We have been very busy since my last post taking full advantage of what Martinique and Dominica have to offer. They are two very different islands, but equally beautiful. Martinique, a French Department, is very developed and has all the modern conveniences. Dominica is an independent island nation and works very hard to preserve the natural beauty and resources. More on each later.
We arrived in St. Anne, Martinique just in time for their Carnaval, which is a week of themed parades and celebrations leading up to Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. We caught up with friends we met in Grenada – Carl & Carrie on s/v Brilliant and Mark & Kathy on s/v Nancy Lu.
St. Anne is a quaint little town with narrow one-way streets. The parades were all relatively short, with musicians and dancers outfitted with that day’s theme. When the end of parade passed the town square the revelers joined in to dance their way down the street.
After Carnaval, we moved to nearby Le Marin – a very large anchorage and marina complex – in preparation for our daughter Colleen’s visit. Brendan and his girlfriend Alex arrived the day that Colleen left. For each of their visits we rented a car and spent the first few days exploring the interior of the island and a few more days exploring by boat. Unfortunately during Colleen’s visit we had less than ideal weather – high winds and rain – which made for wet dinghy rides and limited where we could go on Delphinus.
We took the kids to the Clemente rhum distillery. In addition to creating a wide variety of rums, they have planted beautiful gardens and installed contemporary sculptures throughout the grounds. It made for a nice stroll around the grounds before making it to the tasting room.
Next on our driving tour was St. Pierre, the original capital of Martinique. The town sits at the base of Mt. Pelee which erupted in 1902 destroying the entire town and killing everyone in it. Today it is another quaint seaside town. They have preserved what is left of the theater and jail and rebuilt around them. The local beach is made up of black sand from the volcanic rock.
From the town we drove to the observation area near the top of Mt. Pelee. The day we were there with Colleen a cloud covered the observation area and completely obscured the view all around. When we were there the next week with Brendan and Alex it was a beautiful clear day. What a difference!
After turning in the rental car we moved Delphinus back to St. Anne to continue to explore. On a walk we happened upon a cemetery at the top of the hill overlooking the harbour. The family crypts are very ornate and the view is spectacular. We also stopped at this tree house like bar for a quick cold one before heading back to the dinghy dock.
Pete, Colleen and I took a hike to Grand Anse d’Salines. Another sailor suggested the hike and described where to start and that we would be able to have lunch at the other end. It had rained quite heavily the night before and trail was very muddy, slowing us down as we kept trying to scrape the accumulation of mud and muck from our shoes. The lunch at the other end was definately worth it.
While Brendan & Alex were with us we were able to take Delphinus to Grande Anse d’Arlet bay, which has a nice beach and is used primarily by locals. The beach is lined with small restaurants and shops. There we ran into our friends, Ian and Joy, from s/v Reberth and tried their recommendation for the best place for mussells. It did not disappoint! Brendan and Pete accompanied Ian on a very challenging 3 hour hike over to Anse Dufour that included 20-30 degree rocky trails up and down, and then similar inclination roads getting back. Alex and I opted to hang out on the boat and relax.
Soon after the kids’ visits were over we bid “au revoir” to Martinique (my French was improving ever so slightly) and headed for Dominica. The two islands could not be more different. Dominica primarily promotes eco-tourism. We once again met up with old friends and met some new ones. We reconnected with s/v Brilliant, Nancy Lu, Sea Frog and Profasea in Rosseau, the capitol.
On the way to Dominica we got an escort from a pod of dolphins.
We became very active in Dominica with snorkel trips and hikes. Pete went along with our friends on two different snorkeling trips and observed thriving reefs and fish populations. During the first snorkel trip he also saw an area known as Champagne, for the bubbles coming from the rocks/coral surfaces. The bubbles were from gases associated with volcanic activity on the island. I had come down with a chest cold and didn’t want to snorkel with the cough I had.
We also arranged for a tour/hike with one of the local guides, Octavius (aka Sea Cat). First, we drove into the rain forest for the hike to Middleham Falls, which is a 275 foot waterfall. The hike was quite challenging but worth it once we reached the waterfall. Along the way Sea Cat pointed out various plants and their purposes in local cultures. He even found wild raspberries which were a nice treat. At the end of the hike he found some sugar cane, peeled it and squeezed lime juice on it as a treat for all of us.
