Friday, 17 July 2015

Dominica again!

Dominica again!

The passage from the Saintes to Dominica is usually a pleasant one, especially with the wind from the east. Tuesday the 9th of June was no exception. We are greeted with a steady F4 from the East with a slight sea. With our customary 1st reef in the main and a full genoa we sailed out of the SW passage and turned left towards Prince Rupert bay Dominica. In company with ‘Exit Strategy’ we were able to take pictured of each other - you rarely have good pictures of your own boat under sail.

The ships log has nothing of note except that we were hard on the wind entering the bay (nothing new there). We left at 0930 and arrived at 1400hrs, anchoring in 5m of water off the Purple Turtle bar (our usual spot), and close to Exit strategy who had arrived shortly before us.

As usual we are greeted by one of the ‘boat boys’ at the entrance to the bay. This time it is Monty from Cobra tours. We knew ‘Exit strategy’ wanted to try to arrange a tour with Martin (Providence) and we wanted to get some laundry done so were trying to contact Alexis (whose mother runs a laundry service) so we have the same ‘boat boy’ stresses of trying to please all three of them. They are all genuinely pleased to see us but of course want our business through tours etc. We will have quite a juggling act to do. Somehow we never manage to get it right so that we only have one of them to deal with.

We will keep Alexis happy for now as he can take Richard to customs to check in for EC$30 round trip, it saves a long wet dinghy ride. Having pre-cleared using the Sailclear system, the process is really easy now as the customs officer just prints the forms for the skipper to sign. No more filling in forms in quadruple with manky carbon paper, answering inane questions about how many tons of explosives you have on board or how many stowaways! One officer does it all, Customs, Immigration and Port Authority, EC$10 for clearance. Within 5 minutes we are cleared in and out for 2 weeks. (Other countries take note!) That evening we eat ashore at the Purple Turtle with ‘Exit Strategy’ and ‘Wild Matilda’ who pulled in just after us. Excellent BBQ ribs and several beers later we are settling in to ‘Island time’.

Wednesday we are met in the morning with Christian selling fruit from his aluminium rowing boat. We buy granadillas and mangoes. We call Alexis and arrange a pickup for the laundry, EC$4 per pound for wash dry and fold.  We see Monty and he can get our propane cylinder filled, EC$50 for 8lb and he brought it back the same day, excellent service. We have an afternoon conference with Rose and Dan on ‘Exit strategy’ to work out what we would like to see on our tour. The consensus is something in the interior and the Indian (Kalinago) village and territory. We have to rush to go ashore as it is the PAYS BBQ tonight, a good evening with excellent food as always and plenty of rum punch (strong enough to knockout a horse!)

Martin buying 'apricots' at the Jonny cake stall - Jonny cakes are like Vetkoek!

We have an early start the following day as Martin (Providence) has managed to get enough people to do an Island tour, there are 9 of us in total, but as always the best laid plans have been thwarted by 2 road closures, one by a landslide and the other by a local protest about lack of council repairs to the road! 
 A long circuitous route past the Airport takes us to Spanny falls, a double waterfall. 

Antheriums on the way to Spanny falls

We swim in the very cold pool of the lower falls, and look for the well camouflaged, freshwater crayfish, only about 5cm long but with big pincers. The climb to the upper falls is not for the faint hearted (or the chikengunyad), so we decide against it and enjoy the beauty of the rainforest.

Swimming in Spanny falls

After the falls we drove to the coastal village of Castle Bruce. Lunch was in the beautiful Islet View Restaurant overlooking the sea and the garden belonging to the restaurant. All the fruit and veg served here comes from their own garden. The lunch main course choice was fish or stewed pork, I suspect they catch their own fish and keep their own pigs as well. Fresh local juices of either Sourapple or Tamarind served in a coconut shell and garnished with hibiscus and bay leaves. 

We both had the Pork which came with dasheen, breadfruit, plantain, green banana, squash, coleslaw, christophene and a green salad. If that wasn’t enough, desert consisted of cinnamon cake and fresh pineapple and guava triangles! 

Lunchtime view

Thoroughly fed and watered we are off to the Indian Territory, unfortunately we arrive too late to visit the reconstructed village. We stop at a roadside bakery where they are baking cassava bread. This flatbread it has a distinctive flavour but is pretty tough to chew, probably best for dipping in soups and stews than eating on its own. A local craft stall is the next stop, lots of woven bags and baskets made from local materials as well as articles made from coconut shells and the usual calabashes. The people here in this part of Dominica are quite different to the rest of the island, most people on Dominica are of African or Indian (Asian) decent, here they look South American or even Chinese? I think there are very few true Kalinago people left anywhere in the Caribbean including Dominica, but they do cling onto some of their traditions here.

