26 May 2011 | Ile a Vache, Haiti
Enjoying a Prestige, the local beer brewed in Port-au-Prince, while in Ile A Vache.
With our despacho for Boca Chica on the south coast of the Dominican Republic in hand, we left Manzanillo headed west. For our non-sailing friends, the intent is this: Heading east, into the prevailing winds and seas, means waves crashing into and over the bow, strong winds over the deck, and not a lot of fun. Heading west, the waves roll under the boat instead of crashing into it, and because the boat speed can be subtracted from the wind speed (vector addition for the engineers out there, magic for others), a gentle breeze coming from astern to keep the sailors cool as we sip our drinks. That's the intent.
We left Manzanillo at mid-day, as the mornings are generally calm. We still had to motor for a few hours until the wind built enough for us to sail, and then we were able to sail for about 12 hours until the wind died. To try and explain some of the magic, if there is six knots of wind blowing west, and the boat is traveling west at five knots, there is only one knot of wind blowing against the sails, which is not enough to keep a flag flapping, much less keep the sails full and push a twenty ton boat. As a result, the boat slows down and the sails flap every time the boat rolls over one of those waves. The slapping Dacron and clanking hardware make life aboard tense, as you sit and think how much it will cost to replace the sails and hardware being worn out prematurely. As a result, sails come down and the "diesel wind", AKA the main engine, starts. In our case it ran for another thirty six hours, other than a few hours flying our cruising spinnaker and moving at two and a half to three knots (you probably walk faster through the mall), and the final few hours when we were approaching Ile A Vache when we were able to sail on a close reach towards the anchorage. I guess it's not trade wind sailing, but we'd rather have the weather too calm than too rough. I guess we read too many Bruce Van Sant stories of howling trade winds and boats bashing into the seas and were left wondering where our trade winds were (We knew a high pressure ridge would result in lighter winds than the seasonal average, but what we saw was even lighter than the models predicted).
We pulled in to Port Morgan on the west end of Ile A Vache about 5 PM, with an escort of children, and grown men, in dugout canoes. Usually there were two per canoe, one to paddle and one to bail. They all had a similar hustle: did we have work for them to do, did we need a guide, did we need to buy mangoes/bread/anything else, did we have sails/line/clothes/snorkel gear we could give them. Some had stories of woe to accompany their requests, others were just silent between asking for things.
When I chartered in St. Lucia, when you decided to use the services of a "boat boy", typically they would guard you as much as possible and keep the others away, or by saying "We're with Tico" the others would leave. It didn't seem to work that way here. We did befriend Castel and Darvy, who brought us rolls from the local bakery, papaya and cashew apples, and learned to live with the other visitors who came by daily, eventually buying some lobster also.
After a great night of rest in the very calm anchorage, we took the dinghy to the dock at the Port Morgan resort and walked up to the office. Rose Marie and Didier were very accommodating and reinforced the commonsense attitude: you do what you can, you can't help everyone. Don't spoil the children, $5 is a day's wages for a man's work. Although that helped, it still tugged at our heartstrings every time someone came by, making us realize how much we have although we sometimes think we have so little. We arranged for dinner at the resort, as I felt they were due something for their help and free mooring balls, and then toured the grounds as well as the local settlement. "Green lawnmowers" were in use: goats tied to stakes. While having some fried breadfruit and hot patties in the village, the local English teacher Frederick stopped to say hi and ask where we were from. We wound up hanging out for the afternoon with him, walking through the village to the other side of the island where the Abaka resort was. The walk involved picking our way across a slightly flooded tidal area, climbing over rocks, and picking our way around the muddy cow-path areas. Watching the locals with bare feet go through the mud and water almost made me think that was a better way. Almost.
We stopped at Abaka for a beer, and it was obvious that most of the resort patrons arrived there by boat and hadn't left the resort grounds. I know I've done the same thing in Jamaica in the past when staying at a resort, so it's interesting to see things from the other side of the coin.
We made our way back to the boat and cleaned up for dinner at 7. With a decidedly un-crowded restaurant, we leisurely worked our way through sushi, broccoli soup, shrimp with rice and vegetables, and orange cake before the yawns started and we turned in after finding out we could take care of the bill in the morning. When morning came, we made our way to the office for an internet session of downloading weather, and took care of the bill - $75 including our beer and wine: not too bad, especially with the free mooring ball and internet. After looking at the weather files, we decided to leave the next morning. We visited the village one more time, where Linda gave some sewing supplies to several women she had seen sewing. After giving Castel and Darvy some money for more bread, and a few t-shirts, we cast off the mooring and set the sails for Isla Beata, the southern cape of the Dominican Republic.
Linda has posted more photos in the album and on Facebook!