Moonlight Adventure

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


Wednesday 30th December 2009

Posted by yachtmoonlight on December 31, 2009 at 4:01 PM

On the morning of Tuesday 22nd December, John and I went ashore early in the morning to keep out of Becky’s way while she had her telephone job interview. The town was very quiet, just starting to stir and come to life and it was lovely walking around in the cool air as the shops and market stalls were just opening for the day. We stopped at a small café for a cup of tea and a croissant and sat outside next to a large table of rather posh English people. They had just finished their breakfast and paid the bill and one of the chaps from the group got out a notebook and pen and started listing in it what each person had for breakfast and how much it had cost. The problem was, they couldn’t seem to work this out. There were five of them and they couldn’t work out how many cups of coffee they’d had between them, three or four. You wouldn’t think it would be that taxing for each individual person to remember whether they drunk a cup coffee or not five minutes ago but it was clearly baffling them. After much debate, they moved on to who had had orange juice and at this point they got so confused I don’t think any of them could have told you how many feet they had. In the end, the chap with the notebook gave up and went back into the café to ask the lady who had served them what they had ordered. Of course, why on earth he was writing this in a notebook anyway is anyone’s guess.

After this source of amusement, another English couple arrived and took a small table near to us. The chap started a conversation with John but it soon became apparent that he wasn’t the slightest bit interested in us, where we were from, what boat we were on or where we were heading, he just wanted to tell us that he owned his own yacht and that his sons attended a private school. We made our escape, telling them that we had to dash as our helicopter was booked in for a service and John’s daughters were astronauts on the way out and headed to the supermarkets to stock up on Christmas food.

We headed first to the main supermarket for some general bits and bobs and then on to ‘Doris Fresh Foods’ to try and get some sage and onion stuffing mix and some Christmassy biscuits in the shape of Santa and Christmas Trees that Becky had spotted a few days ago.

Unfortunately they didn’t have any stuffing mix, so John bought some dried sage and decided to try and make some from scratch. I found the biscuits Becky had picked out and noticed that the price sticker had been stuck over a previous price. I peeled off the top sticker to find out whether the price had been put up or down and found they had been reduced by a small amount. I assumed this must be because it was close to Christmas, but something told me to check the Best Before date. February 2008. I decided to find some alternative biscuity treats and soon discovered some Limited Edition white chocolate digestives. Knowing Becky and John like white chocolate rather a lot so I thought these would be great. Learning from experience I checked the date on them. June 2006. We headed back to the boat, with no biscuits.

After lunch on the boat, we went ashore again with Becky to visit the museum. It was a very small building and after paying our entry fee we found to our initial disappointment it was just one small room with pictures around the walls, a few model boats and a couple of shelves of random old items. We were the only people in the museum and after we had paid, the chap who had taken our money walked around the room with us, talking to us about each of the pictures, which depicted the island over the years, the history of whaling on the island and some of the boats that had been built here. There were also lots of pictures of the Queen when she visited Bequia a number of years ago, showing her accepting a model of the Yacht Britannia which had been handmade by the chap who was showing us around the museum. The black and white pictures showed him beaming proudly next to the Queen in front of his model boat, with on-looking crowds in the background. He was obviously immensely proud and said that he believes the model is on show at Buckingham Palace. I promised one day I would go to Buckingham Palace to see it. The model boats in the museum were also made by him and were wonderful. We really enjoyed the visit and his stories about Bequia over the years and I we left, I wondered how many visitors he gets to the museum. Not many I imagine, which is a shame.

Our daily swim and snorkel beckoned and we headed back to the mooring barrels to see what was lurking there this time. We watched a pair of trunk fish either mating or dancing (or possibly both) and then I spotted a very scary-looking ugly fish next to one of the barrels.


(One of the dancing trunk fish - we will upload a video of them on to the Videos page when we have time!)


 I dived down for a closer look and thought it looked like a scorpion fish (I later checked this in my Caribbean fish book and found that it was indeed a scorpion fish and that they are rather nasty and give a nasty sting). As I was diving down to try and get a photo (and failing) of the scorpion fish, John called me over as he had spotted two lobsters happily ambling across the seabed, heading for the barrels. One of them looked much bigger than the one we had caught before and John dashed back to the boat to get the fishing net. After much chasing (and getting me to dive down to poke it and make it run in the direction of the net) he caught it, and then let it go when we found it was just a little too small. Hey ho, hopefully one day we’ll find one big enough.


