while we work. I realize that we are totally dependent on the weather. If it rains while painting, the paint ends up where we don't want it.

Upon arrival at Donkey Sanctuary, Desiree informs us that we have to share the apartment and car with Lucas and Marcin. They come from Sweden and Poland, are a little older than 20 and work as volunteers in various parts of the island. An EU program brought them to Aruba that European solidarity corps. It belongs to Erasmus and was completely unknown to me.

In the next few days we always drive Marcin and Lucas to their place of work before we go to the boat ourselves. This way we have the car available the whole day, otherwise it would just be standing around.

Sanding off the old paint

Grinding is a dirty job. The old antifouling is a very soft color that on the one hand generates an incredible amount of toxic dust and on the other hand sticks the sanding sheets after a few minutes. I have already written about the immense consumption of grinding wheels.

After three days, Sissi is sanded smooth

We were lucky enough to finish this dirty job in three days. After several discussions with Stewart, we decide to paint the new antifouling a few centimeters higher and let it stick out of the water. This is where it is most needed because the heaviest vegetation is always on the waterline.

Barrier coat

Tuesday to Thursday we were busy with the sanding, on Friday we could then paint the first coat. The strip that will later look out of the water is given a barrier coat. We use the trolley as a mobile work platform. The marina forbids us to do this later. I feel very Aruban. Sitting at the wheel and Jens every now and then rolling a meter further. So we are ready very early on Friday and can go to our donkeys. We take the weekend off for tourist purposes.

A sign of life from us ...

We are back with Sissi in the marina in Oranjestad and are slowly coming to rest. I just noticed how long it has been since I wrote a post. Therefore I would like to send a little sign of life, in the past few weeks we had a lot of work and still found time for sightseeing and relaxation in the water. Also, my last shift at Donkey Sanctuary was on. We're almost ready to go.

Sweety on the roof

Sissi was in the water almost continuously for two years. It got the last coat in winter 2018/2019. I had the worst fears about the condition of the paintwork. I have one in St. Lucia Diver engaged who scraped the vegetation from below. But then Sissi was in port for almost nine months.

Sissi is slipped

Instead of a crane, they use a large slipway on Aruba. The largest yachts and catamarans are pulled out of the water in this way. The workers move Sissi ashore with a lot of routine. The color of the underwater paint is red, by the way.

Viewed up close

Seen up close, it's not as bad as feared. Only the propeller looks pretty overgrown. This explains the strange behavior of Sissi under the engine. The speed is no longer correctly converted into speed.

Used grinding wheels

We have estimated two weeks in the shipyard to paint the underwater hull. During the first week, all preparatory activities should be carried out, such as sanding off the old paint. The soft paint sticks one grinding wheel after the other. You can't sand more than a square meter with a disc. Then a new one has to be found. The two hardware stores closest to the shipyard soon ran out of grinding wheels, and I had to drive halfway across the island to organize supplies.

The question of the questions: will it rain?

It is the rainy season in Aruba. The question arises again and again whether we can start painting. Will it rain or not? The direction of the clouds is always the same, we look at the Hooiberg and the clouds. However, we were very lucky. Whenever we painted, it didn't rain. The rain then came in the night when the paint was so dry that the water could no longer harm it. No comparison to painting the deck on Lanzarote, where heavy rain immediately washed a large part of the paint back into the Atlantic.

At some point everything is sanded and can be painted

After sanding down comes the painting. The paint is sufficiently toxic that you are happy to protect yourself against the splashes. The work is great fun at 32 ° C in the shade. I just write down the temperature so you don't forget in Germany that there are actually no seasons here. Only those with and without rain. The temperatures hardly change. But that also has an immense advantage. Above 24 ° C, the paint dries enough in an hour to be touchable. It is completely dry overnight. We can apply two coats of paint to the hull within two days.

