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Submitted by on April 10, 2013 – 4:55 pm2 Comments


 The Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA) has approved a clean wake project entitled Second Life Sails.  The project was submitted by Free Cruising Guides who will also administer it.

 The SSCA is famous for its Clean Wake policy of treating people and the environment with respect wherever its members cruise, a follow up to Buckminster Fuller’s famous admonition to leave it better than you found it.  He was famous for using public bathrooms and spending time after using them to leave them in better than found condition.  Taking this guiding principle several steps beyond, SSCA members have launched a number of pro-active projects – Clean Wake endeavors ranging from sea bird counts to a young readers’ program in Grenada to animal welfare efforts in various places to medical clinic missions in the Caribbean and the Pacific – that engage cruisers who wish to combine volunteerism with their cruising adventures.

 The Second Life Sails project is essentially a recycling project.  The fishermen of Ile à Vache, Haiti, are well known for building their own boats and for improvising the sails that power them.  They use whatever materials are available – woven plastic, tarpaulins and even bedsheets .




Loading charcoal aboard at Madame Bernard to go to market in Les Cayes

 If wishes were fishes, alas the fishermen of Haiti would not have to venture ever further to seek their catch.  Without funds for motors or the fuel to power motors they must rely on sail powered boats. 

It is from these wishes that Second Life Sails was born.  Your used sails and surplus sailcloth can be dropped at two locations: Marina ZarPar in Boca Chica DR (www.marinazarpar.com) and at Minneford Marina on City Island NY (www.minnefordmarina.com ). All costs to transport them to Ile à Vache, where the fishermen will put them to good use, will be paid for by Free Cruising Guides (www.freecruisingguides.com ).




 Ready to cast off

 The nets that are the tools of the Haitian fishing trade are hand made. A boat carries a double layered net that is a half mile – 2640 feet — long and eight feet wide. Imagine, if you are a knitter, making a scarf of that length!  It will take about a month to complete if one works at it part time, but if speed is of the essence, then two weeks will do.

 The netting of one layer has smaller holes than the other layer. This cleverly traps the desired catch while providing an escape for creatures that might otherwise damage the net, thus minimizing the amount of net repairs that may be required.

 Recycling is the order of the day not only for sail “cloth”, but for net making as well. In order for the net to stand on edge in the water, the edges require stabilization and floatation. Periodically along the edges pieces of discarded plastic are inserted (see last photo). The plastic sources might be old flipflops or plastic containers. While recycling is a way of life, the recyclers cannot keep up with the flow of recyclables.


A net a half mile long begins with

a shuttle and a single strand

Once the net is completed, it needs to be transported neatly in the boat for ease of use at the fishing grounds. The solution is simple but effective: Two uprights and a crosspiece.  The net can be pulled across the crosspiece, being straightened as it goes, and then folded on the boat, ready for use.

 Most cruisers have a stash of sails too beaten up to use, but with sufficient life left to not just throw away. If you can deliver such sails to either Boca Chica DR or City Island NY they will have a second life on a Haitian fishing boat with all that means.

A half mile of netting piling up in the shade on a summer afternoon



Loading the net neatly onto the fishing boat


For further information, contact fvirgintino@gmail.com.



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