(The lobsters)


Back on the boat, a stinging sensation I noticed on my neck when I was in the water felt worse and I found I had a red rash on my neck. We’d spotted some small jellyfish in the water, so I assume one of these got a little too friendly when I was diving down. John smothered the rash with some kind of anti evil sea monster sting goo and after an hour or so it had gone.


We went ashore first thing in the morning to buy chicken, sausages and bacon for Christmas dinner and then sailed on to Union Island.

It was a five hour sail and I felt rather icky at one point, which was very frustrating as I have sailed much further without suffering from seasickness and I had rather optimistically hoped that having got over seasickness on the Atlantic crossing that I would have built up some kind of resistance to it. I used my usual tactics to keep it at bay (seasickness tablets and listening to my iPod) and I was very pleased when we arrived in Chatham Bay.

As soon as we had anchored, we all jumped in the sea for a swim and headed for the rocky cliffs at one side of the bay. There we swam amongst huge shoals of thousands of fish and saw a spotted eel crawling along the seabed. The amount of fish was incredible and at times we could see nothing but walls of fish underwater.


(A wall of fish!)


I spotted a very pretty shell and dived down to pick it up, only to find, as before with the shell I found in Bequia, there was a small sea creature living in it, so I carefully put it back where I had found it.

Tired from the trip and the swimming, we enjoyed a quiet night with dinner and a DVD on the boat.


On Christmas Eve, I spotted a turtle in the water near the boat, so as John and Becky were making the bread sauce and stuffing for Christmas dinner, I went for a snorkel. I saw the turtle a little way ahead of me, but the water was very cloudy and it swam off as soon as it spotted me.

John and Becky joined me soon after and we swam over to the cliffs again. The water seemed cloudier today and there were less shoals of f fish, but we saw another spotted eel and a moray eel along with some tiny baby trunk fish, which were incredibly cute.

On the way back to the boat, John picked up a rather large and very brightly coloured starfish. We took some photos of it before John dropped it back into the sea. It landed upside down and despite John’s assurances that it could turn itself over I made him dive down and flip it the right way up.


(The starfish)


We all woke up early on Christmas Day (after I spoke to my brother later in the day I found that we got up earlier than he did, even with the four hour time difference) and opened the stockings and presents that Santa and his sleigh (pulled by dolphins) had left for us.


(Something appears to have climbed into my stocking and eaten my presents.....)


It soon became clear than despite us agreeing to just buy each other silly small stocking presents, John had bought me a very nice (and expensive) leather bag and a hand-crafted wooden pen from La Palma. I’m quite sure he likes his yo-yo, Superman bubbles and Snoopy socks just as much though (I do… John).

The sun was shining and we enjoyed breakfast in the cockpit while listening to cheesy Christmas songs and then had a morning swim, wearing Santa hats. A couple from a nearby boat spotted us and came over in their dinghy to offer to take a photo of us, which was much appreciated.


(Christmas day swim!)


After the swim we hoisted one of the soggy Santa hats up as a flag, grabbed our snorkelling gear and snorkelled around the boat.


(The santa hat flag)


Becky called me over in the water as she had spotted some very strange creatures just under the surface of the water. We weren’t sure what they were and thought they could be jellyfish, so we called John over to go and have a closer look and to give them a poke to see if they were dangerous. They swam down from the surface and as got closer we realised they were baby squid and were very cute, if a little odd.


(Baby squid)


We made some phone calls after the snorkel, but as I was talking to my mum, we lost phone signal at our end. At several failed attempts, I got out the satellite phone and eventually got through again, so it will probably cost me an arm and a leg to find out that my dad thought that my failed call attempts were silent calls from Indian call centres (he gets them every day you know) and that they had turkey and potatoes for dinner, but I didn’t care as it was so nice to speak to them.

Christmas dinner was fabulous. John cooked a chicken with roast potatoes, veg and pigs in blankets, served with lashings of gravy and the homemade bread sauce and stuffing.

After eating our own body weights in food, we spent the rest of the afternoon and evening relaxing on the boat and reading. It was incredibly peaceful in the bay and we all had a really lovely day.


