to begin.


as wicked storms rolled into spring park bay tyler, mike and i would plop a 6 ft sunfish into the angry, angry waters. our knowledge of sailing was nonexistent, and our ignorance made us fearless. 3 high school kids were beyond capacity for this mighty boat. and when the gale force winds got the better of our overzealous heeling, we'd capsize.

stretch, stretch to save our fallen crewman, scramble on the belly of the boat, and then heave all our weight on the keel to flip the beast back over.

soaked and with furious gray clouds above, we sailed onward, only to repeat this joyful turmoil.

ooh the beginning.

the answer to a legit experience on the ocean sea comes from a 35 ft ketch named cappella. she's on her way home to sweden. as of 2.17.11 mats, the 45 yr. old captain, is awaiting my arrival in st. vincent & the grenadines.

the following gnarnia is an attempt to document the journey from the southern caribbean and beyond.

i am no writer, i've never sailed in salt water, i haven't journaled in years, i have no idea what to do when i return home…but…i just bought my first pair of shorts in like 10 years…so…

these entires are meant for myself and anyone remotely interested.

this is.

The Valinor Collective

Friday, April 15, 2011

switzerland of the caribbean - dominica


portsmouth, dominica (dome-in-eeka). our home for the past 2 weeks. she gave us some of the gnarliest, rolliest mytery swells making it impossible to keep a glass unattended and sleeping annoyingly difficult. cheap food and alcohol, the most gracious locals, new friends and insanely gorgeous rain forest waterfalls. this place is like the switzerland of the caribbean. 2 weeks here, our longest stay yet, and it wasn't enough.

such a relief to speak english again. my brain is at ease with no more translating, asking simplified broken questions and much less confused looks. the bay of portsmouth is massive.but only a tiny sea village with tiny vivid homes lay at the bottom of rolling, thick forested hills. littering the coast, washed up on shore, are the wrecks of like 5 or 6 huge fishing vessels. rusted and scoured for parts, the creepy superstructures are all that remain of boats who seeked refuge from hurricanes back in the day.

dominica is apparently one of the most impoverished of the caribbean islands. the prices on food, fresh fruit and veggies support this, but the smiling, friendly random conversations with locals suggest their stoked like errday. inland is saturated with rain forest, dozens of waterfalls and loads of hikes. emptying into portsmouth bay is the indian river. state protected, and motoring isn't allowed. every local and their brother will offer a guided tour up this beast, but we decided to go with a local bro named alexis who flashed us his 'official tour guide card.' he paddled mats and i up the river, saw some iguanas chillin in trees, massive crabs and loads of old, creeping vegetation that inevitable found its way into the water. spoke and paddle, spoke and paddle. alexis talked of the history, its plants, animals and the native caribs who are protected by the state. dominica is like the last island unmolested by tourists. their government has vowed to never build massize hotels and condos anywhere on the island and much of the interior is regulated through national forests, parks and hiking trails. "for the next generation, mon," alexis would say.

it's insane, the majority of cruisers in the caribbean seem to be scandinavian. i had no idea. swedish, norwegian, danish and finnish flags litter like every bay we enter. (reade, tyler) so, naturally, there's this comraderie amongst swedish sailors. oftentimes they're the majority. they dinghy up to us in their goofy sounding langauge and mats engages them in typical sailing convo. im assuming. andreas and christina approached us and asked if we wanted to split a rental car and cruise the northern part of the island. aah ward? at nearly 40, andreas and christina started dating and like immediately started planning for this trip. they bought a 31' sloop, prepped it for a year and peaced last july. planning for a year to cruise the atlantic circuit, i could tell they were rushing to see everything.

it was a sort of northern coast tour. simply stunning. we cruised east out of town early in the morning. it was amazing to drive through the interior. layer after layer of rolling green mountains. the highest covered in clouds. too shy to show their peaks. we twisted and turned, righ hand drive through the surprisngly well maintained, well kept rain forest roads. passing hundred of coconut trees, banan tree farms, tiny, humble shacks, and oddly friendly smiles and waves from locals just chilling outside or harvesting their crops. unlike any other island, the locals are genuinely happy to see you. i zoned out the noise of goofy sounding swedish conversation and got lost in admiring everything the passed. only goofy sounding because they emphasize strange parts of words making their inflection go up and down up and down.
the lack of 4 wheel drive and our tiny toyota stopped us where the road got gnar. it was a 30 minute hike of the trail of the waterfall pool we were seeking. a high altitude, cool down pour welcomed us and a friendly lady in a shack directed us toward the path. we passed squacking parrots, caught a glimpse of it chillin high up in a tree, cabbage fields, banana trees, thousands of coconut trees, pineapple plants and a view that is beyond words.

