Moonlight Adventure

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


Sunday 9th January 2011

Posted by yachtmoonlight on February 17, 2011 at 9:50 AM

The peaceful, calm anchorage in Trois Islets gave us another quiet night with just enough rain collected in the dinghy by the morning on Monday 3rd January to use for solar showers in the cockpit!

Charles and Penny joined us ashore at the café in the village for a croissants and coffees and I bought a huge slab of their fabulous guava cake for afternoon tea on the boat.

After a quick trip round the small grocery store and the fruit and veg market (where we finally found some reasonably priced tomatoes for the first time in months), we headed back the boat where John spent the afternoon reading in the hammock while I caught up on blogging and sorting photos before Charles and Penny joined us for sundowners.

On Tuesday morning we caught a ferry to Fort de France along with Charles and Penny to visit the chandlers, where we left Charles and Penny and headed off for a meander around the town and to visit the supermarket.

We ‘treated’ ourselves to a KFC lunch and I had the thinnest, most pathetically anaemic-looking Zinger burger that was severely lacking in Zing, while John had some unidentifiable chicken pieces from what must have been a very odd-shaped chicken.

The ferry took us back across the bay and we spent the rest of the afternoon in the internet room at the library, updating the blog and catching up on all things internetty.

I thought it was probably about time to take down the Christmas decorations and as I put them away, I wondered where we will be next time we put them up. Somewhere in the UK, but we have no idea whether we will be putting them up on the boat or in a house as we will be living on the boat back in England until we can sell it and who knows how long that might take!

The boat looked very bare once the decorations were down, so we brightened it up by inviting Charles and Penny round for drinks in the evening, for the last time, as they were leaving the next morning to head south and we would be leaving the following day to head north.

Charles and Penny popped round in their dinghy in the morning to say goodbye before heading off back down the coast and we were really sad to see them go.

John dropped me ashore in the dinghy after lunch so I could pop back to the library to finish off some internetting and when I had finished I sent out a mercy call for him to come and rescue me from the ferry dock and the huge gaggle of school children that had commandeered the dock area for a picnic whilst waiting for a ferry.

We left the calm mill-pondy Trois Islets anchorage at 9.45am on Thursday morning and headed out into the huge Fort de France bay and then out to sea, following the coast north. We had decided to sail overnight, past Dominica and straight on to Guadeloupe.

The sail wasn’t too rough and as I had been really careful to take seasickness pills the night before and in the morning before we left, I felt fine.

It was a clear starry night and as we took turns to be on watch in the cockpit while the other tried to grab a couple of hours sleep, we watched shooting stars above us and the bright sparkles of phosphorescence in the water behind us.

John kept a close eye on the engine to make sure all was well and was gutted to find another leak from one of the water pipes. Thankfully it was only dripping very slightly and wasn’t too serious, so we were able to carry on using the engine when we needed to, but it would need sorting out as soon as possible.

We sailed into the bay opposite Pigeon Island, half way up the west coast of Guadeloupe, at 7am, just as the sun was rising, and after anchoring, we went straight to sleep as neither of us had slept much overnight.

(Pigeon Island)

It was almost lunchtime by the time we got up and pumped the dinghy up to go ashore, so once we were on dry land, we popped into a small outdoor café by the beach for a sandwich before investigating the several dive shops that offer trips over to Pigeon Island, which is part of the Jacques Cousteau National Park and a very popular dive site.

Our guide book recommended a particular dive shop and said that the instructors there spoke English, which they didn’t, but John’s French was good enough to book us a dive for the following morning.

Not wanting to wait for the next day to explore the beautiful clear water around us, we had a snorkel around the boat in the afternoon. There wasn’t much to see as there wasn’t any coral nearby, but there were a few fish swimming around and we spotted a beautiful long conical shellfish on the seabed that we hadn’t seen before.

We swam over to some nearby rocks where we found more fish and John spotted an octopus, fast asleep on top of one of the rocks. We floated above it for a while before it woke up and swam away, gracefully gliding through the water and stopping at every rock to reach underneath it with its tentacles, obviously looking for something for lunch. We followed it over the rocks and watched in amazement as it changed colour to match the sand, rocks or plants nearby. It was fabulous to see it swimming as we had never seen an octopus swimming before, they are usually just hiding in holes during the day.

