Dominica, walking around Portsmouth
11 November 2017
Day two we were on our own. We wanted to explore the places we had enjoyed before. It was not to be. There are some beautiful spots within an easy hike from Portsmouth. None were accessible. Trees had fallen over the paths. We started toward the Indian River, where scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean had been filmed. A local guy walked with us but said the bar on the river, owned by his cousin was smashed. “No way can you make it there.” We said we would walk as far as we could. A local farmer also told us “the path is blocked, too many down trees.” He was right, we made it to Leslie's Bar, which was just a shell, not much further. Looking down the river from its mouth, we could see the striking beauty was gone. Everything stripped to the bare trunks.
As we walked around town, we met people we had known from past visits. They were keen to tell us of their stories during Maria. We patiently listened. It is something they needed to share. Still, they all were proud they survived. The attitude was of hope and strength. How can people who didn't have much to begin with be so positive when so much was taken from them. They are Dominica strong and proud.
Smitties Restaurant in town was turned into a small grocery store. We met Smitty and he remembered us with big hugs. We announced his menu on the cruiser's net to help him sell the amazing Trinidad doubles and roti he and his wife cooked. He bought his own VHF radio and we set it up for him. We explained just how he could advertise among the cruisers to get business.
Again, we were the only boat in the anchorage. Last time we were in Portsmouth, there were 200 yachts present. Our hope is that they will return to support these struggling people.
The streets of Portsmouth were still littered with storm damage. Power lines were down and we stepped over them everywhere. The main lines were restored. Some thought they would have power within the week. Crews were working on it. Piles of debris and trash were everywhere. One pile was strictly of damaged fans. There must have been a hundred of them. Why a pile of fans?
We felt like voyeurs, looking at the train wreck. But we weren't treated that way. People were most welcoming. And some we talked with knew we had brought aid. No one else comes to Dominica at this time. Lisa and I had a big bag of children's books and toys we donated to several schools.
Tired and frustrated, we returned to Uproar in the late afternoon. What else could we possibly do to help. Lisa wanted to just dig in and clean up Portsmouth. If only it was that simple.
This is a hard blog for me to write. Ti punch with 55% rum agricole helps. We know we helped with our shipment of aid. Dominicans are proud, they didn't ask for help, they were gracious to us as they have always been. They wanted to talk with us. They wanted to share. We listened.
Dominica, first Look.
10 November 2017
Boudah met us at the fishing dock. “Don't lock your dinghy, the fishermen may have to move it.” We didn't, it was sure to be there when we returned.
They met Kevin on the road to Kalinago and Laura, Nicholas and their cargo were deposited safely. Laura and Nicholas had a place to stay in Kalinago. I mentioned to them if accommodations weren't what they wanted, they were most welcome to stay on Uproar for the rest of the trip. We haven't heard from them, hope things are going well.
It was with apprehension that we toured the north end of Dominica with Boudah. We were shocked by the damage but Boudah's optimism shined through. “Everything will grow back, we are already getting trees to blossom. Ground vegetables are all OK, people will have food.” We first went to Boudah's house where his girlfriend and their daughter lived. We met Melihana when she was a year old. She is now 5 months older and quite shy around strangers. Boudah's only request was that we bring her shoes. We bought several pairs and he said they were perfect. The trees and vegetables he was growing were a shambles. But he was optimistic and working hard to get his crops growing again.
Boudah's was one of many tales of the hurricane that we have listened to. People want to talk about it. They want to share their fears, trauma and most of all survival. Boudah's house is a substantial two story concrete structure. They were upstairs until the roof blew off, they hurried downstairs but water was over the bottom step. The adjacent river Tonton had overflowed and was rushing through the first floor of the house. They huddled on the stairs all night throughout the hurricane! He said he was lucky the house wasn't completely washed away. He had replaced the roof from pieces he found around and some new panels but it still had a small leak. He felt lucky as many of his neighbors lost their houses right down to the foundation. The fact that he had no electricity didn't seem much of a concern.
Part of his roof was so twisted around one of his trees, he said there was no way it could be removed. Apparently there were tornadoes before and around the hurricane. I saw evidence of twisted off trees, something we find after Midwest hurricanes. Wherever we went, damage was the same. No areas were spared. Trees were uniformly stripped of leaves but some were budding again. It looked like the beginning of Spring after a tough Winter. Some houses seemed intact but most lost roofs. Some lost all. Boudah showed us a place where a house was swept away by a river, Five people died.
One touching scene was on a littered beach. Ten boys were cooking a meal over an open fire and sharing it. All had a dish of macaroni and local roots. They came to the van where we gave them packages with candy and small model airplanes. We had only eight but they shared. Boudah said, “They need to learn to cook so they can eat.” All had friendly smiles and were having fun. We later saw them playing basketball.
