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Tortola’s Christmas Presents to Haiti

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Mocka Jumbies and Rum...

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Through their international network, the Rotary Club of Tortola established a partnership with the local Haitian Rotary in Les Cayes to ensure funds and materials reached the intended beneficiaries. With six teachers, Mike’s CD sales have long since been exhausted, so Rotary has authorized funds for teacher’s salaries for 2008/9 and for the purchase of six water tanks to store rain water, replacing dependency on brackish ground water.

After visits to the tin roofed school/shelter by Les Cayes senior Rotarians, the two Rotary organizations have formally adopted the project of building a new school with a goal of raising $60,000. But a third project presented a challenge. The downwind fishing grounds of Ile La Vache had moved out to sea. Thus when fish were caught it could be days before the island sloops could reach land, and much of the catch was spoiled. The solution was to provide outboard engines to overcome the upwind trip home. And so a Christmas present was conceived.

Ten engines were sourced by member “elves” of the BVI Marine Association, and other Tortola “gnomes” refurbished them. But to avoid the likely “loss” of this cargo using commercial shipping, a Christmas delivery direct from Santa was needed.  “Beans” was asked to organize nautical reindeer and sailing sleighs to deliver the gifts direct to the Island.

A boat and crew were found and the Gulfstar 55 Fairwind left Tortola on Dec 15th bound for Haiti with 10 engines. Despite a failed engine, Fairwind arrived in Ile La Vache under sail on Dec 24 and delivered her precious cargo on Christmas day. She sailed on to Jamaica for a much-needed and forced engine refit.

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During December, word of the trip was spreading and the Captain of a Jenneau 50 Sophisticated Lady, offered to create a DVD record of the events for possible fund raising. With another sailing sleigh available, Mike’s partner in Haiti asked if it could bring food and clothing. Word went out and the gifts continued to pour in.  Food, clothing, school supplies and tools were donated by the businesses of Tortola.

Sophisticated Lady left Tortola on December 19th with over 1,000 lbs of gifts. But leaving Ile La Vache on 21 December, Sophisticated Lady suffered serious storm damage and was forced to return, reaching safety on December 24th. Sophisticated Lady’s story maybe found in the dramatic blogs of the subsequent two weeks at:

The energies and resources of Tortola Rotarians became a lifeline of support and materials connecting marine donors (of sails and spare parts) to the stranded benefactors. Donations to aid the two stricken boat owners in this drama may be made through www.paypal.com.  Select “send money.” In the top right hand box insert charter@windinmysails.com and enter your donation.

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So Caribbean you can almost taste the rum...

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