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-- 2nd to 8th March 2012--
This is authentic Caribbean stuck between two French departments. Dominica is high (the highest island of the small Antilles), green (rainforest we’ve missed you!), blue (and bright rainbow like the fish in the coral), smiling, relaxed (what’s that smell in the air? Smells like Amsterdam...) More relaxing pictures on our page "Pictures".

Sailed 60 miles
7975 miles since the start
We stopped in : Roseau (buoy), Portsmouth (anchorage)
2nd March 2012 : Saint Pierre - Roseau (36 M)
This is a new day in the bay of Saint-Pierre in Martinique. In the daylight two realities come to us: one – it’s still raining – and two, the big ferry is still moored 10m away from us, threatening to run over Saltimbanque as they exit their parking spot. One + two = we have to leave now, and get wet. Brave heart Nestor is on duty for the first hours, as there is no wind on the leeside of Martinique. Then suddenly we jump into another world as we pass the Northern point: engine off, second gear on – one reef in the mainsail and we’re riding at a nice little 6knots. And the rain has stopped!

The North of Martinique, under the clouds...
By the look of it, we’re not the only ones to read the weather charts. They told us that today would be the only break in a week-long strong trade winds regime. And the channel between Martinique and Dominica looks like a highway during rush hours. While we’re motor-sailing in the no-wind zone everybody passes us by. But when the wind picks up and blows in his sails, Saltimbanque comes back and catches up on a big Spanish 11m long! Well done! The joyful ride stops brutally by the Southern point of Dominica, as we find ourselves on the leeside of the island again. The rocky conspicuous block called Scott’s Head is tied to the rest of the island by a narrow sandbank. Passed that point we have to call upon Nestor again to reach the main town, Roseau.

... and the South of Dominica, under the sun
Dominica is a volcanic island plunging steep into the sea, so much so that only a few meters off the beach there’s already more than 15m water. Not what you would call an anchorage-friendly place. Numerous moorings have been set here though, all along the bay in the South of the city (as for dinghy docks, there’s more than enough of them, mostly belonging to a restaurant or a bar, but seemingly free to access for everyone). We’re immediately welcomed by two boat-boys who guide us to a “small buoy for a small boat”... it is VERY close to the shore indeed! Small buoy, small price? Some negotiation later we agree on 10 US$/night, with a couple of nights for free... but we have to move to another place. It’s already late on the Friday afternoon and the captain runs first to the customs to clear in (at the ferry-dock, behind the black iron gate). About 20 EC$, including the “cruising permit” allowing us to sail to another port. But the best part of it is that we don’t have to come back! Less than 14 days in the country and we don’t have to check out! We love custom officers, especially when we don’t see them :o)
Less than 30min later we’re tied to another buoy. Quick look at the mooring: it’s the rusty cylinder block of a truck! Should be heavy enough! And right next to the keel (but deep enough), a big rock covered with coral is home to scores of colorful fish and a small turtle. Good place!
Yet no time to lay back and enjoy: a few meters away a small motorboat is drowning on her anchor! Two men (one local fisherman and the French sailor next door) are already onboard frantically throwing buckets of water overboard. We jump in as well with our own buckets and start bailing, bailing, bailing... this gym goes on for a good half hour before we notice the progress: the boat is now 50 cm higher in her line. The owner (who arrived with the guy on the “rescuers” speedboat in the meanwhile) agrees to bring her to shore and we drag her to the beach, tied to the “drop anchor” bar’s pontoon. On the next day they will come back with a pump, and take her somewhere else finally...we don't get bored around here!
What a nice boat ! (moored in Roseau)
3rd-5th March 2012 : stop in Roseau
The first visit we will pay in this new country is to its underwater inhabitants: the Southern coast is reputed for its snorkeling spots. We go back to Scott’s Head then, by road his time. From Roseau there’s an extensive network of minivans running to every little corner of this island (their number plate starting with H, just like in Tobago and Grenada). It’s cheap, not very reliable, but when they do ride, they ride faaaaast... (this morning the driver couldn’t brake nor avoid a snake in the middle of the steep slope... it exploded with a firecracker noise, very much for the delight of the other passengers).

