44' Luxury Catamaran Mustang Sally

Doug, Wendy and Mustang Sally cruise the Virgin Islands. Follow along on their adventures meeting funky local characters and visiting hot spots and hidden treasures with links to our favorites websites and additional interesting information.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

DOMINICA TO MARTINIQUE






















































May 19, 2008, Dominica – May 25, 2008, Martinique










We left Iles Des Saintes after checking out with customs and had another great sail to Portsmouth, Dominica (Dom-a NEEK-ah). We both kept a sharp eye on the surface of the water scanning for water spouts as this stretch was a favourite playground for whales and although we had seen many dolphins we hadn’t seen any whales… yet.
We were excited to be heading to Dominica as we had heard many wonderful things about the island. Our guide book says that if Christopher Columbus were to come back to the Caribbean islands today, Dominica would be the only one he recognized as it still looks very much like it did when he landed. Dominica has not been developed and remains incredibly lush and tropical. The island consists of jagged mountain peaks and deep valleys, rainforests, and waterfalls, along with a boiling lake (kewl!) and numerous crater lakes. There are birds, butterflies, and lots of brightly coloured flowers in abundance. The high mountains attract clouds which mean many quick rain showers but there is also a lot of sunshine which results in many rainbows, as we soon learned. Although we were still far out from the island, we could see huge clouds that covered the mountain peaks. It was an impressive sight as the dark, ominous clouds rolled down the mountain seemingly to engulf Mustang Sally as we approached the most northern city, Portsmouth, and this island that we had heard so much about.
One of the “boat boys”, which we had heard so much about from other yachties, raced out to Mustang Sally in his colourful pirogue with big outboard engines, while we were still about 2 miles from the anchorage. We were a little nervous as we had heard that boat boys can be very aggressive in that they want you to take a mooring ball from them, use them as an agent to check in with customs, buy produce from them, use them as a water taxi, etc. all for a fee. We do these things ourselves and it doesn’t cost us anything that way. However, our travel guide had given us names of reputable boat boys and explained how these guys arrange tours, take your laundry to get washed and return it, and deliver groceries to your boat and numerous other necessities for “yachties”. Eddison was our boat boy and I checked the guide and he was listed as one of the reputable ones to deal with. We yelled at Eddison from our boat to his while still sailing that we would be dealing with him for anything we needed done and once we got anchored we could talk more to him. A little later another boat boy listed in the guide approached us but we felt that we should deal with Eddison as he was the first to approach us and he had motored all the way out to meet us.
Once we were anchored, Eddison came over to the cat and we chatted a bit with him and found him to be smart, helpful and courteous. He was happy to take the beer offered by Doug as well. We made arrangements to do a river tour with him the next morning and a land tour with his friend Boudha in the afternoon, all for a very reasonable price.
We put our dinghy in the water and motored over to customs, which was on the big commercial jetty where bananas and all sorts of other local produce get shipped to other countries by boat. The customs office was located in a pretty tough wharf area and we weren’t sure we were going the right way but we managed to find it and the officials were just that, official. After some rubberstamping we were officially in Dominica. Kewl!
We figured we might as well go for a brief walk thru the town before heading back to the cat and we were also out of beer so we were on a mission to find “Kubuli” which is Dominica’s locally made beer. We asked Eddison why they called the beer Kubuli and he told us that the Carib Indian name for Dominica was “Waitakubuli” which means “tall is her body” and was named so because Dominca is quite long.
Our walk thru town was a little shocking. I had never seen such poverty… yet. Dominica is definitely a third world country. But as we were to learn the next morning when we went on our tour, the island may be financially poor but it is very rich in fruit, produce and spice. No one will ever go hungry in Dominica. You simply have to go for a walk and you can pick fruit from every tree. After we bought our beer we made tracks to the cat for a sundowner and early dinner as we were both tired from our sail and our tour was to start early the next morning.
Eddison arrived at our boat promptly at 8 a.m. with a group of young women who were all from Martinique and were on holidays in Dominica. The girls spoke limited English and so between their English and our limited French we had a good deal of fun trying to figure what each other was saying. Fortunately, Eddison was bilingual and was able to give us the tour in both languages.
Our first tour was the Indian River tour and at the very head of the river Eddison showed us large rusted out hulks of container ships and tug boats that had been swept ashore in previous hurricanes. We also saw the bridge that spanned the river had been destroyed in Hurricane Ivan in 2004. It was only now being replaced by a new bridge and cars had continued to drive on the old, seriously destroyed bridge as they did not have the money to fix the bridge sooner.
Eddison had taken government schooling to become an Indian River guide and as a result he was able to tell us all about the foliage and wild life as we he rowed us up river in his pirogue. The river and the river banks were where several scenes of Pirates of the Caribbean were shot as the river has a spooky, eerie quality with its crazy tree trunks and tree roots sprawling everywhere. As far up the river as we were allowed to travel by boat, there appeared a very kewl outdoor bar made all from bamboo and palm fronds. The flowers here were incredible and we were able to purchase pina coladas and Kubuli’s and tamarind juice.
Once we were back at the foot of the river, Eddison handed us over to his Rasta botanist friend, Boudha. We all piled into Boudha’s van and off we went on a tour of the island, including the Carib Indian village, parts of the rainforest and a hike to Chaudiere Pool. Boudha would pull the van over to the side of the road, run up to a bush or tree, pick something off of the tree and bring back to the van where we could all eat or smell it. This happened every few minutes. We never did stop for lunch as we were all full from all of the fruit we were eating. It was truly amazing. There is so much incredible foliage in Dominica….tons of banana trees, (there are banana plantations everywhere), nutmeg trees, lemon grass, cashew trees, apricot trees, pineapple trees, coconut trees, bay leaf, cinnamon trees, (the bark is the cinnamon, you just grate it, how kewl is that?), basil, everywhere, lemon/lime trees, grapefruit….it goes on and on…..mango, sapodilla, paypaya. We were shocked by the amount of fruits and spice that one island could grow.
The last part of our day was a very steep hike into the rainforest to the Chaudiere Pool where we could all enjoy a swim and if we wanted jump off the top of the falls. The falls were not really big but they were beautiful, plus, this was fresh water. Everyone enjoyed a swim while some jumped from the top and others chickened out (that’d be me) and then we hiked back to the van. It had been a long wonderful day and we all dozed off in the van on the way back.