The propeller is almost like new again

We got out of the water on Mondays and back in the water on Friday the following week. Sissi looks great. The propeller is like new and on the way back from the shipyard to the marina I was pleased to see that the engine speed and speed are now compatible again. Since I can finally read the pictures from my phone again, I have an immense lag in blogging. I'll make up for that shortly. I would like to write about the other tourist spots that Jens and I have visited.


The last shift with the donkeys is over. As long as I'm still on the island, I'll go there every now and then, meet as many of the other volunteers as possible and say goodbye. Since I've worked full-time for weeks, I know practically everyone. It is impossible to say goodbye to all of them. This afternoon we want to go to Anneke's. I learned most about donkeys from her. I always had comfortable shifts with her. And we also have treats for the cats. Adieu.


We now have the first layer of antifouling on the boat. Right now my priority is painting, not blog. I just want to report that things are going according to plan. There are pictures later.


In the past three days, Jens and I have sanded down the entire boat from below. I took a few photos with the phone showing the state before and after editing. But there is something about the cable that I use to connect the phone to the computer. I cannot download the images. So there are no pictures. When I have found a solution, I will submit it later. We are well on schedule with the work, we will probably be back in the water by the end of the month. There is also good news from Jamaica, they have reopened the maritime border. This is another prerequisite for our onward journey. It is progressing. I am optimistic. Still, it's frustrating about the photos.

Life in the fast lane

We act like tourists. For a donation equal to the usual weekly rent for a car, I rented the donkey cart for a week. With that Jens and I make the island unsafe. It's now a home game for me, and I could work as a tour guide in Aruba.

California Lighthouse

The California Lighthouse is located on the northern tip of Aruba. For me it's a kind of culture shock, because when I last visited the island in April there was a complete shutdown, the border was closed and the airport closed. Everyone is talking about the fact that there aren't enough tourists on the island, but for my purposes the number is easily enough.

View from the lighthouse towards Oranjestad

We briefly enjoy the beautiful view in the clear air. Then we continue to the famous Altovista Chapel, a small Catholic chapel with a Way of the Cross. During his stay in March, Jens could practically not see anything of the island.

Altovista Chapel

For this shot I had to twist myself quite a bit so that no other tourists would come into the picture. I was just able to hide the booth with the knickknacks behind the church. As we approach the interior of the church, we are almost besieged by knickknacks and candle sellers.

Why did I park the car on the other side of the church? If the sellers had seen the license plate on the car, they'd leave us alone. You can easily differentiate between rental cars and private cars.

Altovista Chapel from the inside

Close to the chapel is a kind of zoo, Philips Animal Garden. The business started as a shelter for animals from private ownership, which made too much work for their owners. That's why there is a lonely monkey, various snakes and even a crocodile. I haven't seen this zoo either. It was closed on my rental car tour in April.

Shetland pony?

A bored young man collects an entry fee of five dollars per person, but we get a small bag with carrots and pellets to feed us. Just feed the animals with legs, no birds, no fish. Okay, we can do that. We shouldn't feed the monkeys either. Do they have no legs? We walk into the area. There is a sign at the first enclosure that says “Shetlandṕony”. The residents approach us immediately and we see familiar faces. The pony on the left is a normal sized horse, we don't need to talk about the long ears on the right.

Several rabbit stalls

We find several rabbit houses in which quite a few rabbits live in a confined space. They look lively and cute, but I still wonder if the enclosure wouldn't have been one size larger.


The pigs look lively and happy, the enclosure also looks a bit small here. There are no employees on the lonely grounds of the zoo to talk to about the animals. That's a shame, we do it a little differently at Donkey Sanctuary.


The big ratites look into the camera lens. In the picture it looks like they have plenty of space and exercise, but the fence is so close that you can't even see it in the picture. The two birds have about 50 square meters of space. I repeat myself.


Why? Why do you have to put goats in an enclosure in Aruba? Goats get along well here in the wild, find enough food and there are no accidents with cars. Why? Because, unlike the donkeys, the goats simply run away when they are afraid. When in doubt, the donkey stops in the middle of the road. The only reason I can think of is that the goats are in the cage because of their cuteness.

