2013 Caribbean - Dominican Republic and Haiti

Malua is at 18:24.06N 68:54.23W at Casa del Campo Marina on 24/03/2013.

I left Puerto Rico in the dark at midnight. The moon was up but there was no wind. One sets off watching the chart plotter and the depth below the keel. The reef here is more than five miles off the coast so the town lights are just dropping behind the horizon and you or still in less than 15 m of water. When you are finally outside the reef the water drops off to more than 1 km deep.
I motored all night with less than 5 knots of wind. The going was slow because there seemed to be a current against me. By 8:00 am I was abeam of Mona Island and the slight current was with me. At this rate I would reach the DR well after dark at about 10:00 pm. Not a good time to make landfall.
I had selected a beach to the east of the SE cape which has a large island Saona Island. One can tuck in on the entrance to the channel but there is an uncharted sand bar so I chose to go further NW to a beach of Las Palmillas.
It was now getting dark quickly as I motored along the shore looking for the beach. I could still see a few boats at anchor but the seemed very close to the beach. Just then a large game fishing boat appeared and followed me in. I slowed to a snails pace and he passed so I was able to follow him. At one point he must have gone into shallow water because he backed out and took a different route. Finally dropping his anchor. I stood of a good distance and dropped the hook in 1 m under the keel but still a fair way from the shore. A save anchorage and a good sleep after 18 hours and just over 100 nm covered.
Up the next day to Casa del Campo to check in. I called the marina who said come in and tie up at W dock right at the entrance. There were more than enough people to help but the dock was at station level and the surge rolled Malua, luckily the wind blew us off.
Please wait for the authorities who arrived within an hour - all seven of them. Each came on board and went down below. Very polite with just the Customs lady able to speak any English. It seems as if every one filled a different form but with the same information. I was finally presented with a form and a bill.. 93 us dollars plus tips which I gave them 30 to share.
Off to the marina office to find a berth. Sorry we are full it is the start of the fishing season. Frankly a Greek port captain could have got at least 50 more boats. They suggested I anchor just inside the entrance which I did.
Casa del Campo is the larges marina development complex I have ever seen. It has three competition golf courses with its own international airport which I understand has Tiger Woods jet at the moment. There is a tournament in a few days. The development has been carved out of the cane field and has been in existence for more than 30 years. The houses along the sea and links are the largest I have ever seen including a red ferrarie. Most people use golf carts - super size to get around.
I set off to walk to the exit and into the local town of LA Romans. A bus from the develoment stopped to give me a lift a fellow befriended me and asked what I wanted to do. We got off and approached the exit security but they would not let me out without a pass. OK get back on the bus and go to the main entrance and wait. I did and sure enough there the fellow was on his scooter. Hop on the back and off we go. We stop at a taxi rank and he negotiates a rate for me to be shown around Romans and return me to the marina for 20 us dollars.
Being Sunday the shops are closed but the people were out in front of their houses and in the parks. The younger generation were at the discos and bars. Just like any other disco,with the bouncer outside with a bevy of good looking girls hanging around. My driver took me to see the towns highlights as well as the back streets of the town. It is very rundown, poor and need a good coat of paint. Don't walk these streets if you are white and not at night. I was very lucky to see this side of the town. We then returned to Cascade Campo the complete reverse of the local town. I checked the prices of the real estate. The place on the sea front is only 20 mil US and a modest 6 bedroom place with pool only 1.45 mil US.
I dropped in to the restaurant area to see if I would have dinner. Sorry we are full you should make a reservation for tomorrow. OK Malua will offer pork chops on an orange sauce. Just right.
I checked out the next day and got my Despacho without trouble or a tip.
A magical moment on Malua.

