Another one night stop as we continue down the chain of islands. We left Les Saintes as the sun was rising to begin the 25 mile sail down to Dominica. We had heard so many mixed opinions about stopping there. The island was devastated by Hurricane Maria just as they had finished rebuilding after Hurricane Erica a couple years before. It's a poor island where tourism is low key, people visit for the natural beauty of the place with it's waterfalls, boiling lakes, many rivers (365 we are told) and lush vegetation. But it also is the only place so far in the cruising guide on board that talks about safety and break ins on boats. It reminded me of a conversation we had with a restaurant owner on Les Saintes who said they had no crime on his island, he said there were no poor people, no rich people either. Simple. But we had also heard that the people on Dominica were so welcoming and anyone that had visited said it was a magical place, not to be missed. So with that information we cautiously approached the island. There was a radio broadcast by cruisers on VHF that we picked up a mile out, everyday they go on to welcome new boaters and tell everyone of social and volunteer events going on around the island. What a great idea, we liked the place already. We were then greeted by someone on a small motor dingy before we even entered the harbor. He welcomed us and said his buddy Tristan would be waiting for us in the harbor. Tristan proceeded to lead us to an available mooring, help us tie up and direct us to customs. These guys put the Welcome Wagon to shame. Because of the problems with thefts there is an organization called PAYS that patrols the harbor and trains locals as taxi drivers and tour guides. Anyone registered with them is above board and safe to use, it's a great way to instill confidence in people visiting the island.
Tristan also organized a tour of the island for us. We should not be under such a tight time schedule, but once again we only had a day to see as much as we could. Unfortunately you have to leave early in the morning to hike into the interior, but we could make a trip around the island to see the sights and stop at the waterfalls. He lined us up with Anselm to drive us around, our first stop was at the local gas station, they were out of gas though so we continued on. The look of the island has totally changed since Maria, every leave was blown away, all that remained were the trunks of trees and most of the roofs were blown off. Our driver said he was sunburned for the first time in his life, there was no longer a canopy of leaves or a roof over his head to block the sun. The greenery is slowly coming back though, but it will take awhile for the trees to catch up. The coconut plant that makes oil was shut down because the coconut trees were destroyed, the chocolate factory we stopped at had lost all it's cocoa plants and it would take 3 years for the new plants to start producing, the cane sugar factory was closed down, that crop was devastated as well. You can't help but wonder in a poor country with so many jobs lost how people are getting along. But it was remarkable how clean the streets are and how hard people are working on replacing roofs, rebuilding roads and planting vegetation. As we drove along we would stop at the only gas station in the few small towns we went through, always encountering the same "out of gas" sign. Even the fishermen Anselm knew had no gas to spare. He said this was very unusual and he was starting to get worried, and so were we, these were big hills to push a car up and we were in the middle of nowhere. Tony suggested that the random hitchhikers we passed may be useful and perhaps we should pick them up (that did get a chuckle out of our otherwise reserved driver). Every down hill he would put the car in neutral and coast. We had to change our original itinerary, we were bypassing the waterfalls at the Emerald Pool and driving down to Roseau, our last option for gas, if we didn't find any there we would be taking the bus back to the boat. But we were in luck, a ship had just made a delivery and after waiting in a long line of cars and watching a few fights erupt between drivers we got half a tank of gas (no filling up here) and were on our way. A quick stop for lunch at a road side stand and on to another waterfall and then a drive up the coast returning to our boat seven hours later. We managed to see most of the island and have enough gas to make it back to where we started, all in all, a great adventure.
There is just never enough time to see and do everything we want and the list of places to go and things to do seems to just keep getting longer instead of shorter. Someone with experience sailing in the Caribbean told us before we came down that six months was just not enough time to see the islands, we thought then that all they were all the same with white sand beaches and rum bars, we couldn't have been more wrong.
P.S. we try to write as we go along and post when internet is available, sorry that it always seems like it is all or nothing…