Thursday, February 23, 2012

Anse d'Hainaut

I left Ile a Vache, after I got all my expectations crushed and not knowing whether Frank would join me at Pestel to recover the equipment recovered by the authorities of Anse d'Hainaut. I was able to sail almost half of the way before turning the corner at Cape Tiburon. I went almost too fast, and since I had told the mayor that I would arrive after sunrise, I had to slow down.
In Anse d'Hainaut, I received visits from various authorities, not to check on anything but to greet me welcome. Then the mayor, who happens to be the brother of an excellent friend of mine in Port au Prince, came to the boat, and within minutes, the equipment lost by the german boat a few days ago was loaded on my boat, up to me to return it to its rightful owner.
Today is Carnival here, like everywhere else in the Country. In the Haitian culture, Carnival celebration is a priority and everything else is closed during those five days. So, I was able to walk through the village and take a few pictures, but short of enjoying a cold beer in one of the two restaurants here (Restaurant Nana), there was not much else I could do. Back on the boat, quiet dinner and got ready to leave at sunrise for Pestel.
Anse d'Hainaut is on the way from the Bahamas to the southern coast of the Dominican Republic, and it could be a convenient stop to drop the hook and have a quiet night. However, make sure before you do that to communicate with people ashore and tell them where you are. In many places in Haiti, your security will be provided by the community, as long as they know where you are and who you are.
And by the way, as long as you got a local G3 USB modem from Digicel or Natcom, there is an excellent internet connection there.
So, I left on the 21st morning for Pestel with 51 miles to go. However, thanks to the north east wind, the 51 miles became 85 and I arrived at 9:30 p.m. in complete darkness, the night being a black moon night. Fortunately, I know the area very well and managed to get into the Pestel lagoon where I anchored for an excellent night sleep.

This e-mail was delivered via satellite phone using GMN's XGate software.
Please be kind and keep your replies short.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Ile a Vache

Once again, the seas were on the rough side. Once south of Punta Salinas, we encountered a very strong squall that forced me to heave to for about two hours. But the positive side is that out of those 277 n.m. between Boca Chica and Ile a Vache, I only used the engine for nine hours.
Before getting there, I had sent several emails giving my ETA and details about Papy Jovial. But on arriving, we did not see anybody interested in us and there was no answer on the VHF. So we took a mooring on the inner basin and prepared the boat for a stay in port. I had with me a Haitian sailor on loan from Frank.
I got in touch with the manager of the Hotel, Didier Boulard, and set up an appointment for 6 p.m. I was there, or at least I thought I was there at 6 sharp, and seeing nobody left at 6:30. I had not realized that there was one hour difference with Boca Chica and I actually left at 5:30. Didier had told me anyway that he was going to be very busy durint the Carnival (Friday to Tuesday) and that he was going to have a hard time freeing himself after that. So I apologized to him the next day and hope that there will be a better time later.
Then we walked to the other side of the bay where the only other restaurant lies, "chez Jean Jean" where we eventually met the crew of Excalibur, Francois, Elizabeth, Jean-Claude and Jean. Excaliburt is a wonderful Garcia design, all aluminium with a full centre board. We spent an excellent evening and left each other with the promise of a repeat the next day.
A this point, I had given up any hope to do clearance formalities, everything being closed because of Carnival. Boats were coming in and leaving with no clearance and it seemed to be no problem.
On Friday, we had dinner again with the crew of Excalibur, but this time on their boat with a haitian dinner prepared by a couple from the village. Again, great evening.
They were leaving the next day and Frank was supposedly coming in, which he did in the afternoon. Again, I went with TiJo for dinner at Jean Jean, where we met a young couple, both school teachers, who want to settle down in Haiti, and two haitian men leaving in Canada. They were supposed to set up tent somewhere on the island, but eventually ended up spending the night aboard Papy Jovial.
I was still not able to find out exactly what Frank had in mind for the coming few days and decided to leave for Anse d'Hainaut on Sunday, come what may. I did not even visit the island, not even "Madame Bernard" which is supposed to be the "capital" of the island. That will be for another visit, hopefully not at Carnival time.
Overall, I am a little disappointed, probably because my expectations were too high. I was expecting a spot meant to accomodate cruising sailboats. In fact, the main focus of the owners of "Port Morgan" is on the hotel and it looks like they have lost completely interest in the boats. Obviously it's a business decision on which I cannot comment since I do not have the data that management has.
What is left of what was a marina are three moorings not maintained and a small wharf where one can set foot ashore. Nothing else. But a wonderful anchorage.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Calling into Puerto Rico

