The Tinii

It's plural for Tinius, because we said so.


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Jacmel

Ah, Jacmel

When people think of Haiti, they think of Port-Au-Prince during the earthquake. Port-Au-Prince is one giant mess. The traffic is indescribable, it smells horrific, and there is a lot of poverty everywhere. The good news is that Port is one city in the whole, entire country. We already blogged about the magical city of Cap-Haitien, but there is another city that is just as magical. Way back in 2010, we first laid eyes on Haiti. It was only three months after the earthquake and things were still crazy sad. Even then, however, Jacmel felt special. Fast forward four years and up the special level by at least a hundred and you’ve got Jacmel today.  Side note: If you don’t want my whole “why Jacmel is magical” thing then skip to the summary at the end.

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Port-Au-Prince can get you down for sure. Then you go to Jacmel and you swell with hope for what Haiti could be. There’s a lot of development going on, including this artsy little boardwalk.

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Jacmel is an extremely artsy town. If Haiti had hipsters, they’d live in Jacmel. It’s is famous for it’s paper mache art. Our good friends Josh & Chandler run an artisan coop called Haiti Design Coop. They work with a paper mache artisan from Jacmel who makes cow skulls. There’s a lot of talent going on in this town.

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It’d definitely a town where you can spend the afternoon walking the streets, visiting artisans, and hanging on the beach. The downtown beach is what you would expect. The boardwalk is lovely, but it’s a little trashy. If you want a good, clean beach – head east about 15 minutes. There are some hotels and public beaches down that direction that are excellent. We used the beach just past Hotel L’Amitie where there are a few bungalows and some tables. The bungalows are available for rent. We were told $50/night for 4 people. They are simple, but clean and have fans. The restaurant and beach there is great so I’d recommend it as a hang out spot for sure.

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The one thing you absolutely have to do, hands down, is Bassin Bleu.

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I mean, this is real life, ya’ll. Getting there is a big adventure. These are – honest to God – the best directions I can give you. Head west from downtown any way you can toward the river bed. Cross said riverbed. If you aren’t sure about crossing puddles/the ACTUAL river just wait and watch motos go through or ask if your car will make it. People are helpful. Once you get through the river, ask where Bassin Bleu is. There are a million small roadways through the river bed. People will have to just point you in the right direction. Once you reach the tree line there is a sign. Follow the road up and there are signs the whole way! There is a little building once you get there and you’ll have to pay 100 gourdes per person to visit. You’ll also have to pick out a guide that you’ll need to tip at the end.

You pass a few small pools and waterfalls on the way. The guides are helpful and informative and will point everything out and help you get across.

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The final trek requires half climbing down a boulder with assistance from a rope and the guides. Once you get down, though, you get some breathtaking views of the basin.

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The water is freezing and suuuuuper deep. Haitains will tell you all about the zombies and mermaids that live at the bottom. It’s deep enough to do some serious cliff jumping.

Funny story – in 2010 I tried jump from the top. I got up there and froze. NOTHING could have made me jump off that cliff and the more I waited the worse it got. Finally, Josh climbed up and shoved me off the cliff rescued me.

Summary: Here’s a brief overview of what we loved about Jacmel. I’m only including what I’ve experienced, where I’ve stayed, etc. but there is plenty more!

Where to Stay:

  • Hotel L’Amitie – We stayed here for $57/night including breakfast. It’s right on the beach. The rooms are super simple but clean. There wasn’t a working phone at the time so we had to stop by and ask about rooms and pricing.
  • Hotel Cyvadier – This place rocked. We stayed here for $67/night including breakfast. It’s back in a cool little cove with a small beach area. The grounds are fantastic and the rooms were nice.
  • Hotel Florita – We didn’t stay here but we did hang out a bit. It’s amazing. You have to stop by just to grab a drink. It’s in an old historic building downtown and it feels like the sort of place Hemmingway would get drunk at and write.
  • Hotel Kabic Beach Club – We tried to stay here for $110/night but our reservation got mixed up. It’s nice, right across from the beach, and the owner is super sweet.

