Sunday, July 31, 2016

29-30. Fish Out of Water (Falls, That Is)

The Abby Singer crew is back together after our week apart.  We both have very different adventures to share, mine from a week of wrapping up business at home in Jacksonville and the rest of the fam with daddy on duty and in charge of food, entertainment and moving the boat down island with his trusty crew’s assistance.

We’ll start with me because my week is not nearly as pretty to look at.  I spent 30 hours of my week emptying the rest of our 10,000 sq ft warehouse, 
filling a 15 yard dumpster 
and giving away 160 martini glasses, 3 boxes of books, hundreds of sheets of cardboard, HDPE, corrugated plastic, and plexiglass and spending another 6 hours on a trip to Savannah to repo one of our production vehicles.  Luckily I had some great company for the Savannah run.  

    Samantha and I enjoying some Sorry Charlie's - downtown Savannah.

That didn't leave much time for anything else but I did manage to get the taxes compiled and squeeze in a bit of fun.  I enjoyed some R&R (brother-in-law’s band), 
saw family friends in from NC on vacation, 
got squeezes from the Wolff gang, 
and of course had to stop by the studio to catch up and bring back the recital video for the girls!  
    Which they watched the second I got back!
It was a blur of a week but I was anxious to get back to my sweeties on board Abby.

While I was away…
The morning after I left, Abby and crew headed to the islands just south of Guadeloupe called Iles Des Saintes.
It was meant to be a calm sail for the newly 3 man crew to ease into being one man down.  But sometimes the weather has a different plan!  The venturi effect between the islands is strong and with winds gusting from 25 knots, it kicked up seas 6-8’ with 4 seconds between them.  We call that bashing and it is not fun!  We took the largest wave ever over our bow and had 2” of water in the cockpit and a drenched Paige.  So once safely in Des Saintes, they headed to shore to treat themselves to a well earned gourmet meal,
unfortunately Sky was unable to keep her eyes open long enough to enjoy.
    She can truly sleep anywhere!

Even though the anchorage was quite rolly,
the gang made the most of it and headed off to snorkel and hike with some new friends.  They made it to the highest point on the island of 1000’ and were treated to some amazing views.  

In attempts at a better sailing experience Andrew planned to head out at 4am to sail to Dominica, hoping to capitalize on the calm of the morning but it was not to be.  A squall developed over them and Abby took the strongest winds we’ve seen yet underway.  I hate hearing about how challenging the two passages were without me but I’m pretty thankful I missed them!  After a hairy journey, they made it safely to Portsmouth, Dominica where they were greeted by their friendly boat boy, Titus.

Dominica has 9 active volcanoes, the highest concentration in the world.  It's beauty is legendary and has long been on our list of “must see” locations.  It did not disappoint!  Joined by our friends aboard S/V Grateful, Andrew & the girls jumped in the boat of their guide for the day and headed up the Indian River.  
They saw the local wildlife,
some amazing birds, lots of beautiful flowers 
and the sets left behind from the filming of The Pirates of the Carribean.  
    I wish I was there for that!  

