Union Island (Clifton)

Ocean Gem
Geoff & Eileen Mander
Sun 17 Feb 2013 12:00


Position: 12:35.78N 61:24.87W

Date: Sunday 17th February 2013


On Saturday morning we awoke to a superb day.  I decided that we were in a perfect place for me to try to remove some of the barnacles and weed that had found a way to avoid the antifouling paint and grow on the bottom of the boat.  I donned my face mask and armed with a scraper and ‘scotch bright’ rubbing pad got into the water and swam under the boat.  The growth was quite bad, in fact worse than I have ever seen in the last 13 years of sailing.  Clearly antifouling paint ain’t what it used to be.


When you are wearing a face mask there is a blind spot covering a wide arc above your forehead.  As I dived down and up again under the bottom of the boat my movements coincided with the boat swinging in a gust.; and the propeller caught me right on the top of my head.  I now have a splendid gash down the middle of my head and I’m hoping that a centre parting soon comes back into fashion. So no more getting my head wet till it all heals up.


I rested for the remainder of the day and on Sunday we moved the mile or so to the island’s capital, Clifton, where the customs clearance offices were.  Clifton is a medium sized bay, completely open to the Atlantic winds but protected from the seas by a large reef.  It all has the feeling of something that belongs to the South Pacific.  It’s quite a busy place with several charter yacht companies, visiting yachts, bars,  restaurants and the smallest international airport you could ever imagine all packed in to an area not much bigger than a couple of cricket pitches.   


There were a large number of mooring buoys and not much free space to anchor.  The cruising guide warns that the mooring buoys are not to be trusted so we searched until we found a suitable place to drop our anchor, but this inevitably left us close to an unused buoy near to our stern.



We took a trip ashore to look at the town.  What a brightly painted place it was. The buildings were nearly all clad with wooden clapper boards painted in vibrant colours. Their general size and shape reminded me in some strange way to those in Orust, Sweden where I had collected Ocean Gem in June 2011.


Sharks ahoy, in one of the small shoreside pools managed by a local restaurant.

We returned to the boat just before sunset, and to our dismay a large catamaran had decided to tie up to the mooring buoy only about 5 metres behind us.  It was clearly a charter yacht and the skipper had had no concern at all just attaching his boat with a single thin line and going ashore for the evening.  The wind then got up and the cat started swinging wildly from port to starboard passing either side of the stern of our boat and each time missing us by just a few feet.  It wasn’t an option for us to move elsewhere as the bay was full of shoals and it would be impossible to see them in the dark.   We protected the back of our boat with every fender we had and spent an uncomfortable night  wondering if we were going to be hit. In the event no contact was made.


At first light on Monday morning we upped anchor and moved to another spot so that I could go ashore to see the customs officials and clear out.  Unfortunately this meant that another mooring buoy was close astern.   During the 30 minutes I was ashore another charter yacht came and tied to this mooring buoy. However this yacht had considerably more windage and kept surging forwards in the gusts.  Again the skipper seemed completely unconcerned attributing all resposibility to the boat boy who had pointed out the buoy to him.   You can’t help wondering what people do with their brains when they go into holiday mode.


Once I was back on board we upped anchor again and left the bay as soon as possible.  Unfortunately we will have to return to Clifton to check in when we return this way in a couple of weeks, but we will know to only stay the minimum amount of time necessary to complete the formalities.