28 June 2007 | Dominica
It was a gray morning when I climbed up on deck to get things ready for departure. We wanted to make an early start so that we could arrive in Dominica in time to visit the island a bit. We were weighing anchor with Kelp Fiction II at 6:30 and underway shortly thereafter.
We motored out of the saints and set sail as we turned into the wind. The wind was up around 20 knots apparent as we crossed the Dominica Channel. We were bound for Roseau, the capital, at the southern end of Dominica. As it was late in the season we planned to make continuous progress south until we reached Saint Lucia or the Grenadines.
We made over eight knots speed over ground until we cleared Cape Melville at the northern end of Dominica. As typical, things got gusty around the point, backed a bit, then went light and the soaring three and four thousand foot peeks knocked the wind down. I suppose we could always stand off but I enjoy cruising the coastline of these beautiful islands too much to stay that far away. Dominica is particularly beautiful, and in retrospect, the most lush and impressive island we've visited on the interior. High verdant peaks piling down into rain forests that meet the sea.
We have been making heavy use of the Doyle Cruising Guides since the Bahamas. They are updated regularly and truly indispensable. You could cruise without them but the sketch charts alone are worth the investment. The guide also helps you avoid making costly mistakes. I have often used the guide to get a reference for reliable individuals around various ports.
In this case Pancho was recommended by the Leeward Islands Guide, and we were glad we contacted him on the VHF. Pancho helped us locate the least rolly moorings in the area, connected us with a tour guide/van to see the island (same afternoon), and shuttled us to the dock and back. Not bad for a $25 mooring fee.
We were tied up by noon and Kelp Fiction arrived shortly thereafter. After settling the boats Pancho took us all to the dock and introduced the driver. He was a great guy and had quite an entertaining personality. He also knew the island very well.
Our first stop was customs over at the commercial dock to clear in. Dominica has made part of the process very easy in that you only have one stop to make for everything. It is a little out of the way however. Fred and I made our way through security at the port and down to the warehouse that customs resided in while everyone else walked around the eateries engrossed in the cricket match on TV.
Cricket is huge down here. Bigger than soccer I think. The East Indies team is the darling of all of the locals in the Caribbean. Each island has their favorite son on the team and from what I understand they do pretty well. In the only game I watched they beat England, which I imagine is good since they invented the sport.
After clearing in we set off for the interior. Dominica is steep to and there are not too many spectacular harbors or great beaches on the west side. It just rises up into jungles and mountains. We drove through some quaint villages but spent a lot of time working our way back into the foothills through cascades of trees and dense undergrowth. Everything was green or some other striking color. Everywhere you look there are trees loaded with fruit or nuts. If you were destitute in Dominica you would never be hungry, and would probably have a better diet than most Americans.
After quite a bit of driving we reached the end of the road, literally. Our driver led us to a wonderful little restaurant with a lovely view down over the hills and rain forest. After a late lunch we hiked up a trail to a double water fall. These were high water falls with spectacular drops into small pools. The waterfall on the right is cool and clear, the one on the left is warm and colored with minerals from the vents that heat it.
We traveled about the hills a bit more and enjoyed the local hot springs. Like many of the Caribbean islands, Dominica has several active volcanoes. No recent eruptions but a boiler room below none the less. We stopped by several other impressive view points and towns on our way back to the port.
Back at the boat we marveled at the whirlwind day, a six hour sail, clearing in and out (simultaneously), lunch, waterfalls and a tour of the island. It was nice to be on the move and yet still make time to absorb the beauty of the islands as we pass by.