Monday, 2 June 2008

Guadaloupe to Dominica

The marina in Guadaloupe is home to several huge French multi-hulls, and a few transient open 40 ‘s and 50’s. For the non-sailors, these are very sexy state of the art racing machines. Very interesting to see up close. Some of our friends were headed for the Iles de Saints, we had been here already with Doug and Suzanne but as this was on our way south, off we went. Many of these islands are little blobs of Europe scattered throughout the West Indies, stinky cheese, cheap wine and expensive everything else. Iles de Saints is no exception. They are all very beautiful and deserve more time than we were able to afford them. From the Saints we sailed to Dominica, which in contrast to the “Joi de Europe” is much more of a third world country. We were lucky and caught a black fin tuna on the crossing. Doug and Suzanne had left us with a bit of luck. As we got close to the bay, a small wooden boat zipped up along side with a local man, who we would later know as Jerome, waving and yelling, offering us a mooring ball, and anything else we needed. After we were safely anchored, several other locals came by on various craft such as kayaks and surf boards, selling us fruit, and offering services. Albert had befriended our friends Salt and Light. Both Albert and Jerome were very determined to sell us various tours of the island. The local guides have formed an association, which supplies mooring balls, tours, fuel, water and anything else you could want as well as a night time security patrol of the anchorage. Since a few locals were jailed a few years ago there have been no problems with petty theft or harassment. The first day we took a tour up the Indian River with Albert. After leaving the ocean, he rowed the 10 of us up through the swamp forest. Along the river we saw birds and fish as well as a few of the locations from the movie Pirates of the Caribbean. Our guide, as well as many of the locals were employed by the movie. I’m glad that the locals were treated well by the film company. All the locals we met were proud that their town was in the movie and many were able to be employed by Disney. Albert’s knowledge of the flora and fauna of the Indian River was excellent. At the head of the river there is a Restaurant/Bar that has a garden with many examples of local plants. The flowers were spectacular with lots of brightly coloured hummingbirds buzzing around them. It was here we met Greg, our bartender who as it turned out would be our Guide for the next day’s adventure. We were back to the boat at 7pm for a quiet night, to rest before our next adventure. We lent the DVD of the Pirates of the Caribbean 3 to Albert as he was not able to get the movie in Dominica. He and his 2 kids really enjoyed the movie they actually watched it at night and were up at 5am to watch it again the next morning before returning it! The next morning Jerome picked us all up at 9am and shuttled us to the beach where Greg and his van met us, for our tour of the north part of the island. Volcanic in origin, it is steep and lush green. Bananas and limes are their primary cash crops. Plantations consume a lot of the countryside. Greg knew incredible amounts about the local flora, every so often he would stop and pick stuff off a tree for us to sample. Mangos are everywhere now, as well as nutmeg, lemongrass (growing as weeds at the side of the road), tamarind, grapefruit, oranges, papaya and limes. Along the way we saw the local fishing villages, and Greg very proudly showed us his house which is part of a government initiative, he bought the land and house for $85,000 and pays $400 a month as mortgage. He took us to a pair of 100’ waterfalls, where we could stand underneath and rinse the salt and sand from our bodies and hair. A local Caribe family had a small roadside stand that offered crafts, spices, and a few fruits and vegetables. Similar to indigenous populations throughout the “new world”, after their discovery they were virtually exterminated by disease and warfare.
We had a late lunch at a restaurant owned and operated by local Dominicans, Randy and his wife. Randy had spent several years in the USA where he had worked mostly as a chef but also as a Chippendale dancer. We were given some mangos and bananas from the backyard tree, as well as some herbs for Richard to grow on the boat (he misses gardening). We then finished our tour. Jerome met us back at the beach and motored us slowly back to our boats in the dark, We were all full and tired. Further south along the coast of Dominica, we anchored off a black sand beach that Greg had showed us the previous day. Snorkeling along in the shallow water we found some great sea glass. Sea glass is broken bottles and ceramic that has been polished by the waves and sand until it is very smooth. Connoisseurs of sea glass can date many of the finds back close to a hundred years. We collected a large Ziploc full of shiny smooth gems. From here we traveled to Roseau, the capital of Dominica. Upon entering the bay we were again met by a small wooden fishing boat. Our host this time was Octavius of Sea Cat Tours. We tied to his mooring buoy and were told he could provide us with all we needed. There was a local soccer game that night that Octavius need to get to, he invited us to go see it but we were not up to it. The next day after some school we headed in to explore the town. The kids on Salt & Light were in need of some new clothes as they keep on growing, so we were on a mission to find these. It was more interesting to walk through the city than to wade through a mall like you would at home but there is not the choices that we have in north America so we were not very successful. It was another example of how our lives back home are made much easier by all the amenities and conveniences. Leaving Dominica we spent the next few days on Martinique. Legend has it that before the last local Caribs were killed at St Pierre, in 1658 they invoked horrible curses upon their murderers. 344 years later Mt Pele erupted and destroyed the village of St Pierre, killing 30,000 people in a matter of minutes. Twelve ships in the bay were also destroyed. History states that only 2 people survived the eruption, a cobbler who happened to be in his cellar and a murderer who was locked in a stone prison cell. We explored the town and climbed through the ruins of the prison and theater.
Marinique is very European, baguettes, espresso, Renaults, and Citroens, with a busy modern infrastructure. Customs and immigration in St Pierre is handled by the local internet café. Sipping on a cold bierre Janine filled out an online form, which the waitress/owner/customs officer then stamped, signed and then offered to pour us another glass (Robin I think Canada customs could take a lesson). A marked contrast to many other countries. Life cruising has been described as “fixing your boat in exotic ports around the world”. Martinique was no exception. After passing the 570’ Diamond Rock, which oddly enough was once commissioned as a warship in the British Navy, Marina Marin was our home for 2 days. Fred from Tillicum helped us sort out some electrical problems, install a new battery charger/monitor, and recharge our fridge, which seemed to be the root of the problem. Refrigeration on a boat in the tropics is difficult. The compressor has trouble cooling with 95 degree air and 82 degree water. Fred was able to sort things out pretty quick. It seems these cooling problems are not unique to High Five. With the fridge cold, and all of our Euros gone we bid au revoir to Martinique the last of the French islands and headed south toward St Lucia.

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