Twenty boats gathered at the marina Bas du Fort of Pointe à Pitre for the start of the 10th edition which took the group from Guadeloupe to Cuba. Saint Martin and the Dominican Republic, as well as new stops added this year in Haiti and Jamaica, were the intermediate stopovers.
In Haiti at the Ile à Vache south coast island, a joint humanitarian operation was organized by the Saint Martin Rotary Club, the Dutch Red Cross and the rally organizer. The Red Cross and Rotary Club collected second hand clothes and school supplies for the Ile à Vache schools and orphanage, and the rally participants delivered the five tons directly to the schoolmasters and to Sister Flora in charge of the orphanage.
The sailing was smooth and downwind all the way to Cienfuegos, Cuba; 25 knots winds were rarely reached and the group could fully enjoy the stopovers, swimming, friendly parties and excursions.
This rally is characterized by the freedom given to participants. A good example is the leg from Guadeloupe to Saint Martin. Some from Marina Bas du Fort decided to go upwind around the Pointe des Chateaux cape, others south around Basse-Terre and finally a third group decided to wake up early and took the Rivière-Salée channel which shortened the journey by 50 miles.
The point, for each leg, whatever the distance, is to reach the next stop on time for the welcome briefing and party, which are set at 6 p.m. local time.
A wonderful welcome was given at marina Bas du fort as usual, and Marina Fort Louis of Saint Martin was the place where all bought their last provisions and spares. Participants sorted out and loaded the boats with hundreds of bags for the Haiti operation. Everyone was ready for the adventure.
The group reached Marina Casa de Campo 320 miles later, the first stop in Dominican Republic, a wonderful marina with first class service, friendly people, and wonderful parties – and a partner of the rally from the very beginning. All that is possible each year thanks to Commodore Fini’s friendship and efficiency. A visit to the luxurious resort and Alto de Chavon, a medieval Italian village reconstitution, were the highlight of that first day. The other important excursion took place in Santo Domingo’s historical quarter and gave a feeling of what D.R has to offer for those who had time and a desire to stay longer on their return journey.
The other stops were Isla Catalina, Boca Chica, Isla Beata and its 200 fishermen, and finally Bahia Las Aguilas, the last but not the least interesting stop in D.R., with its five-mile long deserted white beach close to the Haitian border.
Another 110 miles’ overnight sailing and we were anchored at Ile à Vache, Haiti, where the humanitarian distribution took place and the memorable welcome the population treated us with is still in everyone’s memory. It is amazing to see what people can offer with so little, a lesson for all. We will definitely come back next year.
One more night sailing and we reached Jamaica, Port Antonio, Errol Flynn Marina, under heavy rain. Three marvelous days of relaxation, touring and provisioning before the last leg of the trip to Cuba and, for some who were to cross the Atlantic to Europe, the last opportunity to really embark all necessary items for that long return journey. Marina staff, beginning by Dale Westin, the manager, and George, his assistant, made every possible effort to make this stay a memorable one. They were friendly, efficient, and always ready to help.
Two and a half days’ sailing later we arrived at Cienfuegos for the first time, which is going to be a memorable one for sure. In the narrow entrance channel, small typical fishing boats from Cienfuegos welcomed and escorted us until we reached the Marlin Marina. Local and International press was there, TV, newspapers, radios. Cienfuegos was created by the French around two centuries ago and from now on the rally will reach Cienfuego for the commemoration day, April 22nd each year.
The closing ceremony in the Cienfuegos Yacht club was above anyone’s expectation – the food was good and the dance ballet and music were just fantastic. The following day we took the bus to visit Trinidad, created by the Spaniards, and Havana City.
Special thanks to Marlin Marina Cienfuego, Habanatur (excursions) and Comodoro José Miguel Escrich from Hemingway Yacht Club in Havana ; without their help, no closing of the event of that quality would have been possible.
In conclusion, after having visited six different islands, made more than 10 stops and covered around 1500 nautical miles, this group of 50 had the feeling they had lived the last true Caribbean Adventure.
Next year’s 2010 Transcaraibes rally will take place between the 1st and the 22nd of April. Come and join us – the organizer speaks English, Spanish and French. Contact [email protected] or Stéphane: + 590 690 494 590.
Report and photos submitted by Stéphane Legendre, Transcaraibes Rally