Goats in the wild, photo taken in April

I don't want to do anything bad about this zoo either. The dromedary is from a private home and would certainly not have survived if this zoo had not existed. A lonely dromedary with his baby. I would have liked to ask a member of staff about the history of the animal.


Feeding a dromedary is like feeding a donkey. They can even do the cute facial expression too. The baby, of course, has the usual cuteness factor. All baby animals are cute, aren't they?

Baby dromedary

We leave the zoo with mixed feelings. Or the animal shelter. I don't think it's worth another visit. And now I know what I'll tell Donkey Sanctuary visitors when they ask me about it. So far I could only say that I haven't been there yet.

In Aruba it is only a few minutes' drive to the next attraction. A rare rock formation unique to Aruba is Ayo Rock.

Ayo rock formation

Jens is excited, so am I. On my last visit, which was before the rainy season, the whole landscape was sandy and red. Now it is mostly green. We climb the stairs to the summit and enjoy the view.

Climbing in Ayo Rock

The so-called Natural Bridge is very close by, just a few minutes' drive away. It is also considered one of the really big tourist destinations.

Natural Bridge

With the best photo light and between two guided tours, we manage to photograph the bridge without people. There is really a lot going on on the island. Jens doesn't think it's too tight.

View over the east coast

The view over the coast, which is so beautifully green, is wonderful. We are exhausted, have seen a lot in a short time. We choose to relax in the water. Only a few minutes drive from the Natural Bridge is a natural pool. In front of that, tons of ATVs are waiting for customers. That is new.

Waiting for customers

We drive up to the entry ladder, only see a guided tour splash down. That's good, they usually go away after a few minutes. This tour is no exception. While Jens is going down the ladder, the group is getting ready to leave. Wonderful, we have everything to ourselves.


It is only a few meters over sharp-edged corals until we are floating in the cool water. The big waves from outside transform the pool into a flow channel. It's wonderfully relaxing.

Pure relaxation

Jens is thrilled. Now he's arrived in Aruba. We set up a small loudspeaker box, the acoustics are great. The vaulted walls reflect the sound, the dull rumble of the waves gives the music a very special charm. We regret not having any chilled drinks on hand. This is not the last time we are here.

Sissi crew is complete again!

The Sissi crew has been complete again since Sunday evening. Jens is back in Aruba. I got a rental car, more precisely I can use the Donkey Sanctuary's car for a donation. With this car we are on the island and pull through the full tourist program.

Stupid selfie in front of a Divi-Divi tree.

That's why there isn't that much left on the blog at the moment. I promise a reasonably quick subsequent delivery, some nice pictures were taken.

Our further planning provides for us to pull Sissi out of the water next Monday and renew the underwater paint. It was last painted there two years ago in the Netherlands, and in some places there is not much left of the paint. The sacrificial anode also needs to be replaced, the warm salt water eats sacrificial anodes like Jens Lasagne.

Stupid selfie with lasagna

During the time in the shipyard we will live in a small apartment with the donkeys. When Sissi gets back into the water in late November or early December, the time in Aruba is almost over. I can’t believe how quickly it all happens. Soon I will publish the last donkey photo and go back to maritime topics.

I am very happy that Jens is here again. He is too, but is a little bruised by the 35 ° C in the shade at 75% humidity. That's why it's over at this point, the car has air conditioning. We’re going to drive right now and visit other tourist spots.

Never complain about the weather again

I'll never grumble about the weather again. No matter what the weather is in Germany. I will enjoy it. The weather in Aruba is getting on my nerves more and more. Once again, a larger tropical storm is on the way in the neighborhood, which is hitting the coast in Nicaragua at the time this article is written. As a result, there has been no wind here for a few days. In addition, temperatures of over 30 ° C and a humidity of 75%. The way to the supermarket becomes a feat of strength. After a few steps, the now wet clothing sticks to the skin. The alternative is no funnier, because when the rain clouds pour out when there is no wind, a lot of water falls in a short time. Also for the coming weekend there is no wind forecast from Friday to Tuesday.

