It's Been One Week...

Trip Start Apr 01, 2010
Trip End May 06, 2010

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Flag of Dominica  ,
Monday, April 19, 2010

Well, by now more than one week since we tore the sail but it seemed like a good title at the time.

Thank you to all of you who have checked in to make sure I'm still alive and well despite the gap in entries. The last two days have been filled with diving so while I've been writing each day, I haven't had a chance to get online. That said, I'll pick up back on Friday...


Our trip from Grande Anse to St. Pierre was a bit of an exercise in futility. When we raised the anchor the seas were so calm you could see your own reflection and there wasn't a breath of wind. Of course, considering we were motoring without a Genoa it probably wouldn't make that much of a difference. It's been one week (in honor of Jason... Canadian!) since we tore the Genoa and today Norman finally took out all the extra sails that came with the boat when he bought it seven or so years ago. We started putting the first one up and before it was raised all the way, the sheet (which was actually a cheap nylon thing) tore. On to the other spare sail. Turns out that one was already ripped just as badly as the one we already had. So much as we expected, we would be motoring the whole way.

To break up the monotony we did see the Martinique Coast Guard running some drills where they lower a guy from a helicopter into the water and raise him up on a stretcher. I was hoping they'd swoop in and rescue me from the deck of the SV/Disaster. Sadly, they did not and we motored on and on. And on. And on.

What should have been a 3 hour sail turned into 5 before reaching St. Pierre. Are you sensing a pattern? St. Pierre is a cool little town in northern Martinique. It sits in the shadow of Mont Pelee, the still-active volcano that destroyed the town in the early 1900's.   We walked around and saw a bunch of ruins including the old prison, theater & a fort. Walking through the outskirts of town we were joined by a few random roosters and various drunk old guys who just started following us and talking to us in French. My repeated attempts to explain I didn't speak French were no deterent and the one-sided conversations continued. Actually, it was much like storytime with Norman only in a different language. Whenever a guy would stop talking I'd get in a quick "je ne parle Francais" and then he'd just continue whatever he was saying.

We made it back to the dock to meet Norman & Alison for dinner. We got to the dock a little early and noticed our boat was motoring across the bay. Seemed kind of strange. I thought Norman might be abandoning us for using too much toilet paper or forgetting to turn the lights off in our cabins. The boat stopped and we figured we were safe. And then it started moving again. Hmmm... They finally re-anchored further north in the bay. Turns out the spot our fearless leader had originally chosen was in the middle of a bunch of fishing nets and the fishermen were none too happy.

After dinner we headed back to the boat. A bunch of locals had gathered on the pier leading out to the skiff and... Cam & Jason, this one's for you: they were playing some French rap song that sampled the Corey Hart's (Canadian!) Sunglasses at Night. And with that, we were off to the boat for an early night before heading to Dominica in the morning to meet the new guy.


We got an early start to Dominica this morning but as with all of our recent trips it took a good few hours longer than it should have. We did raise the stay sail which gave us an extra knot or so but not having the Genoa really hurt because there was some great wind.

After weeks of warnings from Norman about how bad this crossing always is and specifically how bad it was last time (which was independently verified by Cindy so we actually believe it), I broke down and put on the ol' seasickness prevention patch. Of course, the sea was relatively calm. We hit a little chop an hour or so outside of Roseau but that's it. Save for the cruise ships that dock here, Dominica is a relatively tourist-free island. There's no international airport so it's more difficult to get to than other Caribbean destinations and its way less developed. It's got an old-time Caribbean feel. They do have the coolest flag ever though and as we quickly found out, some amazing sunsets.

