Blog update 23rd March 2011

Brian & Loretto Linehan
Wed 23 Mar 2011 20:55
Hello all!

Yes it is just over a week since my last update so don’t just sit there in
shock - read on.

After the rubgy in Marigot we headed for Martinique. Our first stop was
Marin at the bottom of the island. We dropped the anchor and stayed there
for five nights as the weather was not great. Plenty of schooling but no
internet on board which was not good at all. Unfortunately St Patrick’s
day was a non-event. No Irish bar here that we could find. So on the
Friday we left there and went around the corner to Fort de France. This,
thankfully, had internet. Provisioning was the first priority so up to
Carrefour with us and return to the boat laden down with cheese and wine
(well what else do you expect when shopping in “France”!). Saturday was
rugby day and we had located an hotel bar where they would show the match.
Unfortunately Martinique gets its television transmission from France and
takes it on a delayed transmission - so what Monsieur and Madame saw at
9am in France, Monsieur and Madam in Martinique saw the same at 9am
Martinique time - delayed transmission. So instead of watching the rugby
live at 2pm Martinique time (6pm French time) we had to wait until 6pm
Martinique time to see it and, of course, we knew the result by then. But
we did watch it and enjoyed it thoroughly. Unfortunately the French tv
dub down the referee’s comments and the roar of the crowd and you have two
commentators constantly rabbitting on in French so the real excitement of
the day was slightly lost. But it was good to see the victory. Sunday
saw us say adieu to Martinique and we headed north.

We are now in Roseau which is the capital of Dominica. Discovered by
Christopher Columbus on a Sunday, which explains the name, it was never
came under Spanish control. Later in the 17th century France decided they
would like to control it as it lay between their two other colonies
Martinique and Guadeloupe. For the exact same reasons the English decided
they would like to govern it so the usual story unfolded with the two
countries battling over this beautiful island like all others in the
island chain. At first the native Caribs were triumphant in driving the
invaders out but soon the French became the victors. Although the Treaty
of Versailles declared Dominica as English in 1783 the French held on
until 1805 leaving an inheritance of place names and an influence on the
local dialect. The defeated Caribs were sent to live on a reserve on the
west coast. Today there are about 3,000 native Caribs still around but
only about a few hundred are of pure stock as there was a lot of mingling
with the slave population over the years. Full independence in 1978 was
followed by the usual political infighting but then nature conspired to
devastate the island in the form of Hurricane David in 1979 which hit the
island head on. The country slowly recovered but it is still very poor.

The majority of the island is just wild rainforest. There is a push to
encourage eco tourism but the majority of visitors land from the frequent
cruise ships which dock at Roseau. Roseau itself is an interesting
capital. We just had a brief walk around - it is very colorful with the
contrast between the local ladies in the market place selling clothes,
baskets and trinkets and then down the road is the old fort, For Young,
which has now been converted to a really lovely luxury hotel with its own
small mall of duty free shops, mainly jewellery. The town is very vibrant
with a lot going on, especially on cruise ship days.

We arrived on Sunday evening. Sailing up from Martinique, Brian would
tell you it was a lovely sail - up to 25 knots of wind. My stomach tells
another story but towards the end as we approached Dominica we all enjoyed
the fresh wind and beautiful sea. Dominica has seven potentially active
volcanos and the scenery is absolutely dramatic. It is said that when
Columbus tried to describe the island to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella
of Spain he resorted to crumpling up some paper to show the dramatic form
of the island to try to describe the craggy mountains, steep gorges with
its lush vegetation. It really is stunningly beautiful.

On arrival in Roseau we called up Pancho who provides various yacht and
tourist services. He directed us to a mooring buoy and we settled in for
the night. The next day we went on a tour organized by Pancho. Our tour
guide was Mr Jones who provided a really good educational tour - as we
drove along the very windy roads he would suddenly stop and point out
avocado trees, grapefruit trees, ginger plants, cinnamon trees, bay leaf
trees, coffee plants and cocoa plants. He picked some of the bay leaves
and the coffee beans to show us. We visited Trafalgar Falls - an
absolutely thunderous waterfall with cold streams running almost alongside
hot springs from the centre of the mountain - seriously one hand in the
cold water and one in the hot water. We scrambled over huge rocks to the
edge of the river - Jack particularly liked that part.

The interior of the island has been described as like the Garden of Eden -
apparently prior to translating the bible for King James the gentleman
concerned visited Dominica and was so taken with it that some of the
descriptions of Eden in the King James Bible sound remarkably like
Dominica. It has, they say, 365 rivers, lush green rainforest, vines,
shrubs, wonderful plants, trees and wildlife - birds, insects, two species
of snake (boa constrictor being one of them), colorful butterflies and
flowers that abound with luscious vibrant colour and smells. There is
even a cannonball tree - the fruit are shaped like so and are said to
smell like sh*t! Handy for throwing at the enemy!

Well we had a fantastic day and I can easily say that I would recommend
visiting Dominica to everyone. Again words fail me to describe how
beautiful it is - if you get the chance to come here - take it.

The anchorage, unfortunately, was very, very rolly and so on Tuesday,
22nd, we headed up the coast to Portsmouth. This town was supposed
originally to be the capital of Dominica but due to a nearby swamp, the
mosquito and yellow fever it was deemed not suitable - surprise surprise.
Nowadays there are no health issues and it is a really nice wide bay to
stay in. Not rolly at all (yet!) The two highest mountains are here
side by side and the wind was whistling down through the gap at a rate of
20 to 25 knots. But the boat only swayed a little side to side. The town
itself is a bit of a disappointment. The view from the bay is lovely but
ashore not so nice. When I say “not nice” I don’t mean it’s ugly but just
very run down. There are shops - grocers, clothes etc. and the usual bank
and police station but the houses are run down and there is obviously not
a lot of money around. But then again the people are very friendly and at
no time did you feel threatened as we walked around.

We met up with “Rosita” - Penny and Charles, whom we had met in Grenada at
Clarkes Court Marina and Le Phare Bleu. Charles and Brian had a good
“manly” chat about the rugby and cricket and Ireland’s winning form. We
hope to meet up with them when we go to Guadeloupe as we are all heading
the same way. We also made friends with “Crazy Goose” - Philip, Sophie,
Justine (14 yrs) and Arthur (13yrs), from Belgium, who are on a couple of
years off as well. The kids got together on Asteroid and spent the
afternoon playing the WII!

Tomorrow we will probably leave here and head for Iles des Saintes at the
bottom of Guadeloupe. So the adventure continues! Remember to check for the visual diary.