Dominica – by Marike


We left Fort de France pretty early in the morning, (around 5:15) and put up all our sails to catch the 8 knots of wind. We had left a tiny bit earlier than the Yoshimas, so by the time they had caught up to us, (with their engine) we were all a little out to sea. We took pictures of each other in the early morning sunlight. (This was our first chance ever to get a photo of Shang Du with all of her sails up.) We weren’t sailing very fast, but we were sailing, so that’s what counts. 😉

There were a few times we switched on the engine (i.e. when we were behind the mountains of the islands – Mt Pelee specifically.) But overall we sailed really well. Especially once we got out form behind the island – the wind and waves really hit you then.

When we arrived in Dominica, the first thing of immediate concern was the narrow anchor ledge, but we were able to anchor safely. (Our stay in St. Pierre has helped us to not be so afraid of going close to shore.)

The Yoshimas were a little behind us at that stage (we had used our engine more than they had, since their diesel was a little less) and so we watched them anchor. We thought it a little strange that they hadn’t put down their sail to anchor, but didn’t really think about it. Only after we talked to them did we find out they had engine trouble – the fact that their diesel tank had been so empty had caused some gunky diesel to get into the engine, and (as we now suppose) messed up the pump in some dramatic way.

We stayed in Dominica for two weeks. (We intended to stay for maximum a week – we just don’t seem to be able to leave places behind!)

The first day a lot of errands were run – an Island where English is spoken! Monday was devoted to finding out who could fill gas silinders (the Yoshimas were at that stage finding out how to cook food in their microwave, using the generator’s power since their cooking gas was kaput.) There was also the question of finding a place that would inspect our fire extinguishers. O yes, and we needed to clear in. ^_^

On Tuesday an unexpected workload got heaped on my dad, so we didn’t do anything except stay on the boat for three days. It was good for the school, I suppose 😉

On Friday we went to see some sperm whales! Having noticed that everywhere on the island there were signs offering tours to go and find the whales, my dad phoned around a bit and found someone who could take us out. Very expensive, but worth it, even though we weren’t allowed to swim with the whales. =)

We took little Conditioner over the bay and met the people at their boat, and headed out to sea. (At super speed, of course 😉 At first we just headed out to sea, and then when we were far enough out, the guy lowered a little black box into the sea. He put on a big set of earphones, and sat listening if he could hear any whales.

After confirming the presence of whales, he brought up his little black box, and attached it to a long stick with a kind of dish at the end. The box is affixed to the inside of the dish, and so he can swivel it around under the water to work out from which direction the whale sounds are coming.

The Whale guy allowed us to listen in to the whales' conversation

The Whale guy allowed us to listen in to the whales’ conversation

Just when we were heading over to where the whales were, we noticed another boat coming our way. This one was from the cruise ship that was docked at the island. When it got close enough for us to see more of it, we could see it was crammed with people from the cruise ship – the boat we were on was a little smaller than the other one, but it suddenly felt a lot more luxurious, so much space! 😉

We spotted little mist clouds on the horizon, and so the engines were revved, and we flew to where the whales were. As we got closer, we all got our chance to spot a little mist cloud spring up from the ocean, but before we reached the whales they all dived. Tails up.

The last tail just before dissapearing

The last tail just before dissapearing

At first we kind of thought that now we had seen our whales, but the guide just told us we had to wait for a while. About 45 minutes.

The sperm whales dive down to very, very deep (800m – 1km). Having done so much trouble to get there, they aren’t just going to pop up every five minutes. Down there they hunt their squid, and then then eventually return to the surface.

So we waited. It didn’t actually feel that long, in the end. We tried to head a little in the direction they were last swimming, and then when they resurfaced, we raced over again.

The other boat reached them first, but I think in the end we got a much better view. There were about three older females in the group, one juvenile and one baby. When the whales dived the second time, we just stayed close, and shortly after that the baby came up again, because it can’t stay down there that long.

The most we saw was when the juvenile came up and stayed with the baby, playing around. They weren’t as big as I’d expected them to be, but they were really cool. Their blowholes are slightly off centre, like a flower in the hair. Their eyes are really small, and their jawbone (we found out later) has teeth that fit into fleshy sockets where usually you would find the upper teeth . . . At one stage they swam right over to the boat, and if I had tried, I could have touched the baby sperm whale. (But I didn’t ;P)


This photo was taken by my Dad holding the video camera under the water, just hoping to get something on film.

This photo was taken by my Dad holding the video camera under the water, just hoping to get something on film.


Here it is possible to see the baby very clearly.

Here it is possible to see the baby very clearly.

At the same time that the whales dive, they would poo – really stinky poo! The other whale-watching boat was close enough for the two captains (who know each other) to converse in shouts. Their comment was to ask who would like some hot chocolate. XD


Dominica is also the place we started Geocaching. Some of you may know what it is, but most of you probably won’t.

While we were still in South Africa, someone told us about it and said we had to do it, because it’s just so ideal – we’re going all over the world! Basically, geocaching is people from all over the world hiding geocaches, then logging them onto a website. If you have a geocaching account, you log onto this site, find out where the geocaches near you are, and then follow GPS coordinates. All you do when you find a geocache, is to log that you have visited the geocache.

When we had first heard about it, we were super excited, and I made a profile for us right away. I couldn’t really figure out how it worked straight off, especially since we didn’t go geocaching (no time. Whatsoever.) so it just stayed there.

At least I had the good sense to send every member of the family an e-mail that told everyone exactly what our user name and password was, so when we finally decided to try out this thing, we could still use the old name. =)

Our first Geocache!!! Aunty Helena from AmarSimFem joined us for this one.

Our first Geocache!!! Aunty Helena from AmarSimFem joined us for this one.


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