Views from Scott’s Head : above...
A few colorful wooden sheds make up the little fishermen’s village of Scott’s Head. On the beach pirogues are waiting, all painted in bright colors, most of them carved out of the trunk of one single tree. From the top of the rock there is a nice view on the island and the channel to Martinique. At the bottom of the rock the corals drop abruptly to unfathomable depths. Deep blue. Breath-taking underwater landscapes. It feels like flying over high cliffs. When we finally leave this paradise for the world of the livings again, we notice that many more livings have arrived on our little beach. It’s crowded with tourists, all equipped with masks, palms and sunscreen. They attract of course locals, chatting with everyone and proposing their services as guides – or their latest harvest of ganja. Strong “Rasta” culture here.
... and under the water

La Soufrière
Well well well, high time to go. Walking the road back to the North we enjoy nice views on the bay and on the next village, tucked in a green valley, named “Soufriere” after the neighboring sulfur springs. Charming little place, big creole church, all in wood and very well ventilated. Further up the road starts climbing in the forest to a pass, before dropping to sea-level again.
« Champagne Beach » is there. Free bubbles for everyone offered by Morther Nature, as hot volcanic gazes escape from tiny holes under the water. Everything around it is offered by Man to Tourist – and not for free: there’s an entrance fee (2.5 US$), a bar/sunbathing platform/diving center, and enough space to welcome busloads of Americans. But truth be told: the bubbles playing with rays of light as they race to the surface is still worth the rest. The big game is try to game them. Some meters further an old Spanish cannon is rusting with its chain on the ground, a thick layer of sediments making them look like fossils. Around here the ground is orange, maybe due to the sulfur.
Champagne Beach, bubble-bath
Finally we head back to Roseau still walking on the road through many little villages. The atmosphere makes us think to Tobago. We’re back to real Caribbean’s after some weeks in sunny France and in Lagoon Disneyland. Rasta-reggae-ganja, cars honking and people waving in the street. There’s some work underway to enlarge the street and gain ground on the sea, impressive machines are being skillfully maneuvered by workers fully equipped with protective gears – nothing to envy Europe.

Dominica's colors
The next day is Sunday: we start off our visit of the city by checking out the church district. Easy, they’re all clustered in the same block, surrounded by scores of religious institutions and private schools: the Baptist, the Adventist, the church of the god of prophecy, the Methodist... and of course the big Catholic cathedral, the pride of Virgin Lane. People in their best clothes are walking out of the various buildings, some songs can be heard here and there. The rest of the city is absolutely deserted. On the quay, no one. Not a soul in the market place. Nor in the shopping streets. In the botanical garden we see some movement: that’s a cage with the famous “sisserou” parrots, endangered specie typical to Dominica. The bird stands on the national flag, all green and... purple. (Here a technical note for the ones who would like to make their courtesy flags themselves: red + blue doesn’t make purple, it’s a lie – it makes dirty brown...)
Back in town, the main street is now shut, minibuses are parked on the pavement, packed with a crowd of people wearing necklace tags. A few security guys try to control the situqtion: a cruising ship has just arrived. The passengers, probably the first source of income for the island, are nervously waited for! (especially knowing that these ship never stop more than 24 hours, you got to be efficient). Not to mention that we passed through the mess without any problem, as all the guides or taxi drivers just totally ignored us.
On the day after we meet Pancho early in the morning. He is the owner of the buoys located between the Drop Anchor and the Anchorage. This rasta-man, married to a Belgium girl, speaks a perfect French and can arrange everything you need. He is recommended by our Patuelli guide and ourselves ! Today we leave for a day hike, with 2 other sailors and a guide called “bamboo”, with ambition to climb up to the Boiling Lake: This lake is actually in the middle of a crater, and the volcano lights a continuous fire under the pan...) It´s actually possible to hike this path without any guide, with a little preparation though – but sometimes it´s also good to help the local economy. (the travelling boats like us are not probably the most interesting tourists for the countries we visit, as we do not need any accommodation, nor restaurant or transportation mean) Anyway, here we go again, deep in the tropical rain forest on a climbing path, our preferred activity when onshore!