The anchorage opposite Pigeon Island isn’t very good and the sea swell makes the boat roll around a lot at the best of times and often the bay isn’t tenable for anchoring at all if the wind isn’t in the right direction. The only reason to anchor here is for the diving, and we reminded ourselves of this yesterday morning when we were exhausted from a bad night’s sleep due to the constant rocking and rolling of the boat throughout the night.

We went ashore in the morning and met up with a large group of people at the dive shop. Watching the dive leaders get the boat and the equipment ready for the dive, while wetsuits were dished out to everyone, I felt as if we were on a conveyor belt and there wasn’t the personal touch we have found at the other dive shops.

(John waiting to dive!)

When the boat was ready, everyone piled on and it turned into a bit of a bun fight as everyone grabbed the equipment they wanted, while John and I just sat there a little bemused without the faintest idea what was going on. The instructors coped with the fact that they didn’t speak English by just ignoring us, which wasn’t really very helpful, but thankfully one of the other divers spoke excellent English and with his help, we managed to ask what on earth was going on and get some equipment allocated to us (what was left over after everyone had grabbed what they wanted!).

(The dive boat)

It turned out that one of the instructors did speak some English and he explained that we would be diving with a different instructor who didn’t, but we didn’t mind, it’s all hand signals underwater and they are universal in any language.

We checked our equipment as the boat whizzed out to Pigeon Island and we asked for the usual amount of weights that we are used to diving with. The instructor looked a little confused and that seemed too much and so we followed his advice and took a little less weight each.

The tanks we were using were different, much smaller than the ones we have dived with before and as soon as we started to descend in the water, we realised why we needed less weights. The tanks were much heavier than the larger ones we were used to and even with the reduced weights, we sank like stones!

Once we had got our buoyancy sorted out underwater, we followed our dive leader over a beautiful sloping coral ledge, where we saw lots of fish we hadn’t seen before and we swam past a lovely underwater statue of Jacques Cousteau. I waved at Jacques and John patted him on the head as we swam past.

It was a lovely dive but it was extremely busy with other divers everywhere we looked.

Back on the dive boat, we were given a small cup of rum punch on the way back to the dive shop, which we thought was terribly civilised.

Not wanting to stay for another rolly night, we upped the anchor after lunch and sailed the short distance up the coast to Deshaies, where we stocked up at the supermarket ashore and bumped into Frank and Tini from Wildcat, who we had met in Martinique.

The diving and rushing around had worn us out and we had a quiet night, ready to set off north again in the morning.

We hadn’t planned to visit St Maarten, but it is known to be a great place to buy spare parts and get work done on boats, so we decided to sail straight there to get the engine water leak fixed.

We set off at 8am and sailed up past Montserrat, hoping to see if the volcano was currently active, but the top of the mountain was covered in cloud and we couldn’t tell if it was just normal clouds or volcano spurtage!

As we sailed on past Redonda, we noticed a ship some way away to our left which was towing a barge of some kind suddenly stop dead in the water with huge plumes of black smoke pouring from it.

It looked like the boat might be on fire, so we called it up on the VHF radio to see if they needed any help (we couldn’t help put a fire out, but we could take people on board if that had to abandon ship and we have some medical equipment on board if anyone was hurt). The captain of the ship responded to our call straight away and said that they had lost their engine, but everyone on board was safe and they didn’t need any help at that point.

We carried on our way and left the radio on as we had asked to the captain to call us again if he needed to and just as we sailed out of VHF range, we heard another boat behind us calling them up to offer help, so we were pleased that another boat was nearby to help if necessary.

During the night, we passed by the islands of Nevis, St Kitts, Statia and St Barts and watched as the sky filled up with stars above us and shooting stars traced across the sky.

As we are now in the winter months and also heading north, the sun is setting and rising later than we had been used to and we had to slow down a little to make sure we arrived in the anchorage in daylight as we had never been there before, and eventually we anchored in Simpson Bay just as the sun rose at 6am.

Categories: The Caribbean

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