Saturday, January 30, 2016


We had heard from many cruisers that Dominica is a favorite destination so we were looking forward to experiencing what the love was all about. We thought it was really beautiful and the people we met were really kind and interesting. But we barely scratched the surface of this large island and all it has to offer so I don't think we fully experienced it. And our mindset might not have been the best to really appreciate it, either. Nonetheless, we had a really nice time and it was a great place to put the brakes on and have some fun.

Thankfully the trip south to Portsmouth, Dominica was relatively short because the wind was honking right up our noses! We sailed a little off course to go fast and then motored into 30knots coming in to the bay. As expected we were met by one of the members of PAYS: Portsmouth Area Yacht Association. This is an organized group of guys who divvy up their services amongst the boaters. One boat will come out to greet you and then work with you to arrange tours and get services. It's a well-run organization and keeps the harbor feeling safe. Some people like it, others feel like it's just another way to part with lots of cash. Titus (who works with Lawrence of Arabia - they all have great names) came out to greet us and helped us get a mooring ball.

We asked Titus to sign us up for a tour of the Indian River in the morning but got washed out. It rains a lot in Dominica!

We went on the tour the next morning and Titus drove us to the mouth of the river to hand us off to a different guide. We were a little bummed because Titus was so nice and we didn't know who we'd be going with but it turned out great.

We were handed over to James Bond who was perfect as a guide for us. He immediately tuned in to what the kids oohed and aahed about and made a special point of spotting things he thought they'd want to see.

We took an early morning tour and had the place to ourselves. It was so cool and peaceful. We could hear all of the birds. James knew a ton about all of the plants and animals and was happy to answer every question.

So pretty.

The sign.

James showing the kids some plants. The river tour ends at a hidden bar in the jungle. Even though it was 9:30 in the morning we indulged in a drink called a hurricane. Two hurricanes, in fact. Whoa! Take me to the river! James had one too and we weren't sure who was going to have to row us all back.

James made these pretty animals out of palm leaves for the kids.

Grasshopper and fish for Drew, hummingbird and fish for Cubby.

Then James taught the kids how to make the fish.

This is part of the set for the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie. It's Calypso's house.

We've had a serious fishing dry spell so indulged in some fresh, local lobster. 

A couple days earlier we had met the crew of Salmagal. They live right near New Bedford, MA which was one of our favorite stops in the Northeast. The kids had a lot of fun playing together and the adults had a really nice dinner out. Drew demonstrated lobster cleaning.

Then the kids went over to Salmagal and had a blast swinging from their spinnaker pole. 

Cubby hesitated but then loved it.

Mira's turn! She's an expert.

Then their tow rope was used for its true purpose. If we were doing this for longer we would definitely get a tow rope and wish we had thought of it sooner. 

Taking a break on the paddleboard.

Titus arranged a guide to take us to hike up to Milton Falls. Unlike our fortuitous hook up with James Bond, our tour guide for this outing, Slim, was beyond disappointing. He was downright hostile. We were kicking ourselves for not just renting a car and asking James to be our guide. Slim showed us the things he was probably supposed to show us but somewhat grudgingly and with no explanation. Fresh green coffee beans. 

The large island is full of beautiful and interesting hikes and this is just one tiny one. We don't feel like we made the most of our visit because the hiking seems to be the real highlight. But I think we were just ready to turn around.

The island is so lush and fertile that many things can be grown easily. When you go to the grocery store, see if anything comes from Dominica. Slim snipped some thyme and basil and dug up some ginger root for us to take home. 

A little bit of scrambling brought us to the falls. Tropical Storm Erika brought so much rain that a lot of mud and rocks came over the falls and filled in the pool.

It was very pretty but we sort of stood around not knowing what to do with ourselves while Slim sulked on a rock. It was pretty shallow and no one was up for a chilly dip. Maybe after all our traveling we're just burned out on waterfalls and hiking! 

Andy and the kids all opted for the rope swing to get across. I walked. 

Without explanation Slim drove us to another spot where we all got out of the car and he silently took a seat on the side of the road. Andy managed to pull out of him that we stopped because there was a chance of seeing the national bird, the Sisserou parrot, there. But I think all he said was, "parrots." And we briefly saw these two then just got back in the car.

