Thursday, February 23, 2017

53-54. New Year, New Plan

Everyone starts the new year with a fresh outlook, an anticipation for what is to come and a hope for dreams to be fulfilled.  We spend time reflecting on all we’ve accomplished the past year and are always amazed at everything that has changed. This year may be the best one yet (I might say that every year and am rarely disappointed :) 
We’ve had a few circumstances that have changed what we thought our path would be but we are nonetheless excited for this next chapter.  We left the Caribbean island chain and headed west with the intention of traveling with our friends, Take Two, through the ABCs, Columbia and on to the east coast of Central America.  While in Aruba a few things transpired with our commercial property which required our attention back home.  We spent a few days mourning the death of our original plan and the fact that our friends would be heading on without us but finally made peace with what we needed to responsibly do.  So we made a drastic course change and began our trek back to the states.  It is funny how simple that sentence is to write but it is not exactly simple to do!

Our 4 day passage from Aruba to Haiti was the best passage we’ve ever had!  The sea state was beautifully comfortable.  
The air was getting cooler as we headed north.  And on our second day at sea we had a pod of at least 50 dolphins play at our bow and in our wake for 30 minutes.  
It was our longest dolphin encounter yet and they were showing off all their aerial skills.  

    First land in 4 days.
We sailed to a small island off the southern coast of Haiti, Ile a Vache.  The local fishing boats that were dugout canoes with sails made from plastic met us at the cut.  
They skillfully sailed all around us as we made our way into the bay.  The younger boys paddled their dugouts to us as we began setting our anchor, offering their services for boat work, laundry, shopping, guides to town and anything else you can imagine.  
We probably had 8 little boats with close to 20 boys come by for a visit within our first hour here.  They were mostly interested in just meeting us, each politely introducing themselves and practicing their English.  We immediately fell in love with this little piece of paradise.  
Once we were settled in, Andrew headed out to get the scoop on the local activities since we had only a few hours to figure out how we would ring in the New Year.  He did not disappoint.  He scored us an invite to a local’s house for dinner and the boat boys told us of their celebration going on in town so we quickly cleaned up and headed out for our first night in Haiti.  A couple local missionaries, boaters and locals were meeting at the local watering hole before heading up to our host’s home for the evening.  Everyone was so friendly and the girls quickly made new friends to play with.  
After a few beers, we began our trek to the other side of the island.  After cresting the ridge on what can barely be described as a trail, Joe met us to lead the rest of the way.  He is a young 20 something with a beautiful English accent and a huge smile.  He welcomed all of us to his home where he, his girlfriend and mother had prepared an amazing meal.  Later he was telling me they had originally planned for 6 for dinner, after his morning walk to town it grew to 9, a few more friends made it 12 and then they included us without even meeting us.  Amazing hearts-  we don't even do that in the states, where we have everything at our fingertips, but here on this island with no running water, limited electricity and in a kitchen with two burners, these 3 strangers made a dinner for 16.  Paige and I joined Lesley, Joe’s mom who was visiting from Europe for a few weeks, and Claudia, Joe’s girlfriend who spoke very little English, in the kitchen to help finish things up.  We watched as Lesley juggled pots on the burners to keep everything warm and we spread the 16 plates around on the floor so we could dish everything up to make sure everyone got some of everything.  
It was such a humbling night to be served but such sweet people and leave the evening having friends in a country that a week prior I had never intended on visiting.  Our genuine Haitian experience continued as we joined the locals at their Community Center for dancing, dominoes tournament, and drinks before the countdown.  
    Happy New Year!
When we left the states last year we thought we would have lots of experiences with remote areas and new people but nothing would compare with our time in Ile a Vache.  We were welcomed with open arms by everyone we met.  The “harbormaster” brought us a flask of Haitian Rum to welcome us to his home.  The locals took Andrew on a hike to show him the island.  
 
    That's Abby :)
Visitors almost hourly checking in to see if we needed help with anything.  It was beautiful, although the girls were a little tired of being stared at; it is the cross they bear ;)
We spent our last day in Haiti adventuring out to the fishermen’s island.  
 