In the morning we headed round to Frigate Island, an anchorage just around the corner from Chatham Bay on Union Island. It was only a very short trip and we anchored in the very clear shallow water with ease. John snorkelled over the anchor to check it was in safely and shouted that there were a few conch around the boat, so Becky and I grabbed our snorkelling gear and joined him. We all set off in different directions and between us we collected eight conch (it would have been nine but one of the shells I picked up had a huge crab in it rather than a conch – why do all the shells I pick up have sea monsters in them?) and took them back to the boat along with the a boat brush (with a mop at the other end) which I also found nearby, obviously dropped by a previous visitor.

We kept the largest four conch and threw the others back and John spent the next couple of hours wrestling them out of their shells while Becky and I read in the cockpit, eventually emerging from the galley covered in slime to throw the empty shells overboard.

We decided to take the dinghy to snorkel over a reef around the other side of Frigate Island where John and I snorkelled a couple of years ago. The sea was quite rough around the point and it was a little bit hairy. When we finally got there we found that the sea was quite rough even behind the reef and the reef wasn’t as interesting as we remembered it, so we soon head back into the bay. The rocks at the other side of the island, in the bay, looked quite interesting, so we jumped out for a quick look and decided to snorkel all the way back to the boat with John dragging the dinghy behind him. I soon came across a small cave under the water and dived down to find two large round eyes staring back at me from the cave. I called over John and Becky and sent John down to check out if it was something that was likely to eat me or not. After a few dives down for a look, the fish seemed o become as curious about us as we were about it and started poking its head out of the hole every now and then, coming a little further out each time. We soon realised it was a very big porcupine fish (like a puffer fish). It had huge eyes and a big mouth and was one of the cutest things I have ever seen.


("Am I the cutest fis you've ever seen?")


After poking its head out to look at us a few times, it finally came out and swam away. We followed it for a short time before heading back on our way.


(The porcupine fish on his way)


On the way back we passed some very strange creatures on the seabed that looked like upside down jellyfish and another shoal of jellyfish, two of which squirted ink at John.


(An upside down jellyfish?)


Back at the boat, we noticed that a starfish had climbed onto one of the conch shells we had thrown into the sea, obviously to eat any remnants of conch left inside it.


(The starfish eating a conch)


That evening I made paella with the left over chicken from Christmas day and the conch and we reflected on a couple of great days.


Sunday 27th December was the six month anniversary of us setting of on this adventure. In some ways it has gone incredibly quickly but at the same time our lives back home before we left seem a million miles away. We still haven’t quite decided what our plan is going to be and how long we are going to travel for, but we will have to make our minds up soon!

We sailed round the island to Clifton in the morning and as we were approaching the anchorage, a beautiful old local boat was sailing out and we spotted a square-rigger behind it in the distance, which looked very majestic with all its sails out.


(The boats at Clifton)


After anchoring we ventured ashore. The town was very quiet and most of the shops were closed, but we found a shop selling bread and bought a baguette to take back to the boat for lunch.

The last time John and I were here a couple of years ago, for a small fee I had a shower in one of the air-conditioned guest rooms at the Yacht, so while I was updating the website, John and Becky went ashore for a shower and I was planning to pop over later. When they returned they were both very annoyed and explained that after they had paid for the showers (about £2.50 each), instead of being allowed to use one of the guest rooms they were led out to a shower block at the back of the Yacht Club. The showers were cold, not particularly clean, didn’t drain very well and were full of mosquitoes. John complained back at the Yacht Club but the chap he spoke wasn’t very interested and just shrugged and said that’s just the way the showers are. By the time they arrived back on the boat, John and Becky were both covered in Mosquito bites, particularly on their feet, and I opted for a solar shower on boat.

In the early evening, a large catamaran arrived and anchored far too close to us. John shouted over to the skipper that he thought they were a little close but the Canadians on board were very rude and said they weren’t moving. I have no idea why they had to anchor so close as it’s a big anchorage and there was lots of space.

After dinner we retired to bed but were disturbed a short time later by loud music from the catamaran. John shouted over to ask them to turn it down but they ignored him and just when we thought nothing could be worse than ‘Eye of the Tiger’ at full blast, they found a microphone and someone started singing along with it very very badly (I don’t remember Survivor making very camp “Woooooooooooo” noises between verses). It was dreadful and after a few appalling renditions of bad 1980’s rock songs we found some ear plugs and eventually managed to sleep.


The next day was Becky’s birthday and we headed ashore to have breakfast at the Yacht Club as a birthday treat. We all ordered a cooked breakfast and toast, with tea for me and coffee for John and Becky, which the menu said was included. After we had placed our order, the waiter came back and they had no ordinary coffee left, but we could have Espresso instead and we said that was fine.

