Sitting in Sea Bear at anchor off Roseau, Dominica, she is rocking gently and there are sounds of reggae music drifting out to us across the water. I’ve just finished a G&T after dinner. We made a good passage from St Pierre, Martinique. I left with just the faintest glimmer of dawn light in the sky to make sure of getting to Dominica before dark, but we had a really fast passage. Mostly the wind between 15 & 17 knots on the beam, conditions Sea Bear seems to really like, all plain sail set until we took a reef in the main when some gusts pushed 20 knots. For the first time since leaving UK the log was showing an average speed of over 5 knots , in fact 5.5 at one point so we did the passage of 38 n miles in 8 hours, I was really pleased with that.
After anchoring I dinghied ashore and walked to customs to do the paperwork. Quite painless and quick and I liked the clearance document they gave me:
“Commonwealth of Dominica, port of Roseau. This is to certify to all whom it doth concern that Chris Ayres, Master and Commander of Sea Bear burden of 5.89 tons, GRP built and bound for Les Saintes, Guadeloupe having on board ships stores hath here entered and cleared his said vessel according to law.”
After clearance I wandered around town a bit, very different to Martinique, which is very French. This is very, well, Dominican and in a way kinda much more of what you suspect the Caribbean to be like if you have never been. Instead of French supermarkets and boulangeries and cafes, there are little grocery stores, all sorts of little shacks and shops, roads with big open gutters, pavements which well are broken and uneven and all different materials. Its more like life in the raw.
The island is more mountainous too with lusher vegetation, its all a riot of colour too, greens of the trees & vegetation and brightly painted houses and shacks. There were clouds over the mountains and rain showers and beautiful rainbows over the tropical forests.
The people are different too, there are more guys with dreadlocks for instance and it helps that English is the language.
Decided would be a pity not to see some of the interior of Dominica so hailed Pancho as he went past this morning, he is one of the good “boat boys” and asked about organising a trip in. As it happened, two other couples, one French Canadian the other English were about to go and could do with another person to make up the numbers, so I hopped aboard Pancho’s boat and off we went. Anyway all aboard a minibus and off, lovely drive up into the mountains, first to a waterfall in the national park, in steep tropical forest in the mountains and we bathed in the pool under the falls, then another waterfall and pool, both a bit of walking through the forest which is quite incredible. A spot of lunch at a roadside eating spot , baked chicken drumsticks and fried plantain, then to a beach at Soufriere. Here volcanic gases bubble up through the sand and heat up the sand and the water, hence bubble beach. Ooh and I saw pelicans too for the first time in the wild.
Now at Portsmouth, Dominica, anchored in Prince Ruperts bay. I had hoped to see whales today as they are supposed to like this coast but no luck. Had read bad things about the Portsmouth boat boys but they were good, they have formed an organisation and seem a nice bunch of guys. Always very polite, friendly and helpful, very careful not to bang their boats into yours. I bought some of the sweetest juiciest grapefruits that I have ever had from Christian in his little rowing boat, very welcome after a hot sail up the coast.
Well I might have said that the Martiniques know how to party, can only say Dominicans do it more so.! Music drifting out over the bay all night till about 7 this morning, and carnival not started yet, starts Sunday apparently, guess they were just having a Friday night warm up!
Took a trip up the Indian river this morning, by rowing boat, only those allowed, no outboards etc, cos its a national park site. Thick with jungle type trees and coconut palms and lianas. Its where they filmed parts of Pirates of the Caribbean, when they went up the river into the jungle, was a good little trip. Shared a boat with the English couple and their two kids who I meet the other day and went to the waterfalls etc with.
In the evening the Portsmouth boat boys aka PAYS put on a beach barbecue for all the sailors, plenty of rum punch, chicken legs, grilled fish, rice and salad and of course loud reggae music.
Carnival starts, the small town of Portsmouth was packed with crowds lining the streets, music blaring out and beer and punch drinking and then came along the procession. The biggest loudest sound systems I have ever see or heard, dancing girls, beauty queens, stilt walkers and then a band . There was dancing in the street, people having fun, all rather wonderful.
I will leave in the morning to cross the Dominican channel bound for Les Saints and Guadeloupe.