Where to Eat:

  • Jacmel Pizzeria – This place is downtown within walking distance of Florita and the boardwalk. They have pizza, Mexican, and a good breakfast.
  • Madame Barbeque – this place is very Haitian. Right at the entrance to Hotel Cyvadier there is a small building that says “Cyvadier Market”. Madame BBQ is there. It is delicious! Don’t be intimidated or nervous. She grills barbeque chicken and a plate comes with fries and a salad for $5. You can run in the little market and grab a drink.
  • Hotel Florita – The food here was fine. Limited menu though. Go for the atmosphere.
  • Bungalows on the Beach – These bungalows are right down the beach from Hotel L’Amitie. DELICIOUS food and drinks. This is the place to go for fresh seafood.
  • The Vatican – This is hands down one of the coolest bars I have ever been to ANYWHERE. Here is the problem. I don’t know how to tell you to find it. Maybe that adds to the awesomeness. It’s downtown near a park and close to the Jacmel market. It’s stuck between two buildings so have fun trying to locate it.

 

 

 

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The Citadelle (be prepared for too many pictures) – By:Allison

I’ll be very honest. The first time I came to Haiti I knew very little about its history. I knew there was a slave revolt and voodoo and that’s about it. When we came back for an extended period of time, I really did try to learn about the history and about the historical sites here. It turns out that Haiti is a gold mine for nerdy and somewhat adventurous travelers. The slave revolt is fascinating and the system of forts here is a historical-site-loving person’s dream.

In late January, Josh’s parents and sister, Casey, came for a visit. They decided to treat us to a trip to Cap Haitien. This town is up in the North near Labadee (where Royal Caribbean stops). It’s about a 5 and a half hour drive from where we live in Port-Au-Prince. The roads were great up to Gonaives and after that they were a bit pot-holey, but nothing too bad. The drive was gorgeous so we didn’t mind bumping our way along. One of the cool things about Haiti is how quickly the terrain changes. We passed the beach, dessert-like land with cacti, rice fields, and green mountains.

Rice fields in Haiti

Rice fields in Haiti

Cap Haitien is a really cool town. It’s a lot cleaner and calmer than Port-au-Prince (duh) and the roads are laid out in nice grids. There’s a little boulevard that runs next to the ocean downtown that has several nice looking restaurants. We drove up a hill that overlooks the town to our hotel. We stayed at a nice little boutique place called Habitation Jouissant. I can’t say enough wonderful things about the manager, Florence. She’s a delight. The staff was great and the rooms were nice – small – but nice. We had breath-taking views of Cap Haitien and the ocean.

View of Cap-Haitien

View of Cap-Haitien

More of the view

More of the view

Hotel Restaurant

Hotel Restaurant

We spent the afternoon reading and just enjoying hot water showers and air conditioners. The next morning, we headed to the Citadelle around 9:00am. When you get to the parking lot, there’s a booth to your right where you buy your tickets for $5 per person. If you want a guide you can hire one for $10 per person there as well. We immediately were overwhelmed with ladies wanting to sell us hats and a guy who REALLY wanted us to by a flute…which he played for us quite a bit. Who wants a used flute? Not this girl.

Right past the parking lot is San Souci palace. It was built by a guy named Henri Christophe. Haiti’s slave revolt was the world’s only successful slave army revolution. The first leader was Dessalines, who declared himself Emperor for Life. That didn’t go so well and that life was cut kinda short. After that, Haiti was divided into the North and South. Henri Christophe took over the North and established a sort of feudal system. Though Napoleon had given up on establishing France in the New World, Henri didn’t want to take chances so he built a really impressive system of forts with the Citadelle being the crown jewel. At the base of the mountain that hosts the Citadelle he built San Souci Palace. It was one of NINE palaces built by the guy! After Henri Christophe suffered from a stroke and committed suicide (supposedly with a silver bullet), the place fell into ruin.

We toured these ruins first where we picked up a few uninvited guides. I may not speak a ton of Creole, but they got the point that they weren’t wanted.

