February 23rd – 28th, 2014 (-4 on UTC)
Yet again, we had a lovely 32 mile sail on a close (just forward of the beam) reach to the island of Rainbow’s and Rivers – Dominica. The French call it Dominique. Dominica was formerly French, now independent. Interestingly, English is far more spoken than French. When Columbus first tried to describe this island to King Ferdinand & Queen Isabella, he crumpled up a piece of paper and told them that this was the topography of Dominica, it certainly has many contrasts – from volcanos to rain forests, waterfalls and hot sulfur springs. The main reason it has been spared the tourism development phase is that there are really no “white sand beaches” and hence no mega hotels here. There are cruise ships daily in the Capitol, Roseau. This dramatically increases the population of the island’s main town and brings in much needed cash to the local artisans and merchants. This island is also home to the last pre-Columbian society in the Eastern Caribbean with 2,200 Caribes. Originally, these were a very aggressive and warlike culture which was decimated by modern European firepower in the 16th, 17th and 18th Centuries. That of course is the “short story”. Local resistance to being absorbed by European Colonialism certainly had it’s controversy.
We arrived in Roseau and quickly found a mooring. The area is very steep and deep and as such, moorings are advised. Otherwise, anchoring close to shore can be daunting as the water is quite deep right up to the shoreline. On our first full day, we did a tour and hike to Middleham Falls with friends Doug and Ursula of s/v “Island Explorer”. Ursula had twisted her knee and we weren’t sure how she would do on what turned out to be a fairly moderate to difficult hike. Ursula proved to us how tough South Africans are. Knee brace, walking stick and all; she did great. Nikki found a lovely stream at the end of the hike and we went for a swim while waiting for Doug and Ursula to finish. They weren’t that far behind! We returned to Roseau for lunch and relaxed the rest of the afternoon. We did a bit of shopping and Nikki bought a huge mortar and pestle. She’s still wondering how she might get it through Australian customs one day as they’re pretty strict on unfinished wood imports.
The next day, we motored up to the northwest side of the island to the town of Portsmouth. The moorings here are regulated and maintained by “PAYS” (The Portsmouth Association of Yacht Security). This group actually patrols their anchorage and makes sure all is on the up and up. Tourism is key to their survival and they want no bad “yachtie stories” hitting the grapevine. They also arrange whatever services you might need, such as tours, fuel, water, etc.
Portsmouth town wasn’t much in the way of sight seeing but was a place to try and see the Cocorico Parrot up the Indian River which is only found on Dominica. We didn’t see any, but hear they’re a most re-splendid bird.
We had been “chasing” sister ship s/v “Lady Amelie” (Switch #4 – Beach House is #11) for several weeks and we finally caught up to Ron and Kathleen Hamilton from Toronto, Canada. Ron just missed making the Canadian Olympic team in Tornado Cats – twice! As such, he knows how to make the boat go. “Lady Amelie” is much lighter than we and has an 8 1/2 foot taller mast with lots more sail area. In light airs, she would sail right by us. Poor “Miss Piggy”, she’s a heavy girl, but still our favorite…:-)
Nikki made some very Australian “ANZAC Biscuits” and we had Ron, Kathleen, Doug and Ursula over for coffee, biscuits and boat tour. We all became acquainted and as we would be following a similar track to Ron & Kathleen, we’d spend most of our time on the next three islands north together. Doug & Ursula would be traveling at a slower pace, but we’ve kept in touch via email. The night of the 27th, we saw a clear and distinct “Green Flash” at sunset. The Green Flash for those of you who don’t know, is where the sun refracts as it sets and the top separates into a distinct moment of green just as the sun disappears over the horizon. Many think it’s a legend, but I’ve seen dozens of them out here over the last 6 1/2 years. The first one I ever saw was in Marina del Rey at Dockweiler State beach with Cindy.
The next day, we set sail just ahead of Ron and Kathleen and headed to our next French Islands – Les Saintes and Guadeloupe. Les Saintes are a small group of islets just south of the main island of Guadeloupe and a magical little spot. That will be our next tale…so stand by!…
Scott and Nikki