SEA GEM LOG:DOMINICA February 28 - March 4, 2002

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When you find a place in the Paradise of the Caribbean that is not yet crowded with cruising boats there is a temptation to keep the news to yourself, hoping that it is not found before you get a chance to return for a longer visit.

Dominica is off the beaten track of the charter trade and is not blessed with many anchoring friendly harbors. Our old copy of Streets "Caribbean Cruising Guide" would have turned most people off to what became a welcome and memorable experience.

The first pleasant surprise was the new set of moorings placed just off the Fort Young Hotel, south of the capital city of Roseau. We were scheduled to pick up our friends, Jane and Malcolm Kirschenbaum in Roseau. This area is notorious for its poor holding ground for anchoring. It is a bit roily but the moorings are secure allowing us to leave the boat unattended for island touring. Malcolm and Jane appeared on the hotel veranda as we moored. Using halyard and winch we launched our dingy with six hp Merc overboard, collected our guests and luggage for a dingy ride back to Sea Gem. When they got settled in, we dinked back to the hotel to make touring arrangements and have dinner ashore.

When time is of the essence we have found you see and learn more if you have a knowledgeable guide. We were fortunate to get Sonia Lander, Operations Manager for Ken's Hinterland Adventure Tours and Transfer Service (KHATTS) and she was so good that we talked her into guiding the four of us for three days.

Dominica is blessed with far more rainfall than any other island in the Caribbean, 360 inches annually. Fresh water is not a problem and the vegetation is so lush it looks artificial.
Everything grows in profusion. The multiple rivers run clear and fast toward the sea. Because of the high mountains the waterfalls are spectacular and we climbed many for delightful swims in the cool, clean water.

Dominican officials and business people are promoting eco-tourism to preserve their precious resources and promote their economy at the same time. The government seems to be on the right track. Education is a major public emphasis.
The schools that we saw are well built and maintained, which is different from many of the other Caribbean islands. We also learned from Sonia that there is a great deal of scholastic competition, as the top students are awarded scholarships for higher education. One of their exports is doctors, who, as students, were in Dominica from many other countries to study for their medical degrees.

The best way to meld into the culture is to shop at the local market for the fresh fruits and vegetables presented by the vendors. The temptation to over buy is overwhelming because everything looks so good.

At times the vendor is the reason for buying the produce. This six year old boy walking down the road to sell okra was irresistible. He carried the okra in a calabash bowl, another very versatile natural product.

Sailing up the coast from Roseau to Prince Rupert Bay we dropped the hook at Portsmouth Town and found good holding. Contrary to Street's Cruising Guide, friendliness and courtesy were evident in all our contacts with Dominicans. The transformation of unruly boat vendors of Street's 1984 guide to professional Indian River Guide water taxis of today was most appreciated. In fact the owner of one of the water taxis, Albert, was so nice that we gave him a handheld VHF radio. This allowed him to be competitive with the other taxis when boats are coming in to anchor. We rode out to Sea Gem in Albert's boat.
There were fourteen of us that included the guy on the bow with twenty gallons of gasoline. Fortunately the water was calm for we only had a couple of inches of freeboard. After the guy with the gas was unloaded, and we got out, the boat was back to
normal conditions. Adventures come in many forms.

Our tour of the rain forest was outstanding. The rushing rivers, the mist shrouded mountains and colorful markets make Dominica an outstanding place to visit if you are looking for natural beauty.
There is a limiting factor of safe anchorages
but we were fortunate and had no problems. Dominica has breathtaking beauty but I often wonder how some of these islands would appear to passengers coming off of a cruise ship. For now, we are blessed to view these places from our sail boat which makes you almost a part of the culture rather than a casual visitor. Until later . . . in the Caribbean aboard Sea Gem.