Sunday, December 10, 2017

Dominica After Hurricane Maria

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
The "Toodle-oo! Expedition is a rather pompous name for such a humble little group of boats, but there it is.  Some of us had sailed to the Caribbean in the Salty Dawg Rally. Others are members of the OCC (Ocean Cruising Club) of which Carl and I are now members as well. 

Northwest coast of Dominica
Dominica is a tourism-based economy.  We want to help bring the cruising tourists back to 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.
Fort Shirley, site of West Indies Slave Soldier Revolt of 1802.

Now, anchored in the broad, deep harbor, I am struck by the relative quiet at the north end of the bay. Off our port stern, the stately brick buildings of Fort Shirley stand as a sentinel halfway up on the hillside, seemingly unharmed.  Below that, the long dock designed to receive cruise ships still stands, but is littered with pieces of itself. 

Dominica has many miles of hiking trails
The welcoming center to the Cabrits National Park of which Fort Shirley is a major showpiece, appears dark and without doors and windows.  An apparently new hotel runs parallel to the shore on our port beam but its' roof has been ripped away.  
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

Where Do We Begin?  So, where does one begin in Dominica?  Our chosen axis point is an organization called PAYS. Years ago, security was somewhat of an issue on Dominica, I am told.  There were thefts from boats and many cruisers were thus put off by concerns about safety.  
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.
Prior to the hurricane, PAYS had WiFi on site and tables with computers for internet access as well as a TV for cruisers who want to catch the game.  A PAYS member greets boats upon arrival, provides information about hiking and/or tours on the island, picks up the boats’ garbage, helps sort out someone to take the boats’ laundry, provides information about places to eat, provides water taxi as needed and in general, does everything they can to make a cruisers’ stay a pleasant one. 

Monday, December 4, 2017

Guadeloupe, My Love

The little town of Bourg des Saintes, on Iles des Saintes.  Lots of cruise
ship tourists pass through.

L'Eglise Notre Dame de l' Assomption, named for the
famous victory of the French against the British, 1666.

Up until a few months ago, I’m not sure I’d even heard of Guadeloupe.  If I had, I certainly had no idea where it was. From now on, I will likely be singing her praises.  We have been here less than a week, and have found so much beauty, and have so much more to explore.  And the people!  Wonderful, friendly, helpful and often very attractive people.  A few of them speak English and with the others, we limp along using the few French words that we have learned. 
These little girls were so beautiful and happy, I
just had to photograph them playing in the square.

Google Translate, I just have to say, is a wonderful invention  If you have used it already, you know what I am talking about.  I can enter text in English and it will be magically translated into French (or any other language I choose) and I can also  hear it spoken, repeatedly, if I want.  And I usually do want.  Furthermore, and this is really cool, if I don’t dare speak the translation myself,(which I am rarely too shy to doI can just turn my iPhone horizontally and the written translation will be magnified 10 fold on a blue background so that I can just hold it up to the person with whom I am trying to communicate. Voile’.  
Apparently happy about the menu translation with Google Translate

Plus, get this….. I can hold the phone with Google Translate over a menu and the menu will miraculously be in English!  How cool is that?  

Top-French Courtesy flag for Guadeloupe
We spent a few days anchored in the harbor off Deshaies (Day-yay) where Carl cleared us into Customs and where I made a French flag.  Silly me—before we left the States I’d ordered a flag for every Caribbean country that I thought we would probably visit at some point but I did not find any flag for Guadeloupe.  Duh—Guadeloupe belongs to France, thus the French flag is flown.  Well, I came armed with flag fabrics and made a rather large French flag.  
These little lorikeets fought over Carl, or more likely,
the coconut juice in the small cup.

A bit of flag etiquette here—the flag of one’s own country is flown usually off the back of the boat, and is supposed to be proportionately larger than the other flags that might be flown and of a size that is commensurate with the size of the boat.  Ahem….not so in our case.  Our U.S. flag is very small because it too easily gets wrapped around our AIS antennae.  Ignoring common etiquette, I made a huge French flag, as a sign of respect. It is flown on a flag halyard alongside the mast.
Delicate flower high up in tree

We chose two day-long activities to enjoy while in Deshaies.  There will be several more days spent in Guadeloupe a little later on in our travels.  
Wish I could remember the name of this huge, unusual tree.  

Atop one of the smaller mountains overlooking Deshaies is a Botanical Garden the likes of which I had never seen!  And I have seen some incredible botanical gardens in my time.  
Looking from the Botanical Gardens to the Caribbean Sea

We were awestruck! Here is this tiny little fishing village and only a steep drive uphill takes one to extensive gardens covering several acres over the top of the mountain. 
This little guy is only about 3" long from nose to tail.

