Sailing in Dominica

Turtle Beach on Dominica. Photo: Unsplash
My next port, after visiting the Antilles islands further North, was in Dominica. Not Dominican Republic, but the island of Dominica! It's as much difference as Sweden and Switzerland.

The passage to Dominica was quite demanding, with head wind, dark cloudy skies, and proximity of heavy tropical rain. Also, the boat managed to get caught in a rope from a fisher net, causing me to halt (stuck in the rudder) and resulting in dangerous sawing-off-rope maneuvers under the boat in high waves. The waves lift the boat and then slam the aft platform onto the surface, which can crack your skull. That means you always need to be long under the water, struggle against the movements of the hull, and dive up a distance away from the boat not to get hit. That gets you tired, cold and wet. Not a good combination. But the job got done at least, and I could sail further.

Finally I found an anchorage off Portsmouth. There was a Norwegian boat just aside, whose crew waved to me merrily. I swam there to get a password for any wifi that might be present, but there was none - instead, me and the crew member that was on Space were invited for a lovely dinner of oven-baked lamb, just what was needed for tired and hungry sailors without any fresh food onboard (as I mentioned, I chose to cruise without a fridge or freezer). Britt and Eric sailed off from Norway about the same time I did, and now they were on the way to be crossing the Atlantic the second time, but the other way. Here is their homepage. I also made a visit to the Purple Turtle for the famous BBQ party, and was extremely lucky to meet the famous Chris Doyle, the author of the must-have Caribbean cruising guides. Amazing to have met him in person after reading and relying on his works, always competent, helpful and witty.

The morning after, I went off to visit The Indian River together with the Norwegians. The river is filmed in Pirates of the Caribbean 2 (and 3 I think), remember the hut where Calypso lives? It was filmed right there, and I got to see the place where the hut was built and taken down. It is just as amazing in real life, very beautiful, very deserted, full of magical noises, animals, fish, birds, emerald-green plants, and dark shadows. I got to see sweet-water crabs, a lot of beautiful (and funny) birds, incredible amounts of fish swimming in the water. A big iguana sitting on the tree branch, sunbathing in the smooth morning light. Termite nests. A lot of lizards. Hummingbirds around big flowers. Huge trees, roots, lianas, and branches making a roof over the river. It is forbidden to go by engine there so we were in a tree boat, with a local guy rowing peacefully, and telling us about the island and showing us the natural wonders.

Dominica is absolutely the most beautiful island among the ones I have visited. Its mountains are high, covered with lush rainforest, the water is beauiful, and the people have an integrity and love for their motherland that I haven't seen in Caribbean yet. Might I add that there are numerous astonishing lakes, rivers, canions, waterfalls, hot springs, and thermal activity sports with crystal caves, boiling mud, and sulphur baths. Dominica has the second largest boiling lake in the world, located in a crater of a volcano, and some smaller ones.
View upwards in the rain forest. Photo:
Near the village of Wotten Waven, there is so much geothermal activity that natural spas are formed in the middle of rain forest. Bubbling pools that remind of champagne (or beer) are formed, and the hot gas bubbles coming from the inside of the earth make the water hot as if it was a warm bath. I headed off to one of those places, where one could swim around in the hot pools and get refreshed in a small waterfall. The water is led by natural pipes made of cane, and poured into bath tubs that just stand under the bare skies surrounded by lush rainforest vegetation. Very surrealistic, and absolutely beautiful. Even more surrealistic is the fact that the showers around the Caribbean usually don't have hot water at all - but in the nature, there is an abundance of it.

After that, I headed off to Trafalgar falls. On the way, I saw a couple of small boiling lakes, and a cave with smoke and steam coming from it, like an angry dragon. Trafalgar falls were very pretty, just imagine a fairy-tale picture of rainforest waterfalls - that's it. Right beside them, there were several hot thermal spring pools, so one could take a warm bath (not unlike a jacuzzi, but much more beautiful) and then cool off in the cold waterfall water just a meter away.

Roseau is the capital city of Dominica. Unlike Portsmouth that was very rural and charming, Roseau is bigger and reminded me a lot of Indian cities - the heat, the traffic, the athmosphere and the smells. The architecture is nevertheless very Wild Wild West. I tried some delicious local food here, and the fruits and veggies are inexpensive if you know where to look. I have, however, had trouble eating for the past days since I got an infection in the jaw joining muscle, thus making it difficult (and very painful) to chew. This is why I relocated to Roseau - to get to visit a doctor. Feeling much better, but 65 USD poorer. Worth it though, Dr Ade did a good job.

Roseau. Photo: Unsplash
I spent the next days visiting the natural sights here on the island, before sailing further south. I was leaving Dominica with a hope of coming back some day. Still a lot of exciting things to discover there, and it's been the most beautiful and exotic island so far!

Sailing in the Caribbean is different to anything I have experienced in Scandinavia, or Europe. Back home, the boats have small cockpits, there are often heaters dowen below, and even on a sunny day your usual sailing gear would include a jacket or coverall, heavy-duty sailing pants, shoes and socks, and often gloves and a hat. Here, it's around 30 degrees both inside the boat and outside in the cockpit. The sitting areas are built to give a possibility to sunbathe, chill out, and have sunset dinners with friends. What having shoes feels like is something I have happily forgotten, I use flip-flops ashore and go barefoot the rest of the time. Having more clothes than short-sleeved shirts and short pants/skirts is impossible, you'd die from the heat. You can sail in your swimwear, of course. Or naked. The wind is always warm, and comes from the same direction most of the time. It's a sailor's tropical dream.

Blue waters. Photo: Unsplash
As soon as I anchor or take a mooring, I usually dive into the water to check whether it's OK. I wouldn't imagine doing that in Sweden, ever. Neither would I take that morning swim just off the deck - the water there is cold and full of stinging jellyfish. Here, the small baby-fish are playing around in the turquoise water, and it's so transparent that you see the sea bottom all the time, so it feels like flying.

At night, the biolumiscence is ever-present. When water gets disturbed, like when you stroke the water with your hand, tiny organisms light up in the water and look like glitter or stars. The light fades off after a few moments, but if you continue stirring the water, new ones appear. This means that when I am sailing at night, there is always a beautiful trail of glowing stars behind the boat. There are stars in the skies, too, and they twinkle and blink because of the heat, and it looks like there are stars both above and below the boat. "Space" really becomes a spaceship, flying in the darkness past the Milky way and all the constellations. The fish jumping in the water look like fireworks. And when the moon rises, it's so bright that you can read a book just in the moonlight.

Space, my sailing boat, on a mooring somewhere in the tropical waters... Photo: