Dominica:  January 19-February 5, 2009

Click on the above thumbnail for a map during this time period

The Nature Island

Two weeks in Dominica -- great to just hang out.  A bit of rain every day so didn't get the caprail varnishing finished.  We initially were going to hang out in Roseau (at the south end of Dominica) when we arrived, but none of the moorings with wifi access were strong enough for four big boat.  There is no anchoring in that area, so we went to the north end of the island to the anchorage in Prince Rupert Bay near the town of Portsmouth, where we spent most of our time in Dominica.  While we were there, a sailboat anchored next to us was burgled by a swimmer because the owners had left a small porthole open when they went to shore for dinner one evening.  They only lost $30, but also their drivers license and two credit cards.  The local Indian River guide association was very sympathetic and attentive, but not entirely for altruistic reasons, since they were anxious to forestall any reporting of the incident to the "safety and security" website maintained for and by cruisers.  In the end, the victims reported it to the local police but not the net.  Never let it be said that we aren't continually learning out here.  We usually leave the portholes in our showers open for ventilation and because we couldn't imagine anyone being able to squeeze through them.  Since the porthole that was slipped through on the sailboat was smaller than ours. we have now started closing ours when we leave the boat. 

While in Prince Rupert Bay, we socialized with a number of interesting cruisers, including a young couple aboard Kosmos, a 43' Nordhavn, the only other trawler in the anchorage.  Eric and Christi were just completing a 2-year circumnavigation.  All that remained was to go through the Panama Canal and traverse up the West Coast to San Diego, where Eric's job with DivX was waiting.  One of our hikes through some of Cabrits Park was with Eric and Christi and the crew from S/V Keesje II, Peter and Wendy.  Peter has spent a lot of time in the USA (Atlanta), but is in fact a Brit, as is Wendy, who is holding Peter to his promise to return to Great Britain now that their two years of sailing is about up.  And we met Wayne and Betty (Bright Ayes), Americans who are also going to cross the pond but due to our tales got inspired to first attend Carnival in Trinidad.  Finally, we met avid hikers Maggie and Dean (Rain), who told us about their hike to the Boiling Lake, and got us inspired to do the same when we later returned to Roseau.

Kosmos in Prince Rupert Bay

As I have indicated, while still up north we did a lot of walking.  We bought a week pass to the National Parks.  Consequently, we would climb the hills around Fort Shirley in Cabrits Park on most days.  We have been there many times before, but continue to be fascinated by the interesting sights and vistas.

Found in the woods at the site of the military hospital -- can you see the lizard?

Here it is!

Gathered for a walk at the fort: Wendy, Peter, Christi, Eric, and YT.

On the ascent to the west battery

Tree of hope?

Views ...

... in ...

... the northern battery

Closeup of tree along path in the park

View from eastern battery of Prince Rupert Bay

View from SE battery of restored portion of Ft. Shirley

One day as we arrived at the Park shortly after 1 PM, we were told by the Park Warden at the entrance that we would be seeing up at the fort flowers and decorations, since there was a wedding on site.  "What time?", Chuck asked.  "Supposed to start at 1 o'clock, so it is going on right now", was the answer.  Curious and anxious to see a local wedding, we hurried up to the restored fort, where we found folks in the process of moving decorations from an outdoor setting into one of the main buildings, on account of the threat of rain.  They were nowhere near ready, and there didn't seem to be many guests about.  One of the decorators said that the wedding had been delayed a bit.  So we took a long walk up to the ruins on the west end of the park, doing some bushwhacking off the path at the top to find the ruins of the military hospital that had once stood there.  When we returned to the fort at about 2:45 PM, we found that the decorations and chairs had been reinstalled on the outside, and that more guests had arrived.  We decided to discretely hang around and witness the wedding.  So we hung.  And hung.  Guests kept arriving, by foot and by auto and by taxi up the steep road to the fort.  Men in bright shiny suits with colorful ties.  Ladies dressed to the nines in high heels, struggling to ascend up the cobble stone road.  To pass the time, Chuck suggested a bet as to when the wedding would actually start.  Barb chose 4:15, and Chuck countered with 4:16.  Barb suggested that there should be a minimum of 15 minutes between the bets.  Chuck chose 4:30.  Barb won.  The wedding that had been scheduled for 1 PM finally began shortly after 4:08 when the bride arrived in a gaily decorated automobile.  The arrival was announced to the now-sizable crowd by  two young ladies who rang hand bells continuously from the time the auto appeared until the bride stepped out a number of minutes later.  We watched the start of the wedding, peeking over a stone wall.  When the park manager climbed atop the wall to take photos, Chuck joined him.  After several prayers and several poems apparently composed by bridesmaids, and several different groups singing American love songs, some of which were of a distinctively Country Western flavor. we left when we realized that the entire eastern section of the seating was composed of would-be performers, and that we had so far heard from only the first few rows.

The Wedding

The outdoor decorations after a partial restoration

The attendees gather and wait patiently

Finally the bride arrives ...

... and the bridesmaids do their thing

The chairs quickly fill, and the rest look down from above

Can you find Barb?

There she is!

A poem or a solo song

An interminable song by a group

Dad came up on the wall w/ me and then had Mom hand up the girls

They are going to be heartbreakers

When it began to look like this entire section would be performing, we left

In and Around Portsmouth

On another day we took a long walk along the road north of Portsmouth, and discovered a guest house/restaurant called "Heaven's Best".  We returned one night with Rain and had a lovely meal.  The owner/chef is quite good.  Speaking of food, we had rotis for lunch a number of time at Ray's Roti Shack in Portsmouth, just south of the Police station. They were good -- but not as good as those in Trini.

Pause on walk along road to the north

Northern walk

Scene along northern road

Wild flowers along the road

Looking south: first Douglas Bay, then Cabrits Park on right and Portsmouth on the left, and then Prince Rupert Bay

Our favorite lunch spot in Portsmouth

Portsmouth fishermen w/ some of their catch

Nice day's work

Lunch (goat) at the Purple Turtle

Barb's prawn lunch ...

... and the plate of provisions that came with it

Private home in Portsmouth decorated w/ shells

Variety store in Portsmouth

Bizarre mannequin beside the road on the rocky shore leading to Ft. Shirley

On a steep and muddy hike up an ancient roadbed to the east

Mushrooms at her feet

Looking down toward Portsmouth and the Bay -- can you see Tusen Takk II?

Ground lizard

How a coconut palm tree begins its life


Barb called down to the main boat boy (Sea Cat) in Roseau several times about when a mooring would be available for us.  He told us that on Friday, January 30th, one would be available about noon.  So we headed to Roseau early Friday morning and arrived about the time a large catamaran was leaving the mooring.  Turned out that they live there all the time, and Sea Cat had put in the mooring for them.  They were leaving for a month cruise, so we got the big strong mooring that was additionally far enough away from other moorings as to not not cause concern about crashing into other vessels when the wind got fluky (which happened to us there last year).  On Saturday we spent the day hiking in/out to/from the Boiling Lake.  (Click here for that account.)  Had a great trip but when we returned to Sea Cat's our boat was in a different place.  Called Sea Cat and learned that the mooring had failed and our boat had drifted off.  Learned later that the shackle pin had not been wired on, so the bolt on it worked loose and the line, chain, and mooring ball all came free along with our boat.  Fortunately, Desmond , who works for Sea Cat, helping boats get on moorings, running folks to shore, and watching things when Sea Cat is off taking tours, noticed the boat floating north.  He called another boat boy (Poncho) and between the two of them they were able to tie us onto another mooring about 300 yards away.  We saw the mooring line and ball at the dock when we came back from the hike, but never suspected it was the one we had been tied to for the day and a half.  We always set an anchor alarm when we are at anchor, so if we start dragging we will know it.  But we had never set the alarm when on a mooring since we are usually pretty picky about which mooring we use and only moor when anchoring is not very feasible.  We will be setting an alarm in the future.  The scary thing is that even if one had dove on the mooring, it would have looked pretty solid.  Very strong line, chain and shackle.  One would have to go to the bottom at 150' to examine the pin to ensure that it was on tight.  Not very feasible.  When we returned to the boat we immediately moved from the (temporary) light mooring we were on to a stronger one owned by Poncho.  Wifi was pretty weak there, but at least we didn't break loose.  But we were again in deep water and so the shackle was once again an unknown factor.  Later, 2/2/09:  the painter -- attached to the mooring buoy, to which the boat was so be tied -- was so long that, as the winds and currents shifted, when the boat ended up near the buoy the painter drooped down and got caught in a stabilizer fin.  Not good.  So we ran our own (much shorter) painter to the metal loop at the top of the buoy, but stupidly left our yoke attached to the buoy's painter.  Barb was already in bed when before retiring I did a last check and discovered that the our new painter had gotten hopelessly entangled with our yoke and the long painter on the buoy.  Well, not totally "hopelessly", but after rousing Barb it took us about an hour of leaning over the bow and slowly unthreading the yoke before the mess was untangled.  We ended up dispensing with our yoke entirely and attaching their long painter directly to one of the bow hawse'ls and leaving our not-nearly-so-long painter on the other.  Another cruising lesson learned the hard way.

Sunday (Feb. 2) we had a nice (but pricey at $108 each) 2-tank dive with Anchorage Dive -- but wished we had held out for going with Nature Island Dive, whose dive shop is on the extreme south end of the island.  That would have been logistically much more complicated, but we know from our experience last year (with Joy Reed) that they are much more focused on ensuring one has good dives and sees lots of interesting things.  On our dives on Sunday, the dive master was pretty much just putting in his 50 minutes or so by coasting along with us. 

On Monday, California cousin Keith and his wife Linda arrived on a huge cruise ship.  They went off on an official tour of the Sky Tram up very near to where we had started our trek to the Boiling Lake, but were back by noon.  We dinghied over, treated them to lunch at a local restaurant, and then took them back to show them our floating home.  Their ship left at 5 PM, so it was a frustratingly short visit -- we are about the same age and share many interests, but as residents of opposite coasts for most of our lives, have spent very little time together.

Cousin Keith and wife Linda on pier next to their cruise ship

On the fore deck of Tusen Takk II

YT and Keith

See the family resemblance?

In the cockpit (their ship in the background)


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