Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Dominica, dolphins and dough

The saloon is filled with the wonderful aroma of freshly-baked bread.  Charles made bread a couple of days ago with an old packet of yeast and the result, while delicious, was a little…flat.  Today’s two loaves have risen beautifully.  Guadeloupe had proper French baguettes, and I’m sure that if we went ashore in Martinique we’d find the same; but Dominica’s bread was woefully white, soft and sweetish - too much British influence.  Otherwise, Dominica was a delight, though the town of Portsmouth is very unprepossessing.  We arranged a minibus and driver, Shadow, who was very proud and knowledgeable about his island and its plants and birds.  Hiking with him, we identified cinnamon, grapefruits, nutmeg, ginger root, coffee, taro (with which they make a kind of porridge) and picked basil to go in our tomato salad. 
We heard, but didn’t see, the parrots which are their national symbol and feature on the flag.  When the island was devastated by Hurricane David in 1979, almost all the trees were knocked down and the parrots killed.  People responded to an appeal and released their pet parrots into the wild, where, thanks to strict controls, they now thrive.  We did see diminutive hummingbirds and a 500 year old tree.  Dominica is English-speaking but the local patois is French-based, so the tree names were fun: chatayn ti foy = chataigne avec petites feuilles, while one plant with long, split leaves was called zaile mouch = ailes de mouche.  We scrambled over rocks and across a stream (several times), finally reaching a tall, narrow waterfall with a chilly pool beneath it, where we all swam and cooled down.  We sucked on pieces of sugar cane on our way back.  A gentle sail - curiously this was on a beat even though heading south - brought us to Roseau, further down the Dominica coast, accompanied much of the way by four very playful dolphins. This is not meant to anthropomorphise them, but they did seem, when they rolled over and rubbed their bellies against our hull, to be saying “look at me!”   Keith took some great videos (rather a lot of them – editing will be needed!).  Sadly no whale sightings, though Nicky is researching them by reading Leviathan by Philip Gould (Moby-Dick next).  No luck with the fishing line either; Charles has just finished Kon-Tiki and reports they did better.

Other wildlife sightings: a barracuda, frightened by our dinghy, leaping from the sea and running, vertical, across the bay; a petrel (possibly; our bird identification skills are poor) skimming low alongside us this morning, scooping up flying fish, of which there were hundreds; and a lone, white, almost translucent-winged bird with a slender, elongated tail, which hung above our mast, checked us out, then disappeared.
We left at first light this morning and had a cracking passage under full sail including staysail at 9 knots of speed with wind at 90 degrees apparent at 12-16 knots.  Now motoring alongside Martinique.  Next stop will be Rodney Bay, Saint Lucia, this evening – unless we make a brief stop to swim and have lunch – and a last supper with this great crew who have made the start of the Oyster World Rally such fun.  On Tuesday, the O’Briens and Skerritts will join us, bringing post from Highbury Terrace and various items unavailable in the Caribbean.

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