Waiting On Weather, Time With Friends And A Big Decision In Dominica

Dominica’s capital, Roseau, was only a short bus ride away from our anchorage, so we decided to spend a day in the “big city.” We walked to the bus stop in Portsmouth, and were soon on our way, with the bus half-full; quite a change from Antigua and Grenada, being pack in like sardines. I found an aerial photo of the bus “terminal” in Portsmouth.

The ride to Roseau was approximately 45 minutes, and soon we had been dropped off at the “terminal” in town, which translates to many buses (remember, we’re talking vans here) parked along a long, random stretch of road. From there, we walked several blocks to the center of town. As is usual in Caribbean towns, the sidewalks were narrow, came and went, and there wasn’t a breath of air….it was a hot go. (Online bus photo)


Right away, we noticed storm damage, especially on the churches in town.

The streets were lined with building of all shapes, sizes and construction types. There were many very, very old buildings, and some were trimmed with iron balconies, that had the look of those on Bourbon St. in New Orleans.







Along the waterfront, a brightly colored pavilion waited to welcome cruise ships back to the city.


We wandered into a small shop across from the pier, that had just reopened for business (and it had air conditioning!). The owner told us how different the city looks now, and that all she felt when seeing it after the storm was sadness and tears. I found some good before and after photos of Roseau’s waterfront online.


After chatting with the store owner, and cooling off a bit, our stomachs were telling us that it was time for lunch. We were recommended a local place, and set off to find some food. A few blocks away, we found the large, two-story building, offering take-away downstairs, and seated service on the second floor. We sat on the porch, enjoyed a buffet of local food, and  watched life go by on the streets below.


Hot and tired, we decided it was time to head for home.  Back at the sea of buses, drivers headed our way as we approached, hawking their services, and trying to beat out each other for our 4.00 (total) fare. We chose a winner, using the fist-come, first-serve rule, and followed him back to his bus.


On the edge of town, traffic came to a crawl. As the bus inched along, we eventually realized that a barrier wall had come down in the storm, and high tide was bringing  water across the road. Once the passing cars and buses slowly made their way through, we were on our way. We enjoyed our day in Roseau, but were happy to be back in Portsmouth, with cool breezes coming down from the nearby mountain.


We’d planned to stay a week or so in Dominica, and then make our way to Montserrat, for their St. Patrick’s Day celebration, but it was looking more and more like Mother Nature would intervene once again. Back home in the U.S., four major nor’easters affected the Northeast  in a period of less than three weeks…..in March! This very unusual weather was bringing large, north swell down to the Eastern Caribbean, and unfortunately, the anchorage at Montserrat isn’t protected from north wind…go figure. We kept our fingers crossed that the forecast would change, and focused on our current surroundings.

We had met new friends, Mark and Lynne, on s/v Roxy, after they put out a call on the vhf for people interested in playing Mexican Train Dominoes. We quickly replied, and I soon learned that like me, the two of them had also attended Ohio University!! What an awesomely small world…Go Bobcats! We all shared cruising stories, and the three of us talked all things Ohio, as we played dominoes on board both boats.

The four of us attended the weekly Sunday barbecue put on by PAYS, with music, food and killer rum punch (as Scott can attest to)! I forgot my camera, but cruisers on s/v Aspen and s/v Argon captured some good images of the evening.

Spearfishing of any kind is prohibited in Dominica…but,the invasive Lionfish are fair game, so Mark and Scott set off on a hunting expedition.


It’s believe that Lionfish were introduced off the Florida coast in the early to mid-1990s, and they quickly became an invasive species off the U.S. East Coast, and throughout the Caribbean, increasing by up to 700% in some areas between 2004 and 2008. (Wikipedia photos)



Described as one of the most aggressively invasive species on the planet, they have few natural predators, due to their venomous spines, and thrive well in the nutrient-rich waters of the Atlantic and Caribbean. With few predators, Scott finds them relatively easy to catch, and just fan out their pretty quills, as if to say…come and get me!

Scott caught several Lionfish, but gifted them to Mark, as cleaning the little buggers is tricky, due to their spines. Lynne was nice enough to cook us up a Lionfish meal, as we played a dominoes game aboard Roxy…mmmm.

Saturday is market day in Portsmouth, so we headed to town with Mark and Lynne, to stock up on some fresh veg. Local farmer’s markets are quite the social event in small Caribbean towns, and this was no different. People chatted in the street, and vendors called out to those walking by to come see what they had to sell.

