Providing a warm welcome to cruisers

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Dominica, a Caribbean island country between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, is about one-half of the way from Puerto Rico to Trinidad and Tobago. In its efforts to recovery from the destruction of Hurricane Maria in 2017, heightening hospitality is at the forefront.

Critical to that mission is 2019 Dominica Yacht Appreciation Week that will take place March 10-17 in Portsmouth, Dominica.

Sponsored by Portsmouth Association of Yacht Security (PAYS), the 4th edition will see a week of fun events and activities in see beautiful Prince Rupert Bay. Hank Schmitt, head of Offshore Passage Opportunities, founded PAYS to make sure Dominica gave a sailing up and down the Caribbean islands.

Fifty moorings will be available at the ultra-low fee of free, regardless of boat length.

Prince Rupert Bay, in the northwest of the island, is an easy hop to Guadeloupe and The Saints. As one of the Caribbean’s best natural harbors, not surprisingly, it has a long history of nautical adventure, from pirates to the Napoleonic navy.

According to Treasurer Fabien Honore, PAYS was created “to change the way boats are greeted when they arrive. It used to be pandemonium with numerous people vying for each boat. Now it’s systematic.”

Currently there are 15 boats that greet you on arrival, find you a mooring, take you to shore and back, and arrange any one of a dozen things to do on the island. Each specializes in either diving, rainforest walks, river tours, or luxury provisioning, the latter run by Cobra. Every member is independent, but, through PAYS, they all collaborate and can be hailed on 16.

The idea has proved very successful. For example, the twice weekly barbeques often have 50-70 guests. PAYS president Jeff Frank says, “The whole Portsmouth community has come together. We’ve made a lot of changes. For example, garbage is properly disposed of. Our beach is spotless. We employ people to clean it up.”

Jeff is also pleased to announce to visiting sailors that his three-week-old restaurant, Sea Bird, located directly behind the PAYS office, is now open.

Some of the events Hank has planned are: welcome barbecue with rum punch; soccer and cricket matches; and hiking tours to all the island hot spots like Trafalgar Falls, Middleham Falls, Boiling Lake, the island-long Waitukubuli National Trail, and the natural sulphur hot springs. There will be at least two nights of live music.

A dinner for all the attendees with the Dominican President at a nearby historic fort and a “Save-the-Caribbean Sea… eat lionfish” cookout are scheduled.

If you’re intrigued by Dominica and PAYS but can’t make the annual event, come anyway. Birthday girl Zoe Eilbeck of Australia did. She and her fellow travelers have been in Portsmouth for a few days.

“As part of ten boats that did the Atlantic crossing, we wanted to come to an unspoiled island and heard from other cruisers that PAYS was trustworthy,” shared Eilbeck. “We contacted them in advance and they make it very simple without making us feel like we were on a tour. For people looking for an authentic experience, this is the place.” Her friend added, “PAYS has a reputation across the Caribbean for being a good, positive organization that simultaneously helps cruisers and the community.”

Hank’s sister organization, The Mooring Field Development Foundation is “dedicated to providing environmentally protective mooring options that foster visitation and economic development to emerging sailing destinations.”

To learn more, contact Hank Schmitt at: offshorepassage@sprintmail.com.

Source: Jonathan Russo / sailingscuttlebutt

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