Thursday, March 29, 2012

Last few days in Haiti

The main problem that was left was to recover the anchor and Robert Stryanin was very helpful in letting his diver come and help. He had an instrument to locate metallic objects on the bottom and the anchor was recovered in no time. I then put everything as it was before, except that with Max help, we connected the two 50 feet length of chain together. I now have 100 feet + 175 feet of rope and that should cover all situations in Haiti.
After that, we went to Port au Prince for last shopping and a last meeting of the brothers of the Coast, at Chateau
Phoenix (where Lee has a bed and breakfast), where we also met the singer Bernard Lavilliers.

On Saturday night, we had a few drinks with Berthold from GIZ, and Sala and Agathe who wanted to hitch a boat ride to Mole Saint Nicolas, which obviously was no problem at all.
And on Sunday, around 3 p.m. we left with Max, Agathe, Sala and me for Mole Saint Nicolas. Unfortunately, after a wonderful afternoon the evening turned out to be a little choppy and Agathe got sea sick. It was a bit late for her to take sea sickness medecine, but she managed to keep some of it in and she spend the rest of the night sleeping comfortably.
We arrived at Mole St Nicolas on Monday morning at 7:30, and after breakfast at Boukan Guinguette, we had another working meeting with the mayor, this time with the head of police in the city.
All that went well and after dinner with Julien at Boukan Guinguette we took a little nap and left around 10:00 p.m. for Grand Bahamas.
On Wednesday night we anchored past Coakley, and then went direct for Lucaya Waterway where we got shortly before 6:00 p.m.
We will spend a few days here, time for Max to fly back to Haiti and Karen to fly in from the U.S., and then it will be return to the US.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Conclusion of the Dominican adventure

Monday was not enough to get the boat ready to leave and we had to return to the boat yard on Tuesday to check that what we asked for was there (additional fuel tank, oars, etc . . .) and to check that the motor was running fine.

We left on Wednesday morning at 4 with a truck from the yard, towing the boat on a trailer. This trailer was for us a major problem. The yard thought that we could launch the boat and then load the trailer on top of it and sail like that to Jacmel. That trailer is slightly larger than the boat and we could not see that without running the risk of damaging the boat.

But first we had to go through the 7 hours drive to Pedernales from Santo Domingo with Dominican music playing full blast, windows open, and rather chilly wind coming through the windows. Not very comfortable for me, sitting at the back of a double cabin pick up truck in company of the 9.9 spare outboard.

Anway, having left at 4:30, we arrived in Pedernales around 10:30, and we started with good news. Max was able to negotiate with the President of the Fishermen association of Pedernales the transportation of the trailer on another boat that will travel with us.

But first we have to get permission from the Commandante of the "Marina de Guerra" to launch the boat here in Pedernales. We don't want to have to cross the border on land as we don't want to have to deal with immigration on both sides (we never entered Domrep officially) and we certainly don't want to have to deal with Haitian customs.

It took three hours and several hundreds of pesos, but eventually Max went through all that with patience and experience and we were able to launch the boat around 1:30 p.m. and leave for Jacmel in Haiti, with the trailer following us on another boat.

The trip will not be without problems. We don't know the boat and we have had no time at all to test the equipment. The electric connections have to be redone, the bilge pump is running non stop and the GPS quit quitting. Max is very experienced with speed boats, but yet has difficulties balancing the boat properly. At more than 20 knots, the boat is slapping the sea very hard. Not comfortable even if it is not a major problem.

We arrived in Jacmel before sunset and the vehicle from IZ is also there. Unfortunately and after market fender at the back makes the towing ball out of reach. They had to go and look for a local "boss" to cut the fender loose. Also the driver is not too familiar with towing and even less backing a trailer into the water and we have to make do with what we can. We end up with the boat off center and listing a good 30 degrees. The argentine military staff who have a small base in Jacmel where we got in will help us put the boat back properly on the trailer and as night falls we are on our way to Grand Goave where we will arrive with a heavy downpour, welcome as it will rinse the boat properly.

This concludes the delivery of the 22 footer from DomRep and Max can be proud to have successfully and without a hitch completed the mission.