The selection was much better than we expected, given the state of the island in general, and we came away with bags full of fruit, vegetable and eggs.



In addition to the strong north swell north of us, a brisk, west wind picked up off of Dominica…completely unusual for this time of year, go figure. The anchorage was open to the west, making for several lumpy days in the mooring field.


Our odds of going to Montserrat were getting slimmer by the day. We drowned our sorrows at one of the local bars, where Scott sampled several flavors of bush rum, and stuffed our bellies at Coral Pleasures.

The airy, wooden building didn’t look open, but as we peeked in, two ladies waived us inside. We drank cold beer on the waterfront porch, while waiting for our lunch.


Our meal was so good, we returned again to feed our faces again. Thanks ladies!





Scott and I had spent the past few months mulling over whether or not to extend our cruising adventure for another year. After much back and forth, we finally made the decision to head back home to Baltimore, sticking to our original, three-year plan.

We both loved our time in Panama, and were very, very tempted to return. However, we just weren’t up for the passage there, and especially the journey back north…the Eastern Caribbean had softened us quickly!

Going back home now would keep our bank account more fluid, and we could all three benefit from some doctor visits. Menopause has been an very unwelcome stowaway on this cruise, and I look forward to getting my symptoms in check. Howard will get a once-over from our vet at home, and poor Scott has the prostate of a 60 year old that needs tending to.

The thought of going home is both exciting and a bit sad, as our journey feels somewhat unfinished. I love my hometown, and look forward to being home for the many fall and holiday activities, and having regular contact with family and friends. Scott will struggle more, especially as we’re going home right into cooler temperatures; I expect much grumbling this winter! However, we’re both looking forward to some “real-world” conveniences!!

So when the winds settled, we made a plan to turn Sea Life north. Our friends on Roxy left a day ahead of us, bound for Martinique.

Montserrat was officially off the table, as the north wind was still too unsettled for the anchorage there…which was a huge letdown for both of us. However, there were still several Eastern Caribbean islands on our list, before we would head for Puerto Rico and then north through the Bahama islands chain.  After crossing back over to the U. S. East Coast, Sea Life will head north for Baltimore, and arrive at our home slip in October.

From Dominica, we would head back to Iles des Saintes, before continuing on to Anguilla, with a Montserrat drive-by along the way. We enjoyed this lovely island, and its friendly people during our stay, and know that Dominica will only get more beautiful as she recovers.

Here are a few more photos, and a really good link that has many vivid before and after hurricane images of Dominica.

Obviously, these posts are not in real time, but you can always check our current position by using the link on the Where Are We Now Page of our blog, which takes you to the inReach Satellite site. Scroll over the bottom square box at the top left of the map, and then choose Aerial, to get a Google Earth, pretty-blue-water view!

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”


After saying goodbye to our friends who’d headed off for southern destinations a day before us, we slipped the lines from our mooring ball, and cruised away from the Ile des Saintes to begin the short, six hour run to Dominica.

We’d hoped to visit the island last year, on our way south for hurricane season, but as time got short, Scott grew anxious to get settled in Grenada before the peak of the season. We passed by Dominica, planning to visit on our way north in 2018…..who knew Hurricane Maria would make a direct hit, and devastate the island.

Dominica is located midway along the Eastern Caribbean islands, just a few miles from Martinique to the south and Guadeloupe to the north. We were heading for Portsmouth, on the island’s northwest side.

The name Dominica is derived from the Latin word for “Sunday,” as Columbus is said to have passed the island on a Sunday in November of 1493. The island is sparsely populated compared to its size, with 70,000 people inhabiting the island’s 289 square miles, and a significant portion of that population lives in and around the capital city of Roseau.

Dominica is the youngest island in the Lesser Antillies, still being “formed” by extensive, geothermal-volcanic activity…even underwater. It is also home to the world’s second largest hot spring, Boiling Lake (we didn’t visit the lake, but I found some great photos online, from other bloggers, and on Wikipedia).


Known as “The Nature Island,”tropical rain forests cover two thirds of Dominica, and it is home to many rare species of plants, animals and birds, protected by an extensive natural park system (The Morne Trois Pitons National Park was the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in the eastern Caribbean). Rivers (365 of them), lakes, streams and waterfalls cover the island, fed by a high annual rainfall.

