25th – 29th March ~ Dominica
We left Saint-Pierre, Martinique in the early morning to sail to Roseau, Dominica and had one of the best sails of the year so far! It was approximately 44 miles and we averaged 6.2knots, taking nearly 6 hours to arrive! It was exhilarating to say the least and because of Musetta’s clean ‘bottom’ we flew, very satisfying as we overtook boat after boat ‘en route’!!
Later as we checked in, we met the owners of one of the boats we had passed, who mentioned the fact that we had shown them a ‘clean pair of heels’!
Sailing north to Roseau!
Hmm, not that we race but very nice to have others recognise that Musetta was sailing well!!
Arrival at Roseau!
As we approached the anchorage we were were met by a boatman, who led us to a mooring buoy. Brian, with is huge smile and great welcome, couldn’t have been more helpful.
He returned after a while to take us to ‘Clear in and out’ of the island in the Immigration offices at the Cruise liner dock in the town of Roseau, Dominica’s capital. Quite amusing really as we paid the authorities $13 East Caribbean in cash but noted later that the official receipt said $8??!! Beer money we thought…!!
Later when we had put our dinghy in the water we went ashore and walked along the main road into Roseau again amid the ramshackle buildings and unbelievable mesh of wires dangling from the lamp posts!
We decided that even though there was enormous damage from Hurricane Maria, the wiring probably wasn’t much different from before!!
However, what was patently obvious was that most of the population lived in sub-standard dwellings while the people in power lived very well indeed. For instance Government House standing in beautifully manicured gardens compared with the scene in the photo of the main road! Our tour guide the following day
was quick to point this out as he drove us through the capital? He was equally quick to tell us that there were elections coming up and that there would be a change coming!! Let’s hope that the aid money will be distributed to where it is needed the most?
As someone who has lived in Africa I recognise this to be the norm in these sort of societies.
Having noted all this though, the people seemed to be happy, they were definitely the most effusive in welcoming us to their island, which they described as paradise! We soon came to understand that Dominica is truly a paradise!
Heliconia ~ Bird of Paradise flower of the rain forest!
The Commonwealth of Dominica!
The first settlers on Dominica were French. Their woodcutters harvested trees from the timber rich lush rain forests to supply the neighbouring islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe. In doing so they brought in the enslaved Africans from West Africa?! As so often is the case history shows us that the island changed ‘ownership’ between the British and the French several times in it’s formative years, however, this was ended by the treaty of Paris in 1783 which returned the island to British control.
Dominica is one of the Caribbean’s few Republics and unlike other former British colonies, Dominica was never a Commonwealth realm. It became an independent nation in 1978, and is a parliamentary democracy within the Commonwealth of Nations.
The flag was commissioned in 1978 and designed by a playwright, Alwin Bully. All parts of the flag are representative of the country, the green indicates the lush vegetation of the island, the cross represents the trinity and christianity and the 10 green five-pointed stars in the red disc in the centre stand for the country’s 10 parishes! The red disc stands for justice.
The Sisserou parrot in the centre of the flag is a protected and rare native species only found in Dominica and is the national bird! It can be blue but more usually purple, and this purple colour in the flag makes it one of only two flags of sovereign states, the other being Nicaragua, using the colour. Unfortunately we didn’t manage to see one during our stay on the island.
Dominica ~ Hurricanes!
Unfortunately for Dominica it’s position in the Caribbean Sea means that it is especially vulnerable to hurricanes, recent ones being Hurricane David in 1979, a category 5 which caused immense damage, including the squashing of this school bus in the Tropical gardens!
A school bus squashed by a fallen tree!
In September 2017 Hurricane Maria, category 8 destroyed vast swathes of Dominica and it is taking the island a long time to recover. There was once a cruise liner dock at the bottom of Fort Shirley but it was totally broken away. Fallen trees are now being used to rebuild it and hopefully it will soon be restored!
Severely damaged trees being used to restore the Cruise Liner Dock
26th March ~ Tour of the Morne Trois Pitons National Park
Our boatman, Brian had arranged for us to go on a tour of the island and so he collected us in the morning and took us to meet our tour guide for the day, Jones who proved to be an excellent guide and explained the history of the island and it’s stunning natural environment superbly well.
He explained that Dominica is mostly covered by rainforest with many waterfalls, hot springs and rivers!
We climbed up and up to the Middleham Falls which are in the beautiful rainforest of Morne Trois Pitons National Park, designated a World Heritage site in 1995 a distinction it shares with St Lucia, St Kitts, the Dominican Republic and Cuba!
On the way up we came across some very exotic plants including the Bird of Paradise flower! Also the Ginger Lily and the Orchid, one very striking with it’s vivid colouring, the other extremely delicate in it’s form which made it so attractive!
The Ginger Lily and the Orchid
The rainforest in Dominica has been the setting for novelists and film makers too. The most notable film being The Pirates of the Caribbean! The photo is of the actual tree where Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) hid! You might just spot Alan hiding in the buttresses of this most impressive Acajou (Mahogany) tree!
