A Rastafarian man with long dreadlocks and a t-shirt tied around his head stood behind the wheel of the catamaran as it approached the dock.
“That’s Victor,” one of the other assistants said. Victor was to be our captain as we made the long journey from Martinique to Dominica in a catamaran. The boat, with two sails, looked ill equipped to house the fourteen people among whom we were traveling: eight assistants, five Rastafarians, and Victor. But when we entered the cabin, we found rooms for six people on each side and a kitchen. There was not a lot of space–but there was enough.
We were going to Dominica to see the World Creole Music Festival and explore the country. Dominica is an island whose natural beauty has been beautifully preserved over the years. Its volcanoes intermingle with beautiful cascades and rivers. Tourists can swim under a waterfall or hike up to the Boiling Lake or visit the Carib territory that is renowned for its crafts.
For the price of two hundred Euros, we received transportation to Dominica, a bunk bed and access to a little kitchen. Traveling on the ferry would have been slightly cheaper—it costs ninety Euros roundtrip, plus housing—but the catamaran was the opportunity of a lifetime.
We left on Friday afternoon from Shoelcher and sailed up the coast of Martinique. We made ourselves comfortable. A Rastafarian woman by the name of Hyacinth immediately began rolling a joint in the cabin. Her son, a pre-teen with dreads and tan skin, sat next to her. We went outside and watched the coastal towns of St. Pierre and then Prêcheur pass by until we were surrounded by water. The sun began to set over the water and the navy blue waves reached up into the golden sky.
I slept under the stars. While there were bunks in the cabin, the enclosed space and the rocking of the boat made me feel seasick. The stars were brighter than any I’d ever seen before and the moon was full. When I woke up, Hyacinth was smoking again and the sun had risen and I saw Dominica for the first time. The capital city of Roseau was tucked into the hillside, and beyond the mountains stretched up into the clouds. It was beautiful.
Once, Victor caught fish and cooked us fish with rice. The other times, we ventured out to shore or made rice with plantains—plantains are a part of every meal here. We had them fried, boiled, breaded… And they are delicious every way!
We went swimming in the ocean on Saturday morning—by jumping off the side of the boat. The water was deep but clear, and I could see my feet in the water. On Sunday, Victor took us in the dinghy to a place with calmer water and handed us a rope. “Hang on,” he said. He started the engine and we tore through the water behind the boat.
While nothing can compare to sleeping under the stars as the boat lulls you to sleep, there are other aspects of living on a catamaran that make it inconvenient at the least. In Roseau, the capital of Dominica, there is no dock for the catamaran, which meant that we relied on Victor to drive us in a dinghy every time we wanted to go to shore. Hygiene goes out the window when you are living on a fixed water supply and your sink doubles as your shower. I was ready for a long shower and a night in my own bed when I got back to Martinique on Monday.