Voyage of Traveler / Blog

January 24, 2010

Traveler Postcard From Dominica and Guadeloupe

Filed under: Year 3: July09 - July10 Greece to Newport Beach, CA, Caribbean — mrlawlerjr @ 4:22 pm

Hello from beautiful Dominica and
Bon jour de tres jolie Guadeloupe,

January 16.  We sailed the 42 nm from Fort-de-France, Martinique north to Scott’s Head, Dominica (pronounced dom-i-NEE-ca) in just six hours on a beam reach with reefed sails, averaging 7 knots made good, in perfect sailing conditions.  Unfortunately, I had a miserable head cold, took a pill and slept through it, leaving my sister Melissa, my brother Drew, my son Brian and our crew Yansen to sail Traveler between these two Windward Islands. Drew joined us for a week beginning Jan. 12 in St. Lucia and Melissa joined us for an overlapping week beginning Jan. 15 on the neighboring island of Martinique.

Scott’s Head was too windy to stop for the night, plus anchoring is forbidden here as it is a Marine Reserve and there were no moorings available.  So we continued on another hour to Roseau’s Anchorage Hotel where we picked up a mooring for two nights.  15-17N, 061-22.6W.  We were immediately met by a Rastafarian boat boy who insisted we pay him a $10 per night mooring fee even though the government-owned moorings are supposed to be free to encourage yachting tourism.  For this forced ‘gratuity’ you buy (some) protection from thievery, theoretically.  You still need to lock everything. The dread locked boat boy (about age 30) was nicknamed Smoky because, we were told, he likes to smoke a lot of weed.  “Welcome to Dominica, mon.”

We had a Captain’s Dinner that night to celebrate Melissa’s and Drew’s visit to Traveler.  It was the first time they have been on board together since the ‘07 Ensenada Race, and Brian was on that race, too, making for a nice reunion.  It was Melissa’s second visit on Traveler’s circumnavigation, the first being in Moorea and Huahine two years ago.

January 17.  Melissa, Drew, Brian and I took an all-day tour of the island with a husky, happy guide nicknamed Fat Head. But we called him Stowe, his preferred other nickname.  His real name is Archibald, but he doesn’t like it.  While we toured, Yansen stayed on Traveler to guard the boat and to nurse his cut toe.  Stowe was a great guide and showed us some amazing natural wonders. First we went to Titou Gorge, better known now as the Pirates of the Caribbean Gorge because of the scene with Orlando Bloom and the Carib Indians filmed there. Imagine a gorgeous mountainous rain forest, walking carefully across a swollen river on a sketchy bridge, then swimming 100 yards upstream through a narrow, winding gorge with vertical cliffs to a ten foot waterfall. With the help of Stowe to show us the way–he literally pull us up the last two steps of the waterfall–we then jumped over the falls into the swirling water below. Yes, it rained the whole day, but that was a big part of the allure. The air temp was hot, so the rain felt good.

We then drove a few miles to the Roseau Valley’s Trafalgar Falls, the island’s most popular natural attraction. We climbed over boulders, past a warning sign that said we should not go further due to the high risk of flash floods, and swam in the natural pool below the larger of the two side-by-side waterfalls. This was a spectacular 200 ft. high waterfall with a lot of flow, so there was a huge amount of mist blowing strongly at the bottom of the falls and an equally huge roar from the water crashing onto the rocks.  We loved it!  Then it got even better.  We bouldered some more downstream to where a small side creek merged with the river.  The side creek was fed by a hot springs, with the water temperature a perfect 102 degrees. We found a place where you could lay in the shallow creek with your head under a three foot waterfall, giving your head and neck a naturally heated hydro massage.  And the best part was we had the whole place to ourselves.  We happened to be there on a day when no cruise ships were visiting the island.  Normally, there are 2,000 to 3,000 cruise ship tourists a day tripping over each other here.  Drew told me that before today he has only read about extraordinary natural wonders like this and never thought he would have a chance to experience them, and that it was one of the best days of his life.  We all agreed.  Living the dream!

January 18.  Drew started his day at six in the morning for a long flight home via San Juan. The rest of us motored in light air to the NW corner of the island and anchored at Prince Ruppert Bay near the mouth of the Indian River.  15-34N, 061-27.5W.  Here we hired a guide to row us in his boat upstream through a natural tunnel of palm trees, swamp ferns, wild hibiscus and anthuriums, with herons and egrets stalking the shallows. After rowing us for about a mile we came to yet another scene from the Pirates of the Caribbean, where the woman witch doctor lived, and a casual bar hidden deep in the jungle.  It was very much like a ride on Disneyland’s Jungle Boat Cruise, but real.  That night we had a Captain’s Dinner to celebrate Yansen’s 28th birthday, his second onboard Traveler!–last year he was with us for his birthday after sailing from Bali to Singapore.

Christopher Columbus discovered Dominica in November of 1493 on his Second Voyage and noted in his logbook that the island was “remarkable for the beauty of its mountains…and must be seen to believed.”  It has not changed much since his visit, and we found it to be full of adventure and stunningly gorgeous natural wonders.

January 19.  We sailed north across the channel to Les Saintes, a group of eight small islands just seven miles south of Guadeloupe, and anchored at Anse du Borg on the isle of Terre-de-Haut.  The guide books describe this place as one of the best cruising destinations in the French West Indies, and we agree.  We can see why the French and British fought so hard for these islands.  The largest sea battle between these two nations in the Caribbean occurred here on April 12, 1782. The British, under the command of Adm. Rodney, won the Battle of the Saints, which turned out to be the decisive factor in determining British supremacy in the Caribbean. The French later secured the colony for good in 1815, and it remains as much a part of France today as Hawaii is to the US.  Brian, Melissa and I went body surfing on the Atlantic side of the island, just at the windward end of a small quiet airstrip.  As we dried off, an airplane took off and buzzed us, just 30 feet over our heads.  We had our backs to the runway and didn’t hear him coming until he was VERY CLOSE, and suddenly VERY LOUD!  It really got the adrenalin pumping.

January 20 and 21.  We sailed north to the Ilet du Gosier, on the southern shore of the butterfly-shaped Guadeloupe.  We anchored for lunch and explored the islet’s old lighthouse.  Too rolly to spend the night there, we motored up to the capital of Pointe-a-Pitre.  After anchoring for an hour or so near the city center (not much to see there), we re-anchored a mile south at the Marina Bas De Fort, the island’s yachting haven.  We went ashore and got two loads of laundry done for us at a small cleaners.  On the way back to Traveler via the dinghy, holding our clean, dry and folded laundry, a squall hit us with a drenching rain.  All we could do was laugh and, after drying out back on board Traveler, have a pina colada.

January 22.  Melissa flew home from here early in the morning after a wonderful week onboard Traveler. And we sailed around the southwesterly end of Guadeloupe, then north up to Pigeon Island, where we snorkeled at the Cousteau Marine Reserve (excellent!) We then motored another ten miles north and anchored at the picturesque and well protected bay of Deshaies.

The next Postcard will be from Antigua.

Until then, we’re Living the Dream,
Michael, with Brian and Yansen

1 Comment »

  1. Metro- great write up! Nice to hear the details of my dad’s trip. I enjoyed the history mentioned as well… on your next voyage you will have to get a deal organized to write for a travel blog or publication. Or maybe you will write your own book.

    Looking forward to my time on Traveler in the eastern Pacific this spring!


    Comment by Ryan Lawler — January 24, 2010 @ 6:39 pm

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