Toasting Cassava flour

Touring Dominica is always difficult due to the terrain and very windy roads, we eventually get back to the boat at about 1800 having left at 0800, a very full day.

The East Coast

We have planned a quiet day before the Saturday market and a Sunday walk to the hot springs. The hot springs are really strange, sitting in a rock pool the water really is warm and fresh water as well. Hot water, heated by geothermal energy, just bubbling out of the ground. 

Huge trees with weathered buttress roots weaving between the rocks give the place quite an otherworldly atmosphere. Little hummingbirds fly in and out sipping the water as it gently runs down a small cliff. It is just so relaxing, sitting in a warm ‘bath’. Next time we will bring a picnic!

Natures 'Hot Tub'

Monday we are off early to the Indian River. Monty has been badgering us to do this again and we relent. Our plans are for him to row us up the river early so we can see the birds and then we will walk back to the river mouth where he will take us back to the boat. Monty arrives at 0600, fortunately we are ready and we are off before the world is awake. The good side of this is that we are back at the boat by 0830! It is always lovely, quietly rowing up the river. They have added a few skeletons for atmosphere, but it does not spoil the trip.  We watch a yellow crowned night heron snatch a crab from the shallows, smash it on a rock and enjoy his breakfast quite unconcerned by us.

Up the Indian River

In the afternoon we go to snorkel the cruise ship pier but are chased off by the National Park security guard who said it was “too dangerous”. We mooched around the edge of the bay until we found a patch of sand about 30 yards away from the pier where we anchored the dinghy. The snorkelling here was very nice with lots of small fish, a school of squid and a warty sea slug! Yes another new creature. Tomorrow we are off to Roseau where we plan to go to the Botanical gardens. We have been in Prince Rupert bay for a week and never seem to have a moments rest!

Warty sea alug

Tuesday and we awake to rain and squally conditions. We decide to wait for a couple of hours before setting off for Roseau. Typically down the coast we get wind then no wind depending on the size of the hills ashore. We sailed for half an hour then motored for an hour then sailed again, right to Roseau, losing the wind as we entered the bay. A very pleasant 25 mile coastal sail. Arriving in Roseau we call Dominica Marine Centre for a mooring, Marcus all smiles comes to meet us “nice to see you back again” he says. The moorings are EC42 per night and well maintained as we saw them being serviced while we were there. It is also Marcus’ birthday so we give him something to celebrate with. 

We dine ashore at the Fort Young Hotel, probably the best restaurant in Roseau, the food is excellent as is the service, a 5* experience at ‘island’ prices.
The following day we visit the botanical gardens, not quite what was expected as the gardens are more trees than plants and we had to go to the forestry commission offices to get a guide book! At EC$25.00 well worth it as it has good photos and lots of information about the trees. Nevertheless it is a beautiful place complete with cricket square and I am sure a lovely place to spend a Sunday afternoon watching local cricket to the very English sound of leather on willow! You could almost be in an English park. 

Baobab tree

There are some indigenous trees but the majority are exotics. Some not so exotic to Rowena like Sausage trees, cycads, Tulip trees and a good sized Baobab that was blown down onto a bus in a hurricane (luckily no one in it at the time) but is still growing and in flower. Of the other trees my favourite is the Cannonball tree with spectacular almost alien looking flowers. The fruit, a kind of calabash, grow to the size of a cannonball.
The Cannonball tree

We also discovered that there are Anacondas in Dominica that grow to 10ft!

A pity we won’t be here at the weekend as the groundsman was doing a great job preparing the square, but we will move on again on Saturday, the weather looks good for our passage south to Martinique.

A final note on Roseau, security in the Roseau anchorage was funded by the Dominica Marine Association, (DMA) this paid Marcus’ salary, his boat and fuel. Marcus works for the Dominica Marine Centre (DMC), and the DMC now provide a boat and some fuel but Marcus still does the same job as if he was fully funded, sometimes buying fuel from his own pocket. The shortfall is hopefully being made by voluntary contributions (EC$5 per boat per day) from cruisers using the Roseau anchorage area. Well done Marcus and Hubert of the DMC for continuing to provide this service - shame on the DMA members who are getting the benefits of the secure anchorage without contributing.

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