Trois Pitons national park

Desolation valley
30 years ago the park was swept bare by a hurricane, only a few huge kapok trees resisted thanks to their very wide roots. The other trees (including many fern trees) are thus quite young and rather short. In the forest the whistler bird, typical from here, sings its 3 or 4 long notes, sounding a bit like an old door which would need oil! After the next peak, the vegetation suddenly disappears. In the “desolation valley” the sulfured atmosphere prevents from any type of life. The landscape is fantastic, all in yellow and bright grey colors. There is boiling water here and there, the smell of sulfur is strong. Close to a small stream, our guide opens an egg-box and cooks some delicious eggs for our lunch directly in the river!
The path hesitates a bit between the rocks to exit the valley following a warm river in the forest. Hiking up and down and up and down... and here we go, just below this cliff, the boiling lake! It´s a lake indeed, inside a crater, which is constantly boiling at 105 degrees Celsius! When the wind cleans a bit the smoke away we can catch a glimpse of the water bubbling inside. It´s the largest, or second largest it depends who tells the story, lake of this type – the other one is in New Zealand. From the cliff where we stop for lunch, we can feel the wind more than the heat and we start the hike back in a shivering mood!
Boiling water
When the guide suggests that we have a short bath in the warm source before the desolation valley, he can hardly finish his sentence that we are already wearing our bathing suits, ready to jump in! The water is delightfully warm in these duplex baths, separated by a small water fall that we climbed hung on lianas (stronger than rope according to Bamboo!). Tropical trees as ceiling, rocky walls full of funny colors as walls... We could have stayed there for hours, our muscles all relaxed in the warm water. Tourist flyers were right, this hiking path is indeed dangerous! But our will to move on is stronger and we leave this delicious place for the steps of the path, still going down, and up, and down etc. We quickly reach the start point of the path, and jump back in the water, cold for once, in Titou Gorges. After about a hundred meters swimming between high cliffs in the middle of the jungle and we reach the water fall. We arrive just after a bunch of German tourists from the cruise ship of the day and have this magical place only for us :o)

Warm water

Cold water
6th March 2012 : Roseau – Portsmouth (24 M)
The trade winds are again blowing hard today, as usual, but it should not be too much of a trouble for the stage of the day, i.e. sailing from the capital Roseau in the South to the main anchorage Portsmouth in the North, entirely on the lee side of the island. And this navigation is typical of such a sheltered navigation, between very calm periods while we have to motor sail, and strong gust blowing down from the mountain canalized by the valleys. The tricky part is to estimate properly how strong the next gust will be to adapt our sails the best we can, to sail fast on flat seas (the island protects us against the Atlantic swell), but without damaging anything... The last miles are the most difficult ones, slowly tacking against 25 knots true wind in Prince Rupert Bay, inside which about 40 boats are anchored, facing Portsmouth.
We head directly to the northern part of the bay which seems better protected. We sail around for a few minutes, enough to check the nature of the ground (mostly sand and grass, but with big rocks and rubbish here and there) and we drop the anchor in 5m water, between a few buoys and other boats, and 2 boat boys who are turning around us like vultures since the entry of the bay. It´s finally over 3pm when we have lunch. Whatever, we appreciate being in a nice anchorage under the sun, perfect conditions to do a few works onboard. There are many boat boys here but they stay very polite. Like in Roseau they speak perfectly French, is it due to the French islands being so close, or the traveling boats being so French? Anyway here also you can find many dinghy docks and wifi signals.
Anchorage in Portsmouth, can you find Saltimbanque ?
7-8 March 2012 : stop in Portsmouth
There is one thing to know about Dominica: it rains between 5 and 9am! So it’s useless to set the alarm earlier anyway. (and sometimes it also rains during the day, even though the sky remains perfectly blue :oS)
This morning we start by a mission: ”buy food”, as we have no more vegies, nor fruits or meat onboard. We buy a few cucumbers and bananas to an old lady in the street, and do not worry about the rest at first. This little town has a nice atmosphere, with its small and colorful houses. In the middle a big stadium gathers every possible sport (but mostly cricket though...), just under the windows of a primary school surprisingly modern. All along the beach big wrecks finish rusting here, witness of the latest hurricanes. A bit curious we get closer to these monsters dragged onshore, in the middle of the fishing pelicans... Workers are working at cutting them in pieces. The 6 biggest wrecks will disappear in a few weeks, because it is not good for the image of the city, we are told. The workers do not look like the locals here... indeed they are Venezuelans! (Really? would it be linked to this project of building a Venezuelan refinery on the island, so far stopped as it would be bad for the image of the island for tourists?)
Rusty wrecks on the seafront
Anyway, we still need to buy food sometimes... And we meet so many mango trees around the streets, full of... green mangoes :o( It’s too early in the year, not the mango season here ! Even the hens have to peck green mangoes :oS Will we have again good mangos before we head back to the polar countries ?? Finally we walk a few kilometers more to the next hypermarket where we have more choice.

This fort used to keep the entrance to Portsmouth Bay
Back onboard ta make some sandwiches, and we arrive at the Cabrits Points national Park, in the North of the Bay. This place was used as a fortified spot by the British, and the French, and the British again (one of these classical fort that you can find at the top of every single hill on the Caribbean’s) The name comes from the goats that the first sailors freed in the nature so that they would find fresh meat at their next stop here. This fort is particularly wide, occupying the whole cape and its 2 volcanos – and also well rebuilt. Mainly built between 1750 and early 1800’s, it actually never be used for a battle. The vegetation finally won the war after it was abandoned in 1845. Along the (very well marked) paths, we pass through the old buildings partly renovated, and meet many lizards, small snakes (harmless even though the one which slid just between Camille’s feet scared us for a split second), hummingbirds, hermit crabs and forest crabs (well, at least their broken shells!). The sights from the top of the hills are superb, rusty guns are still there, guarding the island.
This lizard blows its goitre to impress us, scary uh?

