Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Dominica (pronounced "doe-min-EEK-a") is not a very famous island.  It has relatively little tourism, not very many or exceptional beaches.  Few resorts.

But it is a fabulous place.  The eastern side of the island gets about 250 inches of rain per year -- enough to form true rainforests.  It is mountainous and rugged, with beautiful scenery everywhere.  Dominica is called "The Fruitbasket of the Caribbean," because they export so much fruit to other islands and vegetables as well.  There are said to be 365 rivers -- one for each day of the year.

We spent a week anchored off the town of Portsmouth.  This village is small, and has a very local flavor, despite the occasional cruise ship stop.  And there is a lot to do.  The area is famous for tours of the Indian River.  We really enjoyed it.  You go upriver in a rowboat for about an hour.  There is lush vegetation, numerous birds of all types, and schools of fish in the river.  At the top is a bush bar, where you can get a drink or have lunch.  We were there about 10:00 am, so we had fresh grapefruit juice.

An important reason for us to be here is to visit with Scott Freiburg.  Scott is the fiance of David's niece, Rachel Grodick.  He is on Dominica attending medical school.  Ross University has run a school here for many years.  It covers the first two years of medical school, which is primarily classroom education.  The students take only very short breaks, and actually complete the program in 20 months, and the final semester is often back in the States.  Once they finish this part of the program, they then go through almost two years of clinical experience in US teaching hospitals.  We were told that the 2000 med students and their professors made up 40% of the Gross Domestic Product of Dominica.

It was great to see Scott, and to meet his roommates.  We went out for a daysail, and had a nice conversation about life, the world, and everything.  We think Scott was happy to see some familiar faces.

Another tourist attraction is the peninsula known as Cabrits.  There is a very well restored fort from British Colonial times and numerous hiking trails climbing up a couple of hundred meters to the tops of twin peaks.  The area around the peninsula is famous for snorkeling and scuba diving, as well.

We arranged a guided tour of the Syndicate rainforest area.  There is a very well marked hiking trail, perhaps a couple of kilometers long through the rainforest.  Our guide, Winston, knew about every tree and bird.  He treated us to many tastes and aromas, from guava and banana to cinnamon and nutmeg.  Grapefruit right off the tree was wonderful.  The area also contains a fabulous waterfall, called Milton Falls, or sometimes Syndicate Falls.  To reach it you have to ford the river twice.  Those of us with non-waterproof shoes had to carry them and go barefoot across the fords.  But the falls were really impressive.

While on Dominica, we volunteered some time through an organization called "Hands Across the Sea."  This is a labor of love by two cruisers, Harriet and TL Linskey.  They have adopted more than 50 schools in the English-speaking Caribbean, trying to help them improve literacy.  Each fall they use donations to purchase books for the schools, and have sent more than 50,000 over the past four years.  They also help create inviting spaces for children to read.  At the Isaiah Thomas Secondary School, where we worked with them, they had built a "Literacy Center" (basically a reading room) last year.  This year, our project was to build new bookshelves for the library.  We spent two days with them, sawing, drilling, assembling, and painting.  It was great to learn more about the educational system in the Caribbean, and to meet some of the students and teachers.  The school was a happy place, a credit to the principle and staff.

Through this project, we also met two other cruisers, Rod and Jill Hearne on Lookfar.  Rod helped with the bookshelf project.  Jill is a retired educational consultant, and she has donated many days of her time visiting schools on Dominica, advising principles and observing teachers, and is trying to design training programs for both principles and teachers that can improve effectiveness.

We have moved our base to the capital of Dominica, Roseau, and will be here for several days.  We are hoping to take some more hikes.  We also plan to meet up with Scott one more time.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Smaller Islands

The main part of Guadeloupe consists of two large islands that nearly touch.  The water between them is called a river, in fact, because it is so narrow.

Guadeloupe also has several smaller islands, though, and these have a very different feel.  We were lucky to visit two of them.

Terre de Haut ("High Land") is part of the Isle des Saintes group of islands, south of the main part of Guadeloupe.  This was a lovely island, and relatively developed.  They don't get large cruise ships here, but they do get a few of the sailing clippers, and many tourists visit by ferry.  The town is very much geared to these visitors, and there are lots of restaurants, bars, and boutiques to sample.  We, of course, couldn't wait to get out of town.  The first day, we hiked up the biggest hill on the island, La Chameau.  There is an old building there that is called "Napoleon's Lookout" and the view from there is spectacular.  The hike is mostly on a road, and covers a few miles, but also climbs over 300 meters (1000 ft), so we got a good workout.  The next day we visited a beautifully restored fort, "Fort Napoleon."  There is a cool museum inside, and again fantastic views of sea and islands.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Many of the Caribbean islands celebrate Carnival, and we were lucky to be on Guadeloupe for the event.  Some islands have moved the festivities from the traditional time just before Lent to other dates, often in the summer.  But Guadeloupe has kept the traditional dates.

We didn't have access to a schedule of events, so being in the right place at the right time was a bit hit-or-miss.  But we saw (and heard!) bands, and marchers/dancers, and lots of bright costumes.

