Moonlight Adventure

The story of our travels on board Moonlight, our Vancouver 36.

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Sunday 31st January 2010

Posted by yachtmoonlight on February 1, 2010 at 11:24 AM

I spent most of the day on Monday 18th January updating the website. It took most of the day because the website started playing up and I couldn’t get photos to upload into the second blog entry and had to stop every now and then to have a good shout at my laptop, which was a little unfair as it wasn’t the laptop’s fault.

While I was blogging and shouting, John took the dinghy out of the water to check it and we were shocked at how fouled it had become after a relatively short time in the marina. Having said that, the marina is in an enclosed bay, so there isn’t any tide to speak of to wash away the waste from several hundred yachts and the water is absolutely filthy and I imagine quite a health hazard.

John cleaned the dinghy and in the afternoon we took it across to a dinghy dock near the supermarket to stock up on groceries and I posted a backlog of postcards.

In the evening, we were invited along with Ron round to Ray and Ali’s boat, Silver Bear (a great name for a boat!) and had a very pleasant evening, although Ray was a little too hospitable when it came to topping up glasses and there came a point in the evening when I realised I had to lie down in dark room very soon as I had consumed one too many glasses of punch / wine / brandy.

 

Unsurprisingly I awoke the following morning feeling a little on the rough side. John however, having also drunk rather a lot (and who doesn’t usually drink much and gets a headache if he looks at a glass of shandy too long) was positively sprightly.

When it got to a point in the day when I felt I had a reasonable chance of making in down the marina pontoons without wobbling into the sea (and dying of some horrible pollution-induced disease shortly afterwards), I made my way very slowly to the showers.

After standing under a cool shower for a considerable length of time, I started to feel more human and headed back to the boat (after drying and dressing obviously) and bumped into Ron and Ray.

Ron had also taken his dinghy out of the water and was cleaning it before it was classified a biohazard and claimed he felt fine and hadn’t actually drunk that much the night before. I almost believed him until he asked me how late John and I stayed after he left and had to explain we left before him, so he had spent the last hour talking to Ray, Ali and a couple of cushions.

In the afternoon, we moved the boat out to the anchorage next to Pigeon Island and were relieved to be away from the filthy marina and back in clean water.

 

On Wednesday morning we had a snorkel around the boat before breakfast. The water was quite cloudy and we couldn’t see much, so we headed towards the beach to shallower water. We soon came across a digital camera sitting on the seabed and John dived down to pick it up. It had obviously been there for a while and as it was not waterproof there was no chance of saving the camera, but I took the memory card out of it which didn’t seem to have corroded, hoping that any photos on it (showing the name of the boat the owner was travelling on for instance) might enable us to track down the owner and return the photos if not the camera. It is an old Compact Flash card though and we don’t have a card reader to read it with us, so it will have to carry on the journey with us for now and hopefully we’ll find a card reader in an internet café along the way.

Not finding much else to see, we took the dinghy a little further around Pigeon Island and went for a snorkel over some rocks near the shore. As we got into the water, an American couple who were already snorkelling called us over and said they had found an octopus. Being nocturnal, I never expected to see an octopus when snorkelling and was amazed to see a large one moving around in between the rocks, changing colour to match the rocks as it moved. It was wonderful and we both thanked the American couple for calling us over to see it.

Unfortunately, the screen on the waterproof camera stopped working while I was trying to get a picture, so I couldn’t see what I was taking a picture of and so the only picture I have is a little bit close!

 

(The octopus)

 

After a long swim around the rocks, we headed back to the boat and settled down for a quiet evening, which was disturbed by several jet-skiers from the nearby Sandals resort charging around the anchorage at huge speeds, very close to the boats. This really winds me up as a lot of people swim near the boats (there were some children swimming from a nearby catamaran at the time) and they drive so fast they would have no chance of seeing anyone in the water until it was too late.

John called one jet-skier over and asked him not to play near the boats and to use the rest of the sea (which to be fair is quite large) before he hit someone. The jet-skier said he would and after that he stuck to large open spaces, but as soon as his turn was over, the next person on to hire the jet-ski headed straight for the anchorage again. John called over to a Sandals boat which was helping some people who had capsized one of their small sailing boats and asked the Sandals worker to advise the jet-skiers to keep out of the anchorage but he didn’t seem the slightest bit interested. All it needs is for Sandals to take some responsibility and ask their guests not to drive jet-skis through swimming areas or near boats, but they clearly don’t care and won’t until someone gets hurt. I’m afraid Sandals have gone down hugely in my estimations. Sorry, rant over.

