Saturday, December 24, 2011

Dominica (Dom-e-nee-ka) The Rainbow Island in the Leeward Islands

December 19 - 23, 2011 
Ah, cruising toward Roseau from St. Pierre, Martinique, I got more and more excited as this was an island I’d very much looked forward to visiting.  Cruising past it on our way down the island chain, I’d been struck by how much more deep green and lush this island appeared than any of the others and was eager to explore the high mountain range, the waterfalls, sulpher springs, vast rainforests, 365 rivers & 8 potentially active volcanoes!  
In the Morne Trois Pitons in the south
Cruising into Roseau, the capital of Dominica, we finally got some assistance via VHF to pick up a mooring ball in front of the Dominica Marine Center & settled in.  First things first - we needed ANOTHER battery, after just replaced four big ones.  This morning, our generator took a lot of coaxing to get started and whatever else Andy had to do to it down in the innards of the engine room.  In luck, we were able to purchase off the shelf a starter battery & Andy installed it in just a few minutes - a bullet dodged for sure! 
Roseau, Capital of Dominica
Fishermen worked their nets around our boat every day
 We raced to customs in our dingy getting cleared in ahead of a large number of Ferry passengers & headed to explore the town & try to pick up some groceries before nightfall.  This island makes it very clear they value cruisers - one can check in and out at the same time, for a couple of dollars total AND have a full two week stay.  (If staying more than two weeks, no problem, just go renew your permits.)  You are free to cruise everywhere on the island. Contrast that to some islands that require you to check in and out each time you visit a new anchorage and charge bigger $$$ for the privilege!                                                                                      

Sperm Whale @ Anchorage Hotel, Roseau

Killed by a boat that hit the whale

Andy enjoying the Anchorage Hotel ambiance

Water from the springs & rivers carried to town in old wooden pipes

Much of Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed all over this island
Old section of town

Dominica has much the same history as all the other islands - settled originally by the Arawak and then the raging Carib Indian warriors.  Columbus made a pass or two around here in 1493, followed by many other Europeans, explorers, pirates, etc.  In 1632 the French began to settle here, establishing a colony in Martinique and Guadeloupe....3 stepping stones in a row for the French in these parts!  

Old Section of Roseau
Greed arose as it did everywhere.  The French fought the British & the Caribs for years, trying to keep Dominica as ‘theirs’.  The Brits finally prevailed via the Treaty of Paris in 1763, took over, establishing towns and ports and began importing slaves to work the lands.  The French fought back, regaining the island.  Then about 20 years later, the Brits won the Island back from the French via the Treaty of Versailles in 1783.  Twenty more years later, the French with Napoleon at the lead, attacked, burning cities, taking hostages and completely took the island back.  (Remember Martinique -- his wife was from there, the next island up and they wanted to be back - in FRENCH islands!)  The Brits paid the French a bunch of money and the island returned to British rule. 
Wandering about both in Roseau and in Portsmouth, we noticed the streets are named some in French and some in English.  The heritage continues as all the locals speak both the Creole language, which is based on French, and English. The local population is descended from former slaves brought to this island and to other islands.
Hard to tell how beautiful it was from a car window!

Dominica became a haven for escaped slaves up and down the Caribbean as it was easy to hide in the mountainous rainforests.  These escapees, called Maroons, joined forces, battling the French and the British, inciting slave rebellions, etc. and had a lot to do with ultimately gaining an end to slavery here and elsewhere. 
 Dominica became a self governing British possession 1967 and in 1978, became an independent republic, controlling its own destiny.  After spending several days exploring both in the south and in the north, I’d say the Government of Dominica is doing a good job - they are huge on protecting their environment and welcoming tourists to view it all.
The Christmas winds have arrived.....right on schedule and not too early!  After all, it is Christmas time!  Winds are hitting 48 knots off the islands and seas 19 feet and rocking and rolling us in this harbor.  The other night the anchor alarm must have gone off 20 times, no matter how we reset matter how wide the circle we’d placed on our GPS around the mooring ball. Andy and I were up much of the night, checking and rechecking our position to determine if the BEEP BEEP BEEP was a false alarm or were we truly dragging our mooring ball out to sea and on to the reefs.   All was well, except for our lack of sleep!  
Roseau is a charming colorful town, in spite of the hordes of cruise ship passengers wandering around the streets.  The Old Market Square (former slave market) was loaded with vendors selling all the typical trinkets. 
Part of Ft. Young Hotel as viewed from a bar area - so tropical

Wandering into the most upscale place in town, the Fort Young Hotel, we signed up for a tour to the waterfalls, rainforest and sulpher springs, bypassing the local boat boys.   We think we paid less $$ as there were only 2 of us and the boat boys want 4 people AND we were ready for new acquaintances.
Twin cascades known as PaPa & MaMa Falls

PaPa Falls 200' down

MaMa Falls behind us, at the viewing Platform

Sulpher spewing out of the earth
Hiking down the trail closer to the Falls was too crowded for me!  Too many cruise ship folks, bah, so we stopped before getting down to the pools.

A highlight was relaxing at the SCREW SPA, a series of cold, warm, warmer, hot and hotter pools, all connected, fed by various sulpher springs.
Saw none of that going on......

Green, lush, warm, rocky - yellow is the sulpher

Andy, swimming in one of the warmer pools

Sharon getting a neck & shoulder massage from the hot cascading waterfall

A great time was had by all on our little tour van!
Rained out from further sightseeing, we unhooked from the mooring ball, cruising just a few hours north, to Portsmouth, in Port Rupert Bay, where we had simply spent the night on our way down to Grenada.  

Portsmouth - Prince Rupert Bay, Dominica
Hailing Martin, a/k/a PROVIDENCE, via VHF, he sent a friend to assist us in tying up to the mooring ball, as Martin was off the water for a couple of hours.

Boat boy (Martin's helper) coming to our aid
The boat boys here are professional, have formed an organization called PAL, maintain mooring balls, kept security boats in the harbor and provide tours and any other service a boater might want or need.  Quickly settling in, we made arrangements for an Indian River tour early in the morning of Christmas Eve.

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