Dominica – a hidden gem in the lesser Antilles

April 15 – April 29, 2022; 7841 nm and 1135 days after departure from La Rochelle.

Boy, did we enjoy this relaxing island! Arriving and being already checked in from Jeff Winston, a local guy who was working for PAYS, was for sure a great start. Imagine that!!! No hassle whatsoever regarding the check in. You arrive in a country and you can just go ashore, no waiting, no yellow flag, no figuring out where to check in. The only thing we had to do was giving him all the information in advance the customs/immigration required and we could immediately enjoy the island! AWESOME.
Dominica was hit by several storms and hurricanes in the last twenty/thirty years and is still suffering from these impacts. No need to mention that Covid didn’t help to improve the situation. To attract some more boats of the cruising community to visit their island the locals started PAYS. (The official explanation: “Portsmouth Association of Yacht Services, an organisation of local Dominicans who manage the mooring field in Portsmouth Harbor, provide safety, launch service and access to tour to the interior of the island. By encouraging more cruising sailors to visit, the entire town prospers.”) They not only organise the check in for cruisers but also help with any kind of questions or needs you might have. Like where to get fuel or gas, laundry, guided tours … And on top of all that, they organise bbq’s ashore to gather cruisers together once or twice a week. We loved that and were happy to pay a small fee for their effort to get the sailor tourism going again.

Daniel, he was working for PAYS and also providing the Indian River tour

After our kinda busy last two months we were in the mood to slow down. We enjoyed being aboard to get things done and only went ashore when we felt like stretching our legs. So in the first days in Dominica we only had a few strolls to Porthmouth to get some groceries, went up to the national park “Cabrits”, relaxed at some of the beach bars and enjoyed the Sunday bbq. That felt almost like a life changer or going out for the first time after such a long time of being restricted by curfew. Gathering together with so many people and just having fun was great. The only downside was the slight hangover the next morning. I don’t like rum punch so I shouldn’t drink it! But due to the luck of alternatives (what a lame excuse) I had some sips. Maybe even some more sips… and I think the last sip caused the headache the next morning. Anyhow we had a blast and enjoyed it very much!!! The next day was Easter Monday and the locals were really into partying. They built up huge speakers at the beach to celebrate Easter or maybe just their day off, who knows? We however had great pleasure in listening to the drone of the cacophony of three different kinds of music. Altimate didn’t mind but our heads and ears did! It took us into the late afternoon until we finally were in the mood (and condition) to go ashore. What a relief to escape the pleasant drone of that sweet music.

we could not here the music from up here Fort Shirley at Cabrits , what a nice hideaway

Some US sailor friends set us up with her friend Kish. A very funny, nice and smart lady who runs a small “snackerette” in Portsmouth and also provides island tours and more. From her we learned that the biggest problem for the island was the loss of the university after the last hurricane Maria category 5 hit Dominica. Not that the buildings of the university were destroyed but for some reason the hole university team and students were moved to Barbados and with it the accompanying business stopped in Dominica. Not only the university jobs were gone. No foreign students meant, no need for international food supply, no need for long term accommodation, less tourism from relatives of the students and so on. So all the related jobs were gone within a blink. What a double hit for the people. We do not know why the university left the island and if it was really related to the hurricane but it was and is a huge struggle for the locals to manage their daily income. Even more impressive that they were all so nice, helpful and welcoming despite their difficult situations.

crazy Kish making spooky faces and showing off with her machete

Kish took us to a great south tour of the island (I will give some more information in the impressions), spoilt us with a nice crab dinner and even looked after our laundry. Already back in Grenada we learned that the locals eat land crabs. They sold them at the market but we never found them on a menu. I remember when we asked Shademan, the bus driver in Grenada how to prepare the crabs, that he said it is a lot of work to prepare. He also mentioned that it was important to let the crabs starve for a week or so to get them detoxed… Anyhow I was talking to Kish about that when she was telling us about the sex of the crabs(if I recall right, the male has a rather round belly to the inside, while the one of the female is flat) and then she invited us to have a crab meal at her place. She just asked us to find some more people to join to make the effort more worth it. So I started hunting crab-eating, not to be confused with crap-eating sailors.
Somehow the bay was a meeting point for sailors we’ve met before or we knew through some other sailors. For us the nicest surprise was meeting Tony and Rosemary from England which we knew from Carriacou and the Italian couple Anita and Fred. Rosemary and Tony happened to join us at the Indian River tour (also more info in impressions). Anita and Fred we hadn’t seen for a loooong time, it was back in Tazacorte, La Palma in October 2020. What an unexpected joy! But coming back to my crab-eating-interested people hunting. The Italians were immediately in, Rosemary and Tony wasn’t very keen on trying. We also asked the German couple Solvey and Achim which we could persuade to give the crab meal a go. Btw only after a while we figured out that we had met them, though very shortly, already before back in Las Palms Gran Canary. What a small world. With the 6 of us we had enough eaters to make it also worth cooking for Kish.

may the feast begin, pay attention to the tools! Solvey, Achim, scary El Capitano, Anita and Fred

The tools were a fork and a wooden hammer. A great meal to get rid of some anger. Just pretend the crab back is someone you would like to hit hard (maybe some bastard dictators?) then it’s a piece of cake to open the shell with the hammer – and sooo much fun. Now while writing, it comes to my mind that it seemed that the Dominicans don’t use much knifes with her meals. It was not only here when we didn’t get a knife with our meal but only a fork? Interesting, but too late to check on…Well I should not forget to mention that we, Norbert and me, enjoyed the dinner very much. It was kind of a hassle and a bit dirty to eat the crabs but they were very tasty and surprisingly almost a little sweet. They were cooked in lots of herbs, spices, coconut milk and spinach which probably gave them that special taste. The many side dishes may not have looked so impressive but were absolutely delicious. My favourite were the black beans followed by the green banana pie. Yammi.

green beans, crab parts, green banana pie and black beans

I hope the interested reader knows that we do, about three times a week some workout. El Capitano is usually running and exploring the area while I try to keep my body in shape an hour of tough workout. We started that in Grenada when the hard lockdown took place and we weren’t allowed to do anything. Since then I join Ann’s workout lesson. Ann is also living on a boat and provides her workout sessions via google-meet. I was so lucky to get in contact with her through our Canadian friends Shell and James. That time Ann and her husband Harry were only a bay next to us but due to the lockdown we weren’t able to meet in person and that ever since. Now it seemed we finally had the chance to meet them as they were with their cat “Whisper” in Nevis. So we looked up the covid checkin procedure and decided to head off to Saint Kitts Nevis. The applying to enter Nevis was a bit complicated as it was somehow incomprehensible and we needed again a covid rapid test. So annoying🙄. Still we now wanted to go there and we managed in the end to fill out correctly the forms. Saint Kitts and Nevis lay in the north west of Guadeloupe behind the small island of Montserrat. To have smaller distances and also get the needed rapid test we first sailed to Deshaies at the north tip of Guadeloupe. Here we easily got the test and were also able to sail to Charlestown/Nevis within the required max 24 hours after being testet.

the bay of Deshaies, Altimate is hiding behind the red boat

Here comes the bummer! Whisper had to leave Nevis earlier as planned and we again wouldn’t be able to meet in person. I was so disappointed! Well, hell, shit happens!

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