Malua is at 18:26.875N 69:37.343W at mooring in Boca Chico on 26/03/2013

Boca Chico what at contrast from the plush resort of Casa de Compo. This place is a dump, poor with little to see as part of the Port of Andres. It is easy to follow the markers into the port then move NE towards the Marina Zarpar. You have to pass the Club Nautico and between the island. Keep VERY close to the end of their jetty because the shore of shallow water extends from the end of the island almost to their dock but once past the shallow pick up a mooring ball off the dock of Marina Zarpar. The fellow in charge of the dock Roul speaks good English and is very helpful. He took me on his moped into the village to an ATM in a chemist to try and draw cash from my Ozzie Viza and Mastercard but to no avail. His assistant Sonnie took my dispatchio and when I wanted to leave he got a new one for me for only $20. Good value and no direct dealings with the authorities who I understand are not very cooperative here.
One can walk to the actual town of Boca Chico along the beach, only during the day to see the locals and some second class US citizens having a good time in the shallow water behind the reef. The food at the restaurants is not good so don’t waste your time. The banks also did not give me any cash so I used up some of my US dollars in this dump. I seemed to have walked a long way and only saw the back streets of a very poor suburb with every house guarded by high fence and burglar bars. People sit behind these looking out into the street on which mopeds and old cars rush up and down. There are many small bars with people drinking and playing chess or dominoes with a number of girls to serve.
I only spent two nights here because to get to Santo Domingo would have been very difficult especially not wanting to change my dollars into the local currency so I asked Sonny to get a dispatchio to leave at 8:00. After a number of phone calls and off he goes on the scooter he returns well after 9:00 but with the correct paperwork. I had indicated I would be going to Salimas a big bay more than 65 nm away so it would be tight if I was to get their in the light.
A magical moment on Malua

Malua is at 18:12.88N 70:32.75W in Salinas Bay on 27/03/2013

I left Boca Chico knowing that I had 65 nm to travel and I may have to enter in the dark but from all reports and the charts It looked easy. I sailed most of the way with the wind behind but as the sun set the wind dropped. I had plotted a course all the way into the bay with a heads up to look out for the unmarked fish farm.
Captain Bob at the Marine Rescue has always insisted that when you plot your course you stand off any headland no matter if it is the one you know very well, by about a mile, just in case something goes wrong. I listened and have to this day stayed more than a mile off any headland no matter the conditions. Well! I was motoring past this headland before turning to starboard to get into its lee and enter the channel when bang bang..... the fan belt on the engine broke. Stop the engine. No wind to sail and a slight current but Malua was adrift BUT I was more than a mile off the headland. It only took me 10 minutes to get the new belt fit, it tested and to restart the engine and Malua was heading away from the rocky shore of the headland. No danger, no stress but a lesson well learnt. Stand off the shore no matter how well you know it or how deep it is.
The channel was not well lit but there are a few marker buoys which the radar picked up plus the chart was spot on. I moved cautiously in towards what appeared to be a few anchored yachts and dropped the anchor about a half mile off shore.
The next day I moved closer on shore and re-anchored before the Coast Guard appeared in a small fishing boat. He came aboard and insisted in looking around but did not even opening a cupboard. He took the dispatchio then asked for some grog. I took him to the fridge and offered him some beer in a plastic bottle which he refused. I indicated I wanted to leave the next day at 8:00 and I required a new dispatchio. I then took a long walk along the bay shore towards what I though was a town. After more than two hours no it was a very large naval base with dry dock and cadets on the parade ground. Not a great exertion.
There is essentially no village at Salinas only a run down hotel Salinas which was having a party that night. The waterfront is clean and so are the houses but it is poor. A few houses had shops with not much to offer. The fisherman’s coop seemed to be the place to be.
The next day I expected to see the Coast Guard appear on the dot of 8:00 by 9:00 still no sign so I got in the dinghy and went to the fisherman's coop with my intentions on a piece of paper. Having names written down helps with my poor pronunciation. I was informed I would have to go to the Coast Guard base at the end of the peninsular and get the dispatchio. Get a lift on the back of a motorbike with a young fellow. Down the road we went, through the less than secure gates right into the guard house of the Coast Guard. They seemed to know what I wanted but had to wait for someone. The original fellow appeared, did not say a word to me but one of the fellows started the torturous process of filling out the form. He could hardly write and for him to copy from my form to the new one was a challenge but as always I have the patience of Job in these circumstances. Finally it was complete although I did say I was stopping at Barahona but had no intentions. I just wanted to leave. Which I did by 10:30.
I had plotted a course to round Capo Rojo some time during the night. The total distance to my next destination was 220 nm a two nighter at the current wind and speed.
That afternoon the wind came up and blew Malua along my intended route which was a run. More importantly the swell came up because that part of the coast is a lee shore for the swell to come along the south of Puerto Rico and the DR. And did the swell build. It was the biggest swell I have seen since the Souther Ocean! At sun set the wind was well over the 25 knot range, I had taken in two reefs and no headsail and was surfing down the long swell reaching speeds well over 8 knots. The top speed reached was 10.4 knots as I surfed down a wave in the near darkness. It was exciting and a bit scary but Malua and I handled it well. I was hand steering for more than five hours because I could not depend on the auto-pilot handeling the conditions. My shoulders were sore when I finally switched on the auto-pilot again. I can tell you I gave Capo Rojo more than 5 miles distance as I rounded it just after 2 am.
The wind started to drop as did the swell so I was able to open up the foresail and settle into a pleasant sail down wind. I also set the Watch Commander for a few 27 minute sleeps. I took a few before the sun rose and we moved down the coast by which time the wind had dropped off.
Now the challenge was to enter the Baie des Cayes on my way to Ille a Vache. I knew I would not make it by sun set so I set myself an anchorage some way along the island NW coast hopefully out of the swell. I had been warned about the many fishing nets in that area so as I reached the shallower water I slowed Malua down to about 2 knots put on all the forward lights and hoped I would be able to see the plastic bottles of the buoys before I hit one. With a bit of luck and good vigilance I dropped the anchor on the NW corner of the island well into the large bay but not far enough in to get out of the swell. Fortunately the wind was against the swell so Malua sat quite calmly as I had a great meal and a good sleep.
A magical moment on Malua