Another stop that day was Trafalgar Falls which are actually twin waterfalls. They are referred to as Papa and Mama. Part way up the Papa fall is a hot spring. Sea Cat led some of the braver souls (Pete included) climbing up the boulders to soak in the pool created by hot water escaping through the rocks. Sea Cat, Carl and Pete climbed to the top pool of the water fall to experience the falling water directly.
Dominica has a large number of volcanoes – 11, of which 8 are active and being monitored. As a result there are a number of different activities for hikers – boiling lake, sulfur springs, hot water pools, etc. Next visit we’ll explore more of these geothermal areas.
The island has a series of 14 hiking trails called the Waitukubuli trail. During our stay we managed to hike portions of a few segments while searching for waterfalls, elusive parrots, and rain forest vegetation. The hikers guide indicates the south to north trail can be completed in two weeks. Hmm, maybe in the future says Pete.
While we were in our dinghy in Roseau we noticed a boat with the hailing port of Virginia Beach so we had to stop and introduce ourselves. We met Raleigh and Cindy on s/v Cinderella on their brand new Antares catamaran. They had just taken delivery of it in St. Lucia and along with their crew member Marco are working their way north through the island chain to bring her back to the states. Our group of boats was getting ready to move further north to Portsmouth, so we invited them to join us.
Portsmouth has an organized group to support the cruising community – Portsmouth Association of Yacht Services or PAYS. They provide moorings, security, transportation to customs, tours and best of all is their Sunday night beach barbeque. Almost everyone in the anchorage comes in for all you can eat grilled chicken and fish, side dishes and rum punch. When dinner is over, they push back the tables and the dancing begins.
Out first trek was a short walk from Portsmouth to Fort Shirley, formerly a British fort. The local government is working to restore the buildings and preserve the history with the support of the EU. It’s a beautiful spot and likely offered a good defense of the port. A little American history – this port was the first landing, on 24 March 1607, on the trip of the Godspeed expedition from England, to Jamestown, Virginia.
We had a wonderful guide for our tours out of Portsmouth, Alec. He has a wealth of knowledge about the island’s history and the local plants and their many purposes for bush medicine. Our first tour with Alec was to Milton Falls and Syndicate Nature Trail. Both were nice hikes. The Syndicate Nature Trail is an area known as a parrot habitat. We did see parrots flying overhead but I wasn’t fast enough with the camera.
The next day we took a full day tour of mostly the north and eastern coasts. The tour included the ruins of the Hampstead Estate; a small chocolate “factory”; an area overlooking the Atlantic called Red Rock; and the Kalinago Reservation.
The Hampstead Estate is now in ruins but was once a thriving sugar cane plantation and rum distillery.
Dominca is also where Pirates of the Caribbean 2 was filmed. The scene involving the large wheel that the characters were rolling in down hill while sword fighting was filmed in the area of the estate. In fact, the wheel was patterned from the water-wheel in the picture below. Alec, who was Depp’s driver during the filming, pointed to the area where the actual filmed wheel was left. Of course if is heavily overgrown now.
We visited the Pointe Baptiste Estate Chocolate Factory. We got to see every step in how the chocolate is made from cracking open the pods, sun drying the beans, roasting, and processing. The best part was the sampling at the end of the tour. Of course, we had to buy some too!
Red Rock is lava rock formation on the eastern side of Dominica. The rock is porous and appears white until water is poured on it and it turns red. The views of the Atlantic Ocean are spectacular.
The last part of the day was a tour of the Kalinago Reservation. The Kalinago are the indigenous people of the the Carribean islands, also known as Caribs. On most of the other islands they were virtually wiped out after the Europeans came. Legend has it that they were able to hide in the mountains and survive to this day. When the island was under British control they were granted a territory on the Atlantic side of the island. Today, they are working hard to preserve their heritage.
We are now in Iles des Saintes, which is part of Guadeloupe, another French Department. We’re already enjoying the baguettes and wonderful French cooking.
Stay tuned and stay in touch!