Dominica Part 1

From the very start, our time in Dominica (NOT Dominican Republic just to be clear) was memorable.

Martinique to Dominica was our first passage on our boat & it would also be the first time we broke out the sails properly. We used the head sail (genoa) before, but never the main, because we didn’t have to.

We paid attention to the other boats around us & felt good about our decision to have a reef in the main & 3 turns on the genoa. When we caught the wind, as we moved out of the shadow of Martinique there was excitement in the air. The autohelm was coping well with the swell as we navigated through the moderate waves. Not only could the boat could move but it did so with ease. We got up to 9 knots of speed (in 22knots of wind speed), which was faster than we had ever gotten on Can Knot Agree before. Heaved to on the port side, giggling away, the boat dipped a little lower, so that the rails were underneath the water (this is why you always close hatches when you are underway) and then we suddenly found ourselves spun around, facing the direction we had come from & in irons. A quick adjustment of the sails & work at the helm meant that we were quickly underway again, but unlike Geoff, I was a little rattled, even though the boat did exactly as it should when overpowered, it was still a very new experience.

After that we ended up with 9 turns of the genoa. The extra turns did help a little, we had a couple of additional little spins, but nothing like the first time. Once we got into the shadow of Dominica things settled a little (still a decent amount of wind to keep us going) & the rest of the sail was pretty smooth.

Approaching Dominica the differences were obvious, it has a little bit more wildness to it, with steep cliffs that dropped into the sea. We knew that when we arrived in Roseau, we would need to secure a mooring ball, due to the depth of the water. Dominica has more of a steep drop in most places, so mooring balls are sometimes your only option & they also encourage people to use them to protect the seabed & coral that anchors can get tangled in or inadvertently destroy. There are some cruisers that get quite annoyed by that & would prefer to skip the island entirely, which is a little sad, but to each their own.

Some of the prices in Dominica we found rather jarring. Most memorable was the capsicums (peppers) at $17 CAD + each or a carton of juice at $20CAD. I don’t know how the locals could ever afford those prices & feel that most must not, but it is only the tourists who do. We are not those tourists though & did not buy any peppers or juice. The cucumbers were nice though & a little more reasonably priced, even with the weight being in lbs & not kilos. (Huge fans of the metric system as you can see) 🙃 We did do some provisioning in Roseau, but were certainly careful about what we bought.

Roseau which is the capital, was where we moored at first. We tried to organise a mooring ball in advance with SeaCat, but had to do as everyone else does & hail him on channel #16, which felt a little odd, especially when there isn’t even a switch to another channel made after the initial contact is made. I think it’s an island thing though.

How to tell customs officials are available, look for a ferry or cruise ship in port

We arrived on Sunday afternoon & there weren’t any ferries or cruise ships in port, so we couldn’t check in that day, but first thing Monday we checked in without any issues. Geoff brought our paperwork (passports & a copy of our boat registration) as well as our paperwork from Saint Pierre plus our Sail Clear reference number with him & had us all checked in without any issues & a lot cheaper than using an agent, which gets pushed a little in guidebooks as a service that SeaCat & others offer at a price, but we didn’t feel the need & preferred to do it ourselves. Of note, we didn’t even have to pay out of hours rates for an arrival outside of the hours that customs & immigration were available, which we really appreciated, as we knew that isn’t always the case.

(There are several images attached to this post, you can click through the images in IG)

If all you saw of the island was based around what you see from the sea & perhaps some provisioning in Roseau, you would be missing a lot. Roseau is a big town really & certainly not the prettiest but the Roseau valley area is absolutely stunning with it’s wild wilderness feel & abundance of waterfalls and rivers that can be explored. Sidenote, there are actually 365 rivers on the island!

It was so refreshing to swim in some of the rivers & a great way to give all our bathers an extra rinse after months of swimming in salt water only 😅 (they were washed a few times, in that time to be fair).

We did a tour of the Roseau Valley via SeaCat with a tour guide/ driver named Stowe, which we really enjoyed, not the cheapest though ($250 USD + we had to pay extra costs, which we didn’t realise as we thought that it was all inclusive) for the 4 of us for the day, but he did go at our pace, which wasn’t especially fast, especially in the pouring rain that day.

I think that you can negotiate the price down a bit more than we did, but we were a little confused by the process. We all enjoyed the tour a lot & are really happy that we did it, but we certainly can’t afford to do that often. For a bit of a change of pace though, it was really nice.

This post is getting a little long, so be sure to read part 2 of our time in Dominica, where we got to test out the local hospital system…..

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