As for novelists, the famous Jean Rhys was born and raised in Dominica, the island being depicted in her best known book, Wide Sargasso Sea!
Pirates of the Caribbean ~ Wide Sargasso Sea!
On we went until finally we arrived at the Middleham Falls! They were absolutely spectacular!
Another group joined us at the viewing platform, three of them from the Dutch registered boat moored next to us! They proved to be either mad or intrepid!! Here they are tackling the Falls!
Our crazy fellow sailors!!
The Ti Tou Gorge!
Our next stop was the Ti Tou Gorge, also part of the Morne Trois Pitons National Park. We swam through this very narrow gorge with the light filtering down into the water through the high cliffs! Then, with the help of a guide and the water thundering down on our heads we climbed round the back of the waterfall into the foaming water of the pool and were then ‘spat’ out at the other side!! This was so exhilarating, I loved it!
The Entrance, Inside and the Waterfall at the end of the Gorge!! Thrilling!
The Trafalgar Falls!
Our final stop of the day was to go up to the Trafalgar falls and down to the Sulphur Springs. The falls were incredible! Two falls in fact, referred to locally as the ‘Father’ fall 125ft and the ‘Mother’ fall which is 75ft!
As they fell they scoured the earth and produced a bright orange sulphur mud over the rocks!?
Our mad Dutch friends climbed up to a pool at the bottom of the fall and then plastered themselves with the orange ‘mud’ supposedly with excellent qualities for the skin!!
A little further down the rocks there was a spout of water emerging which was hot!! Those of us who didn’t go to the higher level sampled this hot water, me included! We indulged in the orange sulphur mud and then discovered to our horror that it was pretty difficult to get out of our clothing, but our skin felt wonderful!!
Our Dutch friends entering into the spirit of the Falls!
What a day we had had!
We just seemed to come across more and more amazing natural phenomena so that when we had finished our heads were buzzing with it all.
I had taken some photos of the Dutch fellows and we had arranged at lunchtime that they would come over to Musetta for an aperitif so that we could airdrop the photos to them. They duly arrived and as usual had a very pleasant hour or so swapping sailing experiences as well as the photos!!
27th March ~ Portsmouth, Dominica
We sailed up to Portsmouth Prince Rupert Bay and spent two nights here enjoying the view!
We were met by ‘Friday’, another most welcoming boatman ushering us to a buoy. We discovered that the buoys are maintained by PAYS, The Portsmouth Association of Yacht Services. Nothing was too much trouble for Friday who took us ashore to pay for our two nights and to tell us about that evening’s barbecue which we duly signed up for!
28th March ~ Fort Shirley!
We had booked to go on a late afternoon Indian River trip which gave us time to check out Fort Shirley which is atop the Cabrits Headland!
The British undertook most of the construction of the fort but the French made additions to it during their occupation of the island in the late 1700s.
The fort occupies a very advantageous position on top of the Cabrits headland at the north end of the bay at Portsmouth and has been very successful as a deterrent to attack, especially from the French invasions of Dominica in 1795 and 1805. One of the most important naval battles in the Caribbean, the Battle of the Saints in 1782 was fought within sight of its ramparts.
With the end of hostilities between Britain and France, the fort became obsolete and was finally abandoned in 1854. It remained in the hands of the British admiralty until 1901 when it was transferred to the government of Dominica.
Of course if something is left untended it soon falls into disrepair? With the fertile growing conditions of the climate, the fort was rapidly being consumed by the forests but from 1982 a Dominican historian and anthropologist, Dr. Lennox Honychurch, has devoted much time and effort in restoring sections of Fort Shirley. and his efforts are plain to see.
Hurricane damage provides a rich source of materials to help with the restoration! We came across one of the artisan carpenters while we were looking around the fort who told us that he had been working there for 30 years and was still hard at it!!
This is a section of the native mahogany species Acajou, cut from a fallen tree!
It is amazing how resilient these people are! They have been dealt a terrible blow which has destroyed their homes but they are some of the sunniest natured people we have met!
The Indian River ~ a late afternoon expedition!
One of these happy, smiley people was Ken our guide for this outing!
The trip up the river was only a mile but it had to be rowed with great care by Ken! He turned off the engine (no motoring is allowed) as soon as we entered the river and the silence was then almost deafening! The scenery was stunning and the wildlife too!
A frog lurking in the roots of the trees and two kinds of heron!
The river was completely bewitching and with the evening light coming in gave it an even more special feel! At the top of the trip we came to the famous Bush bar where they serve an equally famous rum punch named Dynamite!!
The Bush Bar and the landing stage!
Sadly the river trip soon finished and Ken rowed us back to the start where the river opens into the sea. The deafening silence I described earlier was then replaced by a cacophony of bird calls as they returned home to roost at sunset, the noisiest of all seemed to be the white herons! Just as we got back to where we started the sun decided to descend over the horizon with spectacular brilliance!
All good things come to an end at some point! We had absolutely LOVED Dominica and our stay was over all too soon, it is a truly beautiful island!
On we go – north bound up the Leeward Islands!….