A bit of bad luck on our way to Cuba

Cuba was about 737 n.m. (1,326 km) away so we expected the trip to take one week. On our first day we noticed that our average speed was slower than it normally was. This was because we had a lot of algae and barnacles growing under the boat. Erwin said that he would have to clean the bottom of the boat the very first chance we can anchor in clear waters.

On the third night at about 3:00 a.m. just when Erwin dozed off to sleep he was awakened by a squeaking sound. When he looked where the sound was coming from he saw a fishing buoy made up of a big styrofoam box attached to a rope that was hitting the side of the boat. We sailed over a fishing net and the rope tied to the buoy was wrapped around the kiel. We were not even close to the shore but since it is becoming more difficult for the fishermen to catch fish they are forced to set their nets far from the shore. Erwin tried to turn the boat around but that didn’t work and we couldn’t go forward or backward so we were stuck. Erwin said he would have to cut the rope but when he did this, the engine that was on reverse suddenly stopped because the rope got caught in the propeller. 😬 He said that if he changed the gear of the engine to forward hopefully we would come loose and sure enough, we did. 😄 We did feel sorry for the fisherman who probably searched for holurs for his fishing buoy and couldn’t find it there because it was floating somewhere halfway in the Caribbean. The next day we saw that there was something dragging behind the boat and when Erwin fished it out, it was a large piece of net which he cut off. Erwin said that once we were anchored he would also have to check the propeller because he thought there was still a small piece of rope left which he needed to remove.

On the fifth day Erwin went down to the galley after lunch and saw that the floor was wet. He saw that water was seeping out from underneath the bathroom door and when he opened the door liters of hot water splashed in the saloon like a big wave. Since the water was hot Erwin knew immediately that it was water from the boiler and not sea water. So we had to turn off the water pressure to stop it from leaking. What a waste! We were being frugal with our water like washing ourselves using a bowl of water and a washcloth to save on water and now at least 50 liters of water spilled literally down the drain. 😩 This was another problem Erwin had to solve once we anchored.

Since Erwin needed to do a few things and he also wanted to have a good night’s rest we decided to make a pitstop in Ile a Vache, Haiti and anchor there for two nights. We arrived in Ile a Vache just before sunset and when we approached the bay we were “attacked” by dozens of locals paddling on their wooden canoes offering their services or selling something. We haven’t even dropped our anchor yet and there were already five to six canoes that clung on both sides of our boat. The services offered were cleaning the bottom of the boat, laundry, garbage disposal, watching your dinghy, etc. The people were friendly but they didn’t take NO easily for an answer and so it was very tiring to constantly say NO politely every time somebody would try to sell something. They were very persistent and would hang beside the boat for 20-30 minutes before they would finally leave. But once one person left, the next one would already come along and so you start all over again. It was impossible to sit quietly outside and if you stayed inside the boat they would call to you and knock on the boat until you came out.

The problem with the leakage was a water hose that ruptured but luckily we had a spare hose and Erwin was able to replace this. The small piece of rope that Erwin thought was still stuck on the propeller turned out to be a big bundle of rope. It was a wonder that the propeller still worked.

Rope caught in the propeller

Since Erwin was planning to clean the bottom of the boat we made use of the services of two locals Pepe and David. They started working at 10:30 a.m. and at 1:00 p.m. Pepe told Erwin he wasn’t feeling well. When Erwin asked what was wrong with him he said he hadn’t eaten anything that morning. It’s a good thing he didn’t pass out while he was swimming under the boat. So they all took a break and had a tasty ravioli for lunch. The three of them worked for about four hours and when they were done Erwin was glad he didn’t have to do all the work by himself. In the afternoon a fisherman paddled by our boat and we bought our dinner of two large lobsters for 4 US$ from him.

Pepe and David

First Encounter with Corruption

The day we arrived in Ile a Vache an immigration officer went alongside our boat with his rubber boat and asked how long we were staying. We said we were just staying for one or two nights and we asked if it would be necessary to clear in. He said that we didn’t have to clear in but only needed to fill in a form to register and pay 5US$ if we were staying 1-5 days. Once all forms were filled in he asked if we could give him some motor oil because he saw that we had the same outboard engine as he had. We only had one bottle of motor oil which we needed ourselves but to show our goodwill Erwin gave him 1/3 of what we had.

We were planning to depart on the third day but since the winds were too strong (30-40 knots) we were forced to stay until the wind intensity decreased. That afternoon the immigration officer together with a friend of his came alongside our boat. We noticed that the immigration officer was drunk. He told us that he needed to take our passports and put a stamp on it. We said that he told us the day we arrived that it was not needed for us to clear in and we also haven’t stepped foot on land. He started talking about how he had the authority to fine a boat hundreds of dollars if he wanted to. It took a while for us to understand what his intentions were because what he actually wanted was for us to give him money otherwise he would make it very difficult for us. He also told us not to tell anyone else about this. While he was talking to us he said he needed to pee and so he did on the side of our boat. We first didn’t know how to react to the situation because this was the first time we encountered corruption. He was clearly intimidating us and since we were forced to anchor there for a longer time we gave him 20 US$ which was the amount he asked for. We could see that his friend was not comfortable with the situation but didn’t say anything. His friend just shook my hand before they left as though to show that he was ashamed or sorry.

The next day we met one of the cruisers Pastor Raymond Bideux an American minister who had been living in Haiti for 30 years. We told him what happened and he said that if the man came back to give us trouble that we should call him because he knew his superiors. Raymond invited us to join him and he showed us the inland and the village where he does his humanitarian work. He also organized a dinner That evening in a local restaurant with all the cruisers that were anchored at the bay.

With Pastor Raymond

Haiti is probably the poorest country we have seen until now. The fishermen use a small sailing boat to fish because they cannot afford an engine and the locals use a dry coconut branch as a paddle for their wooden canoes. Locals would constantly try to sell something and if you are not interested to buy then they would beg for food, T-shirts, ropes or anything else they can think of.