How to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ in this world is what New Horizons is all about. Please check out our website at www.newhorizonsofswfl.org We provide educational opportuinities for at-risk children in Southwest Florida. We are able to provide humanitarian aid to our Caribbean neighbors with our 68-foot cargo schooner, "Star of the Sea." The schooner is also used as a teaching tool for the "Call to Adventure" program that mentors young men at sea.
The rest of the trip home was your typical offshore sailing trip, squalls, no wind, too much wind, wind on the nose, perfect wind, good boat speed, turn on the engine boat speed, all the normal stuff. We did get to witness the lunar eclipse which was really cool and Zach got nailed at night by a flying fish! The closer we got to Florida the colder it became until on the last two nights we had on every piece of clothing that was aboard. We stopped in Marathon, Florida Keys for a quick 30 gallon gulp of fuel and from there it was a 22 hour beat into a northwest wind to reach Naples at 0619 on Christmas eve morning. I was very thankful to be home safe with family for Christmas and both Jay and Zach were able to make it home before the big airport shutdown. I can't thank all of you enough for your prayers on this voyage! I also want to thank Robert and Aliza Sparkman and HGL Dynamics for their financial sponsorship of this mission. Please feel free to call with any questions about the mission and as always we invite your participation in all of our ministry functions. Blessings Capt. Bob Nichols 12/30/2010
At first light we slipped our mooring at Port Morgan, our new friend Mackenzie was there untie the knot that he had tied three days earlier and it was with relief and anticipation that we set sail for home. The native fisherman were already sailing for open water to find the day's catch and we took some pictures of them in passing. Just as we were settling into a groove with the Sirius satellite radio belting out some Jimmy Buffet, I saw two small dots on the horizon that turned into gunboats once I trained the binoculars on them. I alerted the crew that we might have visitors, not much else you can do when you're sailing along at six knots! Much to my relief the gunboats were from the U.N. not Haiti, after some radio small talk we sailed on to the west eager to meet the small weather window that was forcast so we could transit the Windward Passage before the next cold front.
With the cargo hold empty and the schooner floating a bit higher in the water we made preparations for departure. The chef at Port Morgan, Alan, invited us to a paella dinner that he was making in our honor. A professional chef trained in Spain, Alan was not only the great host of our party but a master of the paella as well!! I was very excited as he mixed the conch, fish, shrimp, chicken, and vegtables. We hadn't eaten this good in 5 weeks and we were really looking forward to a great dinner. Zach returned from voluteering at Sister Flora's orphanage with tales of walking the distance of the island to Madame Bernard Village, pulling horses from the mud and spraying the compound with clorox. He caught a local boat back to Port Morgan just before sundown. It was a strange feeling to have such a lavish meal when you knew that people are suffering a short distance away. Port Morgan offered a much needed treat for the crew before the long sail back to Florida.
I consider myself to be very blessed that I'm able to witness the joy on the faces of those that are hungry and receiving the food aid that we have transported. My vision of using a small boat to deliver aid directly to it's point of use with no middleman or bribes or government corruption has proven itself to be viable and powerful. All the hard work that others have put into this mission, raising the money for the food, packaging the food, trucking the food to Port Canaveral, all the prayers for our safety, all of these things come together for me as I see a joyous facial expression on a hungry person who knows that at least for the short term they will have something to eat. No we didn't change the country, no we didn't provide any permanent solutions but we did provide hope, that and the full belly feeling that someone from another place does care and that perseverance and faith are the only options. When I returned to Port Morgan it was decided that we would distribute the last ton of food to two groups of people, local school children, and the very poor of the village closest to Port Morgan. Many thanks to Ditier and Alan of Port Morgan for hosting 500 schoolchildren on their property and to Vilhelm and Merlene for organizing the village distribution at their home.