Ruins of San Souci

Ruins of San Souci

Statue at San Souci

Statue at San Souci

More of the ruins...

More of the ruins…

After walking around San Souci for awhile, we started up the mountain. Most people drive up to the second parking lot and hike from there. We are not most people. We are Tinii. One of our uninvited guides couldn’t believe we were walking and left us alone. The second guide hiked along with us…and a half dozen horses who WOULD NOT GET OUT OF OUR GRILLS. I mean, really. When you’re hiking straight up a mountain in the heat of a tropical country, the last thing you want is to be surrounded by janky looking horses. Our unofficial guide kept telling them to leave and finally they listened to him. From that moment on, I didn’t care how much money he weaseled out of us…it was worth it.

The hike that wouldn't end

The hike that wouldn’t end

The guide ended up being helpful actually. I got a chance to practice Creole and he was pretty encouraging (he kept telling us we were strong people). He pointed out different fruit trees and was really shocked when I told him the price of avocados in America. I mean…he was flabbergasted.

Once we got to the second parking lot, the guide helped out again. We didn’t have our tickets with us and he talked the ticket booth into letting it slide. There are restrooms again, people selling drinks and souvenirs, and a little cafe at this parking lot. Our guide told us, “Soon you’ll see the Citadelle.” We asked him if that meant we were close. The answer was no.

At this point we were all pretty exhausted. All of us are strong hikers but that trek was legit. My butt and calves were on fire. Unless you are in good shape, drive up to the second parking lot FOR SURE and hike from there. This last part was the hardest but had some amazing views.

First glimpses..

First glimpses..

This felt surreal.

This felt surreal.

Once we finally made it to the Citadelle I was shocked by just how large it is. It’s over 100,000 square feet!

Because Haiti was never attacked all of the cannonballs are still lying in wait for Napoleon.

Just waiting for Napoleon.

Just waiting for Napoleon.

Still waiting.

Still waiting.

Our guide told us a lot of stories including one about the tomb on site. It’s apparently Henri Christophe’s brother-in-law who made the mistake of smoking in the gunpowder room. What was left of him ended up in the tomb. We also learned that Christophe is buried somewhere on the property but no one knows where and that Wyclef filmed a music video here.

Wyclef Wuz Here. We begged the guide not to take this picture.

Wyclef Wuz Here. We begged the guide not to take this picture.

Words can’t really do this place justice. It’s incredible and even if you don’t happen to find yourself in Haiti, it’s worth going to see. Cap-Haitien would be a really great vacation spot if you like this kind of thing and are a bit adventurous! One of the things I love about traveling in Haiti is that it really feels like a travel adventure! You have to be flexible and fly by the seat of your pants a lot. Plus, contributing to tourism here really does make a difference.

Breathtaking views!

Breathtaking views!

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After the trip back down the mountain via moto (Which cost $10 and was totally worth it), we headed back to the hotel to recover. In fact, we spent the next day recovering at Cormier Plage – a hotel on a really pretty beach about 10 minutes from out hotel. The beach was in a little cove and we could see people para-sailing from the cruise ship at Labadee around the corner.

All in all, Cap Haitien was a breath of fresh air. Being there certainly makes you have a lot of hope for Haiti.


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“Sorry it smells like rotting fish” – By:Allison

We’re still in Turner Creek just south of Savannah. We anchored here for three days. There’s a Publix nearby and public transportation into Savannah, so we thought it’d be a good place to do some shopping and site seeing. The second night here, some friends from Nashville were in town so Willy had it’s first guests! They brought some steaks to throw on the grill and we had a good time trying to convice Luke he should also buy a boat 🙂

The next day we were all ready to head out, but our battery was low. It had been draining a little faster than usual which was odd. It took us awhile to get the boat cranked up, but we finally did. We didn’t get too far though. The engine quit on us and wouldn’t restart because of the battery problem. We probably could have gotten jumped and kept going, but we were in a good spot for fixing a boat and the marina nearby had a spot open so we got a tow there.