After the big fast toys had been put away for the night, we settled down to read for a while. After reading one of Ben Elton’s books, which was the most horrendous pile of life-stealing rubbish I have ever wasted my time on (and had we been at sea, the book would have ended up in it) I had decided not to read any more trash and so was halfway through David Copperfield and thoroughly enjoying it.

The peaceful evening was shattered after a short while when a large charter catamaran full of French people anchored far too close to us and spent the rest of the evening doing what I can only describe as caterwauling. The singing was bad enough (I think they were all singing the same notes, but not necessarily in the same order) but I have no idea why they felt it necessary to provide percussion to their cacophony by banging saucepan lids together. Sigh.

We were still pleased to be in the anchorage rather than the marina though, and we enjoyed a rum punch while we watched the sun set over the sea.

 

The following morning we headed over to Pigeon Island, which is incidentally not an island and has no pigeons on it. We walked up a hill to and old naval fort and enjoyed the fabulous views out to sea and across Rodney Bay and St Lucia.

 

(The view from the fort)

 

As we were looking out to sea the brig Unicorn, a replica of a 19th Century boat which was used as the Black Pearl in Pirates of the Caribbean and also in the Roots TV series, sailed into the bay, firing its cannons.

 

(The brig Unicorn sailing into Rodney Bay)

 

We planned to walk up to the top of a nearby hill but we took the wrong path and before we knew it we were heading back down and settled for a meander around the park instead.

We found a small ‘English’ pub in the cellar of the visitor centre and went in for a cold glass of local fruit juice before heading over to the other bar and restaurant near the dinghy dock so we could peruse their book swap and use their free wifi while John demolished a piece of cake only marginally smaller than the Unicorn.

In the afternoon we headed back to the rocks where we had snorkelled the day before and found there was a huge shoal of small fish, which were very curious and when I stayed very still on the surface of the water they came up very close to have a look at me. They soon got used to me and I found I could dive down and swim in the middle of the shoal, which was fantastic.

 

We had noticed that the water was a lot clearer when we snorkelled in the mornings and seemed to get cloudier as the afternoon wore on, so on Friday we went for a very long snorkel in the morning and swam all the way back from the rocks, stopping off at Ron’s boat (who had joined us in the anchorage) on the way back, with John towing the dinghy behind him. In between Ron’s boat and Moonlight, we swam over an anchor that was sitting abandoned on the seabed, with no chain or rope attached to it and nowhere near any other boat. It was quite deep, but John managed to dive down to it and get a rope around it. He tried to pull it up, but the rope slipped off and after such a long swim, he was too tired to try again, so we decided to leave it for another day.

We went ashore to Pigeon Island again to use the wifi in the nearby restaurant, but we were stopped by a park ranger as we climbed out of the dinghy, who told us we had to pay the park entrance fee (about £3 each). We explained that we only wanted to go to the restaurant (about 20 yards away) and weren’t planning to walk around the park or the hills, but he insisted we had to pay. I said we only wanted a cup of tea and to use the internet and £6 was a little excessive before we had even bought the tea and he backed down and said we could go to the restaurant for half an hour, just this once.

This seems to be a bit of a grey area as someone on a nearby boat was told by a different park ranger that the didn’t have to pay if they were only going to the restaurant and if they enforced this, it would seriously damage the business of the restaurant, which would be a shame as it very nice and very reasonably priced.

In the evening, we decided it would be nice to watch the sunset from the old fort at the top of the hill, so we went ashore again at about 5.30pm and headed up the hill, but we were turned away by our friend the park ranger who said we couldn’t go to the fort as the park closed at 5pm. Of course, as the park was ‘closed’ he couldn’t ask us to pay the entrance fee, so we headed to the restaurant (which is inside the park…..and the park ‘closes’ at 5pm……) for a roti dinner.

As we were enjoying a drink, looking out across the bay, John mentioned that an Australian chap called Phil we had spoken to was just coming ashore from his boat. We had only met him once very briefly and had never met his wife and when they walked into the bar I called over to them, saying hello and asking them to join us. They looked a little confused but did join us and as they sit down, they introduced themselves as (a very posh English accented) Jeremy and (a very French) Katherine and I wondered who on earth these people were I had asked to join us, as I noticed Phil and his wife enter the bar shortly afterwards. Oooops.