As I prepared to leave Flora's compound she came rushing by me with a dead child, another casualty of the cholera outbreak that was producing 40 new cases every day on the little island of lle a Vache. Our first stop on the tour was the school that was built with international help, unfortunately the earthquake of a year ago ruined the roofs and ceilings and now the school has been declared unsafe for the children to occupy. The school has been forced to use the old circular classrooms that are open to the weather. After touring the school grounds, Vilhelm said, "we have shown you paradise now we will show you hell". As he was telling me this he was handing me a surgical mask and gloves. With no idea of what I was getting into, we walked to an open field that had been transformed into a doctors without borders cholera treatment center. After being sprayed down with Clorox we entered the fenced off area and came face to face with human misery. I was struck with the dedication of the volunteers who were understaffed, overworked and dead tired but continued on in twelve hour shifts day after day, truly amazing. In the afternoon I caught a ride on a local boat back to Port Morgan with plans to do two more food distributions later in the day.
When the panga crew returned in the morning they had a young local with them named velhelm who spoke great english. He has been called to be a pastor and now works at the orphanage until he can find a sponsor to help him with his studies. Velhelm became my translator for the rest of our time in lle a Vache. Velhelm told me that I needed to go to the orphanage to request the proper paperwork that I needed to satisfy Bahamian Customs so Brother Carl back on Great Inagua could receive his 300 dollar transhipment bond back. After loading another two tons of food aid I grabbed my foul weather gear and got aboard the panga for the 45 minute ride to the village of Madame Bernard where the orphanage is located. Before arriving I hadn't thought too much about the cholera outbreak that is ravaging Haiti, upon arrival it was apparent that a full blown epidemic was underway. After stepping into a pan of Clorox we entered into Sister Flora's compound and I was given a tour. I cried as we toured the handicap wing with the twisted bodies of physically handicapped children in every bed and corner. I met Sister Flora and prayed with her, giving thanks for her dedication and calling out for our Heavenly Father to bless her with her needs. I am so thankful that our mission was one of those blessings! Sister Flora speaks only French so Vilhelm translated her need of a headlamp so she could perform operations at night without relying on someone holding a flashlight, I gladly gave up my l.e.d. headlamp and a large supply of batteries, she was really happy. As the donkeys started arriving with the offloaded food from the panga I went to see the the orphanage school in a different part of the village.
When I told Didier about the cargo we had aboard he couldn't believe his ears. The Sister Flora Orphanage in a neighboring village was without food because of the violence on the mainland and they had been praying for an answer to their problem. Sister Flora feeds over 400 children and has taken in over 60 special needs children with either physical or mental handicaps. These handicap children are the throw away children in this culture and would be left to die if not for Flora's efforts. We waited for the boat from the orphanage and did not tell anyone else about our cargo because of security concerns, everyone was hungry and we didn't want a mob to form. At 1530 a large panga style boat pulled up and we quickly loaded two tons of food aid aboard. The panga crew promised to return the following morning for another load. We ate dinner aboard and locked ourselves in for the night.
We arrived at Port Morgan at 0630 and as soon as we turned the corner into the harbor we were protected from wind and waves from any direction. Legend has it that the pirate Henry Morgan used this little harbor to stage his raids on passing ships. I've included a google earth shot of this unique harbor which was modified by slaves in the 1800's so as to make it weather proof. A young local was waiting in his dugout to tie us to a mooring ball in the harbor. Port Morgan has a resort that has been built by it's French owner over the past 25 years. With all the problems that Haiti is experiencing at this time there were no guests and prospects were not good for any in the near future. I was met at the small dock by a man with a shotgun and as I don't speak French much less Creole, all I could say was "Take me to your leader". My new gun toting friend got the idea and I was soon in the office of Didier, the owner of the Port Morgan resort. http://www.port-morgan.com/
It was a beautiful sailing day as we made for the Windward Passage and points south. We were able to see both Cabo Maisi, Cuba and Mole Saint Nicholas, Haiti at the same time as we entered the Windward Passage. With the global economic slowdown shipping traffic is less than half of what used to be normal in this important choke point of the seas. Once we were abeam of the southern arm of Haiti ship sightings were rare and we continued on for 30 more hours before turning up into the south bay and beating into a 25 knot North wind on our way to Port Morgan, lle a Vache, Haiti
Three weeks before our departure from Florida my dad called me and asked me to download a file from a website that had information about a port on the island of lle a Vache which is located 8 miles offshore of Aux Cayes, Haiti. Being very busy with getting ready for the trip and producing a benefit concert for our ministry in Southwest Florida I didn't take the time to look into the website until late one night when I couldn't sleep and felt compelled to download the 40 pages on lle a Vache. I tucked away the document with my charts and didn't think about it again until I realized that Aux Cayes was no longer an option and we were being led in a new direction. My dad had passed away two weeks earlier but his insight was somehow leading us to where the food really needed to go. We set sail for lle a Vache, Haiti on the morning of December 12, 2010.