This was not our first choice, in fact not even the last one, but a choice that circumstances dictated to us, and it turned out to be the best possible choice. Extremely well sheltered marina with very friendly staff, the best food in the area, good internet connection and good facilities.
We got in there in the night Wednesday to Thursday (the entrance is 0.09 miles wide, unmarked within a 0.35 miles wide opening. We came in using the radar, but once in, you are in a wonderfully sheltered bay.
After daylight, we tied up at the marina and got a taxi to go to Mayaguez, the nearest big town, to clear customs and rent a car. On the way back we had lunch in a seaside restaurant, and then back to the boat to do tidying work, and have drinks and snacks at the marina.
Next morning, it turned out that the gaz bottle put in service two days ago was emtpy. Found a leak caused by a missing o ring. Went on a chase to find a gaz filling station and the o ring. Took all afternoon but gave us a tour of the surroundings. We even did a little bit of shopping and a visit to an ATM at Cabo Rojo, the neighbouring little town.
On Friday also, we were receiving the visit of Bill and Graham, two brothers from San Juan, who were coming to visit us and to participate in the first regatta ever organized by the marina. Papy Jovial is not exactly a racing boat, but we registered anyway, to participate. Of course, dinner and drinks with Grahama and Bill.
Saturday, regatta and party, music, drinks, food and friendship. Bill wanted to get back to San Juan that day but had to wait for Sunday. As for us, Sunday was touring day towards Ponce, the second largest town in Puerto Rico, and Salinas, where we had lunch in the wrong restaurant (2 hours waiting for our orders with a very average quality food). In Ponce, we visited the Bomberos museum, very dear to Scott's heart, and then the "Castillo de Serralles", which is more an out of use mansion then a museum. Very nice architecture anyway and interesting furniture, for a family
that was dominating the sugar and rhum industry in Porto Rico until the end of the last century. There are no more sugar cane in Puerto Rico and the rhum is made of molasses imported from the Dominican Republic.
On Monday, we did a little bit of work on the boat, and had the fuel extensively polished, under the very competent supervision of Joe who did a magnificent job. Hopefully the clogging of fuel lines will not be bothering me for a while.
On Tuesday, we went to San Juan, by road. We met Bill at the Sizzler restaurant near the Club Nautico and after we were shown our quarters (an apartment belonging to a friend of Bill), Scott and I were given the Bill Butler old San Juan tour. Joe who has difficulties walking and Karen who was not feeling well stayed in the apartment.
After the tour, we left for the boat of Manuel Martorell in the harbour, for a boucan of the San Juan table. At the end of the boucan, we were fortunate enough to witness the induction of Manuel in the table as brother "Tridente".
Later that evening, Bill had to take Karen to the Emergency Room and the poor lady had to spend almost all night there in not very comfortable conditions.
Anyway, we eventually got her back, and after a short visit to Walgreens and West Marine, Karen and I drove back to Puerto Real, while Joe and Scott stayed in San Juan to fly back home.
Karen and I did our last shopping, then the last meal at the marina, then the next day, we drove back to Mayaguez to surrender the car, before sailing off for Casa de Campo on Friday.

