11 – 17 May 2015: Ile a Vache, Haiti to Port Antonio, Jamaica ~ 18 10N 76 27W
Bags Are Packed, We’re Off to the Orphanage
I have been spending hours going through all our lockers shedding Balvenie of surplus stores, clothes, medicines and more importantly for skipper – weight! In addition we had donations from our good friends on Serafina and Feijáo who had emptied lockers when they sold their boats, Four Coconuts gave us childrens clothes in Grenada, Ruffian passed on medications from another cruiser – basically we had heaps of useful things, all for Sister Floras Orphanage which relies totally on donations.
We timed our trip to the Orphanage in the small “town” of Madame Bernard to coincide with market day, ever hopeful but not too optimistic that we might actually be able to purchase some fresh green vegetables. The sea state had not settled enough for us to take the dinghy around so it was a long walk inland with little shade or wind instead. We used the services of two local lads, Pepe and Nixon to help carry the bags and show us the way through the inland tracks, a very good decision when the actual walk was 1 1/2 hours each way and this is definitely not the sort of place that has signposts!
Finally we arrived into town, and our walk through the market confirmed my suspicions that we would not be returning with bagsful of crispy leafy greens, or any greens for that matter ~ oh well, that would have just been a bonus. We carried on through the bustling market place, round the corner, up the hill, past all the mules tied up waiting to trudge home and finally adjacent to the school we found the orphanage.
Sadly we didn’t get the opportunity to meet Sister Flora as she was on a short break to Canada at the time. Sister Flora came to Ile a Vache over 40 years ago and over time has set up this amazing orphanage, currently home to over 30 children. She accepts any child from anywhere in Haiti and because of this hundreds of orphaned or disabled children have had a chance of experiencing some love in their lives for 4 decades.
It was a very humbling sight to see over a dozen youngsters with some dreadful deformities and disabilities sitting/lying on mats, unable to do really anything else, just waiting for their short lives to pass by but grateful to be in an environment where they are loved, cared for and are part of a family. There were another dozen children, all with disabilities but able to partake in school lessons and they were welcoming and happy to see strangers who cared enough to visit. The balance of the children were the “lucky ones”, they were “only ” orphans and were across the road in the school partaking in class with all the local children. I will add here that education in Haiti is not free at any age and this of course has created a huge problem and resulted in thousands of uneducated people who can not advance in society. All up we should all give thanks we were lucky to be born in the countries we were, into caring families with loving hardworking parents.
We left all the donations with Nicholas the administrator, then he showed us around the complex ~ they have a wonderful play area, a well stocked dispensary and library, a functional but very basic kitchen, a colourful communal area and we spotted several soft toys sitting on a roof airing in the sun. All up it looks like a very well run and organised operation, but again I stress that it operates entirely off aid and donations, can’t be easy.
We headed on back down to the waterfront and into the maze of market stalls. Maybe we had missed all the good stuff, but I suspect not. There was very little produce, definitely nothing that looked freshly harvested but I did get a few sweet potatoes and I considered some rather wilted yellow peas that might have been green a week or so earlier, then I spotted a few tomatoes – all was not lost!
We found some sweet buns to nibble on, a few bread rolls for later and called it a day for shopping. The walk home was even hotter in the midday sun ~ functioning, working or exercising in this heat is debilitating and it is very easy to see why the locals do everything very very slowly!
Just Hanging Out in Haiti
We spent the rest of our time catching up on computer stuff, reading books, researching our way forward over the next few months and just waiting for the weather to ease in the Caribbean. We weren’t alone, the odd brave boat came and went but most were like us, waiting for something a little less “sporty”.
Finally our time came and we left in company with British boat Diva, Jamaica bound. We just couldn’t get a good enough window to get us down to Panama or even Providencia so we decided to move across to Jamaica where the forecast for the next week was heavy squalls and 10 inches of rain, forecast for Haiti was the same so decided to have a change of scenery to sit out the inclement weather.
Our overnight passage was relatively uneventful, the winds had lightened up but the sea state was still rather messy, nothing new there. We stayed south as long as we could to keep the wind, threw in a gybe (with pole, always a challenge) at 1am on a moonless night after we had cleared 3 ships in the shipping channel then spent the next day sailing up the eastern Jamaican coast.
By 3.30pm local time we had sailed into , dropped sails, deployed fenders and lines and tied up to the Customs Dock in Port Antonio, 186 miles covered and Jamaica discovered.