With no rest for the weary the boxed food started arriving at 0800, courtesy of Morton Salt Bahamas who used their forklift to transport the food from the customs warehouse to the basin. With the help of a local youth who we shanghaied for the load in, we were able to stow over 300 boxes of food aid in just under 4 hours. With a final stop at the grocery store and a fond farewell to Brother Carl we were ready to leave for Haiti. A quick call to the missionary in Aux Cayes revealed a situation that had only gotten worse and I wasn't going to risk crew or vessel in the turmoil that had taken over that part of Haiti. I decided to wait for 24 hours to see if the problems in Aux Cayes would get any better and set sail for Molasses Reef on the south side of Great Inagua. We anchored in 40 feet of crystal clear water behind the reef, happy to be out of the surge basin!
We arrived in Man-O-War Bay before sunup and tacked back and forth until we had enough light to find the mooring buoy that we had used back in July. A large bulk cargo ship was at the salt dock taking on 43,000 tons of salt. Capt. Fawkes, the marine superintendent for Morton Salt Bahamas picked me up at the dinghy landing and gave me a ride to customs where Mr Albury the senior customs agent informed me of a 300 dollar transhipment bond that was required for the release of the 7 tons of Kids Against Hunger Food that was waiting in the customs warehouse. Not having that kind of money I was led to find Brother Carl Farquharson, the pastor of Inagua Gospel Chapel, who had expressed an interest in our mission to Brother Moss of Cat Island months earlier. When I told Brother Carl what my need was he immediately took me down to the bank where he withdrew the needed funds. Brother Carl explained that he also had an ongoing mission to Haiti at Port dePaix on the north coast and was happy to help any missionary working with Haitians. In the afternoon we moved the schooner to the small municipal basin that is close to town and the only place we could load the food. All the nautical information that you can read about Great Inagua warns of using the basin in all but settled weather because it becomes a ship wrecker with any surge. When we were in Great Inagua in July there were 4 sunken vessels cluttering the small basin. All was well when we entered the tiny cut leading into the basin in the afternoon but at 0400 a surge from the North started and we started popping dock lines and fenders. Deploying breast lines to a bollard that was 150 ft away took up a lot of the strain and we were relieved when the surge abated around 0730.
We left Provo at 0730, 12/8/10. It was a beautiful morning and the only thing missing was the wind! We cleared the reef at West Caicos around 1030 as the wind finally filled in and we were on our way at 6 knots. Our course to Great Inagua put us between Little and Great Inagua at around sunset and I really wanted some light for the passage as both islands are reef fringed and for safety sake it's not prudent to rely on electronics to miss islands in the dark! We arrived at the point between the two islands in time to verify our position and then enjoyed a night sail in a rising wind the rest of the way to Man-O-War Bay. I called the missionary in Haiti who was to receive the food shipment and he told me that the situation in Aux Cayes was not good, roads were blocked with burning tires and gunshots heard in the streets because of the failed presidential elections in Haiti. I had my own problems to think about, getting the food released from Bahamian Customs!