Twiggy the Flamingo
Basically, I just want to share some of my photos here since words do not begin to do the place justice.  Oh, and when I phoned the Jardin Botanique, they sent a driver down the mountain to pick us up and they brought us back down the mountain again, too.
A Bus stop.  Sugar cane, the primary crop,
is used to make rhum in Guadeloupe.

The next day we boarded a bus bound for Pointe-a-Pitre, (Pwant a Peetr) a large city toward the center of Guadeloupe.  It lies on a river that bisects the two island halves of Guadeloupe.  
"So I says, Vera, honey, let's go to the beach.  Well, I'm 
here. But no Vera. Guess I'll just chew my cud....again."

We were on the bus for the opportunity to see the countryside as much as for a visit to the city of Pointe Pitre (Pointing Clown).  My personal opinion is that the city’s name lacks the sort of pomp that lends itself to being taken seriously, but the city has survived this long in spite of it, so…..what do I know?
Historic area of Pointe-a-Pitre.

We managed to find our way by bus through the city to the old downtown, along the waterfront of course.  We seem to have a nose for finding historic districts.  The old downtown reminds me of the French Quarter in New Orleans but without the care taken to preserve the old buildings that is seen in the Quarter.  Regardless, it is a charming old district, with narrow little streets, broadly porched buildings with several pairs of 8’ tall painted doors leading to each interior. 
Cemeteries on Guadeloupe.

There are boulangeries (bakeries) here and there of which we are big fans.  Huge! And the ancient trees remain in the historic district, as a testament to the longevity of the old city.  We found what I would call the Creole district with shops of brightly colored cloths made into garb reminiscent of African garments complete with matching turbans.  

Flower vendors in the square.  The old Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul is off to the right.
There are hawkers on the streets, selling all sorts of wares, and a large marche’ (market) just along the water with beautiful vegetables and fruits and  hats and jewelry.  Surrounding all of this is a large modern city, clean and orderly.  The bus back to Deshaies was packed whereas we had the entire bus to ourselves on the way to the city.  
School boys

We rode with shoppers with their groceries, workers going home at the end of the day and high school-age students wearing the colors of their school uniforms.  As more and more people poured onto the bus, the thought came to me….'We are SO white.’  Because it was approaching dusk, we could see some families gathered on some of those huge porches around a lighted table where there would be dinner, no doubt.
Panorama of Iles des Saintes nearing sunset. The very round knob on the far left is
called Le Pain de Sucre (sweet bread)

We have now sailed further south on to another set of small islands which are actually also part of France.  These are the Iles des Saintes (Eel d’ San) and I would be hard-pressed to name another set of islands (yet anyhow) that are more picturesque.  We are moored off a little town called Bourg des Saintes (Borg d’ San) and are surrounded by a cluster of small islands.  
Towns and cities line the western coast of Guadeloupe.

We can see the lights of the much larger island of Guadeloupe about 8 miles to the north.  More immediately surrounding us are the ruins of three old forts atop the smaller mountains of Iles des Saintes. Hiking paths will take us to see them, as well as the goats that clamber around the rocky islands.  

Main streets in Bourg des Saintes.  Lots of restaurants and shops for the tourists.

And the iguanas!  We saw one today while eating the most delicious glace’ (ice cream) that I can recall. It was I that was eating the glace’, not the iguana but I would have gladly shared if he’d have come down off the roof. Not as large as those National Geographic iguanas, but still very impressive, and very, very green.
I will call him "Vert" which of course means "green."

From here, we go on to the island of Dominica, so horrendously ravaged by Hurricane Maria. It is only another 20 miles farther south but we are prepared for it to be a world away from the serenity and beauty that we are enjoying here in Iles des Saintes.  With us we are carrying a few relief supplies and will join with another group of sailboats already there in Portsmouth. After a time in Dominica, my next post will surely be of a more somber nature.   Wish us well as we attempt to help out in whatever ways we can.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Royalty and Rally on Antigua

Strong heel to starboard for ~10 days of the passage
Alright, I was wrong. It is true that “Antigua” is a Spanish word which means “antique” and so I of course assumed that the name of the country would be pronounced as a Spanish word, “ahn-TEE-gwah”.  But no, for some reason unbeknownst to me, it is pronounced “An-TEE-gah.” ……I know….I was stunned too!  I have had a longstanding drive to pronounce words correctly, and so this discovery set me back a piece..  You see, it all began in childhood, when I prodded my mother to teach me Norwegian words, English being her second language. I repeated those words over and over to get them to sound right. to her ear. (I would not be offended if you were to check in with my husband about whether it might not be just a teensy bit tiresome to live with someone who’s always trying to ferret out correct pronunciations.)  
Prince Charles

Well, I had just gotten past the shock of “Antigua” when Prince Charles showed up next to our boat at (Admiral) Nelson’s Dockyard in Antigua (not to be confused with Willie Nelson).  Given that Admiral Nelson was the naval champion of the British Empire on the high seas (before meeting his waterloo at the Battle of Trafalgar) the naval dockyard is now a well-preserved national park.   
Nelson's Dock Yard, a Unesco World Heritage Siste

Antigua, however, is no longer a British colony. It should be clarified also that it in combination with the island of Barbuda (just 50 miles to the north) make up their own independent nation. 

