Our friend, Peter, from S/V Serendipitous remarked that Yachtie Appreciation Week was akin to adult summer camp, and with that analogy I think he nailed it. Tours, BBQs, raft-ups, sing-alongs, food everywhere, and maybe a few rum punch too. A couple of the highlights:
Alexis from PAYS picks us up at our boat promptly at 8 am to meet our guide for the day, the ebullient and charming Charlie, otherwise known as Sunshine. He lives up to his name. Charlie drives through the hilly, green terrain, with sharp turns. He is an excellent driver, an even better guide. His knowledge of the island, history and environment is astounding and his enthusiasm and love for Dominica is enchanting.
We visit Emerald Falls, a UNESCO world heritage site, (one of four that Dominica boasts). We stop for lunch at the Islet View Restaurant for a truly slow-food meal, with ingredients grown on site. Plantain chips and delicious sauce (which the kitchen would not give up), rum punch served in carved coconut shells adorned with hibiscus flowers, a tasty meal of local produce and fish, and an array of fresh fruit that is the perfect wrap-up.
After lunch we head over to the northeast side of the island for a drive through the Carib settlement, the indigenous people of Dominica. Charlie asks if we’d like to see a local chocolate factory and gets a resounding ‘YES’ from all aboard. Allan, the owner and purveyor of Pointe Baptiste Estate greets us warmly and takes us through the process of how he makes chocolate. The lemongrass-dark chocolate combination is sublime. He also gives a tour of his garden which his grandmother planted in the 1930’s and it is incredible; the variety and loveliness blew us all away.
We head back to our boats, tired and happy to have seen some of Dominica and it’s riches. Al and I discuss between ourselves that Dominica could have no better ambassador than Sunshine himself.
Cooking Callaloo Soup and Accra on the Beach
Laurie from Toodle-oo arranges a cooking class with Martin, another PAYS member, and his wife, Florian and assistant, Janet. I have been looking forward to this! We head to the market to buy ingredients for callaloo soup and accra (fish cakes). The market on Saturday is bustling with activity, it is loud and there are vendors everywhere trying to get your attention. I try a green coconut. Delicious!
We spend the morning at the PAYS beach house, learning how to cook the two dishes. Martin and Florian show us how to prepare ingredients and what other uses there are for them, such as how to make plantain chips. Martin’s fish cakes are fantastic, made from fresh Jack fish and cooked over a homemade stove fire. The Callaloo soup, with a variety of ingredients, takes more time to assemble but the results are superb. Al returns from a hike just in time to get a bowl.
The Dominicans are very serious about food and take great pride in the amount and variety of produce grown on the island. There are fruit trees everywhere and farmers have produce growing all over the island. We have also noticed that Dominicans look far younger than their actual age; maybe something to do with their diet?
Today’s activity, arranged by Patty from Serendipitous, is another event I have been looking forward to with anticipation, a bird tour of the island with the famous Dr. Bertrand Jno Baptiste otherwise known as Dr. Birdy. He is a true naturalist and his knowledge extends beyond the birds of Dominica into habitat, diet, local flora and fauna and history. A true naturalist and a real gem, the Washington Post wrote about him recently.
He takes us to several sites and delivers! We see:
all four species of island hummingbirds (Antillean Crested, Blue-headed, Green-throated and Purple throated)
two thrashers (Pearly-eyed and Scaly-breasted)
both indigenous parrot species (Imperial parrot, Sisserou, which adorns the Dominica flag and of which there are only 300 of their species and the noisy Red-necked Amazon)
two swifts (the black tailed and Anitlliean) and
many species of warblers.
He is a treasure trove of information and I could have spent days listening to his stories. He’s also quite funny and amiable. We were amazed that even though he has probably seen the Imperial parrot countless times, he was incredibly excited, as if it was his first time.
Al and I joined the Ocean Cruisers Club (OCC) after completing a non-stop 1,000 nautical mile trek in our boat between two ports. The International club for blue water cruisers is administered from the UK but has members from all over the world and promotes blue water sailing. When you hoist an OCC flag, it’s an instant introduction to other OCC members. and after that you will probably end up on one another boats for happy hour. There’s also a morning net on SSB here in the Caribbean; members check in to say where they are or where they’re headed or share useful information.
Bill from S/V Toodle-oo organized a get-together for the OCC crowd in Portsmouth, a dinghy raft-up and about 13 boats assemble. Everyone brings an appie and a bevvie, the dinghies are tied together and we float aimlessly sharing stories. We meet members like Frances and George from Kittiwake (who has the best rum punch I’ve had yet and he shared his recipe), and Jen and George from Wildcat (who write for the Compass, a monthly magazine in the Caribbean and he is funny). As we drift through the mooring field the sun sets behind us and people call out and wave from their yachts.
The PAYS barbeque have become well known throughout the cruiser world, and rightly so. For $50 EC ($25 CA) you get a delicious meal and all the rum punch you can drink. There is also a live band and dancing afterwards. We attend 2 BBQs while in Portsmoth. The first launches YAW and the place is packed. Even the Minister of Tourism and their parliamentary representative, have come out. I chat with the minister after dinner and tell him that Dominica is quickly becoming my #1 island to which he does a high five! The second PAYS BBQ has even more people and the band was killer. A limbo session, mixed with the free flowing run punch, proved entertaining after dinner. A bunch of white people were trying their best until the cool drummer from the band jumped down, with fedora in hand and limboed lower than anyone else that night. He was cool!
Singing in the Cockpit
Martin and Josje, visiting form Holland, aboard TiSento with Agnes and Bas, brought music with them. Martin is a cracker jack guitar player and singer and we had several sessions aboard Tisento and Ingomar requesting songs from him and singing along. He rekindled my interest in learning guitar and for that I will always be grateful.
So after a week of fun in Dominica we pull anchor and set sail south. It’s been an incredible week and we’re actually feeling a bit exhausted. Summer camp has never been this much fun!