Wednesday, February 27

River Tour; Dominican Style

Once we got over the anxiety of the 'boat boys', we quickly realized there was so much to see and many places to go.  We knew that PAYS organized tours of all sorts and would basically accommodate whatever our hearts desired.  We wanted to share the load, if you will, between our boat boys, giving each of them equal business.  So Erica and I told Eddison (aka boat boy to Patronus) and Martin (aka boat boy to Anything Goes and Virginia Dare) what we wanted to see and do and asked them to work out the details.  The details were a little fuzzy and the descriptions a little vague with a lot of 'ya mon' in between.

Sooo, our first official tour in Dominica was scheduled to be a half-day, or so we thought.  Eddison was our first guide and planned a trip up the Indian River with a short hike to Syndicate Falls.  He picked us up at our boats at 8am and off we went.  It just so happened to be Bob’s birthday (Virginia Dare) and he chose to spend it with all of us.  Crazy man!

We made our way to the Indian River entrance from the anchorage and passed under the bridge where Eddison turned off his motor.  He said that motors were not permitted up the river.  He got out the oars and started rowing.  We laughed and joked that he wouldn't be able to row ALL 12 of us anywhere!  Once we got our giggles out, we suddenly became serious and hung on his every word.  Eddison was a  wealth of knowledge, overflowing with information about the history of the river, the foliage and wildlife that lived there.  Well, let me rephrase that.  The adults were trying to listen and the kids were up front chatting it up.  Alas, they suddenly became quiet when someone asked if there were alligators and once they learned that the river was used as a movie set.

Grown ups in the rear....

Kids in the front.  All 12 of us, plus Eddison, fit on his boat!  

Beauty from start to finish on our river tour

Lush green foliage along the river

This is how a coconut tree starts anew, from a fallen coconut.  It takes three months for it to get to this stage and 5 years to grow up and bear fruit.

Olivia listening and looking intently

Not a Disney ride by any means, but we saw a few other boats paddling up the river

This very river, the Indian River, was the location in which the swamp scene was filmed for Pirates of the Caribbean II.  We were told that Disney was not allowed to alter the landscape by cutting trees down and they were required to remove everything when they were finished shooting.  It was sad there wasn't anything for us to look at but good for Dominica and the wilderness.  Immediately, the kids were excited to watch the movie and watch for the river scene.

These buttress roots look like a strange creature or an artistic painting. 

Stepping off the boat to start our journey into the rainforest and explore

Ginger Lilly

 Green bananas.  It is more common to boil them in their green state than to let them ripen to yellow, like what we are used to.

Beautiful bird of paradise

 Following Eddison through the jungle...oh I mean, farm...or is it a rainforest?

 Livie enjoying star fruit picked fresh from the tree

 Eddison describing how to use the cinnamon leaves and bark of the cinnamon tree for cooking and making tea (the long skinny green things are palm tree leaves).  We learned so much about each and every plant, fruit or vegetable on the farm.  We tasted nearly everything as well.

Passion Fruit vines

 Grapefruit Tree


Lawn mower, milk producer and chatty Kathy

Eddison shows us how to open the coconut.  The coconut water is good for you but not as tasty as eating the coconut flesh.

Kate drinks from the coconut

Olivia's little bird made by Eddison from coconut palm leaves 

Maggie's turn to drink from the coconut

Enjoying homemade passion fruit rum, coconut rum infused with nutmeg and cinnamon and Dynamite rum with Leslie, who owns this little bar in the middle of the jungle.  He is also the proud owner and operator of his 40 acres of lush, fertile farm land.  He was very generous in letting us taste and take away fruits from his farm.  We asked him what this was and what that was and every time, he'd say 'hold on, I have dat'.  He would then go into a little back room and emerge holding whatever it was we were asking about.  It was amazing.  We wondered what else he had back there, it was like a little store.  And let me tell ya, it was no bigger than a closet, which made it all the more comical.

We spent so much time exploring Leslie's farm and shootin' the breeze with Leslie himself in his brightly painted bar, we were very late for the remainder of our half day tour....which, you guessed it, turned into an all day tour.  Stay tuned for the second half.

Monday, February 25

Coconut Bread

Living in the tropics and adapting my cooking skills to the local produce and recipes has been an adventure all its own.  They don't drink cow's milk down here in the Caribbean.  So many things are made with coconut milk and are considerably less sweet than we Americans are used to.  Which in my mind, is a good thing.  We first had a taste of coconut bread in Dominica, but it was not what you would typically imagine.  Their version was more reminiscent of a dense scone with dried, unsweetened coconut.  Using that as my inspiration, I made this coconut quick bread.  Not too sweet, a little bit dense and wonderfully moist.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups shredded fresh coconut (or purchased unsweetened coconut)
1/2 cup macadamia nuts or walnuts (optional)
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup coconut milk, fresh or canned, unsweetened
1/2 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, coconut, nuts, sugar, baking powder, salt, allspice, nutmeg, and cloves.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, coconut milk, and butter.  Fold the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients.  Blend the mixture thoroughly.

