Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Dominica At Last

I had read really good things about Dominica, and have been looking forward to going there. In the chart, the passage from Pointe-a Pitre, Guadeloupe (middle of the island, full of reefs) was described as a glorious reach; however, because we were on the west coast, our angle was not as favourable. The chart mentioned the only drawback of the sail south, as the funnel effect of the channel with The Saints, which are located at the south of Guadeloupe; and gave a tip for overcoming the funnel effect as starting early in the morning, before the land warmed up. No problem for us, we weighed anchor at 6:45 am, and opened up the sails about an hour later, in the middle of the channel. Wind was 10-15 knots, close reach, but easily pushed us forward until we came to the lee of The Saints around 8:30 am. After that, there was a temporary lull, until the trades started, and Al was not happy with the 4 miles an hour we were making. I urged him to be patient, since it is known that trades come around 9:00 am and get stronger every hour, until mid-day. The current pushed us towards west, but we did not change our south-east course in order to get the full wind. For a while our progress was slacked due to the currents, but then picked up tremendously, when we had to reef our sails, a little before reaching Portsmouth, Dominica around 1:30 pm.

The lee of Dominica is real; wind died down when we were two miles away from the bay, so we fired up the engines and entered the area loaded with sail boats. A wooden power-boat approached, asking if we needed help, but we refused, mentioning the name of one of the trusted ones given in the sailing guide. There were a couple of mooring balls left, so we approached to one, but the pennant was completely submerged, since there was no floater. While we were trying our hand, another islander came by on a flat plastic kayak, and offered to take us to another ball. I just asked him to help with the pennant in front of us, and he did. It was a great help, otherwise we would not be able to reach down. Al has a theory that the floaters might be cut away by these people, to create business for themselves. Possible, but they are such a nice bunch of people; they work hard for the few dollars they make running after the yachtsmen.

After we settled, Andrew Cobra came by, who was highly recommended by the sailing guide who provided guidance and yacht services, and he looked like a nice man. We invited him to our boat, and asked him many questions about getting fuel, water, laundry service and having some tours on the island. He offered to get everything done by the morning, and took our laundry to be washed by his people. He also told us to be ready in the morning, so that he would arrange with the cruise ship dock officials, where water and fuel were available. Saturday morning was also the market day, and Cobra promised to take us there. He said that he would come by around 8:00 am.

Saturday (March 23rd) morning at 7:30 am, we were ready to go to the docks, which was five minutes away, at the side of the Cabrit Mountains and beside the Cabrits National Museum. Al fired up the engines and called Cobra, who promised to join us there. Before I let the mooring ball go, Al tied the dinghy to the ball, since we had paid for two nights; we had to protect our spot. The day before and earlier in the morning, the whole bay was as calm as could be. As soon as I let the lines go, a breeze started, coming from almost the south. As we approached to the docks, which were much higher than our deck, I started to get worried, but saw a man fishing there, who showed the sign that he would help. We approached to the middle part, protruding even more, seeing the industrial outlets for water and fuel. There were huge truck tires hanging on the sides as fenders, so we quickly pulled our own up, to protect them from squishing in between them and breaking away by the strong wind, which was pushing us onto the dock. I threw the lines to the guy, who tied them loosely, so Al had to jump up and reinforce them. He put in three more lines to keep us in place. By the time we settled, Cobra showed up and helped the lady warden untangle the water hose. When asked about the price, she said “use as much as you like, the set price is 15.00 EC dollars for the whole thing”. She also claimed that the water was drinking quality. I believed her, its source must be in the mountain park, pristine as can be. When she and another guy pried the wheel on the industrial size valve to turn it on the water started gushing, but they told me hold off filling, until fresh water started to come. So I washed the deck, the windows, back side, while they laughed and chatted with Al. Cobra was saying, “Hey clean all the salt, we have lots of water!” However, wasting water is against my nature, so I would rather fill our tanks and get out of there. No can do, since fuel guy was not to come until 11:00/11:30 am.

After water was done, Cobra said that we could leave Ruyam II there and offered to take us across the bay to the town square for market shopping. The market was just like in Turkey, there was a closed section, but the real market was lined on the streets, so lively and colourful, that we spent an hour there, talking to the vendor ladies and buying the ripe tomatoes, and really organically grown green vegetables. They even had water melons, first time I saw grown in the Caribbean. We had bought some slices in BVI, but they looked like they were from the US. I had a grand time, but we returned to Cobra’s wooden power boat, to wait for him. Then I saw some fishermen taking small fish from the nets, to be sold in the market. I thought the fish could not be fresher than that, so I bought about ten of them to try, for 3.00 EC. The fish looked like miniature swordfish, with a bony part protruding from its head. When Cobra saw that, he could not understand how I could buy such lowly fish, and said I would not be able to clean them; so he took them away to be cleaned, and promised to bring it to the boat later. I guess only the poor eat this fish.

The hardest thing to find in the islands lately was bank machines which accept our debit cards. We have usually better luck with Scotiabank (my account), rather than TD Canada Trust cards. Scotiabank has a presence in all the islands so far, but the other banks do not recognize its card. Same thing happened that day; we could get some money out of our BVI Scotiabank account (although same general bank, branches work separately). However, all the machines accept credit cards, so Visa all the way lately. I can only access my account from a Scotiabank machine. We heard about one in Portsmouth, but could not get there yet. Maybe tomorrow. Tomorrow is also Indian River tour.

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