Everyone we met knew Boudah. All had smiles and optimism. But normalcy was a long way off. Boudah explained that a lot of aid was coming into Dominica. He said the Prime Minister was doing a great job getting the world to help Dominica. Aid was distributed to local ministers. There's where Boudah had disdain for the government. The local ministers were not always fair in distributing aid. Boudah said he was given nothing so far and doesn't expect he will receive any aid. He also said he was fine without.
We started the tour in early afternoon. Lisa and I had a nap in place of lunch. Later in the afternoon, I was hungry. I realized that it wasn't a bad thing to feel some hunger in light of what we were seeing. Boudah returned us to the dock after an eye opening tour. We will meet him in two days to travel to the Kalinago area. Lisa and I spent a quiet evening hardly able to talk about what we witnessed our first day on Dominica.
Dominica, Uproar doubled up with more aid and new friends.
09 November 2017
Uproar was loaded with relief supplies but we were stuck, waiting for the Luci Lights to arrive. Luci Lights are amazing LED/solar charged lights within a blow-up little globe. Imagine a small, cylindrical beach ball with bright LED's shining through. They are the modern version of the old Coleman gas lanterns. They are bright and after a day of solar they run all night.
Lisa thought they would be perfect for people who don't have electricity to get light in the dark, Caribbean nights. The Luci Light website mentioned that 39,000 of their lights had been sent as disaster relief and offered a discount for lights they would supply for relief efforts. Yes, they would offer the discount to us but we needed to buy 60 lights. Gulp, still expensive, especially with the $200 Global Priority shipping which advertised 2 to 3 day shipping to Martinique. But that was two weeks ago and still, no lights.
Don't misunderstand, we love Martinique. The waiting for the Luci Lights was frustrating but we enjoyed our stay and did a few boat projects. We had our longed-for cafe au lait and pain au chocolat for breakfast and the find French food. Lisa was reading a post on a Martinique cruiser's site that a group on Martinique wanted to find a boat going to Dominica to deliver supplies. She answered that we would be willing to help.
Laura from Art Power called. She explained that they held several concerts to raise money and had bought supplies. They had a friend in the Kalinago area of Dominica, a remote area where the last remaining descendants of the Caribe Indians lived. We agreed to deliver the supplies and she said a person or two from their group would possibly go with us. Taking passengers to a different country can be risky for a cruiser. The captain takes on some responsibilities that can carry a huge financial burden. But their cause was the same as ours. We agreed.
Luci Lights were still in limbo somewhere. We decided to leave for Dominica on Sunday, sailing through the night. Laura and Nicholas from Art Power met us at the dock in St. Anne. Nicholas is a musician and Laura a fashion designer. They were accompanied by family and friends and two loaded vans. They had 18 heavy boxes and a generator. It took 4 dinghy trips to load Uproar, already loaded with our supplies. She was sunk down past the waterline. It was a real leap of faith for Laura and Nicholas to jump on a boat with strangers to make a night, open ocean passage, 85 nautical miles to Portsmouth, Dominica.
Laura and Nicholas spoke perfect English. Both had lived in Paris for awhile and Laura lived in London as well. They are about the age of our children. We were delighted to have them join us. Laura was most gracious when she became a little seasick. She did not blame my duck curry! Nicholas brought a guitar and played blues, reggae and jazz by the full moonlight. Wind was light at times in the lee of Martinique but blew steadily for most of the passage. Waves were quite low and Uproar even hit 8 knots at times, in spite of her heavy load.
Lights from most islands can be seen for 30 or 40 miles. Dominica remained dark. Scotts Head light house was flashing brightly. Ten miles out we were able to see the dark outlines of Dominnca's towering mountains. But there were no lights on shore. We expected things to be dark with no power but the island had an ominous air in the moonlit shadows.
We slowed Uproar the last few hours to arrive just after dawn. Portsmouth had a few lights but the town was quiet. Laura and I were nearly in tears when the dawn light revealed the destroyed forest. We expected to see this but were not ready for the full impact. Houses and villages hidden by trees were starkly visible and so was the damage to most buildings.
Customs was a breeze and our Dominican friend, Boudah, met us at the customs dock. Laura and Nicholas had arranged with their friend, Kevin to meet us there too. But he had not yet arrived. We were instructed that all aid must be unloaded at the customs dock. We returned to Uproar by dinghy, pulled anchor and proceeded to the customs dock. Boudah and his brother Andrew brought their trucks right to Uproar. It took almost an hour to unload the aid supplies. Laura and Nicholas were at a loss about Kevin. They didn't know Boudah and loading their precious cargo in his van was a concern. No problem, Boudah said he would take them and their cargo to the Kalinago area, where Kevin lived. He would call us when he got back to Portsmouth.
