Dominica | Distant Shores Sailing Newsletters


Greetings from Dominica, one of the most pristine islands in the Caribbean!
Its mountainous terrain makes it a haven for hikers and the beautiful clear waters make it a treasure for divers too. If you love quiet places and getting out in nature, Dominica is a great place to visit.
We arrived here aboard our Southerly 49 sailboat, Distant Shores II, on Saturday June 8 after 3-days of island-hopping from St Maarten to Nevis, Nevis to Guadeloupe, and Guadeloupe to Dominica where we’re anchored in Prince Rupert Bay off the town of Portsmouth on the northwest coast of this ruggedly beautiful and luxuriously green island.
Our first visit to Dominica was 21 years ago (!) on our way home after a 3-year Atlantic Circle aboard our first boat, a Classic 37 sailboat named, "Two-Step". At that time we anchored off the capital city of Roseau (pronounced "rose oh") and were so hassled by overly aggressive "boat boys" - local vendors that come out to your boat on anything that floats, cling to your lifelines, and pester you to buy stuff from them and not anyone else - that we had no peace and vowed never to go back to Dominica!
Left to right: Martin Carriere of Dominica, Sheryl Shard, and author Chris Doyle at ARC seminar in St Lucia about Cruising in the Caribbean

However, at the conclusion of the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) in December we attended a lecture by Chris Doyle who told us about the huge improvements to yacht security and the yacht services training that locals have been given in Dominica to encourage cruising sailors to visit the island. Chris has cruised the Caribbean for decades and is the author of our favourite cruising guides to the Caribbean. We’re using his Cruising Guide to the Leeward Islands which covers Anguilla through Dominica and Cruising Guide to the Windward Islands which covers Martinique to Grenada. He also has a very good website We really trust his recommendations. Plus a lot of sailors we were meeting recently said Dominica was their favourite island in the Caribbean. Hmmm. Time to investigate.
Chris talked about a group called P.A.Y.S. (Portsmouth Association of Yacht Services) based in Portsmouth, Dominica, which are a group of trained certified guides and local businesses that also patrol Prince Rupert Bay 24/7 during the winter sailing season (November to the end of May). They help "yachties" with numerous services from taking garbage to organizing scuba diving outings, plus offer guided tours by boat, especially the wonderful Indian River trip where scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean II were filmed, and island tours by van. He also introduced one of the members, Martin Carriere, who accompanied Chris to St Lucia for the lecture.
P.A.Y.S members monitor VHF 16 and when you arrive the P.A.Y.S. member on duty will come out and help you anchor or tie to one of the moorings they maintain and answer any questions you might have. They don’t pester. They also advertise in the Doyle guides where you can find the mobile phone numbers of most of the guides and learn their areas of expertise. Some are good fishing guides for example, others know good music venues, some specialize in bird watching, some are great hikers, etc. You can call ahead and your guide of choice will meet you with his boat and run you to customs for clearing in if you’d like, or take your crew to a local restaurant and pick everyone up afterwards if you’d rather use a water taxi service than launch your dinghy if you’re making a late arrival. We did this with Albert who also took 3 bags of laundry for cleaning and brought it back nicely dried and folded the next day for about $8 US per load.
On Sunday nights they hold a fundraising BBQ at the P.A.Y.S. Events House which is a great way to meet other sailors as well as local Dominicans. The tickets are $20 US per person and there is a ton of great food, music, and all you can drink rum punch or fruit punch!
Since it wasn't originally in our plans to visit Dominica, I hadn’t applied for the necessary filming permits in enough advance time. As working journalists and filmmakers we can't just take pictures and videos freely as regular tourists since our images are used commercially for television and magazine publication. And the process is a bit complex in Dominica since there are many different government departments and sites that require different permits and charge different permit fees due to the many National Parks, Reserves, etc. across the island. So on Tuesday I had to make a 1-hour trip into the capital city of Roseau to meet with Samantha Smith, Marketing Director at the Discover Dominica Tourist Authority office, who was extremely helpful and supportive in streamlining the permit process so that we could film an episode of Distant Shores about Dominica. Paul stayed on the boat continuing post-production work while I dressed for a business meeting and rode the bus to town.
I took one of the local buses, a little 10-person van, which is a great way to meet local people and experience their daily routines. The vans run constantly and the cost was 9 EC (~ $3.50 US dollars) one-way. The route was all along the excellent and newly paved coastal highway so I enjoyed the ride and the beautiful scenery. Everyone I met was helpful and friendly and I felt so glad that we had decided to come back to Dominica. There HAVE been big changes in attitude and economy since our visit over 20 years ago! A lot can happen in a generation!
Black volcanic sand beaches

