We are here in Dominica, known by many as the “nature island”. We made the run from Les Saintes a few days ago to join a group of Salty Dawgs, 25 boats strong, who are gathered for a rendezvous that will last nearly a week.
Being here has been a nice respite from the constant rolling in Les Saintes, a combination of ferry traffic along with wrap-around swell from the ocean that plagued us for the nearly week long visit.
Sitting at anchor in a swell is so tiring but you really don’t know how bad it is until it stops. Well, when a book jumped off of a shelf and landed on Brenda’s head in the middle of the night, she knew it wasn’t good.
Well, it’s stopped here, finally. And the very sporty run here from Les Saintes was yet another reminder of how much we were looking forward to a calm anchorage. The 20 mile run between the islands had us in 10′ waves and winds up to 30kts apparent along with two nasty squalls. Not too much fun.
But it’s calm now and there is a group of guys here that cater to the cruisers and will take you on guided tours, which is very nice.
Dominica has many wonderful hiking trails and some will bring you to the lip of an active volcano that has so much steam rising out of it that it is known as the boiling lake.
Sadly, I did not do that hike but it was probably a good idea as the folks left at 07:00 and didn’t get back until after dark. For an old guy like me, that might have been a bit much . However, what an experience.
There have been nearly nightly get-togethers with free flowing rum punch and barbecue. This evening we will be doing to a fish fry featuring lion fish caught today by some of our members. Lion fish are native to SE Asia and are a terribly invasive species here in the Caribbean. They think that a few fish escaped in FL years ago and have basically taken over reefs in much of the Caribbean, eating just about anything that they come on contact with that will fit in their large mouths. It’s really terrible the toll that they have taken on native fish, destroying the balance of the reefs.
Sadly, I don’t have my scuba certification so I wasn’t able to participate in the roundup. However, I did go on two hour hike up one of the smaller peaks. It was moderate and very enjoyable. As we reached the summit, I was struck by the view of the ocean. West of the island the next landfall is, I guess, Panama, a long way off. Most of the islands of the Caribbean saw a lot of action as the French and English worked to gain control, primarily to secure the sugar trade that made the islands so critical to commerce. While Dominica never saw any actual sea battles, the island changed hands between the French and English multiple times. It is now an independent nation as of the 70s.
The view of the harbor is pretty impressive. If you look closely, you can see Pandora. Perhaps this photo will make it easier. She’s just to the right of center, forth boat in on the center string of moorings. The grey boat. Our hike took us to the summit that was once a lookout for whomever was in charge at the time. The fort, Fort Shirley, overlooking the harbor, has been beautifully restored and now is used as a conference center. Our walk took us past some old ruins of officer’s quarters and even a room that once was used to store cannon balls. Today the floor is still littered with small “grape shot” iron balls about 1.5′ in diameter. I was dying to take one, but didn’t. The strangling fig tree on one of the walls really gave the place a wild vibe and a feel that would make Indiana Jones proud. This 6″ to 8″ fungus looks a lot like coral but isn’t. Our guide William said that they called it “land coral”. I get it…We saw plenty of hermit crabs and small lizards. This one was clinging to a branch and was about the size of a lemon. Termite mounds were everywhere. This one, about 2′ tall. To me it says “do not disturb”. I was struck by the symmetry of this delicate vine climbing a small tree. Nearby, visiting for the day, was Sea Cloud, once the largest private yacht in the world when she was owned by Marjorie Merriweather Post, daughter of the founder of Postum Cereal that became General Mills. She was fabulously wealthy and owned her when she was married to her second husband E.F. Hutton. Among other homes, she also owned Mar-a-Lago, in Fl, home to “The Donald” these days.
Sea Cloud is now a cruise ship, and a very exclusive one at that. With the coin, she can be your home too. Check out her site. She frequents these waters in the winter and we have seen her many times over the years. She’s here today with all of us “little people” in the distance. She looks much the same as she did when private.This short video gives a feel for just how opulent she is and some interesting views of the ship now juxtaposed against what she was like when she was a private yacht. Yesterday, while some in our group were gazing down into an active volcano, Brenda and I opted to go into town to get some produce at the Saturday market. Once a week vendors come from all over to show their waresIn addition to those on the streets with colorful umbrellas, there is a pavilion where many vendors set up on tables, overflowing with all sorts of fruit and vegetables.There is also a place to purchase fresh fish. It’s a messy business and to see guys whacking away with machetes pretty much put Brenda off of seafood for the day. It was a noisy splattery business to be sure. The fist was certainly fresh, having been caught that morning and unloaded less than 100′ from the market. Right off the boat. Nothing says bony to me like a needle fish. This is a really beautiful place but never more beautiful than at sunset. This ship, a Danish training ship, was anchored behind us with the setting sun glistening on the hull a few days ago. A short while later in the twilight, the sun sets quickly in the Caribbean, she looked different. And yes, it’s as calm as it looks and that’s good. After a few weeks in rolly anchorages, it’s nice to be in the calm waters in the lee of Dominica.
I guess I’ll close with a shot of the view from the bow of Pandora. Not bad if I do say so myself. First a swim and it will soon be time for sundowners.
Did I mention that it isn’t rolly?