A Secret Bay Q&A With Captain Don
Amongst Secret Bay’s friendliest and most celebrated team members is Captain Don—a true prodigy of the Caribbean Sea. From guiding guests along Secret Bay’s incredible Waitukubuli by Sea tour to providing community relief efforts after Hurricane Maria, Captain Don is a familiar face to locals and visitors alike. We asked him to take an aside from his busy schedule—largely spent between dad life and restoring his new 35-foot sailboat—to bring us up to speed on the state of the island as Secret Bay prepares to reopen in November 2018.
What do you do for Secret Bay and beyond?
I am the boat captain for Secret Bay. I operate the Waitukubuli by Sea experience and offer snorkeling, lionfish hunting and deep sea fishing tours. I also offer private scuba diving and sailing tours beyond Secret Bay. Additionally, I run Les Saintes and Marie-Galante private day tours and offer yacht provisioning and both engine maintenance and repairs in Prince Rupert Bay.
Were you born in Dominica?
When was the last time you left?
Two months after Hurricane Maria, I went to Les Saintes and Guadeloupe to bring relief back to Dominica. I did that for almost two months, returning with water, generators, food, blankets and more.
Regarding the resilience of the island after Hurricane Maria, how did that compare with destructive storms that you’ve seen in the past like Tropical Storm Erika?
It was far more dramatic than Erika, which was mostly water damage. Maria caused structural and water damage. Homes in my community are being reconstructed with concrete for more resistance, whereas they used to be built with wood. Also, instead of using nails, people are using screws and making the roofs a little more pitched for wind resistance. I’m currently rebuilding my home for my wife and my daughter using salvaged materials. I also couldn’t go on the water right after the hurricane due to debris, dangerous waves and persistent rains, but by two weeks I was finally able to get back out there.
Does the island seem to be returning to its stature as the “Nature Island”?
Everyone started working together not too long after the hurricane. The island looked brown and devastated, but within six months or so we really cleaned it up and things are finally returning to normal. The landscape is starting to look thick and green again. Within the next year, she’ll be revived to how she was prior to the hurricane, blooming with foliage.
Tell us about your fishing boat.
I built a small fishing vessel about eight years ago with my dad. It’s a 19-foot boat with a Zodiac bottom. After Maria, no one had fresh food, but because of the debris and gasoline rationing I couldn’t get my boat back in the water. So I set my own fish traps—called fish pots—near the shore, and I was able to catch snapper and lobster for the community. Usually, I use handlines and troll further out to sea to catch mahi mahi.
And you’re working on a 35-foot sailboat with a friend?
Yes, I used to have a 30-foot sailboat but Maria destroyed it. So right now I’m paying back the loan I took to repair it and trying to make back the money. That’s why I’m restoring the 35-foot sailboat yacht with a friend. It has a steel hull and single mast made in Nova Scotia. Every Saturday we take trips to Les Saintes, Marie-Galante and Guadeloupe with locals—sometimes visitors.
How would you describe your relationship with your boat?
My wife always tells me that my boat is really like my first wife since I spend so much time with it!
What do you love most about the sea?
When I’m in the ocean I find peace. I just love the saltiness of the sea water—it makes me feel at home.
What is your favorite ocean memory?
I crossed the channel with my dad when I was just one and half years old, started swimming at 3 years old, began sailing at the age of 10, fishing at 12 and learning boat mechanics by 15. My dad taught me everything I know about the ocean. Also, when I was 12 years old, I went fishing with my uncle and caught a 165-pound Blue Marlin on a handline about 10 miles out. That was fun—both exciting and terrifying. The boat was not that big and the water was very rough.
How are Dominica’s shoreline and waters unique to anything else in the world?
We say the island is untouched and we have tourists, but not too many. So when we go scuba diving, we don’t do big groups—small groups cause less damage to the reef. The smaller the better to keep the island pristine.