Heavy rain again

Yesterday I really worried about the weather again. I met Paul in a really nice jazz bar. Paul also feeds the donkeys and asked me a few days ago if I would know this bar. I didn't know her, but I will visit her again. The jazz is not too crazy. But before leaving the boat I forgot to close the hatches in the roof. So my mattress was nice and damp, because in my absence another heavy rain event took place in the harbor, of which I did not notice anything in the bar fifteen minutes walk away. I think I'll have dried the mattress again by tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.

If the wind blows at the usual strength from the usual direction at some point, one of my constructions in the Donkey Sanctuary comes into its own: the universal soap dispenser holder. A construction against the little annoyance in everyday life. When the bottles of liquid soap are almost empty, they are too light and the wind blows them around. Anneke expressed herself quite annoyed with me. In the past, a wooden soap dispenser holder was built before, then the shape of the bottles changed and they no longer fit.

Universal soap dispenser holder

Unfortunately, I ran out of paint while painting. Otherwise the construction is reasonably simple and has the advantage that it works.

As beautiful as the peacocks are to look at, they are sometimes annoying. They annoy the cats too. This, too, is part of the little annoyance in everyday life that can be quickly eliminated with a little imagination. The peacocks like the cat food and drive the cats out of their food crate. When the peacocks aren't picking up the cat food, the chickens are doing the job.

Peacock-proof cat feeding crate. How do I get to cat food now?

With eight screws and two cords I have made the entrance to the feeding box so small that the big birds can no longer fit in. Nothing changes for the cats, they can get their food easily.

Sweety at rest while eating

A few days ago I was invited to Juliette's barbecue. I also know her from the Donkey Sanctuary, she also feeds the donkeys. I've been in Aruba longer than Juliette, who was only able to move from the Netherlands to Aruba after the first Corona wave. It turned out to be a wonderful evening, but the main characters had nothing to do with the barbecue. They are still so small that they do not beg for food at the table. In contrast to the surrogate mom.

Eight little puppies

Juliette's neighbors recently found a litter of abandoned puppies. As the owner of two dogs, she accepted the challenge and was able to raise them all. Now Juliette's adult bitch suddenly even offers milk for the puppies. There are not only cute donkeys and cats. The dogs are to be placed in the USA shortly.

It didn't rain that barbecue evening. The hatches were closed. I will never complain about the German weather again.

Bundle of energy

I've gone there a couple of times as a visitor since Tiger came to Donkey Sanctuary. The donkey is just too cute. I can also let tigers in a larger enclosure if I observe a few boundary conditions. The entrance gate to the enclosure is unfortunately so high that tiger could roll through underneath. That's why you always have to keep them from going too close to the gate. Otherwise she can romp with the other donkeys, has a lot more exercise than in her small stable and obviously a lot of fun. Your mother's not having an easy time of it. I've cut a little video together. It's unbelievable how much energy there is in the little donkey.

Otherwise, I'm looking forward to Jens coming to Aruba in a week. There is still a lot of work to be done before we can continue sailing. I still have to clean up Sissi. So much work.

I start on Monday. Most certainly. No, I'll be with the donkeys on Monday. I swapped Monday for Tuesday. So I start on Tuesday. For sure. Most certainly. I don't go to Donkey Sanctuary for fun either.

The usual circus when there are carrots.

Last year we painted the deck on Lanzarote. Immediately after the painting work was finished, there was a heavy rain shower. A large part of the expensive deck paint ended up in the Atlantic. Now it doesn't look nice anymore, the new color has already been bought and is waiting for Jens. We also have rainy season. Sometimes it rains from one second to the next.

Soaked donkey

The donkeys work great as wind indicators when it rains heavily. The bum is always turned in the direction from which the wind is coming. A kind of applause to the weather god.

The winner of the local wet t-shirt contest is of course Kamino.

