15 34 700N 61 27 100W
It was a lively sail to Dominica, only 20 miles with the island clearly in sight from Isles des Saintes, but nonetheless challenging conditions with gusty wind and a strong sea running. As we got closer to the north coast of Dominica we remembered the wind acceleration zone from our journey north through the islands, and after putting two reefs in the main sail we quickly decided to add a third with a short period of 35+ knots of apparent wind across the deck. The jib sail performed brilliantly and we had a fast comfortable sail. Approaching Prince Rupert Bay was ‘interesting’ as strong gusts shot like bullets off the hills and Joy healed and squealed her way with me on the helm and Jez releasing the sheet on the main sail to de-power it when needed to avoid total knockdown! The welcoming boat boy, Titus, in a boat called Lawrence of Arabia chose a rather awkward moment to come along side and introduce himself as we roared in on our ear fighting the helm. Made the old heart beat I can tell you, oh and we had regatta race boats to avoid too that were coming at us from all directions. The bay is huge, we chose the northern part to anchor as this is within the PAYS scheme, a security co-operative where members take you on trips, patrol the anchorage and generally look after you. They are trained guides and often have land taxis as well as boats, and they have made the whole area a much safer place to visit. We decided on a trip up the Indian River, no motors are allowed past the bridge at the river mouth so we were picked up from our boat at 8am by Lawrence in ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ and once at the bridge the motor came up and he rowed us.
The windy river is stunning and peaceful apart from the birds calling, and full of wildlife as the area is protected. We chose an early trip for two reasons, you get to see more wildlife apparently and less tourists, a win-win situation. A scene shot for Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed here, and Calypso’s tavern in a small offshoot of the river is still here to see although I think it may have been rebuilt.
Large blood trees 200 years old overhang the narrow river with huge twisted roots entangled along the banks, full of crabs of all sizes in every hidey hole.
Green backed herons were spotted, Lawrence pointed out a young bird on the way up the river and then on the way back in a tree he spotted two more babies sitting on a branch next to their nest, waiting for mum to come back with their breakfast!
Our river trip stopped at a lovely tavern tucked away amongst beautiful shrubs and trees, apparently they do a mean rum punch called Dynamite but unfortunately they weren’t open yet so we just explored their gardens full of hummingbirds and insects.
This is a Bananaquit, a Honeycreeper, very vocal with a short ticking alarm note. Quite partial to nectar and small insects as well as the juices of banana and mango. The hummingbirds were just too quick for me to photograph whereas these birds were plentiful and more than happy to sit still for a second or two.
The Indian River gets its name from the Indian Caribs who once populated Dominica as this river was their main ‘highway’ to the sea. Out of the 365 rivers here on Dominica, only a few are navigable and this river is one of the largest although it is still very shallow in areas, salt water fish come into the river to spawn so it is a thriving ecosystem. Well worth the US$25 each which includes the permit to enter the national park.
We sailed over to the southern side of the bay in the afternoon to find anchorage in a less busy spot which also had less swell coming in, and were able to watch the regatta boats again leaving the bay for another island race.