Our new life is one month old. Things have fallen into something like predictability, mysteries have been solved, confidences gained, habits curtailed, and routines established. Already the boat has come slightly undone. We imagine returning with the boat in much the same shape as when we found her. This time the wear will be from use instead of neglect. Smudges stand out on the topcoat from careless dingy approaches, the staysail has been torn and patched, and much of the teak has found its way out of the varnish to silver in the sun. The wind and water don't stand down from watch. Around the clock they work to defeat our barriers, turning the weakness of metals into rust, sagging the fabrics around the cockpit. The deck box I once cherished was given away to the first willing fisherman in Iles des Saintes. Unsanded and unpainted epoxy mounds cover the holes were that box once was. Maybe we will sand and paint, maybe not, but the V-berth is as dry as an archaeological dig.
The elements have worked on us as well. We are all shades of bright white and brown, covered with cuts, bruises, and big flakes of sea salt stand out on our knees and forearms. The rules of this life are abundantly clear. A beautiful boat does not matter; a dry boat is non-negotiable. Refrigeration isn't necessary. It's actually quite freeing to give up the scleping of ice for a warm rum punch. It also
People like to say that the two best days of boat ownership are the day you buy the boat and the day
In Iles des Saintes, our second stop, we enjoyed Napoleon's legacy through pate and butter smeared on fresh baguettes and steep hikes to forts packed with goat and hermit crab squatters. We walked the small town day after day, snorkeled the reefs, ate at a fancy restaurant with our table in the
I have been to Dominica once before, with the exceptional crew of the Harvey Gamage, and have always wanted to return. Iles des Saintes to Dominica is a drastic cultural shift that exposes the sordid history of colonial powers in the Caribbean. It was owned by the French, the British, and the natives still live in the rugged interior where no European was willing to follow.
We rented a mooring from a fisherman named Markus in one hundred feet of water directly in front of his corrugated sheet metal house where he lived with his pregnant wife. I liked Markus and he demonstrated exactly the
Dominica is not for the faint of heart. Iles de Saintes is where the faint of heart should go. Dominica is steep, rainy jungle and dark sand beaches. Reefs bubble with volcanic activity, 7 or 9 active volcanoes (depending on the rasta with whom you are speaking) disappear into the clouds, and 365 rivers flood and ebb with frequent rain.
The streets of the capital, Rousseau, are not pristine, or even clean, but they burst with culture. Markets bear unidentifiable fruits and women sell fried flying fish for pennies. Young men ride through town in the beds of pickup trucks filled with coconuts, machetes on their shoulders. Everyone wants a Toyota. The interior has the topography of a tropical Princess Bride. There is a boiling lake, a valley of desolation, dense jungle filled with wild ginger and turmeric, deep gorges with marble smooth curves, bubbling sulfur mud and strange birds singing in the canopy.
Max and I hiked to the boiling lake with a local guide named Kenny. He was loquacious to say the least, knew everything about the history of Dominica, the trees, the birds, but really wanted to talk about Donald Trump. Specifically, he wanted us, as Americans, to answer for Trump. There was an amazing moment,13 miles into a 14 mile hike, in mudslide level rains when he stopped and demanded that we explain, until he understood, the primary process in the US. We explained it, not easily, shouting through the rain, and when he understood, he became actually angry. He shouted that it couldn't be true, but we insisted. I saw a slight change in his eyes as he made a realization and then shouted, "Government is shit in America too, not just Dominica," and smiled. I really, really love this island. Go there. Hike the boiling lake. Ask for Kenny.
After Dominica we sailed north to Guadeloupe. Max flew to Germany to be with his family for the funeral of their beloved grandfather and I am on a mooring in a picturesque harbor with
Right now, however, the water is flat, clear enough to see the turtles eating the grass at the bottom, and the sun is setting on the bright red steeple that dominates my view of town. Max returns Wednesday, and Thursday we set off for El Parque Tayrona, Colombia.
|Atop Fort Josephine, Iles a cabrit|
|Iles des Saintes|
|Iles des Saintes|
|Iles des Saintes|
|Main Street, Terre de Haut|
|Iles des Saintes Harbor|
|Passage to Dominica|
|Champagne Reef, Dominica|
|Kenny on the way to the boiling lake|
|My disgusting foot looking extra weird|
|Stormy waters in Guadeloups|
|Max and his lil friend in Iles des Saintes|