Friday, February 3, 2012

700 miles upwind

They say "gentlemen don't sail to weather". Well, for a little more than a week, I was certainly not a gentleman. We left Pestel on the 18 and sailed, motored, motor sailed around the south peninsular of Haiti to reach Cap Tiburon but did not find wind and had to wait until Vaca Island to start sailing. In the meantime, we got tossed around quite violently by choppy seas and no wind. Then we sailed for a little while roughly until Jacmel. The wind died again and we started motoring. Not for long. The motor died with all fuel lines clogged with thick and large particles of algaes.
Brother Flaco came to the rescue and cleaned up everything real well which gave us time to reach Cabo Rojo (close to the border between Haiti and Dominican Republic) where the wind came back and we started tacking, hoping to reach Punta Salinas.
But Dr Murphy was still with us, and we soon got caught in a fishing net, which 6 foot seas and 20 knots of wind, and we were drifting at around 2 knots, towards the shore, of course. We managed to fish the lines, which I thought were caught in the rudder, as it happened off Port Elizabeth in South Africa, using the dinghy anchor. Eventually we freed ourselves and resumes tacking, practically all the way to Boca Chica which we reached on the 22nd shortly before noon.
It was time to recover, clean again the Racor filter, clear the line from the propeller (not the rudder), have a nice dinner and a few beers, and we left Boca Chica on the 24th morning, thinking that we were sailing towards San Juan.
But again, we kept beating into the wind, and after several exchanges of email with Bill Butler in San Juan, we decided to call into Ponce first, and then, hearing that there were no space available due to the boat show in Ponce, we called into Puerto Real on the 26, happy to have a shorter distance to cover, and happy to get into a very well sheltered bay. But before getting there, we still had to satisfy Dr Murphy one more time by having the genoa halyard break. Fortunately, we had a spare halyard in place and we could quickly get the genoa back up.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Return to Pestel

I was not planning to stop in Pestel on my way to Porto Rico, as I had nothing to bring to the place and I did not want to create false expectations. However, the meeting with the President changed everything and I felt obligated to be the one to announce there that I had committed myself to help with organizing the Festival of the Sea in March 2013.
This was a very emotional and intense return to a place where I had left a big chunk of my heart back in the 90's.
It started with my first fan in Pestel, Drivelhomme who had travelled from Roseaux, where he works, to meet me in Grand Goave and sail with us to Pestel.
Arriving in Pestel was i
ncredible, with groups of folks dancing and chanting my name.
I anchored the boat in the lagoon, and after receiving aboard my closest friends, madame Jacques, Antonie Antoine, Antilhomme, Castrat, Claudel and many others, we went to visit the village and meet with the local priest and seek his support for the Festival of the sea.
The day ended with a fantastic dinner at madame Jacques, with plenty of local food (Riz Dion Dion, Lobster, Conch, fried plantains, etc . . . ) and entertainment provided by our brother Piper, known by o
thers as Scott Rogers.
Upon leaving, we did a very quick detour to see what was left of the little marina that I had built there (Libertalia), just to confirm that everything would have to be rebuilt.
But there is first
a lot of work to be done to prepare for the festival to make sure that the village is once again ready to welcome visitors from Port au Prince and provide accomodation, food, drinks and entertainment.

Presidential day

During the day on 14th, I was told that the President Martelly wished me to pay him a visit. And on the 15th, my good friend Mireille Lherisson picked me up at Max's place and we drove to Port au Prince. Mireille is very active running several projects in favour of the country and was hoping to make a presentation of her project to improve water quality and eradicate cholera in the country.
Late on the 15th, we had an appointment at 7 p.m., but it turned out that the obligations of the President led him to postpone the meeting up to 9 a.m. the next morning.
I spent a nice evening with Mireille and her business partner Ingenieur Guy Francois in a Petionville restaurant and I stayed for the night to be on site for the meeting.
At 9 on the 16th, we were at the president's residence. We were swiftly let in, and after a brief conversation with the first lady, the President joined us and immediately started talking about the Festival of the Sea in Pestel that I used to organize in the late 80's. The President would like me to do it again and I promised that I would do my best to have it running in March 2013. We also talked of several nautical projects that could do good for the country without having to spend a lot of money in infrastructures (create an environment more conducive to attract pleasure boats to visit Haiti, use water taxis in Port au Prince to alleviate congested road traffic, study the possibility to set up a coastal freighting system with boats that Haitian sailors can afford and run).
This meeting is likely to make me change significantly my personal planning for the coming months, if not years. However, if I could within my possibilities and abilities, bring a little bit to help in the reconstruction of Haiti, I would certainly never regret it.