There’s no question that Dominica lives up to its nickname – ‘Nature Island of the Caribbean’. This 290-square-mile Windward Island located 22 nautical miles (nm) southeast of Guadeloupe and 26 nm northwest of Martinique at its closest points, boasts abundant natural attributes. The surrounding seas and shores offer spectacular dive sites and deserted white and black sand beaches, respectively, while the scenic interior is filled with waterfalls, exotic flora and fauna, and rainbow topped mountains. While nature has long been Dominica’s buzzword, nautical has not. There are no marinas, no charter company, no expansive boatyards or soup-to-nuts nautical services. Yet, this is changing. And it’s happening in a good way. That is, there are more services and facilities now for cruising sailors, but not in a heavy-duty infrastructural way that lessens Dominica’s earthborn appeal.
“Beyond its breathtaking natural features and memory-making tours is the genuine friendly nature and hospitality of the Dominican people. This attribute makes for a truly enjoyable Dominican experience. This is sealed by a most unique sense of security and safety that the young men of PAYS (Portsmouth Association of Yacht Security) give to every yacht coming to Prince Rupert›s Bay,” invites Andrew ‘Cobra’ O’Brien, PAYS president and owner-operator of Cobra Tours & Yacht Services, in Portsmouth, which handles logistical services such as rapid import-export of parts, chartered flights and fuel bunkering.
MARINE FACILITIES in Dominica
The most developed yachting destination in Dominica is in Portsmouth, on the island’s northwest coast, and specifically the nearly mile-long Prince Rupert Bay.
“PAYS has moorings there, and they will come out and guide you into them. Once you take a mooring, the PAYS person who assists will become your point of contact for your stay. What we enjoy is the friendly people and community and being a part of a family of cruisers who stop here,” says Joan Conover, president and commodore of the Seven Seas Cruising Association, who with her husband and family sail their Morgan 511, Growltiger.
The 27 to 30 moorings in Prince Rupert Bay are new and/or refurbished and donated by Offshore Passage Opportunities, a crew networking service based in Halesite, NY, owned by long-time professional sailor, Hank Schmitt. “PAYS will bring back Yachtie Appreciation Week, March 20-27, after a two-year pandemic hiatus. The one-week celebration started 6 years ago to publicize the new donated mooring field. This year, there will be all-new mooring lines and bottom painted moorings identifying them as PAYS secure moorings,” says Schmitt.
Year-round, PAYS provides security for all yachts in the harbor, mooring buoys and garbage collection, says Cobra Tours & Yacht Services’ O’Brien. “The fuel station is relatively close and the guys at PAYS can facilitate with jerry can runs. There is a water line out in the harbor. The PAYS office is on the waterfront in the south end of Prince Rupert’s Bay. We have our security patrol boat and a bigger service boat if there is a need for it. We are on channel 16.”
There are several jetties in Portsmouth linking to shore, says Eddison Laville, owner and operator of Eddison Tours & Yacht Services, a professional tour operator and boat agent who like other PAYS members provides services such as clearance, provisioning, laundry, etc. “Restaurants have their jetties, and the new main jetty is at the PAYS facility in Portsmouth/Prince Rupert Bay. There is a small dinghy dock at the bus stop in Portsmouth. Additionally, the docking of the Indian River can be used as well.”
In Portsmouth, a fruit and vegetable market is adjoining the harbor, as well as a bakery, laundry services, a few hardware stores with limited marine supplies, and a couple of grocery stores. SAVERS located a 5-minute taxi ride or public bus ride south of Portsmouth has become a cruiser favorite supermarket because of its impressive selection and service.
South in the capital city of Roseau, the Dominica Marine Center offers several services such as sail sales and repairs, engine repairs, generator support, bottom cleaning and painting, patch work, welding, electrical work and more. Name brands are represented here such as Mercury, Suzuki, Yanmar, Cummins, Doyle and Northern Lights. The facility, run by islander, Hubert Winston, has a 20’ by 20’ dock with an attached dinghy dock for easy access. Also in Roseau is a Budget Marine chandlery, one of a dozen in the Caribbean.
South of Roseau, between Newtown and Loubiere, there is another bay ideal for cruisers. The Newtown Association of Yacht Security and Services (NAYSS) has been newly established and, like PAYS, assists visiting yachts. There is a dock that cruisers may access located beside the Newtown Fisheries. The fuel station is about a 10-minute walk from this dock. Grocery stores in the Roseau area include Fresh Market, IGA, S-Mart and Astaphans.
What to SEE & DO in Dominica
PAYS members are certified and fully trained tour guides. They can arrange Indian River Tours, Island Tours and much more.
“The Indian River is simply a cruiser’s ‘must’,” says Cobra Tours & Yacht Services’ O’Brien. “Cruisers have easy access from the Prince Rupert’s Bay. The waterway is the main breeding ground for our migratory birds and serves as a nursery for our marine life. It’s the only of our 365 rivers on the island where one can enjoy a guided rowboat tour into the forest. The unique swamp bloodwood trees line up the banks of the river as a natural wall, with the branches forming a canopy above perfect for the birds and iguanas. The flora, fauna and you become one. At the top is the Bush Bar, home of the dynamite rum punch and botanical gardens. The tributary of the Barry River is home to Calypso’s Hut, from Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean movie. You can inquire at the Bush Bar about having ‘Dinner at Calypso’s’.”
There are currently no nautical events scheduled except for Yachtie Appreciation Week in March. But there are other events on the schedule. Dominica’s Carnival, Mas Domnik, takes place February 28-March 1 this year. In May, the Cabrits National Part hosts the Jazz ‘n Creole Festival, and the last week in October is the World Creole Music Festival.
“The main activities are in Roseau and Portsmouth. However, many towns and villages do have their own bands. It’s all about music, costumes, and fun. Various villages also have fish feasts spread over the year. And finally PAYS holds BBQs on the beach at Prince Rupert Bay/Portsmouth, always on Sundays and Wednesdays,” invites Eddison Tours & Yacht Services’ Laville.
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