22 February 2012


As mentioned earlier: Most cruisers sail towards the Caribbean by passing Hispaniola on the North. I guess for two reasons: Bruce van Sant, a Cruising guide "guru" (he wrote the book "The Gentleman's guide to passages South - The thornless path to windward") recommends to take this route. And we learned that a lot of boats have no insurance coverage for Cuba and Haiti. No doubt, Bruce is a brilliant sailor and author. But we find him a bit difficult to understand and too much depending on weather windows. So we choose to follow another well known path: Frank Virgintinos "A thinking man's guide to voyages South - The many facets of Caribbean Cruising". Frank is publishing his books free on the web - www.freecruisingguides.com (man, I love open source!). He recommends the Windward Passage and a stop at Ile a vache in Haiti before heading to DR.

Most guys avoid Haiti for good reasons. It's the poorest country in the Western hemisphere and well known for several tragic events in the past. But Ile a Vache is different. It's situated away from the mainland and contains only a small village and has a hotel run by a French guy who once stranded here as a cruiser. And of course the most beautiful anchorage in the world: Port Morgan, it's the Caribbean as it was 50 or 80 years ago! When you enter you're immediately surrounded by kids in wooden canoes who try to sell you lobster, fish and coconuts. Fishermen still use small sailboats (no motor!) to catch their food. The water in this tiny, well protected anchorage is like a mirror at night. There are no cars, no electricity (except for the hotel) on the Island. So if you stay up at night you hear nothing than nature at its best. I'm not a very emotional guy - but when later that night the saxophone player from the hotel laid his soft jazzy background music over the anchorage I was gone! I will come back - and if not by boat I will check out the beautiful hotel from the French guy where we had an amazing breakfast with a breath taking view: http://www.port-morgan.com/

A comment for fellow cruisers: We had no safety concerns at all. The police boat checked twice a day and even a UN vessel came by - but not more than an nice hand wave. Amazingly no immigration hassle at all: Fly the Q and nobody seems to care. At least they told us it's carneval and immigration had therefore no time. According to the hotel manager the last theft from a yacht was more than 10 years ago.

And when you think it's not getting any better - there is always a surprise waiting: The next morning the guy from one of the other three boats there came over for a chit chat. If we had the right guides, maps and so on. Usual cruisers talk. After a while it turned out it was Frank Virgintino himself - the author of the guides we follow. What a tremendous surprise - you can imagine that we got an amazing package of extra information! Thanks Frank!

PS: For those who are following our spot tracker: You may ask why we sail such a strange course close to the shore and this at night? Well, we sail currently against the trade winds, means 15 - 25 knots of wind right into our face. And sadly, the sailboat which can sail against the wind is not invented yet. So normally you would tack from one side to the other, but this makes the way much longer. There is an amazing phenomena which you can use as well: During the night, the mountains cool down and produce a falling wind: a so called Catabatic wind. This wind can either calm down the trade or even turn the direction to our favor, but just around three to five miles within shore. How do we know?
A thinking man's guide to voyages South...

No comments:

Post a Comment