Journey, our 42ft sloop, Captain Jonathan, and I, his loyal first mate, started our sailing adventure in December 2013 leaving from Florida. We sailed the Bahamas, Haiti, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, as we made our way south, stopping at several of the Leeward and Windward Islands along the way.
Although we understand the communality between the islands, we always sought out the differences and the uniqueness of each one of the places we visited. When we sailed towards Dominica, we had no idea we would both fall in love with this special island of luscious and fertile land, populated with the gentlest of people.
Dominica is the youngest island of the Lesser Antilles. It rises from the ocean floor and, with its mountainous rainforest, gorges, waterfalls, hot springs, 365 rivers, and plenty of rare birds, animals, and plant life, it is no wonder it is known as the Nature Isle of the Caribbean.
Dominica was discovered by Spain, colonized by France and then by Great Britain, from whom it obtained its independence in 1978. Its economy is driven by agriculture and tourism, with a population of 72,301 inhabitants (2010) of mostly African descent. The official language is English, and the vernacular language is Kwéyòl Island Carib.
We left Guadeloupe for Dominica and decided that our first stop would be the island’s capital, Roseau. On arrival, we picked up a mooring ball; lowered the dinghy and went to town to check in. While in town, my captain forgot his cell phone on the counter of a public place. Assuming it was lost for good, we stopped at the customs office the next day, and surprisingly enough, someone had found the phone and turned it in—a testament to the Dominican’s honesty.
The next day we rented a car and drove the winding, steep and narrow roads. We were mesmerized by the tropical landscape as we explored some of Dominica’s natural treasures. We walked on well-marked trails through the rainforest to waterfalls and to fresh water lakes; we even swam in Titou Gorge’s cold waters to find just another indoor waterfall.
By late afternoon, tired and hungry, we decided to find a local restaurant recommended by a Dominican man we met as we explored the island. We found River Rock Café and Bar nestled into the mountainside overlooking Trafalgar River and waterfall. Our day ended in the clean air, surrounded by nature, as we delighted our palate with a delicious fresh fish dinner.
Our next stop was Portsmouth at Prince Rupert Bay, the northern most anchorage on Dominica. We had reserved a mooring ball with PAYS (Portsmouth Association of Yacht Security) via email, which we strongly recommend, the holding is poor and we were witness to boats dragging their anchor. PAYS (see story on page 89) is an organization created to provide yachties with a variety of services, and most importantly, safety. They organize a night watch, and they are knowledgeable about everything Dominica. We were extremely impressed with all they have done. We felt safe and welcomed.
Our PAYS contact was Martin, he came and greeted us on his boat Providence, Martin helped us with a mooring ball, gave us the lay of the land, took us on the Indian River tour (a must do), and invited us to a PAYS sponsored BBQ at the beach. It was delicious and affordable. DO NOT MISS IT! The night was super fun, the food was good, plenty of rum punch, with feet in the sand, music, dance, and more rum punch …
There was so much to do in Portsmouth. We walked around town, bought fruits and vegetables from Haitian immigrants, and later explored Cabrits National Park, its museum and fort. We walked the famous Waitukubuli Trail to some of the most amazing views of the island’s coast, mountains, and marshes.
We were lucky to be in Dominica for the rehearsal of their Carnival parade. We took our dinghy to the fishermen’s dock and then walked under the blazing afternoon sun following the beat of the drums towards the parade. We found families, young and old, locals and tourists packing the narrow streets of Portsmouth. We were able to find a shaded spot on the sidewalk as the streets filled with beautifully painted faces, rhythmic bodies and choreographed dances. The loud inebriating music made sure no one stood still … Dominican beauty! Dominican beat! Dominican heat!
Monica Pisani and Jonathan Morton are cruising the Caribbean aboard Journey, their 42ft Tatoosh. To learn more about their voyaging, visit: www.sailing-journey.com