On Saturday the 17th March, we made an early start from the anchorage in St Pierre. We had a good easterly wind for the passage to Dominica but were in wind shadow until a gentle westerly took us along the Dominican west coast. We could see what appeared to be widespread hurricane damage to the rain forest, with a lot of bare trees and landslides in the mountains. We sailed past the capital Roseau and proceeded to Prince Rupert bay.
Portsmouth, Prince Rupert bay
The local boatmen have formed a consortium, PAYS, to provide moorings and other services and we ended up on one of their moorings after a false start on a temptingly large mooring, which turned out to be private. We were not far from the beach, opposite the roofless ruins of a hotel.
Roofless, like many buildings in Dominica
The Indian River winds through the swamp to spill into Prince Rupert Bay. The PAYS office fixed us a guide to row us up the river next morning. We had some trouble getting hold of PAYS next day, but were eventually given a lift in a skiff to the river entrance. Here we had to go to a nearby garage to get a permit, then went up Indian river in the guide’s boat. He pointed out the different trees, green iguana and various birds (green heron, egret, bananaquit etc) and explained the damage done by the hurricane. He had cleared many trees himself, to make the river accessible. At a cafe- stop, we chatted over a beer to the guide and barman about their experiences of the hurricane & the local people’s skill in surviving the appalling experience. The river trip has clearly changed a lot, with many large trees gone, but it was still interesting.
Shattered rain forest up the Indian River
That evening, we went to the PAYS barbecue along with over 50 other cruising sailors. This was a friendly affair featuring grilled fish, chicken, rice & salad, well lubricated with as much rum punch (or fruit juice) as you could drink. We rowed boldly away afterwards, taking a rather circuitous route to our boat.
Mangrove swamp, Indian River
On Monday morning we took the dinghy a mile or so across the bay to find the customs office. Two guys on the beach scraping a boat came over to help, and directed us to the commercial jetty, where the customs and immigration office was located behind a World Food Aid tent. Checking in and out was straightforward if slow.
On our return we landed on a slip below Fort Shirley (near the cruise ship dock which had been trashed by the hurricane), and bought permits to visit the Cabrits national park. Up the hill the main fort has been cleared and seems in good repair, and many of the tracks through the forest were cleared or in progress. We walked to the Douglas Bay battery, a series of tumbledown buildings and defensive wall, overgrown with jungle. Large canon lay amongst the ruins. A variety of butterflies flew among the cleared paths, and alongside lay the cleared baulks of teak and other fallen trees. We had hoped to scramble down to the shore beyond the fort, but the jungle was too dense and the way too steep. So afterwards we took the dinghy round the point and beached it with some effort on the pebbles and boulders. R took pic of J with corals and shells, then went swimming. On return to the boat, he realised that his phone had been swimming too. We tried to flush out the seawater with gin (in the absence of 99% alcohol) and buried it the dry rice box to dry for a few days, but it did not revive, so we lost most of our pictures of Dominica!
Fort Shirley, and the wrecked cruise ship terminal
In the morning we hauled the rubber dinghy on deck (upside down on top of nesting dinghy), and sailed out of the bay, taking a few photos with J’s phone as we went. Our course was NE for Marie Galante. The scene was dramatic with dark rain clouds over the rocky northern mountains of Dominica, then we had a good SE wind most of the way. That afternoon we were anchored in the bay west of St Louis.