Dignitaries and the press following Prince Charles to our boat.  See boat directly behind palm tree.
In spite of its’ severed strings from the motherland, Great Britain, the British royalty is still wont to give a nod of support to their previous colony by showing up for well-photographed visits following national disasters such as Hurricanes Irma and Maria that ravaged Barbuda.  So, we have the hurricanes to “thank?” for the royal visit on the very day following our landfall.

The Prince stopped for a chat with our fellow Rally mate on Exous.
The Salty Dawg Rally was proclaimed a rousing success on Antigua.  A total of 63 boats arrived there, nearly filling the large Falmouth Harbor on the southern coast of Antigua.  Another contingent of boats went to the Bahamas. Of course, the boats arrived at different times. Some are faster than others and not all boats left on the same day.  
Carl, Luke, Harry and me on Northern Star

We didn’t actually see another of our fellow Rally sailboats the entire 12 + days on the ocean.  We were most sincerely happy to be on land again and to meet up with our fellow Dawgs on Antigua. 

Mediterranean docking.  
Rally organizers had been working for months in advance with representatives of the Antigua Yacht Club and other islanders to plan some fantastic soc
ial events for us. 
Carl and I are unused to such frivolity on a continual basis and I must say that for the week following our arrival I was more than a just a little whipped.  

Antigua Yacht Club
Feeling exhausted was either the nonstop frivolity OR it might have been the walking pneumonia which was discovered about that time.  Conveniently, a pair of physicians happened to be on a Rally boat.  When one of the pair witnessed one of my coughing fits, she strongly suggested I pay a visit to their boat so that she could have a listen to my lungs.  Excellent idea, I thought.  She gave me antibiotics and I’m finally good as new, or at least as good as I usually am. 

The first of the festivities to welcome everyone was at a large h’or douerves buffet party on Tuesday night at the Antigua Yacht Club. 
Buffet table at Boom

This was followed by another evening event at “Boom”, a restaurant/patio and infinity pool.  (Boom was originally a storage building for munitions.  Aptly named, right?)  A Thanksgiving Day feast was also provided at Antigua Yacht Club.  Although the carvers seemed a bit unsure what to do with an entire turkey, they were amenable to suggestions. When I asked for dark meat, he looked puzzled.  I asked for the leg and got it.  
Admiral's Inn

Yet another event was at the Admiral’s Inn on the water (elegant outdoor setting within what was once an enormous sail-making site on Nelson’s Dockyard. 

Then came another luncheon at a different restaurant on the water, just for the ladies.  
The Women's Luncheon

On Sunday, many of us gathered for a potluck barbecue on the beach.  And a healthy share of us gathered in the warm water to sip on our cold beverages.
"Did someone say beach barbeque?  And do I smell turkey breast?"

But enough with the huge social events for a while!  There are several couples that we will enjoy spending some time with one on one over the winter.  A few of them have flown back home to the States or England for the holidays but we’ll see them again in a month or so.  
British influence is visible

There are in fact, lots of British boats in the Salty Dawg Rally, one Australian, a few Canadian boats and one Swedish.  I have been picking up some jolly good phrases from those proper British sailors. Brilliant opportunity, wouldn’t you say, old chap?  Why did we Americans ever let go of those snappy English expressions? They are pure gold.
west coast of Guadeloupe

Now we have sailed on to the island of Guadeloupe, about 45 miles south of Antigua.  Guadeloupe belongs, as you may know, to France.  I feel as if we are in Europe. I had to make a French flag to fly. Everyone speaks French, except for the other tourists that I’ve heard speaking German, Spanish and Dutch.  Love it!  

We are in a little fishing village on the northwest coast of Guadeloupe called Deshaies where we cleared into Customs.  I have had the chance to practice the following on several people — “Perdon, Parlez vous Anglais?” And the amazing thing is that they understand me every time!  And then usually they shake their heads, no, they do not speak English. 
Boulangeries are everywhere.

So, here we go again with the pronunciation challenges.  “Deshaies" is pronounced “Duh-yay” And what do you do with the “s’es” in the word? You just think about them a little bit.  Just “think” about there being an “s” after “Duh” but put the tip of your tongue near the front of your upper teeth so that you can’t really say “s”.  When you get to the second “s”, ignore it altogether. That’s all there is to it. 
Guadeloupe Mainland beyond.  The Iles de Saintes surround us here.

I just have to accept that there are an inordinate number of consonants in French that never get pronounced.  Why are they there?  Probably a very good reason, again unbeknownst to me. So, it’s Antigua and now, Deshaies.  Got it.