|Prince Rupert Bay, Dominica|
It was Hurricane Maria which brought about the change in our destination from the British Virgin Islands to Antigua for the Salty Dawg Rally and it is Hurricane Maria which draws us now to Dominica (Do-min-EE-ka).
|Locals admiring a catch|
A group of boats expressed interest in offering their assistance in Dominica in some way, but were without a clue about where to begin. The leader of our group, if I may call them that, is the S/V Toodle-oo! We were all glad to have Bill and Laurie share their ideas with us about how we might make our desire to be of help known to the Dominicans.
|Five couples represented, all volunteering to help out in Dominica|
Somewhere along our 1600 mile 12-day passage, therefore, plans to offer assistance to Dominica became known as the “Toodle-oo! Expedition" so named by other interested cruisers hearing about our intentions on SSB (single side band).
|Fishing pier in Portsmouth, Dominica|
|Northwest coast of Dominica|
Toodle-oo! helped us identify an axis point where perhaps, we can help to tip the balance in favor of cruiser tourism.
But before describing our chosen axis point, I want to share some observations about the post-hurricane Dominica that I see today.
|The town of Portsmouth, Dominica before the sun comes over the mountains|
First seen from 20+ miles away, the volcanic island’s rugged mountains rise sharply out of the ocean. Dominica has 7 potentially active volcanoes. Clouds rest on its’ peaks and as one sails closer, clusters of colorful houses creep up the steep foothills along the shoreline.
|With damaged tree canopy, the ground below is visible.|
Peering through binoculars however, reveals a clearer, more somber picture. The mountains are awash in broken trees and defoliation is evident because we can see land between the trees—the enormous canopy of trees about which I’d read, significantly damaged. Debris is visible here and there although much has been cleared away, I’m sure.
|So much debris yet to be removed.|
Many buildings are in shambles and at least part of the reason for the appearance of the "colorful houses" is the addition of bright blue tarps on several roofs. I am humbled and overwhelmed by the destructive force of the wind that has churned its way across this beautiful island.
|Dominica has many miles of hiking trails|
|The "new" hotel was unfinished when Maria came. Now she's minus her roof as well.|
Following the bay around our bow and to starboard are buildings surrounded by debris. A relatively intact house appears between piles of rubble at times. Through my binoculars I see only a single person now and then near a house. A lone vehicle travels along the shoreline. And later, a motorcycle.
|Houses extend up the mountainsides|
In the darkness, only a smattering of lights appear on shore nearby. Farther south along the bay the town of Portsmouth can be discerned by its lights, although all is dark on the mountainsides above. At night, one would not guess that people live on the mountainsides.
|The PAYS building, repairs underway|
|PAYS Security boat|
A competent group of Dominican men known as Indian River Guides formed the Portsmouth Association of Yacht Services (PAYS) and since that time there have been no thefts in the Prince Rupert Bay off of Portsmouth. Throughout the night hours, the northern harbor of the Bay is patrolled by PAYS boats to ensure sailboaters' safety.
|Under the PAYS roof, laying concrete as base for wall.|
PAYS members provide a number of services all of which are focused on making cruisers welcome in Dominica. PAYS built and maintains a dinghy dock, used almost exclusively by cruisers. Our group helped to rebuild a portion of it.
|Repairing end of the dock|
The PAYS building is open-air and is next to the public toilets, convenient for cruisers. With an outdoor grill and a new chest-high bar that we have helped to build, it will be a welcoming sort of place for cruisers to gather on the sand.
|We took a break and went on the Indian River tour. Knowledgeable guides.|
|Alvin quietly rowed our tour boat, to get us close to birds|
To help lure sailboaters to return to Dominica, our group can help in this way--beneath us in the azure water of the bay lie 50 concrete moorings placed there by PAYS. Since the hurricane, none of them are attached to mooring balls at the surface, however. Those were sacrificed to the yaw of the hurricane as it clawed through beautiful Dominica.
|North end of Prince Rupert Bay|
With plenty of room for 50 boats on moorings, or perhaps even 100, I see instead only nine at anchor today, half of those here with us to render assistance as able. Among us we have divers which can help to attach the mooring chain to mooring balls at the surface.
|Man at street vendo|
A safe boat is a boat that can stay longer once here, and Dominica wants us—needs us to come, to stay a while and spend some of our tourism dollars here.
|A street in Portsmouth, Dominica|
|Portsmouth Hospital and clinc|
|One of our group plays with the|
The medical clinic/hospital accepted our bandages, pillows, etc. and while there we learned that they are in need of a portable ECG machine, and a nebulizer machine, both of which are no longer working.
|Students from St. John's Academy|
The local Catholic school, St. John's accepted our school supplies, toilet paper, and bags of candy for Christmas (just in time for their school Christmas party) They are in need of all manner of books, school supplies, art supplies and playground supplies--balls and the like.
|Student from public school|
As we work alongside the PAYS guys (colloquially known as the "boat boys") we learn about the resilience of the Dominican people. The men appreciate our interest and presence, and when I attempt to help with something that I am not very good at, they kindly help me learn how to do the task and caution me about safety with tools. I smile and think, 'they're letting me believe that this ol' white lady is being helpful.' What a kindness this is to me!
|One of our group assisted by PAYS guy|
We see storefronts that are open and people working on new construction. Much debris remains but slowly it is being cleared away.
The open market is smaller than it was but still active. Portsmouth's international medical school, Ross University is gearing up to bring the students back after the hurricane. They were evacuated onto a medical ship before the hurricane made landfall.
|We went on an Indian River tour.|
|Foliage is returning to the trees|
Plenty of needs still exist throughout Dominica, obviously. Our tourist dollars help to address the needs. Come—visit Dominica! Stay a while! Bring your binoculars, your snorkeling or scuba gear, your hiking shoes, your appetite and enjoy a naturalists' paradise in Dominica.