Friday, January 26th, 2007
Shopping at the market in the West Indies with the Picton Castle‘s Grenadian cook, Donald, is a whirlwind experience. We had been told by everyone we asked that Friday and Saturday were the best days of the week to shop at the fresh produce market in Roseau, Dominica. Our driver first suggested he pick us up at 0600 because all the best fruits and vegetables were available first thing in the morning, but we compromised and went after breakfast. Asking around paid off as we found the market was full of vendors and shoppers on Friday morning. There were a number of cement buildings, but most stands were outdoors under brightly coloured patio umbrellas. Each vendor had a table about 6 x 6 feet, piled high with fruits and vegetables of all sizes and shapes. In and amongst the stands were crowds of people—those busy selling their wares and those even more busy buying. Donald got right to work, spying some good-looking cabbage and watermelon at a stand in the middle of the action. He negotiated while the vendors weighed what he chose, each tomato and pepper picked out because it was the best in the bunch. I followed along behind, distracted by all the noise of people asking how much for a bunch of this or a kilogram of that, paying for our purchases, and helping to carry the growing number of bags. We bought everything from parsley to hot peppers, watermelon to watercress. Our final purchase was a branch of 18 young coconuts, filled with sweet coconut water.
The Picton Castle is anchored just south of Roseau, the capital city of the island nation of Dominica. The anchorage is a bit difficult because the bottom is very deep, even close to shore. Logan took sounding after sounding on the way into the anchorage, the end of the lead line not even touching bottom until a couple of hundred feet off shore. We were guided to the only spot that would be suitable for us by some local guys who came out to meet us in their small but fast motorboat. (Sea Cloud, a four-masted barque, was anchored here when we arrived on Wednesday afternoon but left that same evening.) We finally found a useable anchorage and the off watch wasted no time getting ashore. We found out that the big party that evening was going to be at a hotel right near where we anchored, and it featured live calypso music by a band warming up for Carnival. The biggest, month-long event on the island begins on Saturday evening with a huge party in the streets of Roseau and runs through until just before Ash Wednesday with competitions for bands, beauty pageants, and “jump-ups.” We have seen preparations for Carnival everywhere—people walking through the streets with shiny costumes in hand, fields being turned into music stages.
Dominica’s best asset, besides the people, is its natural environment, with 365 rivers on the island and plenty of freshwater lakes, waterfalls, and hot springs. Many of our crew have been to see Trafalgar Falls, the biggest on the island. It features two natural pools right near each other, one with cool refreshing waterfall water, and one with warm relaxing water from a hot spring. Trois Pitons, a national park right outside of Roseau, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The island is extremely mountainous and lush, with very few people living in the interior. One of the island’s most famous features is the boiling lake; to hike to it and back takes a full day.
There has been plenty of action on the ship for the crew on watch. We all take turns looking after the ship on anchor watches at night, and we have been particularly vigilant here because of our proximity to land. During the days we have had a variety of projects going on. Joe continues to work on the ship’s main skiff, making repairs with body filler and fiberglass. A number of crew were in the spare skiff today, painting along the waterline. Emma has scraped, sanded and varnished the wheel box cover. New hands received instruction in tackles as we shifted boats on top of the galley house. Chief Engineer MacGregor went for a swim to examine the propeller, while Andrea has done a monthly check on the batteries. Nadja continues to practice her boat-driving skills as the coxswain of the skiff. All of this has happened as crew are continually standing by in this unusually deep anchorage close to the shore. It is beautiful here under the tall mountains covered with jungle.