The marina is run by really nice people. It’s a little worn down and not in the best shape, but it’s not expensive and there are lots of places within walking distance. There is a little shack on the water that seems like it is from The Rescuers. Remember that movie? With the mice and the dragonfly named Evinrude? Old blues music drifts down the docks from this shack and it only adds to it’s sort of class-less charm. We docked up here and called our dads…like you do. My dad thought there was a bad connection somewhere so we started checking them. Luckily, my parents needed to come up here anyway to get the jeep from my cousin’s house in Beaufort (who we stayed with while we were there). So, my parents offerend to help us out while they came to get the jeep.

In the meantime we thought we’d take the alternator in to be tested, but we wanted it to go to a real alternator shop. So I looked one up and we found the bus route to Mr.Alternator and Starter. Josh threw the alternator in a backpack and away we went. Once we got there I thought we’d struck gold. The best shops are the sketchiest looking, right? Two dogs there to greet you, random old men hanging out and chatting, in the rougher part of town.

Josh hauled out the alternator and said he wanted to have it checked out. The guy grabbed it, and immediately got on the phone. I was chatting up the older man who was clearly just hanging out. The main guy got off the phone and croaked out, “Five hundred bucks.” We were thouroughly confused. “This has a lot of hours on it. It needs rebuilding – and what are these wires anyway.” Stuttering from confusion we admitted we weren’t sure what those wires went to. I mean, we just disconnected the thing and there are about 5 million random wires on our boat. He then proceeded to chastise us for not knowing our boat well enough. At one point, his friend who I had been chatting with said, “Why don’t you hook it up and test those wires. See what’s happening.” “I don’t need to,” was his reply. “It’s shot. I know that much. But you’ll definitely want me to rebuild it.”

We should have walked out, but we really just wanted him to get in there and SEE if anything was wrong so we paid him a fee to open it up and see what was wrong. Not before some more chastising, however, and a lecture on how he could, “rebuild an alternator 50 miles offshore if he had to.”

The more we thought about it, the more we wished we had not left the alternator with him. We wanted to explore Savannah some though, so we took the bus back to downtown and tried to brush it off. Unfortunately, Mr.Alternator wasn’t going to let us. He ended up calling us each at least five times. Once, he informed Josh we should get rid of our boat because we don’t know what we’re doing. Keep in mind this is the alternator mechanic who can’t identify the wires on our alternator.

We make a plan to just go there the next morning and retrieve the part. So, we load up again on the bus and head over. Luckily, Mr.Alternator wasn’t there but a much kinder man was behind the counter. He told us that the voltage regulator had been bypassed and that it would cost about $300 to rebuild the alternator. We kindly told him we just wanted it back.

So now we have the questionable alternator in tow and we  meet up with my parents in Savannah who had just arrived. We ended up riding with them to Beaufort to pick up the jeep and see my cousin. We got some dinner and my parents got a little mini tour of the town. If you’ve never been and you are going to be in the Lowcountry, you have to visit Beaufort. It’s such a pleasant place! There is a lot of history, it’s very walkable, and there are a ton of cool shops and restaurants (including my cousin’s store The Beaufort Clothing Co.)

But, as usual, I digress.

So, back at the boat my Dad comes up with a rewiring scheme and figures out what’s wrong in about five minutes. We make a plan to take the alternator to a new shop in the morning for a new volage regulator. We also realize we need a new battery switch because there’s a short in the one we have.

The next day, today, is when the real story begins.

When my parents first got to the marina, I apologized for the smell. Every now and then you got a waft of what smelled like rotten-ness. I assumed people were cleaning fish or catching crabs and the leftovers were smelling rather putrid. It wasn’t overwhelming, but certainly unpleasant every now and then.

This morning, while sitting around patting ourselves on the back for a new and improved battery system on the boat, we see an ambulance pull up. I had just walked by some people at the previously described shack and they seemed to be in okay moods so I didn’t think much about the ambulance. My back was to the situation as well. My parents and Josh were keeping a close eye on the situation. A few minutes later, police cars arrive and the marina owner starts leading the EMT’s down the docks to a derelict boat on the other docks directly in front of us. They proceed to open up the companionway and the putrid smell I had assumed to be rotting sea creatures became overpowering. “Do you think someone died in there?” Josh asked.

