My First Fuik Dag or, “How to Properly Bail Out of a Sinking Boat”

January 7, 2013 — Leave a comment

I knew we should have put our phones in Ziploc bags that morning.

Yesterday was Fuik Dag on the island of Curacao. For those who don’t know what Fuik Dag is, it is perhaps one of the most anticipated days of the entire year for many people on the island. Hundreds of people take their boats to Fuik Baai, or Fuik Bay, near the old salt mines. The bay is pretty much only accessible by boat, and chances are that nearly every boat on the island will be chartered for the day. The boat owners and operators arrange themselves in various circles of sorts in the water, and around 2,000 people spend the day drinking, barbecuing, while dancing to live music from barges sponsored by Heineken, Polar, or some other beer company. I heard tales of hundreds of people of brightly colored inflatable inner tubes, rafts, and other makeshift flotation devices drifting from boat to boat under the Caribbean sky.

I really wanted to see all of this for myself. I’m not exactly sure what happened, but we didn’t reserve a boat on time. Luckily we found a way to hitch a ride with a water taxi to the bay. The boat was small, perhaps about 8 feet long with a tiny little motor, operated by a local Curacaoan. When it came to pick us the five of us up from the dock, I was a bit surprised at its little size, but hey, whatever it took to get to Fuik, I was down.

We started through the Spanish water which was not too bad. We passed by the former Hyatt (now Santa Barbara Resort) Resort where a number of Curacao Coast Guard boats were checking smaller boats passing to Fuik to make sure they had life jackets before heading out to the open water. I asked my boyfriend if we needed to be checked.

“Nah, I think we can pass through, its not a big deal,” he said.

We passed out of the Spanish Water Bay into the open ocean. This is when I started to get nervous. The water started feeling way more tempestuous for our aquatic hoopty.  There were numerous larger boats passing us creating wakes that spilled into the back of the boat. Soon enough, the water on the bottom of the boat went from being a puddle, to being ankle deep and rising. In a matter of minutes, the engine was under the surface and the back of the boat was tipping down under the weight of the water rushing in.

Amidst the Dutch flying around, all I could understand was “Get out!!” One of the ladies in the boat that we picked up was given a life vest. I don’t know what happened to her, but I think she got out alright. The rest of us were hanging on to our water coolers packed with the drinks and sandwiches we had prepared. At that moment, well, it was pure adrenaline. All I knew to do was to just hang on to our little cooler and to stay as close as possible to the group and resist panicking.

We were picked up within a few minutes by the Curacao Coast Guard patrol and brought back to the Santa Barbara resort. I did a quick inventory of our stuff. Our food was gone. Our phones–flooded. Brand new camera—probably done. ( I KNEW we should have put the phones in additional plastic bags that morning. But how do you )  Then as the adrenaline started to wear off I started shaking a little when I realized whatthehellhadjusthappened. The small little boat would have fully sunk if it was not for the Coast Guard being there. I might have started panicking if we were further out in the ocean with no life jackets. (Why didn’t we get life jackets??) Over the course of the day all the “It could have been way worse if it wasn’t for (fill in the blank)” thoughts filled my head.

I decided to continue to Fuik and hitchhiked on a bigger boat with some Dutch Good Samaritans. I tried to enjoy myself and have a good time. Yes, Fuik Dag was all that people had said it was, full of people of all cultures and races enjoying the start of the New Year. But I found to it hard to concentrate on having a good time. No amount of alcohol could override my desire to be away from water and boats, and the potential for more irresponsible behavior in the water. Plus, the only food we brought that survived the boat sinking was our potato chips, and the smell of other people’s barbecue meals was making me miserably hungry and irritated. So we packed up what was left of our stuff, got on a much better water taxi (with life jackets!) and went for Burger King and went home to just listen to music on dry land.

There ends the tale of my first Fuik Dag. Next time, we are getting the 150 guilder all inclusive boats, for sure.

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