Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Boat trip for M&M and Haitian Sloop photos

The weather was perfect again yesterday afternoon, and we were looking for an excuse to take the boat out for a short run. We don't usually need much of an excuse, and we had a couple of acceptable goals.

Our new expat friends down here, M&M, just moved into a new home during the New Year's holidays. We thought it would be nice to get them an image of their new place from the water, since they are not boat people ( yet). So La Gringa, Dooley Demento and I took a couple cameras and got out on the water again. We took some photos of their house and a few other things:

Their cottage is easy to spot from the water with that distinctive blue roof. Its a nice two bedroom with a great wraparound porch, steps from the water.

M&M are from the UK, and we met them quite by chance at the Conch Festival back in November. We found out they were building a home not far from ours. Since then we have become friends. They are now living in the house with the blue roof. In their long term plan, this is actually the future guest house of the home they have planned for that property to the left of it in the photo.

Nice plan, build the guest house first and then you have a rent-free place to live while you build the main house. Since we are near-neighbors, we will probably be seeing a lot of M&M in the future. At least we hope to, they are the kind of Brits that give Englishmen a good name.

We cruised down the coast from M&M's and came upon another Haitian sloop, this is very freshly arrived in the TCI:

I read that over the holidays at least five of these sloops made it over from Haiti, each one carrying a hundred and more refugees. One boat made it ashore on Grand Turk, one was intercepted offshore and towed into detention, and three made it to Provo where the passengers "disembarked" at the first opportunity. Too soon for at least one of them drowned.

This boat is still in good shape, for the most part. Mast still standing, the boom is on the rocks, still rigged.

The rudder is even still attached:

The weather was calm, and we brought our boat right up alongside to see what was on the deck.

We found that in their scramble to get off the boat in the dark, and into the bushes to hide from the Immigration police, people left a collection of personal articles on the boat. There are clothes, luggage, a lot of shoes, even burnt charcoal dumped out on the deck.

(We got pretty close to this one.)

The burnt charcoal puzzled me, until I realized someone probably had a small hibachi or similar to cook fish on the trip over. Perhaps they saved the charcoal until the last minute, and then grabbed the stove on their way into hiding.

With two of us taking photos, we were bound to get some usable shots, and we took a lot of pictures. La Gringa took this one of the mast head on the sloop.

I was thinking how these 120 or so desperate people put to sea in mid winter winds to make the trip to the TCI. It's dangerous. People die on this trip, quite often. They have to sail about 150 miles upwind, and we get some nasty waves here in the winter. There were 14 foot swells just a week ago. Looking at that mast head, I realized that the total cost of all the rigging on this boat is probably less than one decent stainless steel snap shackle for a modern cruising sailboat.

Here is a photo of the view as we left the S/V "Philomise # 2", sitting in what I am pretty sure will be her final destination. In truth, it was her only destination. Getting a boat load of people from Haiti to the TCI one time was the whole purpose of this boat. It was built for that one trip. And it made it, and is now finished.

We have heard that the Haitians pay $ 1,000. each to gamble their lives on these trips. We commonly read about these boats having 150 people on them. Would you build one of these boats and run it 150 miles, full of people, for $ 150,000? The safety equipment on board is some cellular phones.

Then you fly back to Haiti and do it again. How many boats can you build in a year...because there are about 8.5 million Haitians, and a large number of them want out. I think if you could knock together one of these boats every couple of months or so, it would be a pretty good living by most standards.

Leaving the sloop we just cruised around the area. We looked at some of the sea caves the ocean has carved into the limstone here:

Most of the small cays here have names. This is a tiny one, and it's called Cooper Jack Rock:

Since it was a beautiful day, we wandered around investigating anything we could see on the way back to the marina. We took a close look at some coral heads, for example. These are easy to spot on a nice sunny day, they first show up as dark patches in the water:

Then when you get close, you can see the bright coral growing on the tops:

And from directly overhead, the structure is pretty clear:

We drifted the boat over one to just get a feel for how close to the surface the coral head came. In this case, we were in 11 feet of water, and the depth reading over the top of the coral head was 3.8 ft, just after high tide. We have seen others within 3 feet of the surface. And they are uncharted.

On the way back into Leeward we stopped to take a look at "Bird Rock". This little cay also is full of sea caves:

I wouldn't be surprised if it's not essentially hollow, from what I have seen around here.

"Bird Rock" is a navigational landmark. It stands by itself just off the southern entrance to Leeward-Going-Through. It has a solar-powered navigational light on the top of it. And, of course, it usually has a bird.

Usually an Osprey, like this one.


Anonymous said...

I just thought of something looking at the coral and the "tight places" in and around the cays. One thing I have not seen is personal watercraft. Are they banned there? Seems like PWC's would be ideal for island hopping and exploring shallow waters. There seems to not be much grass, which is a PWC's enemy.

Anonymous said...

Another very nice post! I hope you will decide to write a book About the TCI and the people you meet there once your house is finished!

Of course the many adventures you and La Gringa share with the Island native's should be in there also, along with many of the great photograph's you folks share with all of us!

I can only imagine the trip from Haiti to the TCI in that sloop! IF we have a roof over our heads, food in the pantry and a few bucks in our pockets we are much better off than many millions of others in our world today!

Thanks for sharing your adventures with others! I am sure many of us are very envious!!

Take care--

Malicious Intent said...

Ok, I am now drooling and people are starting to notice. I think I am now addicted to your photos like I was on crack or something. Boy do they bring back memories. When I was down on the islands, I never stopped taking pictures because no matter which way you looked it was gorgeous. I guess I will have to keep coming here to get me "fix." If you stop taking pictures I may have a melt down. LOL. :)
Thanks again! Beautiful!

Anonymous said...

PWCs are legal here. We were tied up next to a PWC rental operation for a year. And we have seen a number of privately owned ones. The Premier himself has several, I believe, at the new house.

La Gringa said...

No worry... we'll never stop taking pictures!