Everything was feeling like a tale of two halves, in the Virgin islands we’d had what felt like so much drama, followed by the unrelenting hours of putting everything you can into the boat without really enjoying the many benefits there are to living on board, then there was Saint Martin where we felt like we literally just flaked out, we relaxed a little with the schooling and just enjoyed being on the boat, trying not to sneeze as you just never know; something could break, what would it be next? We felt like we were half holding our breath as something was bound to happen – that rather cynical side to us kept saying. Now though it appears as though the tides have turned and we were going to be leaving St Martin unscathed. There were a few moments that had us on high alert and ready, such as the sharks moving round the boats, the high winds gusting over 40knots at night that had the boat shuddering against the anchor and then the last day when we went to checkout and arrived back to the dinghy dock to find our dinghy was no longer secured with it’s padlock. You’ll be pleased to hear that no-one became shark bait, our anchoring skills proved pretty decent and no dragging occurred and we luckily still have a dinghy in tow although a new padlock will need to be purchased.
We were all in really high spirits when we set off for Dominica, the winds were pleasant, the seas were calm, we weren’t listening to the crashing of big waves on the hull constantly. It felt good to finally get the full main and head sail out as opposed to having to reef them due to the constant gusting. We had over 200NM ahead of us and if it stayed like this it would be a longer but much more enjoyable journey for the kids. A few points along the coast of St Martin the wind died down a little and it’s the first time since we started our first journey in Curacao that we wondered if there would even be enough wind.
There were so many Islands between St Martin and Dominica that would have broken the journey up into much easier day sails, St Kitts being the first island, we would have absolutely loved to have stopped here but they still had covid restrictions in place. The restrictions meant for us as a family of 5 to visit would have cost over $1000 dollars in tests alone followed by entrance fees, we just couldn’t warrant that outlay. Next was Guadaloupe, once again this would have been another fantastic island to visit, we’d heard from so many that the island no longer allowed anchoring in certain areas due to the destruction of the coral reefs, which is understandable, they had installed more anchor balls but the majority of these were taken by local boat owners, the remaining ones were watched and swooped upon as soon as one was vacated. There were still anchorages available but they were in waters 40ft – 50ft deep. We’d discussed at length before setting sail and agreed that if we reached Guadaloupe during daylight hours we would stop over but if it was during nightfall then we would bypass, unfortunately we sailed past during the night.
St Kitts was where the conditions started to change, the beautiful blue skies were replaced by grey clouds and a constant drizzle, then as we were passing along the coast of Montserrat it was time to reef when the winds upped to 25-35knots and the waves grew in size and number, this would then carry us all the way past Guadeloupe and into our chosen anchorage – Portsmouth which was on the north western tip of Dominica.
Dominica was a very pleasant surprise to us, it may be a Caribbean island but unlike most it is not known for it’s stunning white sandy beaches, it is known as the nature island. The island of volcanic landscapes and mountainous terrain, this island is definitely more for the adventure lover as opposed to the beach lover.
The island is known to have some spectacular waterfalls, 18 named ones and I’m sure a dozen other smaller unnamed ones, nine volcanoes and the second largest boiling lake, the hikes to get to some of these places take you through some rather luscious rainforests and over some very rugged terrain, as you enter into clearings you could easily imagine coming across dinosaurs, it certainly seems more like jurassic park than the caribbean. Our first stop was Indian river, a tranquil journey, they don’t allow motors on the river so you are punted along and get to just enjoy the beauty of the plants and animals that make it home. We also got to visit Tia Dalmas home and the swamp scene from Pirates of the Caribbean.
We opted to hire a car to travel around the island to try and visit as much as possible whilst there, for the 5 of us the tours were coming in quite expensive and since BVI’s ate up more than 4 months of our budget we are still trying to save where we can so we don’t have to cut our adventures short. We also know that there are more pressing things we may have to sort out a little further down the line such as our watermaker, there isn’t anything wrong with ours, making 5 gallon an hour, we have to run it for atleast a couple of hours everyday just to keep up with our minimum usage, it uses so much power which can be an issue if we have an overcast day, the one Simon has his eye on makes more than double our current hourly quantity, granted it would be worthwhile, you have no idea just how much water we get through just on 5 people using the toilet and washing hands, but he has yet to sell me on outlaying so much on the investment. We were also gutted when we arrived in Dominica, we found the bad paint job is getting worse and now the gelcoat is being stripped off by the waves as we travel. This means we are going to have to get it done sooner rather than later. Anyway, hindsight is good but foresight would have been so much better, we found out that taking the tours would have been a far better option, the drivers obviously provide a locals insight and have invaluable information such as which roads are still not open following hurricane Maria, We found we had driven an hour and a half to arrive 5 minutes away from our destination to be told the road was still not open and the only way to get there was to go the other way around which would have then taken almost 4 hours from that point. Online details are not up to date on the island, places are not open when they say they are, places are no longer there or are completely inaccessible but you would never know. Despite the lack of information the island far from disappoints and has become a firm favourite amongst all of us.
Everywhere you look there is an abundance of food growing, every street has atleast 3 tables full of produce on offer, there are bustling markets with so many fruits and vegetables on offer. One of the guides said that hurricane Maria did so much damage to the island, they are still, after all these years trying to rebuild the coastlines, however to us you wouldn’t know, the island looks to be thriving, yes the roads are a little worse for wear but having spent so long in Belgium it makes no difference to us. The island is so organic and fertile and its so refreshing to see an island that thrives on its own growth and does not live on everything being imported.
Our history lesson for this island was enjoyed immensely by Maisie, she’s a huge lover of First Nation and Indigineous tribes so learning about The Kalinago was definitely her kind of lesson. The Kalinago, originally known as the Caribs were the original inhabitants of the island long before it was colonized and are still a part of it today. As with the rest of the Caribbean a history of slavery is a major part of its past, with the Spanish, Christopher Columbus and then with the French followed by the British. Because of the mountainous terrain the Kalinago were able to escape invasions and hideaway when fighting became too much, unlike many others on the flatter islands they managed to continue with their lives and culture on the isolated east coast. Today they have a protected reserve known as the Carib Quarter spanning some 3700acres and population of 3500 and represent the last remaining tribe of the pre-Columbian Carib Indians going back to about 3000 B.C
Another school field trip was to learn about cocoa beans and the procedures involved leading to the production of chocolate – being typically British for us it doesn’t even come close to Cadbury’s but there were no complaints.
We had a big influx of little gnats, they seemed to be everywhere and we couldn’t understand why, anytime we arrive at a location we clean and dry the bilge – there is always a little water from the drive shaft and we don’t let it stand to avoid precisely this. We were thoroughly checking everything, all food making sure it was double sealed and that we hadn’t missed one, checking pipes and seals just incase. We couldn’t find anything, but it turns out we didn’t need to worry, once we left the island they disappeared.
There isn’t enough that I can say about Dominica, I can only let the pictures do the talking, we wished we could have stayed longer and done so much more but everyone had started feeling rather more unsettled at anchor than at sea because of the constant rolling caused by the tides we decided it was time to move on to our next destination.
“You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” – Christopher Columbus