Ron joined us a short time later, as did Phil while his wife was inside using the internet, and we had a very nice evening. Jeremy and Katherine turned out to be extremely pleasant and very knowledgeable about Martinique, so we got some good info on good anchorages to visit.

 

John wasn’t feeling too good the next day, probably a mixture of too much sun and exhaustion from our mammoth snorkelling trip the day before, so we had a very quiet day on the boat.

I checked a message I had left on one of the internet sailing forums asking if there was anyone in Rodney Bay who would like to swap books or DVDs and found I had a message from a lady called Sue who said she was in Rodney Bay on board her boat, ‘Charlotte’, and would be happy to swap both books and DVDs with us. I replied with the name, description and location of our boat and later on in the afternoon, we noticed Charlotte anchoring next to us!

Sue and her husband Stefan swam over to us and introduced themselves and we arranged to meet up at the bar on Pigeon Island as we had heard there would be a live band playing.

Later that evening, we headed to the restaurant and met up with Sue, Stefan and Ron and had a great evening, which would have been even better if the live singer had a best friend who was more honest with her. She could almost sing, but not quite and it was clear that no-one had broken this to the poor love. She played the guitar and murdered several great songs accompanied by a violinist who was actually not too bad and really should go solo.

It would have sounded better if someone had strung up one of the restaurant’s resident cats with the guitar strings and beat it with the violin, stopping every now and then to give it a good squeeze. And less painful for everyone, including the cat.

Thankfully, the ‘band’ was obviously (and quite rightly) not paid enough to buy big speakers and as we were sitting outside (due to John’s cat allergy) the music wasn’t very loud and didn’t stop us having a very nice time.

Back on the boat, all was peaceful until some local chaps pulled up in some vans into an empty car park in between the Sandals resort and the entrance to Pigeon Island and played the most horrendous shouty music at an unbelievable volume until 3am.

 

After a late start the next morning due to not much sleep, Stefan and Sue came over for coffee and to swap books and DVDs. One of the DVDs they gave us was the recent BBC TV adaptation of David Copperfield, which made my day as I was still reading (and thoroughly enjoying) the book and they also leant us Master and Commander on DVD.

After lunch we decided to have another go at retrieving the abandoned anchor. Sue and Stefan offered to help us and we went over in our dinghies, armed with lots of rope and after much searching to find it again, John dived down with the rope and with Stefan’s help they managed to lift it up into our dinghy. It turned out to be a 25kg Brittany anchor, which would cost around £200 to buy new. One of the prongs was a little bent (which could explain why someone abandoned it) but this is easily fixable. It turned out to be bigger than we thought it was and it bit too big for our boat. Sue and Stefan didn’t need it, so we decided to keep it and try to swap it with someone for something we need, or to trade it for something else at a Chandlers that deals in second-hand equipment.

After storing the anchor back on the boat, we went over to the rocks again with Sue and Stefan and swam further out than we had before. We saw lots of large corals and hundreds of different kinds of fish.

Back on the boat, we watched Master and Commander after dinner, which I enjoyed much more than I thought I would!

 

On Monday 25th we headed back into the marina so we could check-out with Customs as we were planning to head to Martinique on Tuesday morning. John managed to persuade the marina not to charge us to stay for a couple of hours and as I used the marina wifi to update the photos on the website, John went to Customs and then to the small grocery shop in the marina to get a few essentials.

After lunch, we anchored back out in the bay and went for a swim around the boat. John took a toothbrush with him and used it to clean out the what I call the ‘Spinny thing’ and John calls the ‘Log Impeller’ under the boat (the thing which spins around when we sail and works out the boat speed) which occasionally gets clogged up when too many sea creatures take up residence in it and stops working.

A trigger fish that was lurking under the boat spotted the toothbrush and seemed intrigued by it and kept swimming over to nibble the bristles. After the sea creatures had been relocated into the sea from the spinny thing, John snorkelled down to check the anchor and I stayed to play with the trigger fish, which carried on nibbling the toothbrush until it got bored (or its teeth were clean).

In the evening, we sat in the cockpit for sundowners and as the sun was setting, the Unicorn sailed past on the horizon.

 

(The Unicorn sailing past at sunset)

 

On Tuesday morning we set sail for Martinique. As it was a relatively short sail (about five hours) and John thought it wouldn’t be a very wobbly sail (where have I heard THAT before?) I decided not to take any seasickness pills before we left, which turned out to be a very bad plan as I felt ill throughout the trip.

We passed Sue and Stefan a short time after leaving and took some photos of their boat sailing for them as it looked great with all its sails out.