Our noses said, “Definitely.”

We proceed to watch one EMT lower himself into the boat and come up rather pale. “Do you want to go see,” he asks his coworker. That answer was, is, and should forever be NO.

At this point, I am realizing that I have been smelling a dead body for THREE days. Three. Adventure of a lifetime, folks. And here you thought living on a sailboat was the glamorous life. Truth is, I am currently docked directly downwind from a rotting corpse.

Yes, it is very sad that this man died and no one even missed him or realized it for four days (he passed away before we arrived at this marina). I felt especially bad for the marina owner who made the discovery and was clearly shaken by the situation.

I also, could not stop wishing I had brought my Netti-pot to thoroughly disinfect my nostrils. The desire to shower in some strong anti-bacterial soap is also quite overwhelming. Everyone got a bit of a chuckle over the fact that I apologized for the smell which was unknowingly a dead man.

Josh and I are currently sitting at a library writing this blog. The man’s body has been removed, but the stench is lingering. Knowing what it is now, we couldn’t keep marinating in the fumes. We felt very determined not to spend money eating out, but tonight might be the exception. Grilled sausages were on the menu, but I just don’t think I can cook and eat with the smell of death all around us.

We haven’t gotten the full story on this man, or what happened. We aren’t sure if that was his boat, if the marina staff knew him, or exactly how he died. I don’t know if we will, because hopefully we are high tailing it out of here tomorrow. The plan is to head to  another marina near a stretch of the ICW called Hell’s Gate. We’ll rest up a bit and prepare to conquer, yes conquer, Hell’s Gate on a rising tide. After that, we’ll keep making our way south toward St.Augustine. Hopefully, there are no more dead bodies along the way.


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Day 1 on the ICW-By Josh and Allison

Yesterday was crazy. It was awesome, it was intimidating, it was my childhood Treasure Island fantasies come true (that sounds dirty), but most of all it was worth it.
We shoved off from Marsh Harbor boatyard at 9:00 am.  Said goodbye to the friends we had made over the past several weeks and were off.  About two miles from the boatyard is a drawbridge.  Just as the bridge was opening for us our engine died. We hailed the bridge on the vhf and told them not to hold it open for us. We got the engine started quickly and went to anchor nearby to steady our nerves a bit. We
decided to try again, but guess what? Engine died again. Once again it started back up quickly. At this point Josh figured out it was dying when we pushed the engine too hard. The mechanic had adjusted things a bit and we were giving it too much gas for the new tweaks. So we tooled around in am open area for a solid 45 minutes to make sure that was it. Another boat was coming through northbound so we radioed in to let them know we’d be trying one more time. Josh thought it was funny to say, “Is it third time’s the charm or three strikes your out.” Allison did not think that was funny, but it turns out third time is indeed the charm. We made it through!

Before we knew it we were in a beautiful open sound! We both kept saying it was all worth it. We got the the north side of Hilton Head island and were following the buoys well, until Josh decided not to listen to Allison’s awesome navigational skills. We ran aground…like barely…but couldn’t get off and didn’t feel like waiting. Luckily we had just purchased our Boat US membership with unlimited towing and Allison sort of wanted to get our money’s worth anyway so we went ahead and called them. A really nice guy came from Boat US, hauled us off in 5 minutes, and then showed us the best place to anchor for the night.

Anchoring went well although you wouldn’t know that from the way Allison acted. She was so nervous, she barely slept (and kept josh awake all night as well) and checked our coordinates constantly.

Guess what, we didn’t move!

Now we are sitting here plotting our next course of action. Hopefully we’ll make it most of the way to Savannah.

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Hoping & Praying: Allison

We have been in Beaufort three weeks now. Last Thursday the boat finally got put back in the water, but we couldn’t head out right away for two reasons. One being a tropical storm that decided to show up. Another being that water was coming in the boat.

