Monday, July 25, 2011

Dominica 2011

Dominica is my favoirite island in the Leeward Islands, and possibly in all of the Lesser Antilles (Bahamas, Leewards and Windwards). I've read that when Christopher Columbus was attempting to describe the island to the King and Queen of Spain he crumpled up a sheet of paper to illustrate the rugged terrain. That is a very good illustration. There are 365 rivers and countless waterfalls winding their way through deep gorges and between steep volcanic pinnacles, all of which are draped in lush rain forest. With the exception of a small cruise ship dock, there is no mass tourism and the locals are happy to meet cruisers.
Once out of town, the roads are mostly unimproved, single lane with enough extra space for the occassional oncomming car to pass you if you both hug the shoulder... really hug it. As for guardrails, generally there are none in spite of the fact that the road may be carved out of the side of nearly vertical mountainside. It's prudent to sound your horn as you approach a blind curve and listen for an answer so you can swing over in time.

The main roads of the island are in the process of being improved to undivided 2 lane highways by the Chinese. The Chinese government pours a lot of resources into Dominica and other Caribbean islands in order to secure political votes in the UN. There are also prominent donations by Chavez of Venezuela in the form of schools and other public facilities.

Rosseau, our destination in Dominica, is the largest town on the island and is located on the southern end of the west coast. There are many mooring balls for hire, which is good as the anchorage is quite deep and holding is rather poor. On arrival we radioed Sea Cat, one of the two prominent boat vendors in Rosseau, to arrange for a mooring. Once tied up to the mooring, I hired a boat vendor to give us a lift in his brightly colored open boat to the customs office. The anchorage had a 2 foot chop so the ride to customs was much more comfortable in a heavy deep-V fiberglass boat than in my little dinghy.

Customs is very easy. You clear in and out at the same time, there is only one short form to fill out, and the fee is only 5 Eastern Carribean Dollars (about $2 US) per person. This is refreshing after the numerous forms and high fees required by The Bahamas, The British Virgin Islands and Antigua.

While in Rosseau, we joined Sea Cat for a land tour. We were introduced to Octavious (Sea Cat) by Randy and Susan Williamson of Windward Passage during our last trip down island and were eager for a repeat. We saw several of the highlights of the last tour - Emerald Falls, Trafalgar Falls, and the Carib Indian villiage (not in a touristy enclave but friends of Octavious who welcomed us into their homes and showed us how they live). While there, we were shown how much of the food they needed could be found in their "back yard". There were coconuts, mangos, breadfruit, papayas, cacao trees, many herbs, and lots of chickens. Fish were brought up into the mountains by the local fishermen. The fish and chicken were smoked over home made charcoal as a preservative as they had no refrigeration.

The villagers offered us samples of the smoked fish. Pulling the meat off of a fish carcass while holding on to the head or tail took a little getting used to, but it was delicious. Quinn loved it and asked for more. Octavious got a huge grin and returned with half a fish all for Quinn, who devoured it, picking the bones. The smoking clearly works as I believe the fish we sampled was smoked days ago and stored in hot, humid rainforest conditions without packaging or refrigeration.

In addition to the familiar stops from last year, Sea Cat took us to a pair of waterfalls that required some serious scrambling. We found ourselves climbing up 40 foot, 70 degree inclines with the help of a rope where tree vines and roots were insufficient. Other times we were walking on paths no more than a foot wide with a nearly sheer drop into the river gorge on one side. These were virtually unimproved paths through the rain forest and it was a phenominal experience. Quinn did fantastic as usual. He listened and moved cautiously (most of the time) and managed without any problems or nervousness. When we return to land I'm going to have my hands full building a tree house or backyard play set that will interest him after having hiked and climbed through Caribbean rain forests and jungles!

Monday, July 4, 2011

We're here

We made it to Grenada almost 3 weeks ago. Gregg is still looking for his muse to catch up on the blog. He keeps saying he's only 4 countries behind. We've been pretty busy since we got here and have been catching up on sleep and chores. I'm not the writer in the family so I'll leave it at that.

The website has been updated with photos and our position in Grenada. I've been working on upgrading the google maps api used on the position and log pages as apparently, google no longer supports the old api that most of our pages use. It's taking some time and the only pages I have finished thus far are the current position and the 2011 Windwards page.