It is a tiny spit of land between Haiti mainland and Ill a Vache populated with thatch huts and lean-to shacks that house the fisherman during the week.  We visited on the Haitian Independence Day so most everyone was back home celebrating with family, the one gentleman still there working on his boat said we were welcome to look around.  So we did just that.  The beach is littered with everything that blows in from the south.  
The fisherman collect anything that would be useful on their skiffs and discard the rest in a big pile.  If a hut falls over, they rebuild.  If your fishing line breaks, you take a few hours and untangle the mess of line that washed ashore.  There is one large communal fire pit for cooking, warding off the relentless mosquitos and keeping warm when the sun sets.  He probably thought we were so strange collecting the beautiful shells that littered the beach.  
It is so hard to imagine living their lifestyle, only having what you can catch and sell, and not knowing if you will make enough to feed your family.  But at the same time I can see how simple and easy that life would be, no further concerns than your immediate needs.  The smiles on every face are genuine, their happiness comes from something other than the stuff they surround themselves with and it was a perfect reminder as we head back to the land of plenty!  
 
    Another beautiful little rock we explored.
    Hangin' out.  Paige showing sailing videos.
    Our last night in Haiti, enjoying an evening at Reit's.

We were so sad to leave and Sky repeatedly said how she plans to come back someday soon to help rebuild the houses lost in Hurricane Matthew and work with the kids on their English as she tries to learn creole and French.  Not a bad goal in my book!
    Beautiful Ile a Vache.

Back on the open water we were a bit nervous about the passage to the Bahamas.  Although Ill a Vache was welcoming, the rest of the waters around Haiti are not always the friendliest!  We even had a motor powered fishing vessel approach us with three men aboard just as the sun was coming up.  We were a few miles off shore and they didn't seem to be in distress so we put the pedal to the metal and wave surfed straight through the breakers that were too big for them to make a clean break for it.  Better safe than sorry!  
    Sunset means we are closer to safe waters.
Our two day passage to the southernmost Bahamian island was smooth and easy.  We motored most the way and the seas were so calm that the autopilot did most the work.  
 
    You know if I can bake it must be really calm!
It was so still that we even had the laptop set up in the cockpit for a movie with dinner, we’ve never been able to do that before!  We were so into the Hunger Games that we thought the roar of the Coast Guard vessel approaching us was actually part of the sound track!  Needless to say, we had to pause the movie and put our business pants on :) The sailors aboard were very professional, if not a little bit curious about this family sailing from Haiti to the Bahamas, a path usually traveled by those smuggling either people or drugs.  
    Lights from the Coast Guard vessel trailing us.
They rode alongside us for over an hour before leaving us just a mile from shore to get anchored and promised to visit again if they needed anything else - translation, “we will be by to board and inspect your vessel later.”  No sooner did we have the hook down and pizza dough in the oven then they came to visit again.  This time 4 of the 6 came aboard and you would think they had never been on a small boat before.  They were bumping and tripping around like bulls in a China shop.  The boots they are required to polish daily left plenty of scuff marks all over Abby and they broke a few items moving through the cabin, but all in all it was a fairly pleasant inspection.  We passed with flying colors!  And they happily used us as a training exercise for their 2 newbies onboard.  
Welcome back to the Bahamas!  2017 has started off with a bang!

Things learned aboard this week:
We have so much to be thankful for and none of it has to be stuff.  I am repeatedly reminded of what an amazing experience this is for us and the girls.  This week in particular did a great job of giving everyone a perspective check.  We will always love Ill A Vache!
We make the plans but someone bigger is steering this ship!   We miss our friends aboard Take Two so much and so many others (Aqua Vida, Vidora, Find Us, Paaion Rebel) whose paths we would have crossed again.  I don't know why our plans had to change.  But I do know that His plans are always better than I can dream so I am excited to see what lies ahead!

Be sure to not miss the next update!  It will include us completing our Caribbean loop, Paige’s 14th birthday, another amazing dolphin encounter and we may even hit a reef!  Stay tuned :)

2 comments:

  1. It was great getting to know you Andrew and Paige..and your two beautiful girls! Harley and I wish you nothing but the very best in your future endeavours. Hope our paths cross again some day! Janice and Harley xo

    ReplyDelete