Every day a group of Haitian ladies line the street near the dock and sell fresh produce. As you walk past they shout, "Hey, lady! Come! Come here!" all at once, motioning to their goods. It's pretty funny how they compete for your business and try to distract you and lure you away while you're making a purchase from one table. And if you walk past to scan everything first and say you'll be back, they will hold you to it. But they're all friends and enjoy ribbing each other. There is such an abundance of beautiful fresh produce it's hard to stop buying. But the true market day is Saturday. We didn't get up early enough to really experience it but actually preferred non-market day when we could shop without blaring music and a blaring preacher. 

Sandy's Beach restaurant is where we had a really good dinner out with Liz and Andy from Salmagal.

Our haul before we left. Underneath the pile there are a couple green spiky things called christophines (chayote in Mexico). They are very easy to cook and quite delicious and are somewhere between a vegetable and a squash. I hope we can find them in a grocery store one day.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Je ne parle pas Francais.....parlez vous Anglais?

Yet another exhilirating sail brought us from Montserrat to Deshaises in the northwest of Guadeloupe. We're getting a lot of mileage out of our buckets. Cubby and I agreed that buttered toast is the least offensive breakfast to see and smell again. Bacon is tolerable, but cinnammon is the worst. So we plan accordingly. Anyhoo, We spent only one night in Deshaises then made a bee-line for the Iles Des Saintes which we had heard such good things about. It didn't disappoint but our French language skills certainly did!

Sailing from Montserrat to Guadeloupe. It is impossible to capture the conditions on film. It looks really calm in this picture. Twasn't. We tacked back and forth multiple times to dodge big squalls, put reefs in and then shook them out again when the wind died or shifted, and lost a jib sheet through the clutch which whipped around wildly and nailed Andy. It was a very long day!

Thwack! The frayed end of the port jib sheet.

We arrived at the very crowded anchorage in fading light and had trouble finding a place to anchor in less than 45' of water. We settled for a spot in 35' and were glad to be approached by this smiling face ready to take our croissant and bread delivery order. There's always a bit of an eye roll when someone is approaching with something to sell. But we often buy something and are rarely disappointed. At 7AM the next morning we received bags of warm, buttery croissants and the best country bread we've ever had. Vive le France!! 

The wind does very weird and shifty things as it comes over these mountainous islands. It even came out of the west for a little while. But in the lee of the island the water was very calm and we made good enough time to stop for fuel. No one answered the radio at the marina and we wouldn't have been able to communicate anyway. Although we know the word for deisel because everything on our boat is labeled in French. It's gazole but we always call it gashole because it's more fun to say gashole. These two in a pilot boat cut us off at high speed at the fuel dock when we were very obviously manouvering in the tight space to line up with the dock. Gasholes. 

We arrived in the pretty Iles Des Saintes and got the last mooring ball. Anchoring is always our preference but some of these anchorages are so darn deep and the few shallow enough spots were crowded. This is a small cruise ship and their passengers get to visit some of the more off the beaten path places.

A pretty church in Terre d'en Haut.

Mmmm, glace! Really, really good glace. We do not speak French and most of the residents don't speak English but pointing and gesturing got us these treats.

Walking down the street in this quaint seaside village.

A sailing cruise ship on its way to the next destination. That's Tangent to the right. 

There was a little playground in the village with this cool climbing structure the kids loved. 

Fishing boats.

We walked up to Fort Napoleon and took in the view of the harbor.

Hi Tangent!

Say fromage!

Fort Napoleon is beautifully restored.

With great exhibits throughout. Even though it was all in French we were able to understand a lot. 

The detailed tiny models of the battles really helped us get the picture.

Cannon picture. Again. Oy.

The outside of the museum. Another great building.

The sign.

Outside of the walls.

Trying to recreate a photo from Makai's blog.

Dinghy dock in town. This is a very civilized set up.

We went out for a really nice dinner. We had to reserve a day in advance and the restaurant has one seating. There was some serious language confusion but we ended up having a fabulous meal. And learned never to order a Ti Punch ever again.