Dominica

Tuesday, April 26, 2022 (Late Entry) 

Dominica

Latitude 15o 35’ N

Longitude 61o 28’ W

Last Friday afternoon,  my wife Kay, along with friends Burke and Denise Munger, motored out of Rodney Bay, St. Lucia and headed up the chain of Caribbean Islands to the independent nation of Dominica. It was the first time that the Lillian B  had headed North since motoring into the harbor of Killybegs, Ireland in July of 2021.  Ireland was followed by six months of sailing the trade winds around the North Atlantic to arrive in the Caribbean Island of St. Lucia on February 24th, 2022, the same day that Putin invaded Ukraine. In sharp contrast to that brutality, friends Dick Hiatt and Brimmer Sherman spent a week exploring the beauty and serenity of the  island, before all of us returning home to Alabama. The boat then spent four weeks in a slip in Rodney Bay accumulating barnacles on her propellor, after which time Kay and I returned to the St. Lucia to rendezvous with fellow sailors Burke and Denise.

We’re now on a tight schedule to get Lillian back North before the start of hurricane season. The intent is to move her up to St. Martin by May 3 in time to change up crew and continue on to Bermuda. That doesn’t leave much time to visit the islands along the way, so we’ve selected our itinerary judiciously, relying once again on the 2019-2020 Sailors Guide  to the Windward Islands, by Chris Hoyle and Lexi Fisher.

In the interest of time, we reluctantly  sacrificed a visit to the French island of Martinique,  opting instead for the island of  Dominica Island, further north. Adopting the  strategy of cruise ships, we decided to leave late in the day and sail overnight. This provided an  early  arrival the next morning,  allowing more daylight hours for exploring our destination.

Dominica was listed in the guide book as a rugged mountainous island, with lush tropical beauty, little changed from the time when Columbus first arrived. It is less developed than Martinique and is an independent nation, having gained independence in 1978. The island was devasted by Hurricane Maria in 2017 and is still recovering. Along  the main street   in Portsmouth, only a few structures  have been repaired and painted. Most stand in ruins, with collapsed roofs next to make shift shelters wrapped in tarps with USAID stamped on the side. Tourism appears to be one of their few sources of income and the islanders have responded by welcoming yachts.

Before departing St. Lucia, we  called ahead for a guide to act as an agent for our arrival at  Portsmouth Bay at the north end of the island. In an effort to encourage yachtsmen, the town has  created a non-profit organization named the  Portsmouth Association of Yachts Services (PAYS). The cruising guide features a page of smiling PAYS members with brief description of the services they provide. Based on his friendly face and the fact that he offered trips up the Indian River, we opted for   Lawrence of Arabia. The initial call from St. Lucia didn’t last more than 10 seconds ”Okay, call all me when you get here …”

We called Lawrence when we were close enough to have cell service and he raced out to us in his motor boat. Like many places in the islands, there is no way to connect to a mooring without help, short of jumping in the water. The mooring balls don’t have a line or pennant attached, just a ring on the top. The procedure is for a  guide to  position  his dinghy next to the ball and then throw him two lines, one for starboard and one for port.

Lawrence led us to a mooring and, once there, we gently motored up beside his boat and let the wind blow our bow around until   it was close enough for Burke to toss him a  line.  Lawrence deftly looped the line through the ring and passed the free end back to Burke, who secured it to the forward cleat.  Having arrived, with our quarantine flag flying, the next step was to clear into the country.  We’d arrived on a Saturday, when immigration and customs have limited hours. At his request, we trustingly gave Lawrence all our important documents: our passports, our vaccination cards, the clearance from our last port, and Lillian’s registration form. About three hours later, just as we were getting ready to give him a call, Lawrence  returned with everything signed, sealed, and delivered.  We  had officially entered Dominica.

It was a brief visit. On Sunday morning, Lawrence arranged for “007” to row us up the Indian River through overhanging trees and vegetation, unique enough to be used for  scenes in the film Pirates of the Caribbean. Returning to the boat,  I spent much of Sunday afternoon scraping barnacles off our propeller. Then Sunday evening the crew  went to a barbeque that PAYS arranges every week for visiting yachts. All the  barbeque you can eat and more rum than one should. People were literally dancing on the table without the others paying much attention. We left the next morning for the short (28 mile) trip to Guadeloupe, the next island to the North.

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