As we were hooking up to the mooring a guy in a skiff came over to try and get us to sign up for some tours. Before I go any further I should probably explain that Norman "has guys" everywhere that he has deals with... at the dive shop in Bequia the deal is: he brings in the crew to dive, he gets free refills on his tanks. So this guy starts telling us about where on the island he can take us and Norman asks what he gets out of it if the crew goes with him. The guy offers up a free night's mooring. So basically Norman was pimping us out for a few Eastern Caribbean dollars.
Steve, the new guy, has been here since Tuesday so first order of business was to head over and pick him up. We met him at his hotel - and sadly he had already checked out of his room. I was hoping to say a quick hello and then head straight for his room to shower. No luck. Soon after meeting him MSU was back: We had been told he was in the middle of an around the world trip. MSU. He actually had just been in South America for a couple of months and is heading home to England after this. Norman also said he was on the boat for three months. MSU. He's only booked for two weeks with the option of extending.

We had a couple of drinks at the hotel bar and it was back to the boat where Steve got the "if you fall in we probably won't be able to rescue you" speech. Then Norman, who after his epic Rodney Bay hangover said he was "off the spirits" went into the galley, poured himself half a glass of whiskey and headed back to his room. I'm sure that cup will join the others that we've "lost overboard".


Norman has been talking up "the best breakfast you ever had" at one of the local hotels for days so at 8:30am we piled into the skiff. The "best breakfast you ever had" was a generic buffet with pre-cooked eggs, some scary looking sausage and potatoes that wouldn't finish in the top 10 on Mags' breakfast potato countdown. There was cereal with real milk though, so that was a plus. In retrospect, I think it was all just a ploy to keep us from eating more of the boat's peanut butter & jelly which by now is reaching rationing status.

A new crew member means Norman can start recycling his stories. Over breakfast we were again treated to the ins & outs of money laudering. By 10:00am it was time to meet Harrison, our tour guide. We skiffed over to his dock and Norman said he should be there any minute. When he showed up we followed him along the rocky shore to the back of a really rundown house where a bunch of guys were sitting outside drinking & smoking. A nice early start on a Sunday. When we got there Harrison said he wouldn't be taking us and pointed us to another guy (sipping on a Heineken) and told us that guy would be our driver. Okay, getting into a beat up fishing boat with Marley for a short ride across Rodney Bay was entertaining, getting into a van and driving up, down & around a mountain with a drunk guy, not so much. So we said no thanks and walked about 20 minutes into town to find a taxi driver to take us around. Some guy named Tim became our driver for the day.

The first thing we noticed in our travels was that there are giant question marks hanging all over Dominica. Tim said it had something to do with the recent election. Whatever the reason, it just looks weird. We drove all around the west side of the island. First stop was a rainforest where fittingly it rained. Not Australian rainforest rain but a nice little downpour. Then we went to the island's second biggest town, Portsmouth. Sadly, Portsmouth is basically closed on Sunday so off we went to some old fort that is in the process of being made new with some major restorations. So much for the history. It did have cannons though, so there was that.

Tim dropped us off at The Anchorage Bar and as we were walking back to the dock to meet Norman we saw a sign for a laundry service. The laundry situation is quickly becoming as dire as the shower situation. It's been two weeks since laundry was done. Ordinarily that wouldn't be such a big deal but since it we were told to pack lightly because laundry would be done every 10-14 days, clean (or even slightly dirty) clothes are quickly becoming a thing of the past. At first I thought I overpacked, now I'm happy that I did. Tom took the five t-shirts and a few pair of shorts thing to heart. It's getting a little scary. I asked Alison what the plan was and she said she didn't know because they don't usually do laundry when they go north. Really? Funny, the website didn't mention that. So Tom and I decided we'd bring our own laundry in (and all of the people we meet in the next week should appreciate our decision)

While we were waiting for dinner Steve was telling us a little about his travels through South America. He spent the most time in Colombia and Argentina. I mentioned that my downstairs neighbors are from Buenos Aires & Colombia and Steve said that while he was in BA he met a couple from NY - the husband was originally from BA and a plumber and the wife was Colombian and worked at the UN. It's my freaking neighbors. They were leaving for a vacation in BA right about the same time I was. Crazy. And if that wasn't enough, after we were through with that topic we moved on to one of real importance. Since Steve is English I had to know if he watched The Inbetweeners... Yes and he loves it. A good half hour of talk about the field trip (What if it's a shark?) and bus wankers followed. Sorry you missed it Cin. Finally someone else who appreciates Simon and the boys.


