It has rained for the past three days straight, the first time we’ve encountered rainy days since leaving the U.S. Sure, there have been days with a rain squall or two, and a couple of overcast days, but a rainy day is another thing altogether. Monday and Tuesday we spent hunkered down on the boat, mopping up drips and watching seasons one and two of Boardwalk Empire. There was something fabulous about this, however much we welcome the break in the clouds today.
Dominica is quite different from anywhere else we’ve been, poorer and dingier in town, more wild and unspoiled out. The first big difference from a cruising point of view is the well-organized system of “boat boys” (a term I despise – it’s so patronizing and colonial), local entrepreneurs who provide all sorts of yacht services, from laundry to eco-tours. Dominica is the first island we’ve visited with boat boys, but, according to what we’ve heard, the local system is far more organized than other islands further south. Here in Portsmouth, they have organized themselves into an association that splits up the boats as they come in, so you’re only approached by one person. The association, PAYS, provides harbor security at night and a guarded dinghy dock for cruisers in an effort to ensure that Portsmouth remains a cruising destination.
The PAYS members also provide all the typical yacht services, and we were delighted to have a huge bag of laundry picked up, washed, dried, folded and returned to the boat for only $22; that’s 1/3 less than it cost to take it in ourselves last time, and saves us literally days of doing laundry every morning. Same thing with the propane: they picked up both our bottles and had them back the same afternoon for only a few dollars more than it would have cost us to haul them into town, try to find the place that sends them to the city on the southern end of the island, drop them off and pick them up. I LIKE having people who will do this stuff for us!
Every Sunday night, the PAYS group hosts a barbeque with dancing, huge amounts of tasty vittles and endless rum punch for about $18 per person, a bargain down here. Pretty much all the cruisers in the harbor attend – it’s a great place to make friends and find folks with whom to explore the island. Last Sunday, a film crew, I think from the Ministry of Tourism, was doing a piece on the PAYS group, and decided it would be a good idea to get everyone together, PAYS members and cruisers alike, to film us saying the national tourism slogan, “I am Dominica. Are you?” The resulting clusterf**k had me laughing so hard I was crying. As Philip said, “I’ve got a great idea: let’s get a bunch of cruisers – adventurous individuals – give them rum punch for several hours, and then try to organize something.” After incomprehensively slurring through the slogan, the sloshed group of cruisers finished each take by convulsing in giggles. The woman from the Ministry of Tourism looked partly horrified, partly disappointed, but like a good primary school teacher, just kept us going take after take until the group got so tired of it we buckled down, chanted the slogan in unison, and kept the giggling to a minimum. I’d pay good money to watch those outtakes.
Philip actually consented to dance with me a bit, and though it’s a bit hard to really shake your booty in sand, we did alright by sticking to a shuffling meringue. As usual, I was a tad more enthusiastic about dancing than Pip, so I shared a couple of fun dances with locals before gashing my foot on a rock in the sand, bringing the night to a close for us. The foot is healing well – the copious amounts of rum punch I had consumed numbed me enough to thoroughly scrub all the sand out of it when we got back to the boat, and I’ve so far avoided infection.
Because of the rain, we haven’t done much exploration; Saturday we filled the fuel and water tanks at the huge Cabrits cruise ship dock. The dock was at eye level from the deck, so jumping off to tie up wasn’t an option – we figured out on the first pass that we’d have to wait for the attendant to catch our line. Our second approach to the dock was as flawless as the first, and I did a perfect throw to the attendant, and we felt really cool . . . until we realized that I hadn’t tied the line to our boat! So much for the awesomeness. Fuel was duty-free and only about $4.50 a gallon (woo-hoo!) and water was only about $6 for up to 500 gallons, which is a real bargain. The guy was awesome – he was encouraging us to hose down the boat, take a shower, and seemed disappointed that we only used a small part of the 500 gallons we had purchased: “You mean, you don’t have any more jugs to fill? Oh, ok.” It was like he felt we should REALLY get our money’s worth.
Sunday we tried to hike up the Indian River but only succeeded in tramping about in banana palms for a couple of hours, which wasn’t altogether bad. Today we’re off to explore the Cabrits national park, which is right next to the anchorage, with Ed and Elizabeth, fun folks we met at the barbeque.
In other news, we are fully sans refrigeration these days. Turns out that the outside fridge actually didn’t work; the cold plate seemed at first to be working because it was transferring cold up from the ice and frozen meats at the bottom of the box. We only lost some pork chops and a few chicken breasts; no great tragedy, and it’s not too bad living without refrigeration. I’m trying to buy the food I need on a daily basis, which isn’t a bad thing, and we’re already eating less meat and more beans. If necessary, we can buy ice and chill stuff the old fashioned way, but it’s almost easier to so without refrigeration altogether. That said, it is going to get really old soon, I’m sure – but we can’t seem to get anyone to come and look at it here so have decided to wait until we’re in Grenada or Curacau to have it fixed/replaced. While we’re at it, we’ll see if we can get the watermaker and autopilot repaired…