 

(Stefan and Sue's boat, 'Charlotte')

 

I was stunned when we arrived in Marin and saw the huge number of boats in the anchorage and the marina. There must be nearly a thousand in total, a mixture of all different kinds and sizes of boat and all different nationalities.

After anchoring, we were joined a short time later by Sue and Stefan and then Ron.

We took the dinghy ashore and it struck me straight away how different Martinique is from the other islands we have visited. Martinique is part of France. It had the look and feel of France and is obviously wealthier than other places we have visited. Even the vegetation looked different and more European.

We explored the marina area and then headed through the town to find a supermarket and noticed that all the small shops and businesses we passed were closed. We soon realised that we were back in a country which closes for a few hours in the afternoon and headed on along a main road until we came across a supermarket, which thankfully was open.

We stocked up on a few essentials but found that the supermarket only sold its own brand of food and drinks and so we couldn’t get some of the things we wanted. What we did buy seemed reasonably priced though, which we were pleased about. Being back in a Euro zone, and back in France, we were concerned that everything would be expensive.

Back on the boat, we spent a pleasant evening with Sue and Stefan, who popped round with their copy of the sailing guide for this area so we could compare them and update ours as it’s quite old and a little out of date.

 

The next morning we went ashore and explored the shops in the marina and to check in with Customs (as they had been closed when we arrived the previous day). We headed to the Chandlers first as John said he needed some boy stuff, I have no idea what, probably hammers and nails and that kind of thing. And mud.

I had spotted a boutique I wanted to have a look around, and as we headed for it John got VERY excited when he spotted a boat engine shop nearby. Yes, it was exactly what it sounds like, a shop which sold boat engines. Just boat engines. Nothing else. All lined up in a row. He spent ages in there, looking at engines, while I looked round the boutique. We don’t need a boat engine by the way, we have one already. He then came to fetch me from the boutique, overcome with excitement and said he really must show me something. Yep, you’ve guessed it, he showed me an engine and seemed genuinely disappointed when I wasn’t amazed. He told me very enthusiastically that it was like our boat engine but a newer model. I told him it was by far the most wonderful engine I had ever seen and managed (eventually) to drag him away from it. Sometimes I don’t think I’ll ever understand men.

We headed on through the town, hoping to find a bigger supermarket that we had heard about a little further on from the one we had found the day before. We stopped at an indoor market along the way, which had a small number of fruit and veg stalls and lots of local craft stalls. We had a look at a couple of the stalls but everything seemed very expensive. One stall was selling bags made from carved calabash nuts (similar size to large coconuts) for €38. I had seen an identical one for sale in St Lucia for about £8.

Carrying on along the main road, we soon found the larger supermarket and managed to stock up on some groceries, although we were limited by what we could carry as we were quite a long way from the boat.

We popped into a small tourist information office back in the marina and headed back to the boat, stopping at Sue and Stefan’s boat on the way back to give them a map of the island I had picked up for them. We had a brief chat and I told them I had felt ill on the trip over and they showed me a wrist band which gives off an electrical pulse which is supposed to ease seasickness and proved effective for some visitors of theirs. I had a quick play with it and although they are apparently very expensive, I’m desperate enough to give anything a go, so I’m planning to track one down for my mum to bring out with her when she comes to in June.

Back on the boat, I did the washing and pegged it out all around the boat while John went round the boat in the dinghy with a gun of gunky gluey stuff. Gunky gluing something or other (I have no idea, but it kept him quiet).

In the evening we had drinks with Ron on his boat and then had a very quiet dinner back on Moonlight.

 

It is John’s birthday in a few weeks time and I asked Ron if he would go ashore with me on Thursday morning to give me some advice on a present for John, which he kindly agreed to do.

After giving me some very good boys-toys advice, we popped into an Orange mobile phone shop as Ron needed to buy a local SIM card for his mobile phone. The lady in the mobile phone shop didn’t speak English and neither Ron nor I speak much French. Our limited French vocabulary did not extend to SIM card, mobile phone, tariff, text message charge or incoming call charge, so it was quite a challenge but we eventually came to the conclusion that it would be cheaper for Ron to write letters to people in England and fly back to hand deliver them than to call the UK on a Martinique Orange SIM card (I also came to the conclusion my school teaching me phrases such as “I have a blue jumper” and “I have a cat” were not terribly helpful. Particularly as I have never owned a cat).