the rain stopped, sun was out, cold high altitude air subsided and we entered the thick rain forest path. a dood man wearing a bob marley shirt, dreads and surrounded by basket making material warned us that if the river below was flowing too fast, we shouldn't cross. it can get gnar if rain comes and you can't get back across. apparently, some tourists died recently because they didn't know how to listen.
we reached the river. snapped some pics, hopped to the other side, scurried over the rocks, rounded a corner and came upon chaudiere pool.
this gorgeous 6 foot fall elegantly crashed into a large clear pool surrounded by black smooth moist rock. we indulged in bubbling bubbles from the falls. brisk at first, once near the falls the bubbles have a massaging thang going on. had a stand off with this 9 inch orange mean looking crab that sprang from the rocks. he was pissed i was changing on his turf. i saw his wicked snappers and didn't eff with him.
cruised back with lizards everywhere and sunshine. clothes slowly drying, we passed rasta bro, gave us fresh coconut milk and we trekked back to the tiny toyota.

continued our tour and stopped for lunch. i ended up talking to the night chef who happened to be from philly. i was intrigued to see an american working there. eric, 30's, married, left the US when he and his wife's schedules were insanely opposite. they never saw each other and weren't diggin where things were going. they packed up and peaced out to dominica. built a house in the mountains and began a life there. i got his number and a few days later we enjoyed drinks, saw his gorgeous home in the mountains and went for a hike.
after lunch we headed north along the coast and then west through the mountains. switchbacks, switchbacks and some stupid steep hills. indescribable, most amazing view while along the coast. without words. once back in harbor we enjoyed brews together by the beach till thesun went down, they dingied us home and adreas and christina left the next day.

the locals organize these fund raisers that encourages cruisers and everyone to get together, bbq, drink their local rum punch and dance. we got down on their sunday night event. the rum punch was flowing, delicious  bbq fresh fish and local food was for dinner. everyone is stoked to talk to everyone, learn their past, where they came from, where they're headed. people from all over the world enjoying the song and dance. our inflatable dinghy has a hole, forcing us to use a fiberglass one and rowing. i rowed us to shore, but after this flowing, delicious rum punch, it was in both our best interests to have mats row us back. in insane winds hahaha, i was happy, and mats was profusely sweating as we finally arrived to capella in the darkness.

i'm a sucker for these markets that litter the streets. everyone is selling fresh something. like a mosquito to a bright light. we may not need the fruits or veggies being sold but i need to go and check out what they're selling. dunno what it is. gotta check out the fresh fruit and veggies yo. with all fresh shiz, one night, i made real amercan burgers. i hyped them up and finally got a chance to indulge with european mats. perfectly marinated ground beef with onions and garlic, fresh tomatoes, fresh lettuce, real kraft singles, grilled onions and a side of grilled fresh carrots, fresh green beans, potatoes, onions, garlic, tomatoes...heaven...felt like i was back in the us. so damn good. back with friends. back with family. back at home.

eric, the chef, invited us to his place and to join him, his wife and 6 month old for a hike near their home. we snagged a bus south to the capitol. the lead footed driver twisted us around dry sea cliffs in a packed 'bus', bodies and heads swaying in unison as we rallied around these corners and swerved to avoid death pot holes. after 2.5 hours of travel we made it to the interior of the island and up to eric's home. could be one of the most quaint, gorgeous, simplistic homes i've ever seen. an unadvertised hidden walkway at the top of a steep craggly road leads you to their property. you walk a slim winding path with surrounding plants and trees and come upon a dark wooded, single bedroom home high on stilts that overlooks the forest preserve. layers of hills. below are banana trees, cinnamon trees, pineapple plants, other edible goodies and beautiful tropical flowers and plants. on the veranda, their deck, in front of the folding window doors, herb seedlings line the floor. glass windows are non existent and unnecessary. open air or folding walls welcome in the troical breeze. it was unreal.
he took us to a 2 sectioned water fall that we barefoot scrambled to, swam and admired. i was introdced to spiced rum. rum infused with cinnamon (sophi). of course i was intrigued and vowed to make my own bottle. we enjoyed some beers together, chatted and we headed home before it got too dark. awesome people.

totally intrigued by alcohol and different ways to indulge, i got down on some fresh cinnamon and cloves. fresh, hugh chunks of cinnamon bark are now chillin in two bottles of local dominican rum awaiting to be enjoyed while back in the states. feeling creative, i cracked some fresh coconuts loaded with moist, white, oily coconut meat and attempted to make granola bars aboard the boat. sophi, i need tips and guidance.

soo much fresh fruit and your disposal. after snorkeling through a school of THOUSANDS of fish in a secluded bay to the north, up on the sand, heaps of fresh mangoes were just chillin. i scooped up the little bastards and they provided nourishment for the next few days.

the hardest part about communicating with someone who doesn't speak english as their first language is the lingo. especially with a 20 something MN kid who speaks oddly. mats has successfully understood and utilized the word gnarly. several times it has been used in a sentence from him. hes slowly understanding the expression. "get down on, you down with that?, you up for it?"...hard for him to grasp...the hardest of all is by far...word...he sees no logical reasoning to use it and i'll be surprised to ever hear it from him...all i can do is use it and hope he catches on.

our last night was spent in the boat of a 40 ft sloop owned by a 27 year old wind surfer. him and his buddy are cruising south for 6 months with friends and family frequently stopping by. one of the most inspiring pair of doods i've met yet. it is possible to be young and cruise. rare, but possible.

we set sail the next morning, 31 hrs later and 90 nautical miles north we now rest in falmouth harbor, antigua.

dominica, my favorite island by far, and no doubt i'll be back. beautiful.

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