It is said that if Christopher Columbus came back to the Caribbean today, Dominica is the only island he would recognize. Unlike most all other Eastern Caribbean islands, Dominica has remained both commercially and residentially undeveloped, with only a few small hotels and inns. When trying to describe the mountains of Dominica to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, Columbus resorted to crumpling up a sheet of paper, in order to illustrate the dramatic form of the land, with it’s valleys, gorges and peaks. Sadly, the island’s appearance is much different now, after Hurricane Maria.

On the evening of Sept. 18, 2017, Hurricane Maria hit Dominica at full, category-five force, with 160 mph winds. The brutal storm damaged or destroyed roofs of 90 percent of buildings, toppled power lines, and sent some of the thickest, strongest and oldest trees in the forests smashing to the ground. Maria’s rains triggered landslides that turned the island’s 365 rivers into raging coils that washed away bridges and crops, and slashed deep cuts along what had been well-laid roads. The storm is now the island’s worst natural disaster on record.

Hurricane Maria was one of the fastest intensifying hurricanes ever recorded, blowing up from a tropical storm into a major Category 5 hurricane in barely more than a day. Dominica was this fierce storm’s first victim, and it’s clear from these before and after photos from Google Earth, that she showed no mercy, changing it’s hills and valleys from lush green to brown. When Maria hit the island, poor Dominica was still recovering from Tropical Storm Erika, which killed 30 people, destroyed more than 370 homes and caused extensive flooding in August of 2015.

I found some online images of Portsmouth, just days after Maria, and of relief supplied arriving from neighboring islands.

As we approached, Dominica appeared much greener than expected.


We made our way into the anchorage at Portsmouth, and hailed PAYS on the vhf. In the past, Dominica was far less safe for cruisers, with many reports of theft from boats at anchor. Realizing that this was affecting their livelihood, local tour guides formed the Portsmouth Association of Yacht Services, or PAYS, who run regular patrols in the anchorage at night, and since the association has been active, there have been no reports of trouble.

The men of PAYS have “interesting” names, such as Lawrence of Arabia Providence, Cobra, Spaghetti and Sea Bird, and usually have several boats working under their name (photos from other blogs) They come out to greet boaters entering the anchorage, and help  them secure to mooring balls. We could have dropped anchor, but chose to take a ball, as the fee goes towards supporting PAYS. The guys also help set up island tours, dispose of trash and host a weekly Sunday barbecue that has become well known in the Eastern Caribbean.

Daniel, who is affiliated with Eddison, replied to our call and came out to the boat as we entered the bay. He told us that Eddison would meet us in the anchorage, and then headed out to fish. Eddison was ready and waiting, and waved us over to an open ball, helping us tie on.

We settled in to enjoy the evening. Scott and Howard (aka, Bartles and James) made themselves comfortable in the cockpit, and we watched one of the sailing cruise ships raise sails to head south, which was quite a sight.


The next morning was a bit more clear, and we were able to get a better look at the hills surrounding the anchorage. Heartier, weedier foliage was definitely coming back green, much more than we would’ve expected, but the hills were “striped,” where swaths of trees had been stripped, and the many mud slides left their mark.


The harbor was still scenic, and we were pleased to see so many boats visiting, both at anchor and on mooring balls.

We made our way to the PAYS dock, that had recently been rebuilt, along with a new pavilion that’s used for Sunday barbecues.

From there, it was a short walk to town. The road was lined with homes and buildings covered in tarps, and others left with a foundation and some pieces of wall.

Piles of downed power lines often blocked the sidewalk, and on the far side of town, a sizable cruising sailboat that washed ashore by Maria had been left for dead.


Here is view of the main road in town, when we saw it, and just after Maria (approximately the same location).

However, signs of repair and rebuilding were everywhere we looked. Many homes had fresh paint, and others were being reconstructed. We passed loads of building supplies, and people at work repairing roofs.


For the most part, it was business as usual in town, stores were open, including the local bars, and several people were set up along the sidewalks, selling fruits and vegetables.

We passed several locals along our walk who were more than friendly, and many stopped to talk. At first, we were leery, waiting for them to ask for a hand-out, but none came. Most told us about their hurricane experience; hiding in bathtubs, and holding doors closed with all of their strength. Despite the fear of that night, and the devastation that they’re now working to rebuild from, Dominica’s people still had much pride in their home, and were happy to have us visit. We looked forward to spending time on this still very beautiful island. Here are more photos.



“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”