Our filming permits came through on Thursday. Samantha had helped me design a very interesting itinerary for Thursday and Friday with Martin Carriere, the P.A.Y.S member who we'd met at the lecture in St. Lucia, as our guide.
Martin picked us up in his boat, Providence, early Thursday morning and drove us in his van to the northeast coast of the island, a rugged exposed coast on the windward side.
Here we visited the Carib territory where they have set up a traditional village called the Kalinago Barana Autê where you can learn about the history and traditions of the indigenous people of Dominica. DominicaNews18
In the high season, November until May, they have music and participatory activities on a regular basis.

Martin showed us how they grind up cassava root and boil it up to make cassava bread.
They mix the dried cassava with coconut and and a little salt then cook it on a griddle to make bread. Delicious!

One of Martin's areas of expertise is with local cuisine. He and his wife, Florian, offer cooking classes on a Saturday that start with a tour of the Saturday market in Portsmouth buying ingredients for the meal you will learn to prepare and then eat at the P.A.Y.S. Events House. Unfortunately we weren’t able to organize to attend one of their classes on this visit but hope to in the future. On our island tour Martin made sure we got "a taste of the island."
We stopped at roadside stands for a grilled plantain snack - looks like a banana but tastes more like a potato. Healthful and filling.
He cut up fresh pineapple.
Martin showed us raw cashews. They hang below a plum-like fruit and are deadly when raw. They make your skin and throat swell up. They must be roasted first to be eaten!! The fruit makes a nice juice. Who knew?!!
While touring the island of Dominica we stopped often to refresh ourselves with cool drinks (non-alcoholic since we were working) made from local fruits. At the Islet View Restaurant and Bar we tried star fruit juice.
The star fruit juice is served on ice in a coconut and garnished with fresh bay leaves. 3 kinds of bay leaves grow on Dominica - one that's slightly lemon flavoured, one licorice flavoured, and one cinnamon flavoured.
There are lots of species of both land and sea crabs on Dominica. Here Paul proves his ability to catch them with his bare hands. Crabs are used in the local dish called Callaloo. (No crabs were harmed in the making of this episode of Distant Shores. Nor TV presenters.)
If you love relaxed walking or serious hiking there are numerous trails from easy to advanced through the rain forests of Dominica. Just be prepared - it does in fact rain! Here we are doing on easy 10-minute easy walk to Emerald Pool.
There are said to be 365 waterfalls in Dominica - one for every day of the year! You can swim in many of them.
Paul swimming in the Emerald Pool. We had it all to ourselves.
The hike out to Trafalgar Falls is another nice hike to double waterfalls. You can walk right up and swim here too. There are also hot springs. Paradise!
There are nice several spas around the island that make use of natural sulphur hots springs. We stopped at Tia’s Sulphur Springs. Ahhhh.... Good after a day of hiking in the rain.
Our favourite activity touring Dominica was the river trip with Martin up the Indian River. Several scenes were shot here for the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies 1 and 2 for the home of the mystic goddess, Caruso.
Amazing roots on the bloodwood trees.
No outboard motors are allowed to be used in the Indian River and you must go with a local guide. No problem.
The vegetation is so exotic and Martin shared his knowledge of flora and fauna.
Martin also made me this lovely hummingbird out of palm fronds as a souvenir of Dominica. I don’t think we will ever forget the memorable visit to Dominica. We’re so glad we came back!

The Distant Shores episode on Dominica #115 will be broadcast this summer and available on DVD and download in August 2013.