Mon 12 Apr 2010 23:43
The next passage was a 350 mile trip up to Cuba, which would take us 2 1/2
days, however, we had a problem. With the weather systems we described
above, it was impossible to find a weather window that was large enough to
get west; this was exacerbated by the fact that the systems were coming from
the west, and so as we headed west, we shortened the time between the
fronts. On doing the research, I thought that we might be able to get to the
very edge of the Dominican Republic and shelter up in a mangrove swamp that
I had seen from the charts. This would get us 70 miles or so further on, but
still did not really give us a long enough weather window, however, my
biggest concern was that there were lots of reports of Haitians coming
across the boarder with any means possible, and given that we would be
anchored only 3 miles or so from the Haitian boarder for the best part of 24
hours, I was a little concerned. We had heard many stories of yachts being
boarded and at best being ransacked on the coast of Haiti, and so we were
understandably a little nervous. I sought out the marina manager, who in
turn suggested that I go to speak to a boat that had delivered aid into
Haiti a couple of times. So, off I marched to speak to the skipper of a
motor yacht called the 'jesus gypsy', who had gone in to a couple of bays in
Haiti to deliver aid. He suggested that there was a bay on the top north
west tip of Haiti that was a Christian community, and that when he went in
with the aid, he was perfectly safe. He gave the name and mobile number of a
'pastor kenna', who, if we went there and had issues, would help us out. So,
with no small degree of apprehension, we decided to head off to Mole, sit it
out whilst a front went through and then head on our way to Haiti.

We crossed the Haitian boarder in the dead of night, and, keeping 10 miles
or so off the coast ran parallel to it, but keeping a very good lookout for
any potential boats that could board us. As the dawn rose, we came up to an
island with the forbidding name of Ile du Tortue, and we planned to take the
passage between there an the mainland. Jen spotted around 4 whales 'blowing'
dead ahead of us...we had been hoping to see whales along this coast line,
which is their breeding area; sadly they dived before we got to them. As we
came into the passage, we started to see the odd sail on the horizon, which
turned into many sails....not, as we thought, cruising yachts, but as we got
closer, we could see that they were local fishing boats. As we went past,
many of them diverted to see us....and it was at this point that we were
very nervous - if there was bad intent, this would be when we would get
boarded. But, none of it...they were all amazingly smiley, and, it would
seem that it was a saturday, and that most of the boats were acting as
ferries and taking inhabitants from the Island to the town on the mainland.
This encouraged us a lot - clearly they were not used to seeing yachts,
however, they all seemed genuinely friendly.


We arrived in the bay of Mole before dark, still with no uncertain degree of
concern. We were clearly a novelty, as people came out of their houses to
see us, some of the local fishermen rowed up to us, and we even had someone
swimming out half a mile to sell us a conch shell, but all in all, they
seemed friendly. I am not sure why, but perhaps most encouraging, from our
anchorage, we heard sounds of a rather ropey village orchestra, who sounded
like they might be practising for tomorrows church....hopefully they were
religious enough not to chop us up into small pieces! So, with night
approaching, I rigged up a full set of deck lights that we could quickly
turn on if we heard anything, we locked ourselves in and I laid out our full
arsenal of flares - the mini flares in particular being ready and armed.
Night fell, and we fell into an apprehensive but very tired sleep!

We woke up the next morning having heard nothing all night, and, perhaps
best of all, having not been chopped up into small pieces! The next morning
we were rowed past many times by the fishermen in the bay...most of whom
were rather less interested in us, but by our hugely tall mast! We thought
that our best bet would be to contact Pastor Kenna, but his mobile number
that we had been given by the 'jesus gypsy' did not work, and having heard
church bells, it would seem that he was at work, given that it was a sunday.
Whilst sorting the boat out, we were hailed by a local boat, who had the
local police and some form of local immigration with them. We were expecting
to be fleeced for large amounts of money, and in particular were warned that
in Cap Haitian (the town that we sailed past), that they would expect more
than $200 in bribe money. They brought an interpreter along who spoke very
basic english, and in our pigeon french, we were able to communicate. They
proved to be absolutely charming - it turns out that the only
thing that they were most keen for us to do was to tell the rest of the
cruising community what a lovely bay it was, and to come along to visit -
clearly we were the first sailing boat into the village in a very long

We bargained for a lift onto land by one of the local fishermen (on the
basis that we thought that even if we locked our dinghy up, it would be
unlikely to be there when we got back!), who rowed us with his 3 other
assistants. It was our intention to meet Pastor Kenna, who would give us a
safe tour around the local village. It turns out that he was still on god
duty, and so we asked the fisherman to show us around. Contrary to all our
previous fears, everyone was fantastically friendly, and whilst we were a
bit of a novelty (particularly with the local kids), we were either smiled
at or ignored.

The population of Mole had a very basic life which reminded me of a rural
African village - not a Caribbean island that was only a few hundred miles
from the US. It seemed that their main source of income was through charcoal
trading. We had seen a few fires on the hillsides as we sailed along the
coast line, and it now became clear that they were for charcoal smoking.
These were bought down by donkey to the village, who stocked up their boats
to the very brim, and sailed them down to Port au Prince where they traded


We were able to see many of the local fishing boats, several of which
were beached. To repair their boats, they were dragged up the beach with a
block and tackle. They were all fashioned from the local wood, whose planks
were carved out literally by a saw and axe. We saw one being repaired, with
a plank being replaced. They were caulking it with nylon caulking, which
seemed to have come from unthreaded nylon jumper, which was then sealed with
pitch when finished. It would seem that fuel is such a rarity/expense that
it does not warrant use. In one of the classic case of horrendously
misguided aid, we saw 5 or 6 yellow motor boats which looked to be brand new
on the beach. When we spoke to the fisherman giving us the guided tour, it
seems that they were given to them by a local charity, and that they had
also given large engines that were locked in a shed by the beach....probably
£100k plus of equipment....but they had never and would never be used
because the fuel was just too expensive...why use fuel when you can use the
Boat repair the old way!
The yellow boats are brand new and donated misguidedly by a christian charity

As the front came in, we moved to a safer anchorage 1/2 a mile into the
beautiful bay. This was opposite an even more rural village, and we were
clearly a source of excitement. One fisherman came by offering us
lobster.....we bought 2 for $5....I suspect more than we needed to pay, but
they were all so fantastically friendly and pleased to see us, that one was
more than happy to help them in probably the best way we could. So, if
anyone is reading this and planning on a Caribbean tour, I can very much
recommend Mole in Haiti - it will give you an experience like no other, and
at the moment, they are very keen to see you, and you certainly will not get
chopped up!!
Random cannon buried in the village beach