Haiti – A Different World

Date: 19 May 2018

Location: Anchored Off Beach Isla Beata, Dominican Republic LAT 17° 36.644 LON 071° 31.763

Weather: Sunny, Upper 80’s, Wind E 15 – 20 Knots

The Admiral departed from Kingston and made it back to Charleston while Captain Brian did a few maintenance items and welcomed some new crew members to the boat for the crossing to Haiti and the Dominican Republic. First mate Joe Warren and Able Seaman Jared Slotwinski joined up for the next leg, We cleared out of Jamaica on 2 May and weighed anchor about an hour before sunset in order to take advantage of the offshore katabatic breeze flowing down the mountains along the coast. The crossing is about 220 nautical miles to Ile A Vache, Haiti and was expected to take about 40 hours. First Mate Joe took charge of the Helm and skillfully guided us out of Kingston Harbour an into the open ocean as the sun disappeared. Sunrise found us off the eastern end of Jamaica when we had a repeat of the idler pulley failure. The Captain decided to head into Bowden Bay (Port Morant) to make repairs. He got the belt and pulley replaced and prepared to head out again just as we got a visit by the harbor police that wanted to know our status. We lost about 6 hours which meant we probably would not make port in Haiti until after dark.

The trip across was relatively uneventful as the crew took 3 hours shifts. The wind and wave action was typical and as expected at about 15 knots out of the East with 3 to 5 foot seas. Late Thursday night (early Friday morning) we did pass thru a couple of squalls that produced some 25 to 30 knot winds for about 15 to 20 minutes as the frontal lines passed. We reduced sail and headed into the wind and waves during these showers to ease the motion of the boat and maintain steerage. The scattered rain showers continued most of Friday but with moderate winds which allowed me to make reasonable progress. We raised Haiti on Friday afternoon and rounded the SW point as sunset approached.

The time we lost in Bowden Bay came back to haunt us as we were unable to make the anchorage in Ile a Vache until after dark. It’s never good to go into a unknown and unfamiliar port after dark – too many bad things can happen. The Captain was unable to determine the layout of the Harbour or the location and position of any other boats anchored so we decided to drop anchor near the mouth of the Bay. Just as the Captain slowed my engine RPM down he got an unknown “alarm” at the helm station. He ordered “anchor down” and shut the engine off to investigate.

No obvious issue but the engine would not restart. The decision was made to wait until morning and daylight to investigate further. Turns out that “Morning and Daylight” would have to wait. Around 0100 the Captain felt that awful thud of “keel bumping bottom” and found we had swung over a shallow area and needed to move out into deeper water. Captain revisited the engine issue and found the fuel filters clogged. A change of filters solved the problem and a running engine allowed them to raise the anchor and motor out to re-anchor in deeper water. They also properly set my anchor this time and we stayed put. With everything secured and properly set it was time to wash up and try to get some sleep. Turning the faucet on they found no water pressure but fortunately that was an easy fix also – swap the water filters out and all was well (seemed like all the filters were clogging at one time).

First Mate Joe was up early the next morning and ran interfere warding off the multiple dugout canoes circling the boat looking to “help” us with anything from hull cleaning to supplying mango’s and lobsters. They mean well and are simply looking to survive but can be a little bothersome. After a long night the Captain was just not ready to deal with local vendors quite yet. In the daylight, when Captain Brian was able to survey the anchorage, talk to a Captain on another boat to verify water depths, the decision was made to relocate closer to shore and “inside” a small basin that provided much better protection from the wind. Spent the day exploring the Capt Henry Morgan Resort on shore in the bay. The resort was built about 35 years ago but has fallen into disrepair. It’s still in operation with a small restaurant and a few Villas but certainly not living up to its potential. The crew struck up a conversation with a couple of “boat boys” at the resort dock and took Sea Tigger over to a small beach bar for a couple of beers and some Rum. Then they wandered over to the small village of Caille Coq. The lifestyle is basic and uncomplicated. No one appeared to be malnourished and there were small plots of land with gardens of corn and vegetables, plenty of goats and chickens running around and of course the ocean for fish and seafood. They appear content with what they have and to their credit, make do with what they have. The land is low lying and swampy and the structures are shacks are made out of whatever is available but the village was clean and well kept. There were a few concrete houses and buildings scattered around and a field for the children to play soccer. There is a local church, a school and a UN Mission building near the center of town. No power in the village but there is a central well for water with a hand pump. There were a few folks that have small generators but they are used sparingly as gas is hard to come by.

