We had a great trade winds sail down to Dominica – the wind just forward of the beam at a steady 15-20 knots. Despite some big swells (2-3m perhaps) and the odd big gust (30kts) as we passed the top of Dominica, this was lovely fast sailing and we reached our destination in under three and a half hours.
You can’t get a bigger contrast between islands here than that you experience in sailing for just 20 miles from Guadeloupe to Dominica. The French islands are really quite sophisticated and “first world”, whereas Dominica is poor, much neglected in the past by its British colonial masters and definitely more “third world” in feel. The plus is that here you see what the Caribbean used to look like (the saying is that it is the only island Columbus would still recognise). The landscape is mountainous, cut by many ravines and rivers and densely covered in rain forest. It’s unchanged because it was not a great spot for sugar cane cultivation and today it’s main agricultural products are bananas and coconuts. Eco tourism is one of its main hopes for any prosperity and the government of this little country of about 75,000 seems to be doing a good job of protecting the environment.
A wet heron on the Indian River:
We did our bit of eco tourism early this morning when we took the local tour up the Indian River. This flows into the bay where we are anchored near the town of Portsmouth. We were rowed upriver for 45 minutes by one of the local guides who also “meet and greet” every boat which enters the bay and offer all sorts of services to yachties. We glided slowly along as the river narrowed and the huge bwa mang trees or swamp bloodwoods create a sort of green tunnel effect above you. They have huge and amazingly sculptural buttressed roots which stretch along the shore and into the water in wavy, twisting designs. We saw land crabs, herons and a kingfisher and also saw how fast the fallen coconuts sprout and start a new tree. Dominica was the location for many of the scenes in “Pirates of the Caribbean” 2 and 3 and one of the scenes was filmed in a spot we passed as travelled along the river. The turn around point of the trip was at a very atmospheric jungle bar. We had chosen an early time because it meant we had the river to ourselves and could hear the birdsong but the downside was that it was too early for a drink in the bar and a chance to try it’s “dynamite” rum punch.
Indian River vegetation:
After a wet arrival here yesterday and a wet start this morning, the island showed us its better side later today and the sunset from a beach bar looking out on our anchorage was a Caribbean beauty. Tomorrow we are moving on to the island’s capital, Roseau, further down the coast. We will pop into Portsmouth first to shop for fruit and vegetables in the Saturday market. We have been told that Dominica grows some of the best local produce and supplies the French islands, which otherwise import their fruit and veg all the way from the mother country!