Thursday, April 23, 2015

Dominica



The anchor is a bit of a pain, but doable and we get it up ourselves.. Destination Dominica and we are on our own.

Awesome sail, best yet. We had the usual mizzen and jib up at about 75-90 degrees off the wind and we flew over the waves at 8.5 knots.  We head for Roseau harbour, the furthest southern harbour. 



However, Not quite what we expected, the beach is rocky and way too deep for anchoring, as we we're cruising in we're watching the depth sounder and while we feel we are right off the shore, the depth sounder is saying we are in 400 ft of water and the buildings we excitedly read about in our cruising guide are way beyond run down.
What have we gotten into?

   
View from our anchorage
Roseau

This does not look like a third world country, it looks like 4th world!
corner store

We call on the VHF radio and Pancho, a  boat boy comes right out to guide us right to a ball, where he handed us up the tether. ($10 per night). The service was definitely 1st world.  Within  4 hours we were sipping cocktails on the deck and not a worry at all about the anchor.



Next morning, as our boat rocks gently on its mooring, we hang out some laundry, but we're just not sure how it can possibly dry, our bay sits right beneath the peaks of the rain forest and the misty rain just does not seem to end, even when the sun comes out. It's like a never ending clear fog interspersed by rainbows.


Check in at customs is next, but finding a dinghy dock that is not too dilapidated is a challenge. The town is a busy place with shops crowded along the narrow streets and not much in the way of directions. 

  Building centre             
building centre ad














Maybe I should consider a change of Venue


We run into other cruisers doing the same check in. Pam , John and their son Denzel, are on a 54 Amel anchored closed by. So we all head out together to find the customs office for check in. It is behind an unmarked red door next to the fishing boats in the waterfront. Right across from the building that has a sign saying "No loitering or Urinating".




 
court
 
 


 Apparently Dominica is the youngest island in the volcanic chain and although they have the highest concentration of live volcanos in the Caribbean,  they have never had a major eruption. Good to know as we'd like to hang out here and explore.

We wander  the fresh market, walk the side streets and even find  a bank to change our American dollars to EC's (Eastern Caribbean dollars).  The order of business is to find a lunch spot with a real washroom. Someone has to P**.
The Fort Young Hotel seems clean, modern and has free wifi...... truly a cruisers dream, so lunch by the waterfall overlooking the bay is our choice, and it was  perfect.
Now to arrange a car or tour so we can head the into the hills tomorrow.
As we head back toward our anchorage via the Botanical gardens 

   Botanical Gardens     
free bananas
we see the actual destruction caused by hurricane David when a gigantic tree landed on a parked school bus,
crushed school bus
and some pretty impressive trees and bamboo gazebos. 
Bamboo gazebo
Pushing on we decide to check out the Marine centre that is written up so glowingly in the cruising guide. Budget Marine and the Yanmar engine dealer are definitely not as expected, 
Budget Marine

but Hubert in the Yanmar dealership is absolutely the most friendly, helpful person we have encountered as we island hopped. He's full of local info, arranges a car for us and sends over a guy to assess our water maker issues. We are impressed!

A happy hour aboard  "Kaimen" hearing about John, Pam and Denzel's adventures rounded out that day.

The water maker fix is a no-go, he's as baffled as we are, but what the heck, we have 200 gallons of water, so the hair will not be suffering too much.

We're off in our rental car. Up to Trafalgar Falls. We wind through the hills, have lunch at Papillon  and just cannot believe the road they want us to take up to Trafalgar Falls. It is more than narrow, but they say it's 2 way, no problem, just back up if you meet a bus coming down. It's about a 45 degree angle straight up and winds in S turns. We're here for adventure, so here we go. 
Highway


Trafalgar Falls is magnificent, falling straight down from the mountains and tumbling into clear fresh pools.
rainforest splendor
I feel like I am in the midst of a meditation that takes you to a serene, tranquil, untouched paradise.  We splash around, with the falls behind us then head for the natural hot spas to relax amongst the ferns, tropical forests and jagged rocks.
Hot springs
It is like a giant hot tub, made of rocks, circular, and about 102 degrees, just like the tub back home, but incredibly beautiful and quiet, other than the native birds chirping. We soothe away the problems and give thanks for being blessed to see this.

 


















 
 

 

 

 

 


 


Gord at Trafalgar falls

Then we are off to Ti Tou Gorge where they filmed segments of the Pirates of the Caribbean.  The gorge was deep, cold and kind of dark and eerie. As Sue swam into the gorge, she disappeared between the rocky outcrops 20-30 feet below, where the sound of the water falling off the mountain into the gorge got louder and louder as she went deeper and darker into the gorge.  OK enough, and she popped back out so we could be on our way.

The trip along the coast road to Portsmouth on the north end of the island was picturesque and very scary.
 
