Caribbean adventure
nick & annabella Atkinson
Tue 8 Feb 2011 23:31



Dominica was an island which had mixed feelings in terms of reaching it.  On the one side, it was a milestone to show how far we had travelled in our journey, but on the other side, there are stories of robberies and violence which have prevailed a few unlucky sailors while they have been at anchor.  The boat boys also have a bit of a reputation for hounding.  In our planning stage, we talked about skipping out Dominica to avoid taking any risk.  However it is renowned for its amazing tropical rainforests and nature which is untouched partly in irony due to less tourism than some of the other islands.  Having talked to a number of different sailors along the way, many of them gave us confidence that if we moored in the right spot (i.e. in the town of Portsmouth) and got a boat boy to look after us, we would be fine.  Besides, we were told, it often holds some of the most amazing experiences of peoples Caribbean cruising!


We took sail from Le Saintes and past Le Pan Du Sucre – our favourite bay on the island and put the mainsail up.  It was yet another choppy journey of high waves and rolling.  Literally as soon as we were on the coast of Dominica, we were approached by our first boat boy.  Our first thoughts were “Goodness is this just the beginning of a nightmare?”  However, our Caribbean Cruising guide which has been written by Chris Doyle (who seems to be something of a legend to all the islands in terms of his ‘Bible’ guidance in where to stay, get your laundry done, find internet etc) had advised that the boat boy approaching was one of the authorised boat boys who is part of a small gathering pulled together to give cruisers comfort in the genuiness of their service.  Our boat boy was called ‘Lawrence of Arabia’!  As he guided us in to our mooring buoy (which was a little old and tired – and later managed to cut through our super strength mooring rope due to the old rusty shackle attached), we laughed as we noticed Dutch Laura moored in her yacht ‘Guppy’  - maybe we really are on her journey too!  We were pestered by a few fruit sellers in their boats who have an annoying habit of banging their small wooden boats on the side of Tom Tom, but our experience has been that they are harmless and are just trying to make a Caribbean Dollar.  A polite but firm decline helps. 

We went ashore to the local bar called ‘Big Papas’ and were treated to a Friday night in Portsmouth.  This is a big night for the locals and they often compete with their massive speakers which churn out the local Reggie which is known as ‘Socca’.  It was a tame night for us as we tried the locally brewed beer and planned for our day trips for the next few days. Our first trip was out with our boat boy the following morning down the Indian River which is renowned for its botanical beauty.  We were advised that we probably wanted to do this at the crack of dawn as this was when most of the animals were out at the river side.  Alas, we didn’t take heed as we luxuriated in our lie in and 11am start!  We bought our river permit and our boat boy took us down the river on the Dominican version of a gondola which was brightly painted and clinker built.  We saw humming birds grazing in the trees, and it really did remind us of being in a botanical park.  The lushness of the trees and the mangroves added to the tranquillity of the trip as we winded up the river.  At the head of the river is a Rastafarian bar set in the palms and sitting on the muddy bank.  The local waiter makes his visiting guests origami birds made out of palm leaves which was highly impressive – pictures to follow!  There were a few weird and wonderful lizards running around and one of iguana proportions which takes the most courageous to approach.  Another lizard was almost red and yellow as its chameleon nature took control as it ran over some similar coloured leaves.  We bayed good bye and set back on our way.


The following morning we were collected bright and early for our second trip which was to be to see the indigenous Carib Indian village whom we are told are the only ones left in the Caribbean with their own territory.  The tour took us along the coast of Dominica and we marvelled in the wonders of the green lush forests stuffed with fruits.  We saw mangoes, breadfruit (the local delicacy which tastes almost of potatoes), cinnamon, bananas, cocoa beans, coffee beans, pineapples, lemons and limes, and coconuts to name a few.  We also travelled in the car through dense ravines of palm trees and imagined what life must have been like in the olden days – harsh and treacherous we imagine – while we have the joy of basking in its modern day beauty.  There were various stops to look over high cliffs at spectacular views and coastlines, and we also stopped at a small fishing village where it was interesting to see the locals preparing their nets in the hope of the big bonanza – lobster!  Finally we approached the Caribb village.  Nick and I had images of meeting ‘Big Chief’ and singing round a totem pole but alas, one of the things that struck us was that the village seemed not relatively different from the normal Dominican towns of wooden huts – often brightly coloured (which we refer to as Gingerbread Houses).  It did however have indigenous Caribb Indians selling their ware at little craft stalls including snake oil which although renowned for having great arthritic properties, we made a pass on!  We did however have the best mango we have ever had – so fresh and we imagine straight from the tree!  Afterwards, we stopped for lunch at a traditional shack restaurant which was set high on a cliff with the most amazing drop and views.  We also caught 5 minutes of Sky News which was a real novelty!!  For lunch we had a special local Creole dish complete with Breadfruit which truly brought the flavours of the island.  Afterwards, we headed off around the coast to the amazing waterfall called Emerald Waterfall which was just lush. The island is renowned for its vast number of rivers and volcanoes and this particular waterfall is well known for being an infamous part of the islands beauty.  Thankfully it was quiet, with only us and two delightful French couples.   Nick persuaded me to don the bikini and we both jumped in to the green pool with its fresh water for a refreshing swim under the waterfall. No one else dared jumped in and it was magical! We then walked back through the nature trail to our minibus taxi and continued on a journey circling the island and stopping for a Carib drink on the way.  By the time we got back, we were shattered and had no energy for cooking, so we treated ourselves to the seafood restaurant on the beach and basked in fresh barbequed lobster.  We decided that given how much we had crammed in, we would leave the shores of Dominica and head for Martinique. 

The following morning, we set sail at the crack of dawn, having realised our heavy mooring line was sheared straight off from the sharp rusty shackle on the mooring buoy – this persuaded Nick that it was the right time to leave! We set off in the wind without stopping at any of the ports in Dominica (Portsmouth is at the North, so we had to sail down the full length of Dominica and then to the port of San Pierre in Martinique).  Our mouths watered at the thoughts of Carrefour super marche and French Pain!!