It's now back to the all too familiar Haitian problems.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Dom Rep adventure - Part 1

It all started on friday night when Henri came to pick me up and take me back to Max. We had dinner and I went to sleep in a tent that offers wonderful protection against mosquitoes. I set my alarm clock for 4 in the morning, but rain woke me up at 1. It rained for one hour (not one drop inside the tent) and I had

a hard time going back to sleep. So at 4, I went in for breakfast and we left at 4:30 next morning. Got to Port au Prince very early, in time for juice and chocolate croissants, then Villa Creole in Petionville to board the vehicle that would take us to DomRep

with the dinghy and motor recovered from Anse d'Hainaut.

Following a dispute betw

een truck drivers, the main border crossing had been closed now for almost 10 days and many hundred of trucks are stranded there. So, our guide and driver Berthold, who is the boss of the largest german Non Government Organization in Haiti, took us through a secondary crossing with very little traffic since the road is only a lousy dirt road. The crossing was done with no more than a friendly waving of the hand and no stopping of the car, at bo

th the Haitian border cr

ossing post. At the Dominican border post, the agents were too busy on their computers and we left w

ithout checking in. That suits me fine. My passport is full, except for a half page that I want to keep as I will need it to go in and out of the Bahamas.

Eventually, we got to Santo Domingo at 5 p.m. local time and Max was able to find for us a nice local hotel at 32 dollars a night in the colonial zone. We thehen had drinks with Berthold and his charming wife Valerie, before going for dinner at the Mercure Hotel.

Next morning, after breakfast in a cafe near the hotel, we left with Berthold and Valerie for Boca Chica to return the motor and the dinghy to their owners. Got there at 11:30, spent a little time on their boat, then had lunch at the marina.

During lunch, we met with a member of a group of 4 Norwegian on a sailboat, doing circus performances and music, and I took the opportunity to talk to them about the Festival of the Sea and invite them to go there and maybe perf

orm there. We also talked Georg into leaving his boat in Grand Goave while he goes to Germany for three months.

This is very positive and hopeful, but it also stresses the urgency of having formalities and moorings in place a.s.a.p.

We then drove back to Santo Domingo, went for dinner to a local restaurant "El Meson", serving good food local and international, and back to the hotel for the night.

Max had received informations from Grand Goave that Papy Jovial had broken her mooring line, that the boat was now tied up behind the fishing boat that is anchored in front of Michel Simon's house, and that efforts were under way to recover the lost anchor and chain, set up the second mooring line, etc. . . . A little stressful and a guaranteed bad night, but

apart from providing advice on finding stuff on the boat,

nothing I can do. Just keep my fingers crossed.

Monday will be devoted by Max to run some errands about his boat building business in Grand Goave, then we will take care of the boat that we will take back to haiti hopefully on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Meanwhile, we still hear about crisis at the border and the usual ongoing political crisis in Haiti. With so much negative energy going on in the political circles that one wonders if it will ever be possible to make progress with this kind of atmosphere.

Nothing I can do about that, so the best possible reaction is to not worry and carry on as best I can.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Pestel, Goave, Mole, back to Grand Goave

Not much I can say as a lot of that time was spent working with the Haitian government, first to try and organize again a Festival of the Sea in Pestel on March 19, 2013, but also to try and use the festival as a launching pad to promote nautical tourism in Haiti and place the country again on the cruising map as a destination.
Mole St Nicolas though was a surprise to me. First of all, there are people there trying to set up welcoming bars, restaurants and hotels for tourists. Second, we found an ideal spot where a few cruising boats could safely stay provided we installed a few moorings. The ground is grassy sand and the anchor finds it very difficult to dig in. Once safely anchored, and although the wind during the day remained at 20 to 30 knots, the protection from the sea is excellent and the boat did not move one inch.
On the way back, I felt that I should have gone west of Gonave island rather then east. The winds were highly unpredictable and changing suddenly from 0 to 30 knots and from following winds to head winds. However, we got safely into Grand Goave shortly before sunrise, in time to get ready for the Friday morning meeting.
Those meetings being at government level, I can't say much about them until it becomes public information.