Ille a Vache Haiti

Malua is at 18:06.40N 73:41.68W at Port Margan on the island of Ille a Vache Haiti  See the Photos here

All the crusers that have come this way have enthused about this delightful island and its people. It is off the coast of souther Haiti and is not influenced by the mainland. In fact the authorities dont seem to have arrived. When you drop anchor - keep to the port side as you enter the bay there are a swarm of young fellows in or on all forms of anything that can float. From good dugout canoes, surfboards, fiberglass row boats to inflatables. They all have a story. Some of the more market orientated have a resume and references. I had been told by Outside - Ian and Wendy to look out for two fellows. I identified one Pe Pe who agreed to take me to the market on Monday morning. That is a story in itself.
Kramer is a fellow who is receiving money from Slow Dancing a Canadian couple to build a bar and I was instructed to have a look and take some picture to report progress. There has been and he has cast a central pillar for the roof and purchased some plywood for the cupboards and bar area. Things are slow but he has done what he can with the money so far.
These people are very poor and want to do any sort of work on a yacht to get some funds to advance themselves. Some are helpful and willing but the majority just come to beg. i walked into the hills behind the local French hotel to find four or five of the youngsters in amongst the hotels garbage picking it over for something to eat. I now know why more than one asked if they could take my garbage. Not a good sight.
I had arranged for Pe Pe to take me to the market at the larger town some way away along the sea shore. I had in fact not asked how long it would take to walk but we set off at 8:00. He walked fast and I had to struggle to keep up. Up hill and down dale, along the coast in the soft sand and then through the mangroves. We stopped for a drink of water from a hand operated pump then on towards the market. After two hours I knew we were getting close because more people were walking the same path. On the outskirts there were a few people with live animals ready to be sold and taken home then just out of the market the horse and donkey parking lot. More than a hundred animals just standing in the sun waiting for their owners to return.
The market is a typical African/Caribbean poor market. Open stalls or some covered stalls with each vendor displaying a small range of goods. I first had to stop at the money changer to turn my US dollars into the local Gourd 1=40 I could then purchase the onions I was seeking plus tomatoes and ripe mangoes. I got a good selection for my 10 dollars. We returned to the money changer for a beer for the young fellow and a coke - yes a US Coke for me.
Be Be had arranged that we would return by sail taxi to Port Morgan in one of the local sail boats. All wooden made with local timber. The frames selected from a tree with the right bend to fit the inside. They are mostly water proof but don’t have much free board especially when you put 16 people in then plus all their market purchase which ranged from fuel, net fibre to fix the fishing nets, a piece of cloth, soap and an assortment of smaller food items including spices.
We set off and only hoisted the foresail because the wind was quite strong and we where going down wind. We kept quite close to the coast and far less than one mile off the two major headlands but there again being close in this case meant that most people if they could swim would make it to the shore in the event of a mishap. After almost an hour we turned into Port Morgan and Malua was pointed out to the passengers by Pe Pe as my yacht in which I had sailed from Australia. I don’t think many knew where Australia is. It was a great experience.
On the shore of the bay there were two boats being built in the traditional fashion used for centuries. The shipright used an axe, and adz and a hand saw plus his hammer and a few nails. The dug out conoe which was having it final coat of paint was almost ready for launching. I watched as the fellow took a tree branch shaped it into a point then cut off the point and then cut into the branch to form a brush for the paint. It was an amazing transformation from stick to paint brush which worked as well as any badger haired brush and readily available at no cost.
Ille a Vache has been a great experience to step back in time to a small village using sailing boats as transport, making their own boats, No electricity and a great desire to improve themselves.
A magical moment on Malua.
Tomorrow off to Cuba.

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