On arrival at any new anchorage, we stalk the seabed for patches of sand on which to drop the anchor. Chatham Bay was no exception. We hunted around the bay until we found a spot near to the front of the other boats, about 100 metres out from the beach and equidistant from two beach bars: Bollhead’s on the left, and Secki and Vanessa’s on the right.
You can get very close to the shore here. The depth stays level at approximately three metres before shelving to two metres almost at the shoreline. We anchored just before the depth dropped to two. Shortly afterwards, one of the boat guys visited us to ask if we wanted to have dinner on the beach. This was the usual barbecue lobster/fish combination. And after a little light negotiation, we agreed a price and a time to be there, 6.30PM.
Arriving a little earlier at Bollhead’s for cocktails, we found the place to be packed. The boat guys drawing people to the restaurant must have done a great job. They should work in the timeshare industry. They managed to pull people in from a couple of large charter yachts and many of the private boats in the bay. Usually, there are no more than 10 people in a place like this, so 30 people created quite a buzz.
Although the crowd enhanced the atmosphere, it did nothing for the service. The agreed time to eat at 6.30PM came and went, more super-sized rum punches arrived, and before we knew it it was a very hazy 8 pm before the food arrived. Maybe it’s a ploy to maximise revenue.
As we waited for the food, a local guy came along. He talked about the history of the island, from its origins right through to now. After his long speech, he asked for some cash. Should have seen that coming. But I didn’t mind – it was entertaining and, measuring what he was saying against my limited knowledge of the island’s history, he didn’t seem to be making it up. So I gave him the price of a drink.
He must have spent that money on a powerful cocktail because an hour later, he was back with a different pitch. His spiel went something like this:
“I’m also a tour guide; I can take you on a walk of the island and show you the sights.”
“We’ll think about it.”
“There’s also something else I can do. Last week, a man about your age asked me to have sex with his wife.”
“Yes, and they were about your age. Old. And I can offer that service to you.”
“Well, if you change your mind.”
I was in hysterics. Although I can’t blame the guy for trying, how he has survived so far with only a couple of broken teeth must be down to the miracle of luck.
When the food did arrive – although the rum and excessive hunger might be skewing our opinion – it was good. After dinner, we avoided the local gigolo and spent some time with a Swiss family who sail their catamaran around the islands during winter. Then, after three of those hyper-charged rum punches, we joined the dancing crowd gyrating to the beat of the single speaker propped up on a chair and became the best dancers on the dance floor.
The next afternoon, we parked our dinghy on the slightly worn dinghy dock near Secki and Vanessa’s bar and spent a little time with them. We agreed to have dinner at their restaurant later that evening. They have owned their bar for years, and are featured in many of the cruising guides for their helpfulness to visiting yachts. Nothing is too much trouble. And dinner here is a very different proposition. The service is friendly and excellent, and the food arrives on time, which drew us back to eat there the next day. Both Secki and Vanessa exude a genuine bonhomie making you feel exceptionally welcome. The seafood is unquestionably fresh; the lobsters are kept in a holding tank in the sea, not too far from the restaurant, and are dispatched by Secki on the dinghy dock, which holds a macabre fascination for anyone passing by – especially those who have just arrived on it.
The problem with Chatham Bay is that it is a long way from any ATM. As far as I know, the only one on the island is in Clifton, and a walk there would make the Clifton to Belmont route seem like a walk in the Dutch countryside. So, by the time we left, we had almost empty pockets.
Theft in Chatham Bay
That night we were robbed. We are careful with security, making sure that the hatches are locked, and the dinghy secured to the boat. But the mistake we made was to leave our flip flops in the dinghy.
The first sign that something was wrong was that the outboard motor, also locked, was tilted at an angle. Then I noticed that the shoes had gone. My favourite Havaianas and Maria’s Fat Face ones too. I hope whoever has nicked them gets foot fungus. At least they didn’t get the outboard.