Wet t-shirt contest

At the moment I really fear most that the weather will thwart my plans with the paint. Actually two weeks should be enough for the work, on the other hand it now rains almost every day.

Full in the face

It was a week and a half ago Fire Ball came as a new addition to the Donkey Sanctuary. He should stay in his stall until he gets used to the other donkeys. As the only real man among the donkeys, it wouldn't be easy for him. The other male donkeys are all castrated, but the female donkeys are not. Some lady is always hot, that inspires a real man. After three days in the Donkey Sanctuary, Fire Ball broke out of his stall and was definitely having fun with the ladies. So it can be expected that one or the other baby donkey will be added in 2022. When the young donkeys do not have to be euthanized because they have serious diseases due to the poor gene pool. Or because the babies are not born alive.

Fireball on October 12th, the day he arrived. The face is completely uninjured.

The fact that the donkey gene pool in Aruba is not particularly good is due to decades of inbreeding. After the car came to the island, the Arubans released the donkeys. At that time there were around 1400 donkeys on the small island. Most were shot or killed in car accidents. So it turned out that in the 1980s there were only 20 donkeys left. Around 180 donkeys are now living on the island again, so the gene pool is correspondingly poor. New donkeys should come from Bonaire or Curacao, Covid-19 has put an end to this endeavor for the time being, Desiree told me.

Fire Ball has changed a lot from the outside since day one. My main suspect is Kamino. After just one night you could see the marks on Fire Ball's face, a hoof print adorned the area between his eyes. Unfortunately, I didn't document that, but instead his face as it looked on October 20th.

Hoof marks after a week in the Donkey Sanctuary

Peter told me that Fire Ball was standing in front of the gate to his stall the next morning and wanted to be let in. He was hungry and the other donkeys did not let him feed.

Donkeys are pretty smart. That's why Fire Ball can't kick Kamino. Kamino would never push his neck through the bars of Fire Ball's stall. Fire Ball on the other hand still can't seem to get enough of the kicks. He pushes his head diligently between the bars. That's why he's a victim for Kamino.

On October 22nd there were even more scratches.

In just two days there were more scratches. I think when the donkey returns to its “owners” they will hardly recognize it.

Tiger and Woods on the day of arrival

On the day of arrival, Tiger and Woods are exhausted. After the stress of trapping, the transport to the Donkey Sanctuary and all the new impressions, this is easy to understand. On the first day she always protected her baby from us. But that changed quickly, Woods was able to build trust. Getting to the baby and treating the wound is no problem at all.

Tiger after a week. With wound care.

The next photo shows that mother and baby can really relax. It is taken from the same perspective as the first picture. On it, mother and child carefully observe what is going on on the other side of their bars. Now I can step to the grating and the Tiger even remains completely relaxed on the floor. It cannot be taken for granted.

Tiger relaxes.

On Tuesday, Desiree worries that Woods won't eat. That's why I'm grateful for the task of making mom happy with a few carrots. I should also give her some apples.

Spectators while I feed Woods carrots.

Woods likes to take the carrots and apples. There are riots in the old people's home next door. How can this person give so many carrots to a single donkey without us getting any of them?

I do notice, however, that Woods is very reluctant to chew the carrots. She can't bite through the big carrots when I'm holding them in my hand. All donkeys that I know can do that. Every donkey tries to put as much of the carrot into its mouth as possible with its lips before cracking the carrot. Woods behaves differently. She tries to bite off just a small piece of the edge and then chews it very slowly.

We try everything. We give everything. Why don't you give us anything?

The cuteness contest next door is picking up speed. It's noisy. It's restless. Of course, I won't let the neighbors go completely empty-handed, but some of them are not allowed to eat carrots because they cannot chew. I very much regret it, I remain tough on these donkeys.

The vet receives a message to look at Woods' teeth. In any case, the job was a lot of fun.