Pour mixture into a lightly greased 9-inch by 5-inch loaf pan.  Bake for 45-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Place the bread on a rack and allow to cool slightly.


Saturday, February 16

Boat Boys

In our trusty guidebook, we read all about the “boat boys” that would zip out to your boat, well before reaching the harbor, to see if you wanted them to be your 'go to' guy for the duration of your stay.  What?  Do we really need a boat boy?  We are cruisers after all, we could handle things (or not) by ourselves, right?  These were the thoughts that went through our heads as we sailed toward Dominica.   As you can tell, we were a little apprehensive and perhaps a little put off at the thought of these so-called boat boys.  We poured over the guidebook that listed each boat boy and what his specialty was and decided we wanted to work with Martin from Providence (in the end, we learned that any one of them would be superb).  But would he want to work with us?  We hailed him on the radio when we were a couple miles out.  He answered our call!  “um, yeah, we are about 30 minutes from Portsmouth Harbor, ummm, do you want to be our boat boy??”  It kind of felt awkward, like we were asking him to the homecoming dance.  He promptly said yes and told us he would meet us upon our arrival into the anchorage.  Phew, thank god that was over with!

Sure enough, a few minutes later, Lawrence of Arabia came speeding up to our boat.  He was waaaiiitttting for us.  It was a little creepy, however, he was polite and welcomed us to Dominica and then asked if we needed anything.  We promptly told him we were working with Martin (that's what the guidebook said to do).  He said “aaahhh, Martin”, turned his head away in shame and sped off.  Uh oh, did we piss him off??  No sooner did he leave, we were approached by another boat, Cobra.  He also greeted us with a smile and welcomed us.  We turned him away too.  At least he didn’t turn his head in disgust.  At this point we weren't sure how this whole 'boat boy' thing was going to turn out.

Come to find out, these guys all work for the same organization; PAYS - Portsmouth Authority and Yacht Services.  They work together to help with anything and everything a “yachtie”(as they like to call us even though we are on anything but a yacht) needs or wants .  They keep the anchorage and mooring field safe and secure by patrolling day and night.  But wait, there’s more....  They will organize and personally take you on a tour of any part of their island you want.  They answer all your ten thousand questions from where to take your trash to where to get your daughters hair braided into cornrows.  They are THE nicest, most accommodating boat boys we have ever met.  Well, truth be told, we haven't actually met any before.

We were soooo relieved once we got to know Martin.  Well, as much as you could get to know someone in the first 10 minutes.  Let's just say that he made a very good first impression.  We didn't have anything to dread or worry about from that moment on.  We knew we would be in great hands.  They didn't hover around our boat like beggars.  They didn't try to sell us anything or hustle us for taking tours.  They were there when we needed them and they went about their business otherwise.  We especially loved that they truly liked spending time with us, beachside or at your boat.  Sometimes they came by just to say hello.

One great example of how these guys operate and help yachties came one afternoon when a fellow Salty Dawg (Montana Sky) drug its anchor and was heading out to sea (narrowly missing a big fishing boat).  I was chatting with Erica on the back of our boat when I noticed their boat moving.  And then I noticed 2 people in a dinghy that looked like they were headed towards MS (not the owners).  I quickly told Craig they were adrift and he hopped in our dinghy and sped over to meet the other couple.  Together, they boarded MS while I hailed Martin on the VHF.  He said he noticed it too and was on his way.  The 3 of them hoisted the incredibly heavy anchor up and moved the boat safely to a mooring.  All heroes in my mind but it just goes to show what a great service PAYS provides.

Greeted by Martin, our boat boy, as we arrive.  He brought us fresh grapefruit from the island and demonstrates how the locals peel it - all in one strip!  We also had the pleasure of working with Eddison, boat boy to s/v Patronus.  Ken G., Titus, Stafford and Stan the Man also work closely with Martin and Eddison.  You will hear more about them in future posts.  Let's just say that we got to know all of them really well and we would recommend any of them to our cruising friends.

These awesome wooden boats are hand built in Portsmouth and are what the PAYS guys motor around in all day.  This is 'Seabird".

Thursday, February 14

Wednesday, February 13

Love at First Site

Dominica, The Nature Island.   WOW!  Let me count the ways in which we fell in love with the most flawless, beautiful island we have ever seen.  We had an easy 20-mile sail from the Les Saintes to Portsmouth Harbor on the northwest side of Dominica.  We were quickly anchored and reunited with our friends Bob and Christine on s/v Virginia Dare (Salty Dawgs) and of course s/v Patronus.

Leaving Les Saintes, looking forward to Dominica

Let’s see if I can paint you a picture and modestly try to describe how undoubtebly special Dominica is.  First, let me tell you what Dominica is NOT.  It is not miles and miles of white sandy beaches lined with palm trees and tall high-rise resorts catering to your every whim, overflowing with camera carrying clueless tourists.  I know, I know, we fit that description to a tee!  There is a time and place for that type of beauty and most of us have experienced it one way or another.  Dominica is different.  Dominica, Portsmouth in particular, is not big on modern conveniences but they are huge on natural beauty and wonderfully friendly people.  We were geniuenly touched by the outwardly friendliness of literally everyone in town. 