Lisa and I took a two hour nap, waiting for Boudah to return.
28 October 2017
Carriacou was not ready to let us go. We fueled Uproar at the Carriacou Marine Ltd in Tyrrel Bay. On our way in our 8 foot keel scraped bottom. On our way out, we plowed with full power for about 100 feet. But we made it. Tyrrel Bay did not want to let us go and we didn't want to leave either.
I describe Carriacou as our home port in the Caribbean. This island has a draw stronger than any other as a place comfortable and familiar to us. Our first time in T Bay was about 1 ½ years ago. The cruiser's net mentioned noodle-water aerobics on the beach that Monday morning. Lisa and I attended for a great workout and to meet new friends. By Thursday, there was a birthday party at Iguanas for Joanne on “Out of Africa.” Forty people attended and by the end of the evening we knew everyone's name. John from “Out of Africa” is the most gregarious person I know. You can't stand next to John without him introducing you to everyone within his loud, South African voice. We soon knew most of the cruisers in the bay. These friends have formed a core group of cruisers we meet throughout the Caribbean.
Our friends organized hikes, swims, snorkeling and the famous Miss Lucky's bar and grill Saturday nights. Carriacou is a small island, 12 square miles and 7,000 people. There is a useful and colorful bus system we used frequently (about $.80/ride). We really got to know this place. The geography of this island is amazingly diverse. It is not tall enough to have true rain forest but there are plenty of wooded areas. Beaches range from pink sand to black sand on the volcanic Atlantic shore. Cattle graze on several prairies with scrub trees and goats, sheep and chickens roam freely everywhere. There is even a herd of donkeys near the dump. We saw all of this on foot or bike.
Carriacou is my favorite biking island. When Lisa was visiting the US or Bahamas, I stayed on Carriacou to pull Uproar for bottom painting (twice). I rode my bike every day, all over the island. Roads are OK for biking and drivers are few and courteous. Mini-marts are just an open room in houses found in every neighborhood. I would often stop for a cold drink and chat. Views from the top ridge of Carriacou are spectacular. I got quite a workout climbing the highest hills, about 900 ft.
There is history here too. A dramatic documentary, “Vanishing Sail” chronicles the building of a Carriacou Sloop in Windward, a village on the Atlantic side of the island. Scottish fishermen settled there over 200 years ago and their descendants continue the boat building tradition. You can tell a Windward resident at sight. They are black with mischievous green eyes. They are pleased to show you their boat building projects and even share their bottle of rum. We were treated to watching six Carriacou Sloops race in a class of their own at Antigua Classics Week. These boats are deceptively fast!
The local people really tip the scales for Carriacou. They are the most welcoming and caring you will find everywhere. Everyone says “hello” or “good day” on the street but it seldom stops with just a greeting. Often a short conversation follows. They get to know you and you get to know them. I can't walk down the street or ride my bike without being greeted by someone I know. Strangely they don't know my name but call me Uproar. I love it!
We made a point of being on island for the Carriacou Regatta. There were activities everywhere, on and off the water. The highlight was the local boat racing. Some were traditional fishing boats under sail and some were extreme, open race boats with five crew on trapeze. We were able to race Uproar in the Cruising Fleet and won all three races, both years. That was fun! It was an opportunity to turn our home back into a race boat and press our cruising friends into a crack race team! After-race parties remain a blurrr.
This blog is a bit difficult for me to write. We will not return to Carriacou for many years, if at all. Our path now turns West toward the South Pacific. What is even more difficult was saying goodby to our cruising friends. Devin and Liz from “Moosetracks” are the cruising ambassadors of Tyrrel Bay. They run the cruiser's net in the mornings, noodle-water aerobics and organize hikes. Liz organizes the Saturday children's swimming lessons with Dianne from Lumbadive. Devin “I'm not a racer, I'm, a lover” declined to crew in our first Carriacou Regatta. He converted and became a valued crew during Antigua Race Week and brought a new “UP-ROAR” cheer to our team. The second Carriacou Regatta he was all in!
We make fast friends with other cruisers, sometimes deep friendships. Goodbyes are short and often wrenching. Somehow, somewhere we know our wakes will cross again.
Larry's Grenada Uproar Cruise
14 October 2017
Larry Fortress is my best friend from college, room mate, fraternity brother, little brother and craft beer drinking buddy. Now we can add shipmate to the list. Larry may be a dirt dweller but he adapted fine to life afloat. He even skippered Uproar over 10 miles of open ocean passage, north of Grenada.
“Hey, this is fun, handles like a sports car.” said Larry at the wheel. We normally press the “auto” button and Uproar steers herself but Larry wanted to make the passage like a real sailor. We sailed north of Grenada to Ronde Island, anchored for the night and sailed back. The guide book said about 20 people live on this island. Fortunately, two of them approached us with big lobsters for sale. They were at a good price and tasted even better.