During the exploration, the crew met a group of guys sitting on the porch of the “local” bar having a beer. They were obviously not locals. My crew introduced themselves, ordered up a round of brew and had very interesting and thought provoking discussion. Turns out they are associated with a Mission groups that, among other things, go around to the villages teaching the people how to build and operate bread ovens. Not doing it “for” them but teaching them “how” to do it for themselves and become self-sufficient. In their view, seems one of the unintended consequences with the effort to get Haiti back on its feet is that the Aid Organizations are actually hurting the effort and the local economy by “flooding” the country with massive amounts of food and “free” material and supplies. It has the effect of putting the local population out of work. I.e. – give a man food for “free” and you ruin the local farmer and his market. Ship in “free” concrete and build a school with “foreign” labor and the local Building Materials Supplier and Construction workers lose their opportunities to make a living. The people and economy become dependent and stagnant. It’s obviously more complicated than that but the idea is to provide opportunities for them to rebuild their economy from within. Give them the “know-how”, direction and supervision to let them do for themselves. I’ll leave a deeper discussion for the economists and the Bernie Sanders of the world to give other viewpoints.

A couple of the guys in the group were connected with an Organization called “Hands and Feet Ministries” which operates several orphanages and provides housing for kids that have been abandoned by their parents (mainly because they can’t feed them). They have a facility in the town of Jacmel on the mainland which, as it turns out, was selected as the best place to stop and pick up The Admiral. They gave the Captain the Directors contact info so he could arrange overland transportation from Port-Au-Prince. After a full day of exploring, the crew returned late afternoon and enjoyed Lobsters that First Mate Joe procured thru intense negotiations with a boat boy earlier in the day. The dinner included pasta salad of peppers, cucumbers, onions, and carrots all cut up and prepared by the First Mate.

The next morning Captain Brian and First Mate Joe attended the local church in a village a few miles down the coast with Pastor Raymond. The Pastor was the Capt’n that helped us out earlier with finding a more secure anchorage location in the harbour. They all rode in the local “Church Bus” – a 20 foot wooden skiff with a 40 HP outboard. Pulling up to shore as close as possible but still requiring the parishioners to wade in the last 10 feet or so but fortunately the service was dress casual. Captain Raymond has two sailboats in the anchorage – La Victoria and Revelation and founded IEM Ministries in Haiti 16 years ago. He has quite the presence in Ile de Vache area working with mission teams from the States building schools, wells and water sources, churches and feeding hungry kids, all while Preaching the Gospel at every opportunity. The service was in Creole but they did sing a song or two in English. My crew was joined by Steve and Ashley on S/V Belle Vista – a young Canadian couple out on their own sailing adventure.

That afternoon I got my belly rubbed and scrubbed by a couple of Boat Boys from the village. Able Seaman Jarad supervised and snorkeled around the boat to inspect their work reporting back to the Captain that they did a fair job given they only used masks and snorkels along with 4” scrappers. Of course they wanted more $ than what was agreed to in advance but at least they worked for their pay. My soft hearted Captain gave them a decent tip for their efforts. My crew had drinks on a neighbors boat listening to wild stories from Pastor Raymond about his experiences on the island. One of them being the time he ran the Dive Shop for Captain Morgan’s Resort and his treasure hunting adventures. Never found the mother lode but believes it’s still out there close by.

Next morning Captain and First Mate Joe took the “Water Taxi” over the mainland to explore the town of Les Cayes. The town itself is really not much but the Water Taxi ride was certainly a memory maker. The name “Water Taxi” fits the experience. The boat was identical to the Church Bus we rode on the day before but this time the ride was in open water for about 8 miles. The trip over wasn’t bad – it was with the wind. Once they arrived, things got interesting. The chain of events required to disembark and get to shore was quite the circus. The boat could only get within about 30 feet of the shore – shallow water and large swells keep them from getting closer. The passengers transferred to “dugout canoes” that were hand pushed to within about 10 feet of shore and then “local” boys carried the folks on their backs up to the shoreline which was covered in trash and rotting sea grass. My Captain chose to get his feet wet and wade the last 10 feet. A great opportunity for someone to build a breakwater with a dock and make some money. The return was memorable as well. The loading process was repeated in reverse and the Water Taxi took off. The boat was packed full of people and supplies running hard into the wind and waves. The passengers used a shredded tarp to try to keep the splashing waves from soaking them but it was really just for pretend. They got drenched. The crew on the water taxi included a full time water bailer who had a full time job. The Captain made the decision then and there that he would need to find an alternative method to get The Admiral back on board.

The following day The Captain and Able Seaman Jared changed the oil and filters on my engine and generator, rechecked the fuel filters, finished up running the last of the new lifelines and prepped the boat for departure. The Crew had a “Last Supper” with Pastor Raymond along with Ashley and Steve on S/V Bella Vista at a local shack on shore. A great meal of the typical Haitian fare consisting of chicken, fish, rice and beans and entertaining conversation. Off to bed early as the crew was up at 0530 because the Captain wanted “Anchor Up” at 0600 so we could make progress eastward before the wind built up. A relatively short 20 mile motor sail and we dropped anchor for the day in a protected cove called Refuge Bay. My crew caught a long nap and were up at 2200 hours for an overnight trip to Jacmel (those darn Trade Winds) where they would spend a few days and wait for The Admirals return.

Joyce and Brian Clark
S/V Pawsitive Latitude
bclark@umihvac.com

+1 239 898 7646
Facebook – The Saga of S/V Pawsitive Latitude

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