It was interesting to compare the festivities here to those for Fassnacht in Lucerne.  The bands have fewer horns and a lot more drums.  Costumes are more traditional and less fanciful, though we did see some roving bands of young people dressed in very fantastic fashion.  We attended the parade in Basseterre, which is the capital of Guadeloupe.  It was really a quite small parade compared to what we are used to in Lucerne.  We aren't sure whether there was a bigger parade that we missed, or whether the big event was the next day in Pointe a Pitre, Guadeloupe's biggest city.

One interesting thing about Guadeloupe is the great fondness for Madras plaids.  You see them everywhere, in clothing, tablecloths in restaurants, hats.  Very colorful and fun.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Glorious Sail

On Friday, we sailed from Antigua to the Deshaies, Guadeloupe (pronounced "day-ay").  This is almost directly due south.  When we looked at the weather forecast on Thursday afternoon, the winds were predicted from the east -- great, an easy and fast point of sail.  We checked again Friday morning before we left, and the forecast was for east-south-east winds.  Not quite so good, but still OK.  In practice, as we were raising our sails, the wind was from the southeast, which means sailing hard on the wind.  The boat is heeled over, the waves are crashing over the bow -- oh, well.  Luckily, the wind wasn't too strong (about 15 knots), and the waves were very small.  But Gretchen said "You keep promising me a beam reach or a downwind sail, and here we are beating again!"

As the morning went on, the wind became less southeast and more east.  By 10:00 or so, we could ease the sheets on the sails, and flatten the boat out.

The forecast also predicted lots of rain, but all we saw was blue sky and fluffy clouds, at least in our vicinity.

All-in-all, a very wonderful day of sailing.

Deshaies is a fairly small bay.  You clear customs at an internet cafe.  Shops here are open in the morning, then close for a siesta, and then reopen at 3:30 pm or 4:00.  We had to wait for a bit for the internet cafe to open, and used the time to explore the town.

Saturday, we hiked a mile or so uphill to a botanical garden.  This was wonderful.  Extremely well kept, a very large variety of tropical plants, including orchids, cactus, and huge collections of bougainvillea and heliconia, ornamental bananas and palms.  We spent nearly three hours, and then rewarded ourselves with a fancy lunch at the garden's restaurant.

Guadeloupe is officially a department of France, and English speakers are a very small minority.  But everyone is friendly, and we work out the communication somehow.

Tomorrow we will move to the town of Basseterre, on the southwest corner of Guadeloupe.  This is Carnival time, and we hope to catch a bit (but not too much) of the festivities.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Moving Along

We really enjoyed Nevis, but it was time to move on.  We are running out of time before we are running out of islands.

The trip from Nevis to Antigua was a long one.  It is only 40 miles as the crow flies, but we had to get around Nevis, and then faced an upwind sail, with an adverse current.  With tacking, we sailed more than 65 miles, and against the current it took us nearly eleven hours.  Luckily we had left near 6:00 am so there was still daylight when we arrived.

We had hoped to pick up a mooring ball at Jolly Harbour Marina, but the only one left was in water too shallow for our keel.  We anchored outside the marina (no problem), and then moved inside the next day.  At Jolly Harbour, for some reason, the customs officials insist that you bring your boat to their dock to check in.  This is the only place we have ever had to do this.  We gather that this is the only place on Antigua where you have to do this.  Luckily, we had no drama coming to the dock.  There were a couple of boats full of Swiss people already on the dock, and with many hands to help the docking went smoothly.

We picked up a mooring, and then went into the marina to explore.  There is a very good grocery store here, which is a luxury.  On our way back to Callisto, Gretchen noticed a green-hulled boat, and said "Isn't that another Outbound?"  Sure enough, it was.

It was Farasha, an Outbound 44 owned by Tom and Irma Brinkley.  We stopped and chatted for a few minutes, and they invited us to come over for snacks and cocktails in a couple of days.  We did that, and had a very pleasant couple of hours talking about boats and Outbounds.  Tom acts as an Outbound sales representative in Florida.  He had actually been on Callisto, working at the Annapolis boat show.  Farasha is Outbound 44 hull number 3.  It was fun seeing how the boat had evolved in the 40+ additional boats that Outbound has built since then.  Tom told us that a contract for hull number 46 has been signed, so the 10-year-old design is still going strong.

I had to spend some quality time in the coffee shop, using their wireless to send 2010 tax information to the accountants that my prior company has hired to complete our returns.  This is a left-over from our expatriate status, and 2010 is the last year that we get this service.  It is always a big hassle to collect and enter all of the required data, and it was made even more complicated this year, because the company has changed the accounting firm that provides this service.  Oh well.

We were very tired of sitting in a marina after this, and took advantage of a sunny day to sail over to Carlisle Bay.  This is a lovely spot on the south side of Antigua, though the water is not particularly calm.  There is a big resort here, and lots of water sports.  Fun to see beginning and expert wind surfers and Hobie catamaran sailors.  There was quite a lot of wakeboarding toward evening, and the wakes from the big powerboats shook our cocktails for us.

We are expecting rain tomorrow, and are planning to move to Falmouth Harbour today.  Then a day of boat chores, clear out of customs, and a long sail to Guadeloupe on Friday.