Some buildings have been forgotten in the jungle

View on Douglas Bay to the North (nice snorkeling in the reef in the Cabrits reserve)
That evening the wind will pick up, during the night gusts between 35 and 40 knots keep sweeping the anchorage, making all boats roll. Our dinghy was tied alongside the boat, yet found itself violently swung vertically against the hull (happy us, the engine and paddles had been removed...). For the first time we felt we had to keep watch rounds during the night as well, and we took turns sleeping while the other was watching the boat swing on the anchor – and the big rental catamaran just in front of us :-S music coming full blast from the restaurant onshore kept us company until 3am. In the end, no one will move – amazing how strong anchors can be!

The Northern point of Dominica
On the next morning we find it hard to get up as early as planned... but we do end up on the “segment 14”: a long trail has cut all through the island, ideally to walk through from South to North through the forest and mountains and all the main attractions and cities, in about 12 days. Signs are everywhere, we can’t get lost! The 14th and last segment is supposed to take us from Portsmouth to the Northern point of the island. Unfortunately most of this walk is on the road – less typical. Rainforest and sea-views are still enjoyable. Then we reach a beach where some colorful pirogues are moored. From there the trail follows the beach instead of the road, and we tumble on the stones for a while. The swell-beatenn beach is wild and wonderful. At the end of it the pointy rock that marks the Northern extremity of the island stands, as sharp as the Needles of White. On the ground coconuts are only waiting for us to collect them...
On the way back we stop for snorkeling on the reef on the Southern beach on Douglas Bay. Many small sea-snakes are haunting the rocks (brrrr). We see some “Lion-fish” (or at least that’s how we think they’re called – any info welcome...). At night we celebrate our 4th year with Saltimbanque on the beach, eating by “Big Papa’s” (a black giant with a deep voice). Looking down to us while we’re studying the menu he asks who’s the captain. A second of skeptical silence gauging Camille, then “well, they say that great things come in small packages...”
It's a lion... fish
The wind is still blowing hard on the anchorage on the next morning (this place is famous for its exposure to gusts, as we heard later). Yet the weather forecasts all agree on one thing: it will drop! Ok, time for us to sail on then... Keep the bearing, North!
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Your messages:

SuDad - 23/03/2012 11:22:55
De retour, après les séries de photos. C'est le complément indispensable, suite à la lecture du récit. Comment faites-vous pour choisir ? Avec une telle profusion d'images superbes. Mentions personnelles spéciales pour les sous-marines, bien sûr, mais aussi pour ce somptueux coucher de soleil sur la baie Mitan, tout en sépia. Mmmmm, c'était bien beau !!!

SuDad - 23/03/2012 10:55:14
Vous pouvez lancer un concours, pour trouver sa majesté Saltimbanque dans la baie de Portsmouth. C'est sans risque, vous seules savez où. Même en agrandissant très fortement la photo; impossible à discerner. Vous êtes taquines, hein ? Et puis vous continuez avec perversité à nous décrire vos promenades dans des paradis tropicaux plus fascinant les uns que les autres. Photos à l'appui. Est-ce bien raisonnable ? OUI, mille fois oui. Que le temps se suspende pour que vous puissiez en profiter un maximum. Nous vous embrassons affectueusement. C'est quand la suite ?

SHADOK II - 21/03/2012 19:13:15
ça ka maché les gazelles !

Dick - 20/03/2012 21:48:28
Rfampfmwrmrkafmbr!!!!!!! (sorry, I'm just jjealous…)

Sylvia - 17/03/2012 17:53:45
Leuke foto's, vooral onder water. Wat voor een camera hebben jullie daarvoor? Hier wordt het langzaam lente - onze bloemetjes op het balkon staan in bloei en we waren vandaag voor het eerst in ons volkstuintje en hebben zaadjes geplant voor wortels, spinazie en radijs :-) Groetjes!

Nadia - 15/03/2012 14:08:52
encore de belles photos ... on est presque en vacances;-)))) un bonjour à Inès que l'on sait près de vous .... bon séjour Inès ! on pense bien à toi avec les copines du Miaou ...

Lebrat jp et h - 14/03/2012 15:50:34
un petit coucou à la famille que nous savons pres de vous et au soleil

DAHU - 14/03/2012 02:06:27

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