Today was supposed to be our last day in Dominica and I booked a full day of diving. I say supposed to be because, well, it isn't. As the boat from the dive shop was approaching, Norman yelled up: you can book some more for tomorrow because we're not leaving until Wednesday. Guess where I'm going with this one. Norman was going to have someone come to the boat yesterday to look at the sail. He didn't. So he and Alison were going to work on it today as well as take care of some other things like getting more diesel and water. Well, when we got back at the end of the day there was diesel but the water hadn't been refilled and stop me if you've heard this one before, no work had been done on the sail. I think Steve is a few days away from becoming a Dominican citizen. Between waiting for us to arrive and not leaving, tomorrow will be a full week that he's been here.

The diving was great. We hit three different spots and saw some cool stuff. But it pains me to say that as great as the turtle was, the shower at the dive shop may have been better. And I get another one tomorrow! Two clean days in a row. I've forgotten what that's like. After prying myself from the shower I made my way back to the Anchorage to meet Steve & Tom. It was then I learned that Steve had decided two weeks was enough for him. When we got back to the boat he was going to tell Norman he'd be leaving the boat at the end of the month. From three months to two weeks in the span of a few days. So what I've learned about Steve in a short period of time: good taste in TV shows and quick on the uptake.
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Jenn on

Oh Fro . . . yes Steve seems pretty quick . . . I don't think you are ever going to get a new sail, too bad you didn't know to bring your own peanut butter!! so happy you found laundry and got two showers in a row!! I still have to find the BBC on my cable so I can check out this show.

Murphy on

I was also getting worried not hearing for awhile. My students from DR want to put a care package together for you. Where can they send you a case of peanut butter? Godspeed!

Dino on

Showers, laundry, diving and a new character .... all keeping you sane while you wait for the dreaded sail and norman to fall overboard so you don't have to go back and rescue him!!

Looking forward to hearing more soon. Enjoy.

Beth on

Hey Michele...
I have finally had a chance to read these and I'm SOOOO psyched I did.
I feel like Michael J. Fox in Doc Hollywood reading about the Pakistanis and how he couldn't get enough. I read all of the entries in one sitting and am dying from laughter. Glad you are making the most of it...

Theresa on

Get the new guy thrown of the boat. Makes for a good story and he's leaving anyway :)

Fellow sailor Cindy on

OMG, Michelle. I LOVE your tenacity, and your writing is a howl. What everyone reading this needs to understand, however, is that what you are doing is incredibly real and difficult. A psych doctoral student could do her thesis on Norman and everyone would think she made the guy up. I am soooo happy for you that you have but one dreadfully long week left, and then will have an actual vacation. The best in wishes and in sympathy to you.

fellow sailor Cindy on

PS Fabulous photos of the turtle. Was he posing for you?

Cindy on

You should write and give the Frugal Traveler a piece of your mind. I want to meet the new guy just to have someone new to discuss The Inbetweeners with!! I may go home and rewatch that episode. And glad to see you back online! If only you had John Candy aboard, you could use his pants as the sail like in Summer Rental. Or was it his shirt? Stay sane, sister... keep em coming.

Catherine Magnetti on

Thanks for the shout out about Cory Hart -never in a million would I have thought you would have heard him en francais, no less!! Bonne idee, on the part of the dj, that is. Keep finding those showers, my friend, and enjoy the diving!!! Bonne vacances!

Britt on

Loving the blog! Loving the pics! And oh yeah, I love French rap!!! :)

Mags on

Bad potatoes? For shame.

This is seriously the best travelogue ever.

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