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 Accidental Cruiser in the West Indies

Martin on Providence: Dominican ambassador
This journal is a log of all the messages from Susie & Lance. For pictures, please see the Gallery.
Friday, April 2, 2004: Dominica
    We spent a good deal of time noodling around the southern end of Guadaloupe. We sailed up to the capital where we did our first med mooring in the marina there. The winds were gusty and mostly cross the bow so it was quite exciting getting the boat put away with out becoming rather too closely acquainted with our neighbors. The marina, Bas du Forte, provided us with water (of which we had been running low) and the opportunity to practice German and Swedish with our neighboring boats. When boats are packed in without even piers separating them, you get to know the people a fender's width away. We got out of the marina and into the Pointe a Pitre anchorage and wandered around that crumbling, tropical capital on a Sunday. Back to the Saintes we chose a slightly different anchorage behind Pain du Sucre and just around the corner from the busy Bourg. Picturesque but full of motor bikes. Susie got some miraculous physical therapy on a tendon problem in the hip and we took off further down island.
     Sometimes you just can't help getting stuck. We came to Dominica expecting crime, poverty and , worst of all, exposed anchorages. The guide books tell you to stay for only a night or two and we ended up over a week. I think the real issue is that this is the first island with "boat boys". They come out in brightly colored wooden boats and offer you help with everything from sight seeing to ice and garbage service. Apparently they were once a little more raw in the entrepreneurship than they are today. While approaching the point at the north end of the harbor doing over 7 Kts in seas mounded up in the passage close to the island itself, we were approached by a young man in a colorful boat hollering his name and soliciting our business. "Tell everyone you are with Monty". We were non-committal but it was hard to tell whether or not we had a deal over the wind, his outboard motor and the general crashing and banging of boats in winds and seas. By the time we rounded the point we had been contacted by Martin on Providence and told him we were impressed by Monty's general gung ho spirit. (let alone willingness to go out in a small, open boat in those seas just to be first to solicit). We approached the spot our friends Roberta and Larry of Dionis had marked on the map last year and had our hands full anchoring when Monty showed up. In the last couple of years, the "boat boys" had gotten so competitive that the rivalries were driving away business. They formed the "Indian River Guide Association" and issued identity cards to those who knew enough about the flora and fauna to give a knowledgable tour and be more
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than just pests. In whole hearted support of such a plan, Click for a journal entry listwe asked Monty for his card. He didn't have one because he spent the last year in jail in Guadaloupe because he worked as a hand for a smuggler and got caught. As this was not the background we were looking for, we ended up with Martin.
    Martin should be made ambassador of Dominica. He is knowledgeable, sunny and very, very proud of his island. Money is an issue for many Dominicans but they are all blessed with a land made beautiful and fertile by its many volcanoes and the abundant rain they scrape from the clouds. It is the first island coming south where people seemed genuinely welcoming and very proud of their island. Most of the population seems to live very close to the land farming bananas, mango, papaya, taro, coffee and citrus. Even those living in Portsmouth tend lovely gardens around their humble homes. The anchorage is quite exposed to the west and the shore is littered with rusting hulks of boats caught there in hurricanes. Even the fairly common northerly groundswell produces thundering surf on the beach and makes landing a dinghy adventuresome and maintaining a dinghy dock very expensive. Fortunately, one of the services the boats provide is water taxis for those who wish to go ashore and be dry when they get there. We took an early morning tour up the Indian River. Martin had to shut off the engine and row past the waterfront bridge as this natural wonder needs to be protected. A quiet early morning ride up the clear, meandering river being told about the birds, trees, various medical uses of plants in the stillness of the overhanging branches is a wonderful experience and not to be missed. We snorkeled as you might at any tropical island but we also got to swim in fresh water under a thundering fall and walk through rain forest and banana fields on the way. We ate grapefruit from the tree and sucked the sweet pulp around the coffee bean. We were invited to eat "real Creole food" and had a kind of land crab stew. The old Fort Shirley provided a fine site for a saltfish and banana picnic and we slept well in the huge, calm anchorage. Martin would organize trips, give cooking lessons, drop off flowers or grapefruit and generally make us feel welcome. Dominica offers the kind of closeness to nature and a welcoming Caribbean attitude that you hope for in a tropical paradise. The island clearly has problems (probably best cured by fairer prices for bananas and coffee) but its natural wonders and wonderful people will carry it through. If you only go to one island in the Caribbean, go to Dominica. Ask for Martin. Bring money.
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