Approaching Portsmouth Harbor, just beyond ......

Dominica is unspoiled beauty with a preserved culture unmatched by anywhere we have ever been.  There are 365 rivers on the island, one for each day of the year.  There are 300 miles of trails that are a true nature lover’s dream.  The breathtaking vistas, waterfalls and rushing streams are, well, breathtaking.  The volcanic peaks and rainforest canopies rival the inner beauty of the people who live in Portsmouth.  We were greeted and welcomed with open arms as if we were long lost relatives.  It didn't take long for us to begin to feel like locals during our 2+ week stay.  The local people asked us frequently how we were enjoying their island.  It was an honest question that we whole-heartedly gave an enthusiastic answer of “we love it”.  The people of Portsmouth are very proud of their island, culture and heritage and have a deep respect for it.  They understand the value of the resources and way of life it provides.  It is passed down from generation to generation.  It is an understated and humble way of living, that is so simple and refreshing.

We loved that everywhere we went; in our dinghy, a taxi, a tour bus, a local shop or walking down the street, we were always greeted with a wave, a smile, a honk or a “good afternoon”.   

View of Portsmouth Harbor from the south side.  There were boats from the US, France, Germany, Norway and England that filled the harbor.

Olivia paying the customs officer

View from the road, looking out to sea

Rainbows-o-plenty in the Caribbean

Another gorgeous sunset in the Caribbean.  And, yes, we do see the green flash every once in a while!

Monday, February 11

Memory Maker

We do not remember days, we remember moments.  The richness of life lies in the memories we have forgotten. 
- Cesare Pavese

It's really hard to pinpoint our favorite moment, memory or experience.  But if I were to classify them, I would say that one of the highlights in the wildlife category is seeing the animals up close, personal and in their habitat.  We have seen dolphins, whales, sea turtles, parrots, iguanas, lizards, goats, flamingos, spotted eagle ray, eels, octopus, lobster, conch, nurse shark, fish, fish and more fish - just to name a few.  If we had to pinpoint a favorite, it would be dolphins swimming in our bow waves, as we huddle around mesmerized.  We never get tired of watching them because it's always as exciting as the very first time.  Be that as it may, we now have a new favorite after spending time in the Pain de Sucre anchorage in the Les Saintes.
As we dropped the line of our mooring ball outside the harbor of Terre-de-Haut, we were on a quest to find a more secluded anchorage that was a bit less rolly.  We first motored across the harbor to Ilet a Cabrit only to find no place to drop the hook except in 70 feet of water and more mooring balls.  Our next opportunity for quiet seclusion and protection was Pain de Sucre, not far from either harbor.  As we approached the small cove, there were a few other anchored boats and lots of people snorkeling.  Upon our arrival and circling around trying to figure out if it would be suitable to anchor, I spotted something in the water.  What was that?  A turtle?  The snorkelers all seemed to be bunched up and moving simultaneously in the same direction.  Then, all of sudden I saw 2 dolphins gracefully breech the water for a breath of fresh air.  They bobbed in and out of the water as they came to greet us and circled our boat.  OMG!!  We are staying, no question about it!

We had heard from a nice boutique owner in town, that there might be dolphins swimming in this particular cove.  It was a special time of year and they only stay about 2 weeks.  While Craig dropped the anchor, the girls and I scrambled to get our swim suits on and the snorkel stuff out as fast as we could.  Maggie hollered through her snorkel mask "doh' horget da hideo hamera!".

Funny thing about these beautiful creatures is that they are curious, just like we are.  Craig dove down on our anchor to make sure it was set and we wouldn't drag.  As he was down on the ocean floor, he looked over and 4 feet away, there was mama and her baby checking him out, almost as if they wanted to help or learn something about anchoring.  Craig said it was just about the coolest thing he has ever seen.

We have never paid to swim with dolphins at a resort, so I can't really compare.  But I would say that this was 10,000 times better.  First of all, it was free!  Secondly, it was in their natural habitat.  The most precious moments I observed was when mama and baby would rub noses and swim in elegant circles around each other as if to say I Love You!

We hiked up that mountain, Le Chameau.  Pain de Sucre cove to the right.

Entering the cove around this piton

Mama and her baby swimming by our boat as we anchored 

someone else swimming with the dolphins

The whole gang following mama and her baby

They swam back and forth, all around the cove, in between the boats.  They never seemed to venture away from the cove and weren't bothered by all the people.  

The best time to swim with them was late in the day or early in the morning when there were less people.  If I floated real quiet and didn't try to chase them, they came right up to me.  I could also hear them talk in their whistle and clicking sounds.  I could reach out and touch them if I wanted to.  It was definitely a priceless moment!!

Sunset in Pain de Sucre