Dominica with Friends
“Birds of a feather…” The old expression accounting for the tendency of people to gather into flocks and travel together is no less appropriate for cruisers. The winds and seas are the initial focusing force that keeps sailors grouped; we all seek the same traveling conditions going from island to island. These conditions are not constant, and the slight variations yield eddies of opportunity to jump between islands, seek harbors of refuge or respite, or provide inspiration to travel on.
And, so it was when the window to sail south opened for us and the cruisers we knew in Les Saints in Guadeloupe sailed to Dominica. No less than eight boats that we knew ended up in Portsmouth, Dominica, some going north some going south, “…flock together”.
Dominica is one of the least “tourist developed” east Caribbean islands (and poorest in the Eastern Caribbean) and remains a true paradise for those interested in exploring a tropical island. Although we have been here a few times, it is always fun to share familiar places with cruiser friends. The Seven Seas Cruising Association, which we are members of, has a Cruising Station Host here and so we coordinated with them (the Smith’s) to gather our flock of friends for some fun and a road trip tour.
We gathered with our friends and other SSCA members at Smithy’s on a Friday afternoon. Smithy’s is owned by Toni and Jeff Smith. Toni, who is from Trinidad makes great rotis and after lunch we introduced Toni, her husband, Jeff and their two daughters to Mexican Train Dominos as we planned a road trip for the group the next day. One of the highlights of Dominica is the extensive hiking trails. This is something I miss as my hiking days are over, but I can appreciate the short walks to the more accessible interior waterfalls and rain forests. A road trip, with a driver that gives a running commentary about the island, is the next best thing and going with a group of friends is always fun. The Smith’s joined us our little road trip.
We managed to visit Pointe Baptiste Estate in Calibishie, a chocolate “factory” – a small private home run by Alan Napier. He is the grandson of Elma Napier who immigrated from Scotland, wrote the book White Sand, and was the first woman elected to the Dominica assembly. Like many islands here, Dominica has an abundance of good land and the ability to produce many fruits and vegetables for its population but not nearly enough to be commercially exported. Grenada does exports spices and cocoa beans and has started to process the beans into chocolate. Pointe Baptiste may follow as it is the first chocolate maker in Dominica. It produces, from bean to bar, about a ton of chocolate a year. Needless-to-say, it must be considered “artisanal” but does keep people employed. Since the unemployment rate is 27% any little bit helps. The chocolate is very good but I think Grenada has the edge.
A visit to the Emerald Pool and a refreshing dip in the cool waters was our next stop. There was plenty of water as the day offered plenty of opportunities to replenish the streams and rivers of the highlands. Well, we did have our bathing suits on!
Lunch and Trafalgar Falls were next. Thanks to the rains, the falls were in full “roar”. No opportunity to bath in the plunge pool but I would suspect that with the volume of water, it would not be that pleasant.
What was pleasant was the last stop a hot sulfur spa and spring. The warm, almost too hot springs are heated by the active volcanoes of the island. Despite being mineral rich, they did not have a strong sulfur smell as was expected. It was a very relaxing end to a day with friends sampling small parts of Dominica. In a few days the winds will dictate where we will sail to, and possible future outings together.