March 13- 14 - Portsmouth, Dominica and onward to Roseau
We signed up with Martin for an Indian River tour. The following day he was there to pick us up on time and off we went. As we got to the river, he switched from using the outboard motor to oars (mandatory since it is a national park). He told us a bit of history, about the life of the Caribs along the river, how Columbus and his men went up this very river to meet with the Carib Indian chief and also to fetch water for his ships.
As we progressed up the river it turned into the quintessential jungle riverboat adventure (sans Humphrey Bogart and the African Queen) . But this was the real thing. It was a bit swampy, with large crabs on the sides of the river, bloodwood trees with their curved and spooky roots along the river bank, vines hanging into the river and the sounds of numerous birds. Reassuringly, Martin stated that no harmful animals exist in Dominica. No poisonous snakes, spiders, malaria, crocs and so on.
At the upper end of the river trip there was a small primitive restaurant. I went in to the river for a dip in the cool water. It was refreshing and quiet, to just lie in the water and listen to the birds chirping. It was an adventure in spite of not being a unique one, since both Dave and I had been on jungle river trips. (Dave’s trips had been more exciting. They occurred back during the Vietnam war (or what the Vietnamese today refer to as the American war) when there were people shooting at him.)
In the evening, we took a long walk looking for a Creole restaurant. There were none to be found that were open, even though it was early Saturday night. We ended up at a tiny restaurant called “Nora’s”. Nora stood outside barbecuing chicken legs and thighs. They smelled delicious. The chicken was THE dinner (and a beer). Nothing else was served. It was a sparse yet tasty meal.
That night was a terribly rolly night for us. Winds were out of the south and the swells came from the west. The boat rolled furiously from one side to the other most of the night. With little sleep and bleary eyed, as soon as we got up, we prepared for our departure to Roseau.
Soon, we were underway to the capital of Dominica in the southwestern part of the island. Not much more than an hour had passed, while motoring into hefty seas and winds that were blowing from the south, when we noticed the engine suddenly getting hotter. Dave went down below to check on the engine, while I shut it down and got a sail up. The fun started.
It turns out that the fan belt which turns the water pump got shredded. Being that this is a boat and nothing is ever easy, to change the belt Dave needed to undo the coolant hose, draining a lot of the coolant into the bilge. Anyway, it all got taken care of and soon we were back pounding into the wind and seas.
We got into Roseau early in the afternoon and were approached by one of the boat boys. Already we knew to ask for Pancho. The boat boy directed us to one of Pancho’s moorings and helped get us set up. We were moored in 45 meters of water - happy not to have had to anchor at this depth.
Pancho, a pretty hip looking rasta fellow, came by the following morning to check if we wanted to do any tours (that’s where they make their money). The typical greeting here is to ask if “everything’s alright”, and he did just that. We agreed to a morning snorkeling trip to a marine reserve called Champagne Beach, which we had heard some good things about.
One of his boys came by soon afterwards and picked us up. It turned out to be a unique snorkeling trip. The area, known for its bubbly water from underground lava vents, emits small fizzy bubbles. There also was lots of varieties of coral (some looking like small volcanoes craters) and various fish and eel. I was on the lookout for seahorses, but didn’t have any luck finding them.
In the afternoon we walked into the town of Roseau. A busy place with a typical third world feel. Lots of small grocery and apparel stores, cafes, bars and a few restaurants. Illegal copies of DVD’s and CD’s were on practically every corner.
Next we got on a bus (a van) and went to the most southern part of Dominica. Scott’s Head is a marine reserve and has a small fishing village alongside. The bay consists of an extinct volcano crater. We didn’t bring our snorkeling gear, which was unfortunate because it looked like a great spot with a wall-like structure.
On the way back, the bus (again a van), happened to stop along the beach by some fishermen. Some of them had just returned from a successful day of fishing. The driver and we negotiated for fish. We ended up with a small but nice looking tuna.
And so ends another day in the life of cruisers. Assuming no major weather change, we are planning for a crossing to Martinique tomorrow.