From gales to calm. Calm is good…

We have been in Dominica for a few days participating in the Dominica Salty Dawg rendezvous, hosted by a local Dominican group PAYS, Portsmouth Association of Yacht Security. This group does a lot to organize tours, dive trips and parties to keep the cruisers coming back. It’s a great group and makes visiting what was once a fairly dangerous island, a lot of fun and very safe. With upwards of 20-25 Salty Dawg boats here for at least a week, it’s nice to see the group come together again and to make new friends. We arrived a few days early as the winds were forecast to drop to near nothing for nearly a week after blowing upwards of 30kts, with gusts to 40kts, while we were in Deshaies, Guadeloupe.

Dominica, often referred to as the “nature island” is very different than Guadeloupe with it’s shabby European vibe. It’s very rural, poor and has very few hotels. For those who enjoy the rainforests, it’s just about a perfect place to visit.

We’ve been here for a few days and it’s been a mix of rain and sun, with a generous dash of rolling swell which for the first few days made things a bit unpleasant. But, even with a nasty swell the beauty of a post-shower rainbow is amazing.

The weather has changed a lot from day to day since we arrived. That sunny day was followed by a full day of rain, unusual for the Caribbean where short squalls followed by rainbows is more typical.

During the rainy day, it was beautiful but very humid as we had to keep Pandora all buttoned up. This schooner, one of a number that spend time here with paying guests, anchored nearby. It was hard to even see the horizon. It looked like a vision that might have been seen here 200 years ago.

Prior to heading to Dominica we visited Deshaies Guadeloupe, our first stop heading south from Antigua, is impossibly quaint village that is best described as shabby chic. There are some very nice restaurants to choose from, French, of course. The 50 mile run from Antigua was particularly sporty with strong winds and big seas. I was sorry that it had to be that way as it was the first run of the season for Brenda.

While we were in Deshaies we met a very nice German couple on Grey Hound, an aluminum boat about the same size as Pandora. They came aboard to talk about cruising the Med and Brenda was intrigued. Well, intrigued with visiting Spain at least. I’d like that. Fingers crossed. Perhaps we can head to the Azores in the spring of 25. Something to look forward to. (note: Brenda hasn’t agreed yet… Ever hopeful)

There is a small river running down to the harbor through a cut in the mountains. It was a short walk into the woods, complete with a wonderful swimming hole. Nothing like a fresh water swim after a short hike. And into water that is considerably colder than the harbor.

Another place we always make time to visit is the local botanical garden, Jardin Botanique de Deshaies, a short drive from the harbor via their own van.

It’s hard to decide what the best things to highlight from our visit to the gardens but here goes.

As you enter the gardens there is a wonderful reflecting pool…

Complete with a large family of koi. Each between 12″ and 18.”

And now, a wonderful mix of textures among the many amazing tropical plants.

It must be a big pump that powers this 6′ high water tower.

These charming little parrots are fun. They live in a large aviary that you can enter and interact with them. They eat nectar out of a cup that you can purchase.

Of course, there is also a number of wise old McCaws happy to check you out.

This little guy scampered away when I got too close.

I loved the way that the light shown through these fronds.

Looks delicate and soft but is large and spiny.

These grasses are actually is as soft as they look.

This succulent looks delicate and velvety but is anything but at about 5′ from side to side.

Everything is supersized. Each of these leaves is more than 2′ long.

The giant papyrus, with the fluffy tops, is one of my favorite water plants. We grow a clump in a caldron each summer at home.

Not so fluffy, the trunk of a massive tree. Looks like the folds of elephant skin.

These flowers grow just about everywhere. I understand that the locals here in Dominica make their intricate baskets with fibers in the stems. Brenda purchased some baskets yesterday as gifts when we rented a car yesterday but that will have to wait until the next post.

And, closely related to the one above another “wild flower” that is every where. The frond is about 18″ long.

Of course, many of us in the freezing north grow these as house plants. Here the leaves get more than 2′ long and carpet the ground in huge areas.

Flowers like this make me wish that I could grow topicals at home.

The gardens are high on a hill overlooking the harbor where we had moored Pandora. Brenda and Maureen surveying the harbor.

After days of near gale force winds in Deshaies, making Pandora strain on her mooring, the wind dropped to near dead calm once we arrived here in Dominica. When the wind is very light, and it rarely is, it is quite hot down below.

Fortunately, there is a breeze today but still with calm conditions. With that in mind, I took time to scrub the slime off of the bottom of Pandora. I use a small compressor with a long hose. An abrasive pad with a handle and air from the compressor, I am able to stay below for the 45 minutes that it takes for me to completely scrub the bottom. I try to do it every two weeks during the season so it doesn’t get too nasty.

Oh yeah, almost forgot. When the surge was at it’s worse, we visited our friends on Kalunamoo for cocktails and while their boat rolled from side to side, our dink was caught under their boarding ladder, puncturing a hole. Flat dink.

I actually found two holes, by spraying Windex all over the pontoons, after pulling it out on the beach. It took two days with careful prep and a day for the bond to cure. I used a special two part rubber adhesive that I borrowed from my friend Mark. The dink looked pretty sad deflated and covered with sand.

She’s back in the water, holding air… I hope.

I also took some time with a friend to fix up the local town dock where the cruisers go to get ashore. The dock has been in very rough condition for years and after I suggested an upgrade, with free labor, the PAYS guys agreed to supply materials, boards, screws etc. Fortunately Mark had some power tools aboard to speed the job along. We both worked for a half day, with a few of the PAYS guys, to add some refinements to the dock.

First, an extra 4′ of dock on one end. That’s Mark. Notice the step to make it easier for those of us that are older, get up on the big dock.

We also added a wood strip on the edge to tie dinks to. It doesn’t look like much but to those of us trying to get ashore when there is a surge running up on the nearby beach, having an easy way to tie up is important. That board, mid dock, is a handy way to grasp and climb ashore. There is also a board below the dock to keep dinks from being stuck under the dock at low tide. We’ve seen plenty of dinks get damaged when they grind against concrete. It is always advisable to put out a stern anchor to keep the boat away from harm.

Mark and I were assisted by three of the local PAYS guys. An enthusiastic group. Notice the guy on the right with a “joint” in his mouth. A number of them are half stoned much of the time. It was a fun project.

Later that night there was a barbecue with all the rum punch you could drink. And there were a lot on hand to have that punch. The next morning it was clear that I had a bit too much.

So, here we are for a few more days of fun before we head on to another island. As the wind is expected to be from the south for much of the week, which almost never happens, we may backtrack north a bit to Le Saintes, just below Guadeloupe, one of our favorite destinations to wait for the wind to shift back to a normal easterly direction.

After that, on to Martinique. We were going to attend Carnival but I don’t think that we will this time as we won’t be able to get there soon enough to secure a spot to anchor in what will surely be a very crowded harbor.

After weeks of strong winds it’s nice to be enjoying calm conditions after a very windy week in Deshaies,

Calm is good…

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