Dominica: The Nature Island

Graham and I sailed overnight directly to Dominica from Antigua.  We sailed overnight so as to arrive around noon.  When we do this Graham takes the early watch and I take over around midnight or later.  It was generally a smooth sail down with the wind on the beam although sailing past Guadeloupe is unpredictable.  The wind shifted and died and then came back.  We arrived in Portsmouth around 11 AM and we were immediately contacted by the PAYS Yacht Helpers as we approached the Prince Rupert Bay.  Our friends on Patronus recommended we use Providence (Martin) and since we planned to take our tours with the Porters on Evenstar we decided to ask for the same helper.  The yacht helpers provide a range of services to visiting yachts.  They provide security, arrange tours, scuba dives, laundry, and more.  Martin even does a cooking class where you can learn about preparing native dishes using the local produce.

The Porters arrived after us for change and we worked with Martin to arrange a tour of the north part of the island.  It rained quite a bit over several days prior to the tour and there was some rain throughout our tour.  We drove up into the interior of the island and through a pass into the Morne Aux Diables.  We hiked to the Cold Soufriere: volcanic gas seeps through the water source but the water is cold not hot like most volcanic springs.  From there we went on to several of the sights on the Atlantic side of the island which included several of the on location sites where Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3 were filmed.

Graham and I at one of the Pirates of the Caribbean sites

We had a fabulous lunch of local specialties on the beach in Calibishie and then went on to visit the Caribe Indian Reservation which is one of the few places where the native Caribe Indians still live in larger numbers.  Later that day we visited the Emerald Pool which is a beautiful waterfall and pool surrounded by rainforest.

Emerald Pool

The scenery in Dominica is some of the most stunning we have seen anywhere in the Caribbean.  The lush rainforest is a stark contrast to the BVIs and the Northern Leeward Islands which are very dry.  Fruits and vegetables are grown everywhere and many grow wild.  The farm fields here are nothing like in the midwest where I grew up.  Many of these fields look like you would need mountain climbing gear to harvest your crops.  Our guide, Dylan, showed us six different types of bay leaves.  These leaves are cooked and distilled into a variety of different flavorings and scents.  One is used to create the lemony citronella scent used in the candles and lamp oils that help to repel insects.

Another highlight of our visit was a trip up the Indian River in Portsmouth.  Martin, our Yacht Helper, conducted this tour himself.  At first the river was open and sunny.  Later it felt as though we were tunneling into the rain-forest.  One of the famous sights on the river is Tia Dalma’s aka Calypso Cottage, a site from the Pirates of the Caribbean.  It was used in the haunting scene at the end of “Dead Man’s Chest” where the surviving crew of the Black Pearl, minus Captain Jack, paddle up the river.  In this scene it is nighttime and there are hundreds of extras standing on the shore or waist deep in the water holding lamps and candles.

Tia Dalma's Cottage form "Dead Man's Chest"-notice the Bloodwood Mangrove trees

The river is a National Park so the use of engines is not permitted.  Martin paddled us his boat and at the same time gave us a lesson on the plants and wildlife we were seeing.  I really thought the Bloodwood Mangroves that you can see at the edge of the river are really cool.  They almost look as if they could walk on their roots.

Martin our Yacht Helper and river guide shows us a freshwater crab

On our second auto tour we visited the Chaudiere Pool and the Red Rocks.  The Chaudiere pool was a bit of a hike as portions of the road had washed out.  The current at the pool was much stronger than normal due to the rains.  It took us a little while but we finally got up the nerve to jump off the cliffs into the pool.  The upwelling current pushes you to the surface and to the side so you have to be ready to grab on to the rocks.

Chaudeire Pool

We had a nice lunch with the Porters and then topped it off with a visit to the Red Rocks.  This rock formation looks a bit like Mars from one angle.  However, the dramatic views of the coast remind you that we are on planet earth.

Lunch on the beach with the Porters

Red rocks on the Atlantic coast of Dominica

Our final days in Dominica were pleasant yet bittersweet.  We have been traveling with the Porters on Evenstar since August of 2012.  We started hanging out while we were in Maine and we have spent lots of good times together.  Graham, Danielle, and Will have become good friends.  From here the Porters continue south toward Grenada and Panama, while we head north toward the BVIs and then home to Virginia.  We will miss them. Fair winds and following seas.


Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbour, Antigua

While we were in Antigua I went to Nelson’s Dockyard. It was named for Admiral Horatio Nelson one of England’s most famous sailor’s. In the year 1671 English harbor was discovered, and by 1704 it was defended and by 1707 it had started to get use as a hurricane harbor. In 1728 it was developed into St. Helena, a small dockyard that only held supplies for repairs. Since it was a very safe harbor more and more ships came and St. Helena became too small. So in 1740 the construction of a much larger dockyard began. And in 1745 it had many more storehouses, but it still was too small. So over the span of 10 years (1755-1765) several more storehouses, sleeping quarters for high ranking officials, and a kitchen were built. A wall surrounding the dockyard was also built. Over time a hospital, The Engineer’s Office, a Pitch, a Tar Store, and extensions to the dockyard wall were also built. During this time Admiral Nelson spent 3 years at the dockyard (which soon after was re-named for him). After he left in 1787 several other shops opened including a Copper and Lumber shop, A blacksmith’s store, a saw pit, and a canvas store. Everything was expanded at least once and another house was built for high ranking officers. The last edition was the Clerk’s House before it was abandoned in the late 1800s. It was re-opened in 1961 as a tourist attraction and then became a fully-fledged marina over time having many docks, tourist attractions (such as a museum and recreation of the tar store), a hotel and several restaurants. In a way it came full circle because it still gets use as a dockyard and a ship repair stop. It was really fun to see and learn how it changed. Be sure to check out the pictures in the gallery below!