Hillside crops
We ventured off the main road into the town of St. Joseph to explore.  Holy crap! this is not a road, but a winding, single lane descent into who knows what,  and worse, how do we get out of here? On a tight S turn on a more than 45 degrees down slope we meet a huge truck head on. Gord's driving was awesome, as we backed up the S turn and wiggled our way to a wider spot to let the truck pass. As we continued on our way down, the locals are looking at us like we are crazy tourists.
Aren't they totally correct?
Black sand beach in St Joseph


Finally to the bottom we are in front of the largest most magnificent Catholic church we have encountered so far, bordered by fully laden ripe Mango trees.
Paradise with no way out!

However, the locals are wise and friendly so directions to the crazy tourists come from everyone within walking distance. With their help, getting out was easier than getting in and we are on our way.

Our next venture off the main road is a small beach bar called Romance Cafe at Mero Bay, 
    
Romance Café - Mero Beach

Romance Café
Romance Café
where some local artist had painted each and every cafe table with different  original artwork.  In order to get out of this town, we backtracked the wrong way on a one way road, hoping that we would meet no one on the way in.


As we entered Portsmouth, we found an ultra modern IGA store, you would not have known that you were anywhere but your neighbourhood grocery store it was so modern and well stocked.
 

shopping!
  
Totally modern IGA
We loaded up on supplies and then continued into Portsmouth, which again was reminiscent of 4th world.
 
Local laundromat
We checked out the PAYS pavilion (the association of boat Boys), and arranged for Charlie Love
Charlie
to save us a mooring ball and meet us on our arrival tomorrow. We grabbed lunch at the Purple Turtle, then headed for Fort Shirley, overlooking the Bay.



Ruins of Commandants House
Our jaunt then took us across the top of the island toward the Atlantic coast. we had no GPS so punched up the Garmin Blue Charts on the i-pad and followed the little sailing ship as she cruised inland over the mountains. 
navigating the island
At least we were able to determine we were heading in the right direction. 
           
Ride through the rainforest

Up into the rainforest 
we travelled through the misty heights when we happen upon an older local with about 50 lbs of coconuts in a sack on his head and a Very Large Machette dangling at his side. It was a definite photo op and he was so accommodating that we offered him a ride to his destination. Raymond blessed us and hopped in. He had little to say but we did find out he makes this 5-7 mile trek up and over the mountains every day, cuts coconuts and then treks back, with a "hurting leg". And we think we work hard???

The Atlantic side of the island is rugged and spectacular and we visit 2 bays where they also filmed Pirates of the Caribbean  and passed the airport; in the middle of nowhere. We figured it was getting late, we did not want to be in the mountains in the dark, so decided to take the highway through the centre of the island and back to Roseau. Now, in Dominica the highway still means its narrow, with a vertical 2 ft drop on either side, for funneling torrential rains, (do not let your wheels stray) no shoulders  and windy hairpin turns that double back a full 180 degrees while on a 45 degree down or upslope.  They only reason they call it the highway is because there is a nice neat line painted down the middle. The turns are so treacherous and the drop on each side is so severe that the cars come equipped with a special little side mirror to keep you from dropping that wheel off the road.  Piece of cake! ?

Its a good thing that Steve and Imelda waved us down for a ride in torrential rain. But, they had no idea how brave they were being, getting into a car with a couple of tourists, driving on the opposite side of the road, on narrow mountainous roads for the first time. They saved our butt from a wrong turn on a round-about and rode all the way into Roseau with us, and they too make this long trip into the mountains each day and back, often riding in the back of pickup trucks in downpours.
 
After a quick drink at the Anchorage hotel we parked the car in the dark with a huge sigh of relief, to be back unscathed and unscratched.


A misty morning arrives and we are off the mooring ball in Roseau, heading up the coast and into Portsmouth where over 30 knots of wind are blowing, but true to his word, there is Charlie waiting at the ball, tether in hand, ready to assist. 
Charlie Love

 

 









Dinghy Dock in Portsmouth

Portsmouth beach


Much to our surprise, there is "Turning Points" at anchor ahead of us.

The Indian River tour is not to be missed and Charlie is our guide also. 

   
Indian river

It's an experience like out of a movie, no motors allowed, rowing only and we even passed Calypso's house from the Pirates of the Caribbean movie. 
Calypsos Home
Buried deep up the river is a forest tavern, the end of our upriver journey.
Incredible trees on Indian River

Once back in town the Saturday fresh market stalls are everywhere 

Markets
Checking out the melons
and the tomatoes and veggies are truly fresh and the lobster ($10) we took home for dinner was fresh out of the fishing boat at the dock.

            
Catch of the day
     
fishermen
        

Dinner


Exploring the town looking for souvenirs for the grandkids proved fruitless, the bare necessities only are available, certainly no touristy trinkets.
The PAYS BBQ, held on the beach by the boat boys for all the cruisers in the harbour was a blast.


BBQ and rum punch included, lots of great music and dancing and many, many other cruisers to meet from all over the world. It was the best way to finish off our last day in Dominica.




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Sailboat owners Gord and Sue aboard their 55' Whitby Ketch "Ocean Wings" share their adventures and travels as they start their retirement, living their dream of seeing the world from oceanside.
Ocean Wings is a recent purchase and our first foray into the Sailing Lifestyle. We're excited and a little scared. Join us in our adventure.