Please, please, please, please, please give us a carrot too

Again and again I get questions from Germany about the situation here with Covid-19. In view of the numbers from Germany, it is downright heavenly here. In the last seven days, the value has fluctuated around 20 new infections a day. The high was 21 and the lowest was 12. Since the curfew came into effect at night, the numbers have continued to decline. Yesterday the government announced that the curfew had been lifted. Instead, some zones on the beaches are closed at night.

The second wave hit Aruba quite a bit, at times there were almost 200 new infections a day. In my opinion, the contact restrictions caused by the curfew and its consistent enforcement brought about the breakthrough.

Before that, there was an attempt at curfew, there were contact restrictions in everyday life and the size of celebrations was limited. According to my observation, these measures alone have not brought about any improvement. Back then the numbers were still increasing. As far as I could read it in various media, most people got infected at private parties.

A table full of relaxed cats

I try to do it like the two cats so that I can get through the situation as relaxed as possible. The lower risk of infection does not neglect my relaxation. I got a good supply of FFP2 masks on board. Who knows if we can get those on the other islands when we're back on the road.

So far, however, Jamaica has not yet reopened the island to the entry of small boats. Regrettable.


Last Friday was fridge day. Muck out, defrost, clean. Unfortunately, Sissi's refrigerator has no drain below, so that over time more and more water collects in the bilge of the refrigerator. This needs to be disposed of every few weeks, while the cooling unit is allowed to defrost at the same time. It turns into a block of ice within a few days and the refrigerator no longer works properly. The work is done in just three hours. As a reward, I take a bus to the donkeys, before I put a few cans of beer in the cooler.

We are so cute.

When a person walks towards the donkey with food in hand, the dance behind the fence begins immediately. The donkeys push each other back and forth with their bodies, trying to look as cute as possible in the face. They have learned that over the years. I find it very funny when I see a big, fat donkey standing there, making me pretty eyes and saying “feed me, I have nothing to eat”.

Cuteness contest

All I can say is that it really works. The visitors see how the donkeys turn their heads and play with the position of their ears. Usually they call out “oh how cute” and then reward the long ears with the beloved pellets.


Another level in the cuteness contest is the grin. Yes, the donkeys are actually grinning. You copied it from us. Some donkeys always grin when a camera is held in front of their face. This is a successful ploy for begging for more food.

cause and effect

In the evening I want to take a beer out of the fridge. The can is clamped on a sharp edge of the cooling unit. Really unhappy. The can bursts, the beer pours into the bilge of the refrigerator, which smells like a brewery the next day. I'll clean the fridge again. Great.

Baby animals are naturally cute. Tiger is no exception. I very much hope that the baby's presence will also translate into face value. In any case, the visitors stay a long time in front of the stable.

Tiger is the attraction. For humans and donkeys.

I cannot escape the magic either. Again and again I have to go to this stable to make friends with the mother and then with the baby. The wound looks much better now, and the mother has found a certain trust in us. She lets us look at her baby without protecting it from us. That's great. The carrots that I keep bringing her back are certainly not harmful.

We feed Woods, Woods feed tigers.

What else has happened in this soap opera? Fire Ball is returned to its owners after the castration and is also given a companion. Then he will be much better off in his new old home than on his own. On the one hand it is a nice train from Desiree, on the other hand it saves 400 US$ a year on the feed costs.

Skinny donkey

After the morning feeding, I noticed a donkey on Sunday that didn't seem to be interested in the food. That's always a bad sign. Nella and I try to read the donkey's chip, but it doesn't feel like it. So let's try to catch him. But the donkey has no desire. Instead, he stands in front of the enclosure where the old donkeys live all the time. Visually it fits perfectly into the group. Anneke only succeeds in reading the chip in the afternoon. It becomes clear that the lady is missing in the enclosure. Shortly before the second feeding, Anneke manages to run into the enclosure with the donkey. The donkey is a lady by the way, her name is Orchid.

Tomorrow is donkey day again. Today is cleaning day again. The island is very dusty again, the dust settles all over the boat.