    And the amazing paella they shared with my gang :)
Being in Dominica during the rainy season makes days aboard hot and steamy so after 24hrs straight of rain, 
    Note the friendly little water spout dropping from the sky!
and to avoid some serious cabin fever, Andrew rented a car to spend some much needed time exploring ashore.  
First stop, Soltoun Falls.  Even the parking lot was treacherous, precariously placed atop a cliff with 2 car lengths to turn around in.  Andrew said the girls were so freaked out about the parking experience that they were hesitant to even get out.  But a little coaxing got them down the path and visiting their first waterfall.  
    Soltoun Falls, Dominica
Having warmed up to the experience they headed on to their next stop, Emerald Pool.  They arrived at dusk and even though it appeared to be closed, there was nothing keeping them out so on they marched.  They were rewarded with their first swim in the pool of a waterfall and some beautiful scenery on the hike down.  
    Emerald Pool, Dominica
Now Andrew was on a mission.  He wanted to see the best & biggest waterfall Dominica had to offer and the Google search led him to Victoria Falls.  Bright and early the next day they headed out for the 2 hour drive to the southeast side of the island.  Now, let me explain to you that navigating the island roads in Dominica is more than a little tricky.  The maps they provide leave out important details, the roads are not well marked because they would really prefer you use a guide to visit the various locations, lots of the bridges were completely washed out by Tropical Storm Erika which hit the island hard last fall and have now been replaced with single lane, temporary bridges and there are many places where the roads are coned off down to one lane becaus the entire underside of the mountain under the road is washed away.  So when we talk of adventure just know that getting there is indeed half the fun :)
The hike to Victoria Falls was pretty intense
but the girls pushed on, excited by their expectations,
but nothing could prepare them for the grandeure of the falls themselves.
They told me about the roar of the water crashing and the rush of the wind as the falls came into view.  It literally took their breath away.
Andrew was the only one brave enough to the actually enter the pool at the base of the falls.
Now to the business of wasting time until my flight arrived later that evening, Andrew hadn't told the girls I was coming back yet so he tried to be non-chalet about filling the next few hours.  They headed to Sari Sari Falls, which was really more of a spring, and they found another filming location where Jack Sparrow runs away from the cannibal tribe.
Then daddy suggests getting a snack at the airport, perfectly normal right?  So the girls enjoy some candy bars while Andrew has a beer and who happens to wander off a plane?  ME!
It was so nice to be back with my family and I was even excited to see Abby.  The girls knew I would come bearing gifts but I was able to surprise them with the unexpected treat of chicken nuggets from Chick Fil A for dinner - their favorite.
    Don't ask how I got them here ;) 
We had originally planned for me to meet back up with Abby in Martinique so to get to visit Dominica was a special treat I was glad to not miss and the girls unknowingly saved some great exploring for me to join in.  I got to experience first hand the road conditions and exciting challenges of moving around the island, I don't think I could have fully pictured it had I not.  
Our trip to Trafalgar Falls was magnificent.  
To come into the clearing and see not one but two huge waterfalls was awesome and the fact that it was an easy hike was a bonus :) 
    Our best attempt at Where's Waldo?
The water is so cool and refreshing on a hot Carribean day.  
    Trafalgar Falls, Dominica
I could have stayed all day watching the water cascading over the rocks and swirling at our feet, but there was more to see and do!  
After winding our way up the mountain roads, we found our way to Titou Gorge.  
Now words will just not be able to discribe this experience and we hadn't quite figured out the new GoPro yet so we don't even have a proper video.  
Picture a narrow gorge sometimes only 5’ wide with a 40’ sheer rock face on either side of us.
75 yards into the crevice are 2 waterfalls that feed the 15’ deep pool you swim up to see the falls.
The closer in you get, the stronger the current gets.  The water is ice cold.  That combined with the dark cave like setting was almost enough to keep Paige from joining us in this adventure but with a little encouragement,
and sometimes some pushing from behind, we all swam into the deep, dark, rushing water.
As we got closer to the falls you have to let the water push you against the wall
and crawl with your hands and feet around a sharp turn
where you find yourself in a safe little cavity to view the waterfall.
It was an adrenaline rush to say the least!  Once you’ve seen enough or are shivering uncontrollably- whichever comes first,
you jump in and let the current push you back out the mouth
where you can stand under a sun warmed shower to come back to temp.  
Andrew was speaking with the man who supervises the falls and got the scoop on how to actually scale the first waterfall and get to see the second.  So he and I headed back in for a second time because he is not one to back away from a challenge.  
We found the footholds he had described
and with the help of the water forcing us to the wall basically spidermanned our way to the pool below the falls.
Andrew did his best to find handholds to make his way up but when the current got too strong, he lost his grip and has a few good strawberries as battle wounds.
But determined, he pressed on and his second attempt was successful.
    View of the second falls.
With the adreneline wearing off and the chills setting in, he jumped off the falls and we floated back out.  What a rush!

The weather was right to move down the coast a bit and we found a great place to drop the hook and get a little water time in.  Roseau is not much to look at on the land but underwater we found it’s hidden beauty.  A few exploratory dinghy rides in the rain brought us to Pointe Guignard where fallen boulders helped to shelter the reef and housed some great fish
and squid.
But the real find was Champagne Reef off the southwestern coast.  We saw our first spotted eel who even came to inspect the GoPro up close.
We feed corn to a school of sergeant majors & blue tang,
found a shy puffer fish,
lots of sea cucumbers and Andrew accidently bumped into an albino nurse shark hiding under the reef.
The volcanic activity under the surface forces gas bubbles out any small crack in the rocks and feels like swimming in fizzy champagne.
    Champagne Reef, Dominica
We topped off our day by having lunch in the sleepy town of Soufriere where the main activity on a Sunday afternoon is hanging out in the hot pools on the beach.  The hot pools are no joke!  The smallest, hottest section was so hot I couldn't even dip my toes in it and some of the heat vents are under the pebbles on the shore line making them hot enough to scald your feet if you stand still too long.
    Sky building little rock towers on the hot pools, she left a total of 9!
Dominica was everything we had imagined and more and on the top of our list of places to visit again.  It was beautiful, magical, welcoming, and untouched.  It was a hard place to leave but the weather was right for us to head to Martinique.

    Last sunset in Dominica :(

Things learned aboard (and on land) this week:
Stuff does not equal happiness.  I walk through my house in the dark, remembering every step and nuiance, same as the day we left.  But I am a fish out of water.  This is not my home, I don't need these things.  I realize now the entire purpose of our journey, to teach me what truly matters most in life.  
Change is good and absence does make the heart fonder.  As I left, I think we all were a little scared of how everything would work out.  But they all did fine without me.  And not just survive but really came into their own as members of a team.
     They ate well while I was away!
I live to take care of them but they were enpowered to take care of themselves and rely on each other and their relationships are stronger because of it.  I felt missed and loved and welcomed back, not because they couldn't do it without me but because the team is not complete without me.

This feels like a be continued… because our adventures just keep going in Martinique!
Can't wait to put this week together to share with you all! 

    Love this pic of my beauties just lovin' life!

31 - 32. It's Not Rio... But It's Pretty Awesome!