Aruba: Advice to Visiting Yachts on the Change to Clearance Harbour

From mid-April 2014, it now necessary to clear in at in Oranjestad Harbour, NOT to Barcadera Harbour as previously.

Published 10 years ago, updated 5 years ago

We just spent three weeks in Aruba – two more than planned – and learned a few things that may help others sailing there.  Some things were better than expected; some were less than expected.  But of particular worth to anyone heading there is info on changes in the check-in and check-out process.

Three weeks ago it was necessary to go to Barcadera Harbor to check in, and we checked in there.  But they are doing substantial renovation on the harbor, and starting April 14, all check-ins and check-outs now need to be done in the main harbor in Oranjestad.

This is a busy harbor, so one should first call Aruba Port Control (VHF 16) and ask permission to enter.  There is an entrance through the reef both northwest and southeast of the port.  When you are cleared to enter, go to the more northwesterly docking bay (“Westhaven’ on your chart), and tie up to the dock on the north side (12.31.32N/070.02.66W).

This docking bay is not designed for cruising boats.  The steep concrete sides have tires hanging over the side.  The few bollards are not in a convenient place.  And nobody will be there to help you.  So be prepared with ample fenders hung high, maybe a fender board, and long lines.

Hopefully, customs and/or immigration will have seen you enter, and they will come to you.  Otherwise, they are behind a locked gate on the cruise ship dock.

(Editor’s note: You might be directed to a different dock. See Oranjestad)

So what was better than we expected?  The officials and Renaissance Marina.  Aruba has a reputation for not being cruiser friendly, and that may be to some extent.  But both customs and immigration were friendly and efficient.  We do not need more than that from them.  And the Renaissance Marina was great.  The staff is excellent – friendly and helpful.  They have good small chandlery.  And we had an excellent slip in the marina that we really enjoyed.

What was not so good?  The concrete dock already mentioned is a minor challenge.  However, it is not so bad if you are prepared for it.  And the marina’s lack of bathrooms is inconvenient.  You are allowed to use the hotel employees’ bathroom, and it is adequate if inconvenient.

Finally, one restaurant recommendation.  The Old Fisherman (mostly seafood but not exclusively) one block behind the main street – next door to Taj Mahal.  We ate there only once, and it was very good.  Lots of locals.  Good service.  Very good food.  Decent prices.  Recommended.

Bud & Nita

SV Passage

Honolulu, Hawaii

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