Mon 13 Mar 2006 17:47
We left St Pierre as planned early on the 8th and sailed North for Dominica. There are two main anchorages on Dominica and we wanted to get to the more northerly one, so it was quite a long run of over 50 miles. But we had a good wind for much of it and were anchored in Prince Rupert Bay, off Portsmouth, by 1600. Anna and Eddie joined me in the water to check the anchor, we bought some grapefruit from a man who paddled up on a surfboard and had supper onboard.
Dominica looks a lot like Grenada - mountainous and lush. There are not many beaches so not many tourists and the houses are fairly small and basic. It was British from 1805 to independence in 1978 but, sandwiched between Martinique and Guadelope, retains a fairly French feel. There's also one of the few remaining Carib communities.
Early Thursday, I got a water taxi past the wrecks driven ashore by Hurricane Louis in 1990 to the Customs Office at the other end of the bay. One of the crew from a big motorboat that had moored off a beache at the South end of the bay was in, clearing some new guests. That night we saw them setting off fireworks - a birthday, maybe.
I walked back along the coast road past big posters urging people to vote Labour at the coming election. I got cash from the bank (maximum 400 EC or about £80) and checked email at a cafe run by a German yachtie called Jan.
In the afternoon, we took a tour up the Indian River. This flows down the mountains into a jungly, swampy area just South of the town. This is the sort of eco-tourism the government is trying to encourage and there's a system for training and licencing guides. Our guide, Albert, seemed to know his stuff. He rowed us slowly upstream pointing out the trees and animals as we went. There were big iguanas - four feet long - sitting in the trees, white-clawed crabs among the roots of the Bloodwood trees, an orchid growing on one of the trees and nests of termites. The iguanas stayed in the trees to eat leaves and avoid their one predator - the boa constrictor, according to Albert. We did not see a boa constrictor. We also didn't see the large frog that features on local menus as 'mountain chicken'. We saw moor hens, egrets and herons. Even Eddie was fairly interested. Albert undermined his credentials a little by telling us how as a boy, he'd pulled a leg or two off a crab - so that it still moved but couldn't run away - and use it as bait to catch egrets.
After a mile or two the trees and vines get dense and the river shallows. There's a bar serving rum punches made from a local brew called Dynamite. It was there we turned round. The Bay used to have a bad reputation for Yellow Fever and Malaria because of the swamps but that now seems to have gone and the area claims (or did when the pilot book was written) the oldest person in the world in Elizabeth Pampo Israel, 128.
We went to pick up our laundry from Big Pappa's Restaurant and found it was Happy Hour - 5 EC or just over a pound for two of the local Kubuli beers. We got talking to a Frenchman sailing on his own. He was photographer and lived on the copyright income from the library of news stills he'd built up. We watched two big doradas being cleaned and cut up on the dinghy dock outside the bar. Half an hour later a couple of steaks from one of them were on our plates.
A big British yacht we've come across before had come into the anchorage during the day and after dark they set up some disco lights and danced in their cockpit to the strains of 'Hi, Ho Silver Lining' and similar. It was not so loud as to prevent sleep.
It started raining during the night and continued the next morning so, about 1100, we decided to go in the hope that some of the rain was the result of being in the lee of Dominica's high mountains. It turned out not to be so and continued raining and squalling as we sailed north with two reefs down heading for the small islands South of Guadelope called the Saintes. This is meant to be the best area in the Eastern Caribbean for whale spotting and this is the right time of year but we saw nothing.
We did, however, lose the dinghy. She'd flipped over a couple of times in the short seas just north of the island and eventually, about 3 miles off the Saintes, the plastic d-ring that holds the painter snapped and she blew off down wind flipping a few times as she went. For a moment we were tempted to let her blow to Nicaragua but the excess on the insurance means we'd have paid for the whole of a new one. Penny got out the boathook with the built-in mooring hook and we set off in pursuit under main and engine. After a couple of attempts, Penny hooked her and we tied her rather inelegantly upside down to the pushpit and motor-sailed on towards the Saintes. The wind didn't drop below 25 until we got right into the anchorage and then it took us 4 goes to get the anchor set.
Compensation came in the form of discovering Blase also anchored off Terre De Haut and Paul, Fi, Ollie and Emms came aboard for a drink.
In future, the dinghy travels on deck.