A cup of tea beckoned, so we headed for a bar in the marina and had ridiculously expensive cups of tea and coffee before Ron headed off to the supermarket and I went back to the boutiques to browse at leisure without being dragged off to look at lumps of metal.

John came across in the dinghy to pick me up and we had a quiet afternoon on the boat.

 

On Friday, we realised we really needed to stock up on some heavy items, including bottles of water, so we moved the boat across the bay close to a dinghy dock we had discovered behind the supermarkets, which was very handy.

There were a lot of boats around and it was difficult to anchor without the risk of swinging too close to another boat but we managed to anchor on the second attempt and went ashore.

We bumped into Ron in the supermarket and had a coffee with him in a café next to the supermarket, where the boys had a very long in-depth discussion about stern glands while I lost the will to live.

On the way back to the boat, I spotted an underwear shop and decided to have a peruse while John looked embarrassed and showed an interest in the carpet, the ceiling and the till (the only things that weren’t underwear).

Back on Moonlight, we decided to move the boat again to the far side of the bay as it was a much quieter area and close to an old canal we wanted to explore in the dinghy the following day.

After anchoring in a very big open space, we had a swim off the boat, but the water was too cloudy for snorkelling and it was a bit too windy for me, which meant I had to swim very hard to stay stationary while the wind blew waves up my nose every few seconds.

We watched a DVD in the evening, trying first to watch “Wall-E” which I had heard is very good, but the first 15 minutes were like watching paint dry, so we turned it off and watched Grumpy Old Men instead.

 

Yesterday, we took the dinghy up the old canal near the anchorage, which is slowly being reclaimed by mangroves on each side.

 

(The entrance to the old canal)

 

The entrance is quite wide but it gradually gets narrower and only a small dinghy can reach very far. We used the outboard to progress slowly up the canal, avoiding hanging mangrove branches and trying not to catch on the mangrove roots just under the water.

 

(The canal getting narrower!)

 

As the canal became narrower we noticed a huge number of crabs on the mangrove roots and branches, which scuttled away as we chugged past. The crabs on the branches were mostly small and yellow but we also spotted some very large red crabs on some of the larger branches and popping in and out of holes in the riverbank.

 

(One of the small yellow crabs)

 

(One of the much larger red crabs hiding in the mangrove roots)

 

The trip up the canal was magical; we were the only dinghy there and were surrounded by nature.

When we got as far as we could go (as the passage had become too narrow and the mangrove roots to close too shallow), we turned around and stopped the outboard so we could gently and quietly drift back towards the bay.

I took out my camera and we tried to get closer to the mangrove roots to take some pictures of the crabs without scaring them off. This entailed John very gently using the oars to steer us towards the edges whenever we spotted lots of crabs, while I was poised with the camera and gave instructions, “forward a little, left a bit, right a bit” and then “REVERSE REVERSE!!” when we gently drifted into an enormous spiders web, which I have to confess made me squeal somewhat.

After taking some photos, we headed back towards the marina and passed another dinghy on its way up the canal, thankfully at one of the wider parts so we could easily pass.

 

(Meeting a dinghy coming the other way!)

 

We then headed to town and shared a quiche for lunch from a Bakery and then we spotted a chap at the side of the road who was selling fresh drinking nuts (young coconuts). We bought one from him for a Euro and he chopped the top of the drinking nut with a machete, just enough to create a small hole large enough to fit a straw into and we shared the milk coconutty water, which was wonderful and very refreshing.

 

(John enjoying the drinking nut!)

 

It started to rain as we took the dinghy on the long trip across the bay and back to the boat and we spent the rest of the day reading on the boat and watching a charter catamaran fail to anchor successfully and hit a boat behind us.

The grey, cloudy, rainy weather continued today and I realised that seeing as we are back (sort of) in a European country (as Martinique is part of France), it must come with European weather.

John had a swim, but it was a little too windy for me again, so I spent the day writing the blog and sorting out photos.

In the evening, we listened to some Radio 4 programmes I had downloaded onto my iPod and hoped for a change in the weather soon!

Categories: January 2010, The Caribbean

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2 Comments

Reply Mum
2:35 PM on February 1, 2010 
Another fab read. Love the pic of the Unicorn on the horizon. And the coconut drink sounds great.
Reply [email protected]
12:21 PM on February 3, 2010 
your pics of the swamp look very much like the caroni swamp in trinbago..if you rent a vehicle be sure to do that on eafternoon you have to get there by 4 pm..if you like i will brief you when pass back through st lucia