|Prince Rupert Bay, Dominica|
It was Hurricane Maria which brought about the change in our destination from the British Virgin Islands to Antigua for the Salty Dawg Rally and it is Hurricane Maria which draws us now to Dominica (Do-min-EE-ka).
|Locals admiring a catch|
A group of boats expressed interest in offering their assistance in Dominica in some way, but were without a clue about where to begin. The leader of our group, if I may call them that, is the S/V Toodle-oo! We were all glad to have Bill and Laurie share their ideas with us about how we might make our desire to be of help known to the Dominicans.
|Five couples represented, all volunteering to help out in Dominica|
Somewhere along our 1600 mile 12-day passage, therefore, plans to offer assistance to Dominica became known as the “Toodle-oo! Expedition" so named by other interested cruisers hearing about our intentions on SSB (single side band).
|Fishing pier in Portsmouth, Dominica|
|Northwest coast of Dominica|
Toodle-oo! helped us identify an axis point where perhaps, we can help to tip the balance in favor of cruiser tourism.
But before describing our chosen axis point, I want to share some observations about the post-hurricane Dominica that I see today.
|The town of Portsmouth, Dominica before the sun comes over the mountains|
First seen from 20+ miles away, the volcanic island’s rugged mountains rise sharply out of the ocean. Dominica has 7 potentially active volcanoes. Clouds rest on its’ peaks and as one sails closer, clusters of colorful houses creep up the steep foothills along the shoreline.
|With damaged tree canopy, the ground below is visible.|
Peering through binoculars however, reveals a clearer, more somber picture. The mountains are awash in broken trees and defoliation is evident because we can see land between the trees—the enormous canopy of trees about which I’d read, significantly damaged. Debris is visible here and there although much has been cleared away, I’m sure.
|So much debris yet to be removed.|
Many buildings are in shambles and at least part of the reason for the appearance of the "colorful houses" is the addition of bright blue tarps on several roofs. I am humbled and overwhelmed by the destructive force of the wind that has churned its way across this beautiful island.
|Dominica has many miles of hiking trails|
|The "new" hotel was unfinished when Maria came. Now she's minus her roof as well.|
Following the bay around our bow and to starboard are buildings surrounded by debris. A relatively intact house appears between piles of rubble at times. Through my binoculars I see only a single person now and then near a house. A lone vehicle travels along the shoreline. And later, a motorcycle.
|Houses extend up the mountainsides|
In the darkness, only a smattering of lights appear on shore nearby. Farther south along the bay the town of Portsmouth can be discerned by its lights, although all is dark on the mountainsides above. At night, one would not guess that people live on the mountainsides.
|The PAYS building, repairs underway|
|PAYS Security boat|
A competent group of Dominican men known as Indian River Guides formed the Portsmouth Association of Yacht Services (PAYS) and since that time there have been no thefts in the Prince Rupert Bay off of Portsmouth. Throughout the night hours, the northern harbor of the Bay is patrolled by PAYS boats to ensure sailboaters' safety.
|Under the PAYS roof, laying concrete as base for wall.|
PAYS members provide a number of services all of which are focused on making cruisers welcome in Dominica. PAYS built and maintains a dinghy dock, used almost exclusively by cruisers. Our group helped to rebuild a portion of it.
|Repairing end of the dock|
The PAYS building is open-air and is next to the public toilets, convenient for cruisers. With an outdoor grill and a new chest-high bar that we have helped to build, it will be a welcoming sort of place for cruisers to gather on the sand.
|We took a break and went on the Indian River tour. Knowledgeable guides.|