The next morning we had a pleasant sail to Roseau, Dominica’s capital city. We needed to load up on groceries and after a brief walk into town managed to find a decent “Americanized” (so they think) grocery store. I can’t plan meals the way I used to anymore as you never know what you will find and it is usually pig snout, or chicken claws. I try to find something vaguely familiar and then I throw it in the pressure cooker with a bunch of other things, and cook it for a long time. Surprisingly, it usually tastes pretty good.
The next day had us leaving Dominica and sailing to Martinique. We would like to have spent more time in Dominica but a lot of our friends were in Bequia and we wanted to get together with them. We also felt we were little behind the other boats in getting far enough south before tropical waves and depressions started to form. We hope to see more of Dominica when we are on our way north.
We left Roseau at 0600 and sailed to Fort-de-France, Martinique. The sail started off quite lumpy but with good winds and the first few hours we averaged 8 knots then, once we got behind the lee of the island the winds naturally dissipated and we motored the remainder of the trip. As we got closer to Fort-de France we could see a sailboat which was curiously anchored close to the very rocky lee shore. We watched him for awhile wondering if he needed assistance and sure enuf as we got closer we could see the couple on board waving madly at us. They spoke little English and we weren’t much better with our French but we were able to discern thru hand motions and broken language that their windlass had broken and as a result the older looking French man with the very young looking attractive women could not pull their anchor up. We wondered why he didn’t just pull it up as many sailors have to hand-bob their anchor if the windlass breaks. Yes, it is back breaking but you do what you must. That’s when we learned that he has “mal de couer”, a bad heart and might have a heart attack if he tried to pull it up himself. We both wondered out loud to each other “If he has such a bad heart what was he doing with this very young and very attractive woman on board?” Through our amazing powers of deductions we were able to figure it out! Imagine! We brought Mustang Sally very close, within 6‘, to the stern of the sloop that was by now dragging very near the rocky coastline. Doug jumped overboard and swam to their swim ladder and pulled himself up, while I motored out of the way with Mustang Sally but stayed relatively close and kept an eye of events. Doug and the older French man both pulled up the anchor, but I suspect Doug did most of the pulling. The couple was very grateful and I could see lots of handshaking and relieved laughter on deck. Doug couldn’t help himself and asked the young women if this man was her Father, she giggled and started to blush. You get the drift…..apparently the man was very upset as he was late getting back to his wife. I pulled Mustang Sally along the stern and Doug swam a very short distance back to the cat and climbed on board and away we went. We chuckled about the incident over rum drinks once we got anchored.
The next day was relatively innocuous as we got ourselves checked into customs (you just fill out a form on a computer in a chandlery….quick and easy), we then went shopping for a spear gun so that Doug can spear fish (this is completely legal in the French islands but not other islands) and we loaded up on inexpensive French wine. We were anchored near a few boats that we continued to see as we traveled south and we always exchanged a friendly wave with the people on board. Once back on board we motored over to a lovely little resort beach where we spent an enjoyable day ending with dinner date at a French restaurant.
The next morning while I was power walking on the beach, Doug overheard one of the boats that we were anchored near the day before calling for assistance from the Harbour Captain regarding a missing person. Soon we heard a may day call over the vhf for an overdue swimmer giving a description of the female individual who had been missing since midnite the previous nite in the anchorage we had left just the previous day. After putting two and two together we were able to figure out which women on which boat had been swimming at nite and had not returned. We felt sick. There was little we could do at that point as we were a fair distance away and the French Coast Guard had their helicopter out searching the coastline and the Search and Rescue boats were out as well. Let’s face it, after that length of time in the water without floatation device, it is extremely unlikely that she would have survived. We had just exchanged pleasantries with her the morning before.
The next day we motored to the southern tip of Martinique and anchored at St. Anne which is a very popular resort area with the French. We explored a bit in town and walked thru an incredible cemetery and then enjoyed a beer at a fancy local beach bar. We were both hoping to enjoy a really memorable French dinner but we seemed to have failed to have found a nice restaurant that served anything beside crayfish. The Caribbean French are Creole French and everything is fish or crayfish, which is great (if you like crayfish….we didn’t) but we eat a lot of fish anyway and we were both hoping for some Parisienne cuisine….didn’t happen.
St. Lucia was next and hopefully there we would find some great West Indian food….. til next time….fair winds.

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