We snorkeled at Ronde Island and the Grenada underwater statue park. We rounded the airport end of the island twice and caught a pair of Jacks each time. They provided more fish than we could eat but we did our best. Grenada Roti, Callalou and pumpkin were culinary delights Larry sampled for the first time, as well as a variety of fruits Cutty harvested on our island tour.
Cutty is a driver/tour guide that will show you and teach you as much about Grenada as possible in a single day. Lisa has had the tour 3 times and this tour was my second. The tour included swimming at a waterfall, sampling a bit of most foods that grow on the island, River Antoine Rum Distillery, nutmeg processing plant and vistas and beaches we never get tired of. We even caught up with a former Prime Minister, Tillman Thomas, in his driveway and had a 10 minute chat. His friendly dog was his only “secret service” agent. Tillman Thomas was imprisoned during the 1983 invasion and was liberated by US forces.
A big shock to us all is the River Rum Distillery. This plant has been in operation for hundreds of years and I would add without a maintenance shutdown! They still use the oldest waterwheel in the western hemisphere to crush cane, fed into the rollers by hand. Their pot stills would make a moonshiner green with envy, almost as green as the sugar cane sludge that is fermented and distilled in them. The end product has all of the character of the distillery. It couldn't be more rough and strong! We all took a sample and did not go back for seconds! They could care less, they sell every bottle they can produce right in Grenada.
Twice we found ourselves drawn to the Grenada Brewing Company. Craft beer is as rare as tender beef in the Caribbean! The GBC did not disappoint. They had live music and darts to keep us occupied. Felt like old times that Larry and I shared at his favorite haunts in Indy.
Weather was pretty good while Larry was with us but the anchorages were ridiculously rolly for 4 of the nights. Lisa and I did our best to find quiet spots but had some uncomfortable nights. It is seldom like this, Larry. But you put up with the Uproar dance just fine.
The last thing I heard from my fraternity bro Larry as his cab pulled away for the airport was, “Thank you sir, may I please have another?” Sure thing, Larry, you are welcome back aboard Uproar any time.
12 October 2017
Oh Dominica. This island is the most unexploited island in the Caribbean from what we've seen.
Between the tropical rain forest, waterfalls and trails, it is the most beautiful. We loved the time
we spent there. The islanders don't have much in terms of materials things. They don't need
things. They have a richness in their lives that can only be explained by the beauty that
surrounds them. Boudah is a tour guide we met on a couple of occasions. He is a botanist and
healer. He said if you go to bed hungry on Dominica you are stupid. There is always something
in season to eat. Growing on his property alone was, cocoa, coffee, soursop, papaya, pineapple
and many other things I don't even remember. The abundance was pretty spectacular.
The devastation caused by Harvey, then Irma and finally Marie in a single season to the
Caribbean was unprecedented in our lifetime. As each of these hurricanes spun through, there
was a distinct quietness in the cruising community as everyone was waiting to hear news of
people they knew. As Marie made its way through Dominica all I could think of was the
destruction it was bringing to the people and their island.
Dominica has to basically start over. From housing to farming, nothing was left undamaged.
Houses are in ruins and the crops have been wiped out.
As major governments were bringing aid to their own protectorates, a big concern for many was
Dominica. They don't have a protector. They broke from the in UK in the 70s and are completely
independent. It was heartening to see how many people were thinking along the same lines.
While Dominica doesn't have a big brother, they have many friends.
One such friend was the Flying Buzzard and the people who organized aid from the
communities on the islands of Grenada, St Lucia and Antigua. It's not government sponsored.
Mike and Jules on the Flying Buzzard offered the services of their boat and crew if the
communities could fill it they would deliver the aid. They've done just that and as of this writing
they are heading to back to Grenada to pick up another load which they will deliver. They've
also delivered Medics and native Dominicans who were struggling to get home to help their
I spent 3 days with the Buzzard loading the cargo holds. Met an amazing group of people. It
was a heart warming experience. We packed 30 tons of cargo onto the boat. They've delivered
that cargo and are coming back (after rounding up stores from St. Lucia and Antigua) to
Grenada for round 2. Uproar will heading north before they arrive back in Grenada, but we still
feel the need and want to help.
Thanks to many MAST (Milwaukee sailing group) friends we've collected close to $1,000 USD
to purchase materials needed in Dominica. The items will range from building materials to food
and cleaning supplies. We are planning to head to Portsmouth (the main town at the north end
of the island) and drop off supplies. The supplies will be for whoever needs them but we hope to
connect with Boudah and bring him some items he needs to rebuild his life for him and his
family. And so he can share the beauty of Dominica once again.