When we had finished, we asked for the bill and found that we had been charged extra for the tea and coffees. We questioned this with the waitress who had brought us our bill and the original waiter came over and said that the bill was correct. John explained that the menu stated that tea and coffee was included in the price but the waiter said that we had to pay for the coffees as they had been Espressos and not normal coffees. This really got John’s back up as we’d been offered the coffees as an alternative but when he questioned this, the waiter kept saying that Espresso isn’t coffee. The waiter was getting more and more agitated and when we asked why the tea had been charged extra as that should definitely be included he lost his temper and started shouting at me. I asked him not to raise his voice to me as there was no need and he went ballistic, bizarrely shouting “Do you think I’m afraid of you? I’m not afraid of you” in my face. John then stepped in and told the waiter not to shout at me and he turned his attention to John, shouting the same insane rantings and saying we couldn’t leave until we paid the whole bill and that if we left without paying the whole bill he would come and get us. He got very aggressive and I really thought he was going to hit John at one point and I admit I was a little scared but the waiter eventually stormed off. John went over to the bar and asked to see the manager, only to be told the manager wasn’t there and the most experienced member of staff there had only been there for a month (the waiter in question had been working there three days). John asked for a phone number to contact the manager (regardless of the bill he now wanted to complain about the waiter’s behaviour) but none of the staff would give it to him and the waitress said that we had to pay the whole bill and if we didn’t they would call the police, so John suggested they should as he had been threatened by the waiter and the waitress then pretended to call the police on her mobile phone in front of us (we later found out she hadn’t) and then she started chatting to a friend and wandered off. We were left standing there, not having a clue what was going on and none of the staff would talk to us. We offered several times to pay for the breakfasts (but not the drinks) but no-one would take our money.

Eventually a tall local chap called Captain Bagga appeared and asked what was going on. John explained what had happened and he listened carefully. He explained he didn’t work for the Yacht Club but ran a catamaran charter business from there. He had with him another chap who seemed to work both for him and for the bar, and after a chat, the second chap fetched us a new bill without the drinks and apologised for the waiter’s behaviour. We paid the bill and Captain Bagga gave us the manager’s telephone number. If he hadn’t turned up when he did, I have no idea how we would have resolved it, I guess we would have had no choice but to pay the whole bill (which we weren’t that bothered about except for a matter of principle) and we would have had no route to complain. Of course we can spread the word that the Anchorage Yacht Club in Clifton is dreadful and should be avoided at all costs, but seeing as we were the only people we ever saw eating there despite a large number of yachts in the anchorage, I get the impression the rest of the boating world already knows this.

We went into town and found the shops open so we bought a few groceries we needed. Maybe it was the shock of what had just happened, but Clifton just didn’t seem as friendly and welcoming as Bequia, where the locals smile and say hello when they pass you in the street.

We had planned to stay for another night and eat out in Clifton in the evening, but with the bad experience at the yacht club and the fact the catamaran appeared to be staying another night and we couldn’t face another night of camp karaoke, we decided to sail on to Tobago Cays.

I left with a feeling of great disappointment. When I visited Union Island two years ago, it was my favourite place in the world, but at that moment it felt tainted and although Chatham Bay and Frigate Island were wonderful, I have no desire to ever go to Clifton again, which is such as shame.

It was a short sail to Tobago Cays and the stunning beauty of the islands and reefs soon soothed us.


(Anchored in Tobago Cays)


Just after we arrived, local boats started offered us fish and fresh bread. We ordered a fresh baguette to be delivered to us in the morning and bought a lobster as a treat for Becky’s birthday.


(Becky and the lobster (Becky is the one on the right in the yellow t-shirt))


John prepared the lobster in the cockpit (by ‘prepared’ I mean he chopped it in half) and we had a fabulous dinner of lobster, chicken, sausages and rice.


(The 'prepared' lobster)


It wonderful and Becky was over the moon with her birthday lobster dinner.

We had a peaceful night and all felt much more relaxed.


(Becky lookly mildly pleased with her lobster dinner)


Our fresh baguette was delivered as agreed at 7.30am on Thursday and John noticed turtles in the water while we were eating our breakfast.