Yes. Water. Inside the boat.

Turns out when the rudder was removed it cracked the area around the rudder post just a little so that a very small, but steady stream of water was coming inside. Just enough for concern.

After the tropical storm passed, Josh filled the crack with epoxy and covered it with resin which solved the problem.

BUT, Sunday I came down with a fever and a few aches. Nothing terrible, but enough to make me want to sleep all day and be pretty useless helping on the boat.

So, I rested today and drank a ton of water. We are hoping and praying really hard to head put at high tide tomorrow. Say a prayer that all goes smoothly and that Willy finally decides to cooperate along with the weather and my body.


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Stuck but happy By:Allison

Well, we’re still in Beaufort. This is definitely a more relaxed adventure at this point, but we’re enjoying it.

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Our home away from the boat

So after our disastrous first outing, we’ve been at the boatyard. They couldn’t haul us out to look at the rudder until yesterday (Tuesday) so we had a chill weekend. My wonderful and amazingly hospitable cousin, Gwen, lives here in a historic house downtown. It’s amazing and has a downstairs apartment she’s letting us use to do laundry and take long hot showers!

On Saturday, Olivia (Gwen’s daughter) and her boyfriend took us out in his boat which was nice. It was good to finally be out on the water, haha! We went out to this place called Monkey Island which is straight from a cheesy Sunday morning Sci Fi channel movie – or Lost. It’s this island full of thousands of monkeys that are literally used for scientific research. There are signs everywhere that say not to step foot on shore or basically a sniper will probably kill you….and we TOTALLY obeyed those signs. We only saw a couple of monkeys, but that’s fine. I read online that they moved the monkeys from Peurto Rico because they had Herpes and were escaping and infecting people. I really don’t want a rogue monkey even TRYING to give me herpes. I couldn’t make this stuff up, people.DCIM101GOPRO

We also went to America’s only plastic kazoo factory. Funny story, we have also been to America’s only METAL kazoo factory in New York which also has the world’s largest metal

kazoo on its roof. I love random things like this.

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How did anyone get into building kazoos for a living? Such a random niche. We also got to build our own kazoos which involves sticking two pieces of plastic together. I do, however, wish I could get a t-shirt since I have been to both kazoo factories. It sort of breaks my heart that one doesn’t exist.

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People freaked and thought this was a pregnancy test, haha.

Monday, we went to see a lighthouse on Hunting Island. The beach there was gloriously trashy. Like…in an East Nashville best way possible sort of way. It was packed as we suspected. Also, you can apparently smoke all the weed you want there and the park staff doesn’t care. Pretty sure everyone except us was high and the guy riding around on his four wheeler pretending to work either didn’t care or doesn’t know what weed smells like. It was entertaining. The lighthouse ended us being really pretty but not half as entertaining as people watching.

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Hunting Island Lighthouse

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At the top.

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So, Tuesday rolled around and the boat got hauled out. Apparently we hit an oyster bed on our first outing (worst boat drivers ever right here). Josh’s friend, Zac, is in St.Augustine on his boat and told Josh “just don’t hit anything” and we already failed at that one. However, we were on the correct side of the buoy and our depth sounder read fine, so it was more of a fluke than

Imageour ignorance (So we will tell ourselves). Hitting that did a number on our rudder. It cracked it and bent some metal something that’s important and I don’t know how to explain via blog.

We debated for a long time on what to do. Sell the boat and move on, or throw the money into it. We decided to throw money at that sinking pos!

Really though, even if we can’t go far and don’t recover all the money and can only sail for a week at least we tried. Special thanks to Alex Vucelich, Zac Stepp, and Adam Smith for making Josh feel like he’d be a worthless loser if we tried to be smart with our money  quit. We also sort of figured selling our boat in this shape wouldn’t get us much and if we repaired it, we’d hopefully be able to sell it for more money.

So, here’s hoping that we’ll soon have more exciting blogs to post than “our boat is still broken”.