29th March to 5th April 2019
Arrived and helped onto a mooring buoy by Mikail, who works for Mr Bean (he manages the southern half of the buoys and SeaCat tours). Had a chat and paid him his 15 Euro for the first night’s mooring (we didn’t have any ECD on us) – he advised us on where to go for customs and said they’d be around at some point if we were interested in a tour. They were very chilled – we had to wave one of the guys over to pay them the day before we left! Customs was easy, too – they don’t use the sailclear system here, only in Portsmouth, but the forms don’t take long, and the officials were very friendly.
Our first trip out was a walk up to the botanical gardens, via conversations with Kelvin (who took us on a tour the next day), Markus (who owns moorings in the North of the bay, runs a security dinghy, looks after a dinghy dock, and advised us where to leave the dinghy), and a number of other people. Most of the larger trees at the botanical gardens were destroyed a couple of years ago by Hurricane Maria, but there was still plenty to see and the kids had a good time lizard watching at the start of the walk. We then had a wander around town and found a supermarket that was open on Sundays (on the front near the cruise ship dock), and a few more interesting conversations with locals. We got the impression that not many families visit, which is a real shame as it’s a very friendly and welcoming place, especially on non-cruise-ship days – when the ships are in town there are plenty of conversations from people who want cash for something, but everyone else seems much more reserved. Not surprising given the ships can see 8000 people visiting an island with a population of 45000 or so, as we learnt on our tour!
Kelvin showed us a couple of lovely spots, and chatted along the way about the island, the fruit we were passing, etc.. Trafalgar falls was amazing, one of the most spectacular waterfalls we’ve seen – very much worth a visit for sightseers. The kids didn’t make it to the foot of either of the waterfalls for a swim (Arthur declared the climbing wasn’t comfortable for him, thankfully, as he’d already given a couple of other tourists a heart-attack scampering along the rocks), but we found a smaller pool to cool off in. We experienced a short but heavy rain shower whilst there- be aware that climbing can be a bit slippery afterwards! Then to a small spa, which is in the process of being rebuilt a little further up the hill than it was before 2017. We all enjoyed a dip in the hot bath piped straight from volcanic spring, as well as watching the wildlife in the spectacular setting.
Kelvin also mentioned we were moored next to Chris Doyle (who writes sailing guidebooks), and by coincidence that evening our boats swung in opposite directions, so we were within speaking distance. Someone on Chris’ boat said hi to “the fish in the water” (Arthur) who promptly swam over, was welcomed aboard and spent a while bouncing on their trampolines until Charlotte joined him (and sat down chatting with a glass of wine). Funny.
There are two more European style supermarkets here, small but well-stocked. The walk from the dinghy dock is quite long when carrying groceries, but Charlotte felt awkward using the fishing dock that was nearer to the shops, especially as I mentioned it was a long and swelly ride when I went to clear in. Close to the supermarkets, there is also a large fruit/veg market that we didn’t see in full swing, and fresh fish is often sold from the dinghy dock closest to the moorings, sometimes from a wheelbarrow pushed by a man blowing on a conch shell to attract attention- Arthur was especially excited to see them gutting a large Marlin (?), and asked the fisherman and Markus numerous questions. Another home-schooling opportunity, learning about fishing techniques and that the locals waste nothing from the catch. Later, onboard, we extended the lesson by dissecting a young tuna that Markus saved from the bait bucket for us.
We anchor nearly everywhere, and rarely take paid-for tours, but in Dominica they need the money injecting after Hurricane Maria (2017) destroyed a good portion of the buildings, all the agriculture, and lots of lives. So, we made a conscious decision to spend more here and less on the French islands. A few other sailors we have spoken to mentioned the exact same intentions (including a lovely couple of Australians who paddleboarded over to say “hey”, beers in hand). By all reports, and from our experience, the “boat boys” have clubbed together on Dominica to make a cool little community for the cruisers who do stop by, but it’s amazingly quiet. There are only about 10-15 boats in the anchorage, which is a small fraction of the numbers at any of the anchorages we went to in Martinique. And most people, Chris and one other boat excepted, only stayed a day or two, which is completely bonkers. Perhaps Portsmouth will be busier…
Be aware that when the wind/swell is from well South of East some of it sweeps around the corner into the bay – it wasn’t uncomfortable for us, but it meant we only swam with one child at a time (Theo bobbing up and down over the waves with a grin on his face is hilarious), and looked uncomfortable for a couple of the monohulls that are around. Something like a 2’ swell on average, I’d guess, but with a pretty low period on it so as the water gets shallow the waves get steeper.
Freelancing is going well so far – there’s certainly enough work available at a good enough hourly rate to make enough money without any ethical conflicts. And, I’m currently finding the work both enjoyable and productive/worthwhile… in other words, it’s looking increasingly like this’ll be a long-term lifestyle for us.