Sunday, January 22, 2012

Getting Down in Dominica

It was a short sail from Anse D’Arlet in the south of Martinique to St Pierre in the north. Dolphins were leaping out of the water, the first we have seen this year. We stayed the night at St Pierre in the lee of the grand volcanic Mont Pelee and had an early start the following morning for the 60 or so miles to north end of Dominica; the first glimpses of sun shining through the clouds like a burning inferno. Sam and Jon from Imagine and Steve from Meteor were still with us. We had an absolutely stonking sail, steaming along at well over 7kts for some of the way with two reefs in the main and half a headsail out. It was windy enough that we managed to sail up the entire coast that we would normally have to motor due to the hilly landscape which blocks the wind. We arrived that afternoon and dropped anchor in large protected bay of Portsmouth, Dominica.

The following morning we all traipsed ashore to clear in through the one street town of Portsmouth. Small rickety bamboo huts and neatly kept dilapidated wooden houses with faded peeling paint and pretty little gardens line the streets. Dogs and chickens roam free. The roads are dusty and potholed. But fruit trees and palm trees grow in abundance giving the appearance of paradise, hidden behind the scattered rubbish. The town is vibrantly shabby, it is very poor but it is hard not to like. Loud music blasts out of properties and cars alike and small buses whiz past carrying people back and forth. The water supply is a communal tap on the roadside, where we too may get water for free. Rasta’s with the most elaborate hair sit on walls in small groups smoking. Everyone is friendly and welcoming although the attacks on yachies in years gone by are always at the back of our minds. This is a place that has not yet been touched by McDonlads or KFC, there are no big supermarkets or hotels. But I am sure it won’t be long before all that changes.

We stroll along in the morning heat, a couple of miles to the customs and immigration buildings to clear in. We have a roti (curry filled wrap) for lunch in a small roadside snack shop and stop for a beer on the way back at “Big Papas” where we had left our dinghies at the rickety and ominous looking dinghy dock. Big Papa was there (easily recognizable by his size) and is not feeling well from a late night the night before. To one side of the bar is a fabulous construction of bamboo and tarpaulin set up in a tree like a giant tree house only in the shape of a boat. It looks like a family live there with semi naked children running about. It’s ingenious but I wonder how long will it stand faced with any sort of bad weather?

Sim and I went for a walk across the small peninsula dividing this bay and the bay to the north of us. We picked up a trail that led us along the edge of derelict beach and then inland through marshy woodland and back to the bay where Alianna is anchored. Dominica has well kept and well marked trails (funded from the EU and Martinique) that cover many miles, all the way across the island, that can only be accessed by horse or by foot. They lead through some of the best examples of rain forest in the Caribbean. I look forward to exploring some more.

1 comment:

  1. Apparently there is a Supermarket.
    This from Dave Ball - To get to the IGA in Dominica, walk past customs and follow the road out to the main road. Take a right and walk about 100 meters and the IGA is on the right (it is in the 'basement' of the newly constructed building. Yes, Carib is $61 a case (cans) plus abt $5EC in VAT.