Tobago Cays is a conservation area and there is a small charge for anchoring here to pay for the upkeep of the area, which we were happy to pay. The leaflet we were given with our receipt said that there was a buoyed area near the closest beach to the anchorage where boats are not allowed to anchor and where you can swim with turtles, so after breakfast we took the dinghy over to the beach and went for a snorkel.

The water near the beach was very cloudy, but as we swam further out it became clearer and clearer and we soon saw a stingray swimming gracefully below us. A little further out we saw the first of many turtles.


(One of the turtles)


They were not at all afraid of people (unlike the turtles in Chatham Bay) and seemed quite happy to swim alongside snorkelers. There is nothing to keep the turtles there, they swim in and out of this area at will, but must be attracted by the grass on the seabed which is protected by not allowed boats to anchor in the area and must be accustomed to people swimming there too.

We saw lots of turtles, another much larger stingray, a shoal of jellyfish a very large scary pointy-headed fish with lots of teeth that I swam away from very fast.


(One of the stingrays)


It was fabulous and swimming with the turtles was one for the greatest experiences of my life and something I will never forget.

We were snorkelling for a long time and by the time we got back to the boat we were all exhausted. While I updated the website in the afternoon, John and Becky fell asleep!

Later in the afternoon, a very nice Canadian couple called Ted and Tricia came over and explained that they were friends of very good friends of John’s (Mike and Bet) and had been told we were in the area. They came aboard for a drink and a chat and it was lovely to meet them. They are charter boat skippers and were working on a boat anchored nearby. It was lovely to meet them and we exchange contact details. Hopefully we will meet up with them again soon.

After dinner, I finished my 30th book of the trip so far. Phew! We’ll need to find another boat to swap books with soon.


We were woken again the following morning by the chap who had delivered our baguette the previous day who said we had ordered another one. John explained that he must be mistaken as we hadn’t, but he chap wasn’t happy and said one of ‘the young ladies’ had ordered it (I secretly hoped he meant me, but realised he probably meant Becky). John came and asked us just to make sure and we confirmed we hadn’t ordered it, but the local chap said he didn’t believe John and said he wanted to speak “to the young lady”. John said we were both still in bed and he couldn’t speak to us but assured him we had not ordered anything. The chap went off in a huff and said he would come back later to speak when the young lady was up.

We realised that the nearest inhabited island is Union Island, so that is obviously where the boat sellers come from and it confirmed to me the lack of friendliness compared to Bequia.

Thankfully, we never had to deal with another awkward situation as we left before he came back.

We had originally planned to go to Mustique for New Year, but we had been told that they now charge 80 US$ to anchor there, so we decided to head back to Bequia instead.

It took us several attempts to anchor as the anchor kept dragging and at it all became rather stressful and fraught. We eventually anchored successfully, a little too close to a mooring buoy, but we decided to stay put and hope no-one wanted to use it.

John and I went ashore to stock up on fresh fruit, veg and water and we were glad to be back in the happy, friendly atmosphere of Bequia. We also popped into the tourist information office and picked up a leaflet showing what was on over New Year.

We have to pay for water here to fill the boat tanks up and its quite expensive, so we gave our laundry to Daffodil again as it would cost about the same for the water if we washed it ourselves (are you convinced? Thankfully John was….).

We had a quiet afternoon and in the evening after it got dark, a local chap brought a very large boat over to pick up the mooring next to us. We had swung very close to it and there wasn’t room for the large boat, but as it is a mooring and we were at anchor, we were in the wrong and would have to move. Luckily the people on the large boat thought the space was a bit small anyway (as they would be quite close to boat behind them) and asked for a different mooring. We apologised to the local chap and promised to move in the morning, but as we didn’t fancy going through the trauma of trying to anchor here again as the holding is so poor and the anchorage so busy we decided it would be much easier to just pick up the mooring ourselves. We agreed this with the local chap who said we could have for three days for a very reasonable rate and thankfully he agreed not to try and moor another boat on it that night so we could sleep in peace, which we would have done if we hadn’t swung even closer to the mooring buoy so it banged on the side of the boat all night!

Categories: December 2009, The Caribbean

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Reply Mum
12:18 PM on January 1, 2010 
What a magical Christmas. Love the cute fish - think it should be named Nemo!
Reply Steve
7:35 PM on January 1, 2010 
Hi guys! Happy New Year to you all!
Reply Denise
7:17 AM on January 4, 2010 
Happy New Year to you all - hope that you are in calm waters and well away from mad and bad waiters!
Denise and Peter