Flora Flotilla February 2013!
The Flotilla, which consisted of 4 boats, departed from Boca Chica on the 9th of February. There was various stops along the way. Three boats were not able to depart with us, two because of engine problems and one due to illness of the owner.
Other boats came down from the Bahamas and from the United States to join the flotilla at Ile a Vache. All together, there was more than 20 boats anchored in the bay at Ile a Vache; many of whom had brought supplies for the orphanage of Sister Flora.
Over the following week, boats discharged their “cargos” which were taken up to the orphanage and received by Sister Flora with great humility and gratitude.
Many of the boats participated in shoreside activities at CaiCoq and dinner with live music was a big success with many attending. The dinner and the band were paid for by Marina Zar Par of Boca Chica, DR; the organizer of the event.
There was also a free auction of fishing supplies that was attended by local fisherman. At the auction, used sails and other fishing gear was given to the auction winners.
Ile a Vache is a wonderful island off the southwest Coast of Haiti and more and more cruisers call at the island each year. It is both safe and interesting. A local resident, Sam Altema, has acted over the years as a host for the cruising boats; helping with repairs and local tours and information.
The island is changing and while prior there was no electric or cars on the island, there are now a few generator and inverter installations. There are also a few motor bikes on the island; most of which are in the capital of Madame Bernard.
One of the complaints that came up recently that I addressed with the mayor of the island is a fellow named WEBSTER who works for SEMANAH; the marina safety agency of Haiti. He is responsible to ensure the safety of commercial boats and ferries as to safety gear and ot her safety matters. Starting a few months ago, he began to visit the anchored boats and demanded that they pay $2.18 US PER TON for a safety check. Some paid and were given a receipt. However, when this author checked with the governemental authorities in Haiti, there is no requirement that this fee be paid. When I met with the mayor of Ile a Vache, I asked that he use his office to bring pressure to bear to prevent “WEBSTER” from continuiing the practice. He agreed and to the time that I departed Webster was no where to be seen. Cruising boats should be advised that if they are visited by WEBSTER OR SEMANAH they may politely decline to make payment as they are not required to pay under the law.
To clear into Haiti while at Ile a Vache, one must go to the mainland at Les Cayes and pay $10 US per person to clear in; a one time fee that includes clearing out. If cruisers do not want to cross the bay to go to the mainland, they can arrange to pay somone to take the passports for them. Because there were so many boats anchored in the bay, Immigration came from Les Cayes and went from boat to boat to stamp passports. They charged $20 per passport due to the cost of gasoline for the official boat. Never in 18 years have I seen Immigration come to the island; however the number of boats anchored at CaiCoq was an all time high for the island.
The mayor of the island had also instituted a $5 US charge per boat for “maintenance of the beach” at CaiCoq. Some paid the $5 per boat; one time charge. I explained to the mayor that instituting charges that come as a surprise, regardless of the intent of the charge, is not the best practice to employ if the island wants to encourage cruising traffic. He agreed to suspend the charge and to review it and if the island feels it is necessary to avise Sam Altema who will keep me advised so that I can report any change to Noonsite that would impact future cruisers who may visit the island.
While water and internet are not available on the island, they are available with all other normal services at the mainland town of Les Cayes. ATM machines, welders and fabricators, supermarkets and other supplies and repairs are available there. Inasmuch as Les Cayes does not have a protected anchorage, many choose to go to Les Cayes in the many daily ferries that make the trip.
For further information about Ile A Vache and Les Cayes, cruisers may contact me at fvirgintino@gmail. The Cruising Guide to Haiti is available free at www.freecruisingguide.com and also in eformat bookform at Amazon.com and other ebook sellers.