Sunday, April 2, 2017


Rafted up, we're on the right
   I am going to preface this post with a few words.  It both saddens and angers me to have to write
this down but, I must.  The account I am about to put forth has no bearing on the Bahamian people as a whole. We, along with countless other cruisers, have found these islands full of generous, beautiful people willing to lend a hand or give the shirts off their backs if necessary.  What you are about to read is an account of a a few third-world government officials gone corrupt.

   A couple of weeks ago, not too long after Bill and I pulled into Georgetown, we noticed a rather large, regal-looking ketch pulling into the harbor.  The captain made an announcement on the radio to warn any other moving vessels in the area that they were completely under sail (This usually means that the vessel is unable to run its engine).  Once the ketch had safely nosed into the harbor and dropped anchor (thanks to another sail boat in the area towing them in), we, frankly, didn't think much more about the old ship.

Donated sails on deck
   Fast forward to a few days ago . . . I had just returned from my jaunt in the States.  In my absence, Bill had found out that the large ketch was actually captained by someone we had met in Florida.  He heads up a charity called IRG (International Rescue Group). IRG takes in donations of food, medical supplies, etc. and sails them on donated vessels to places in need of disaster relief.  Haiti was where this particular vessel was bound.

   Unfortunately, just as we had suspected, the vessel's engine had stopped working.  So, while the captain was sitting at anchor dealing with engine problems, the supplies were also.  He took to the radio again, telling others of his plight and asking for help; If any vessel was headed in that direction, they could take on as many supplies as they could carry and bring them in for him.  Three vessels volunteered: the vessel that helped to tow him into the harbor, us, and a catamaran.

   The catamaran, loaded up what they could and left, Haiti-bound.  The rest of us needed a little more time to prepare.  So, we waited for the next weather window; that window was to start today, Sunday.  Since the plan was to leave first thing this morning, we (the two remaining vessels) decided to raft up along either side of the IRG boat and take on the remaining supplies so that we'd be ready for the morning.
more sails, medical supplies, tools . . . 

   We had just loaded the last bag onto our boat, when a couple of men came zooming up to us in a water taxi.  Customs officials.  One of them, wearing a black polo and jeans, waved a badge at us and, without a word, proceeded to climb onto our boat with a uniformed man on his heels. They demanded to see our passports and documentation.  They demanded to know where the owners of the other vessels were. They demanded that we show them all of the supplies that we had taken on and receipts for them. . . We told them we had just finished loading the donations and that, because they were donations, there were no receipts.  We hadn't purchased anything. Things continued to get fishy.
Another sail . . . nothing suspicious . . . 

   They asked for our documents and handed them back several times.  The last time they asked for them, they kept them, claiming that there would need to be an investigation to prove that we were actually going to do what we claimed we were going to do with these items.  Bill immediately got on the phone with the U.S. embassy.  The duty officer on the other end was trying to help.  She asked for our passport numbers, which, of course, we couldn't give her.  Thankfully she was able to start what she needed to with our names and birthdays.  She then asked for the names of the men, one gave his name to us, the other ignored the question and became irate at the fact that we had called the embassy in the fist place.   When she asked us if one of them would speak with her over the phone, they claimed that they had no way of knowing if we had called the real U.S. embassy and that they would call her instead.  The duty officer, obviously disgusted with their behavior as well, told us that they were required to, by law, call immediately.  The men stated that they would not call right away but, on Monday.

   They continued to cause problems, and the afternoon ended with all of the supplies, all of our documentation and passports, and the captain of the IRG vessel being carted back to land; The supplies, documentation, and passports in holding "pending investigation" and the captain in jail for the weekend.  Jail! What's their problem?  What grounds?? They claim that it is illegal to transfer goods from one vessel to another without reporting it.  That "pleasure vessels" (a.k.a boats in the country just to enjoy the area) are not allowed to run charity work; "Charity work is not for pleasure", one of the men said.  Bill pointed out that we get a lot of pleasure out of helping others; This didn't phase the man.  He simply sniffed at the air, rolled his eyes, and looked away.

   Now what? . . . Tomorrow is Monday.  We, the two vessels that were trying to help, are due in at the customs office at 9:30 a.m.  What happens after that is anyone's guess. They still have all of our documentation, we have been told that we cannot leave until things are cleared up (though we wouldn't without our papers anyway), the captain of the IRG vessel is still in jail . . . This is, in a word, ridiculous!  There are people trafficking drugs, rare animals, stolen goods, and even human beings into countries all over the world . . . and yet, who gets put under investigation? People who are trying to bring medical supplies into orphanages, backpacks into schools, and used sails to fishermen so they can feed their families and communities . . . The ones really suffering in all of this are the Haitian people . . . We might be dealing with international democracy and a couple of corrupt officials but, they are living in squalor, without basic needs or a way to make ends meet.

   In case you've been wondering, while reading this, about the Haitian government, forget it.  Haiti receives millions of dollars in foreign aid every year from the United States alone; enough to provide a small salary for every able-bodied adult in the country.  The average citizen never sees any of it.  We are trying to help a people whose leaders have betrayed them.                              

   Now that you have read this, please tell someone.  I know I don't have a big following but, I am trying.  Links can be shared, tweets can be made, texts and emails can be sent. If this gets to enough people or the right person, maybe something can be done.

   Please let us know what you think. Feel free to ask questions and leave nice comments. (If no one has commented yet, there will be a "No Comments" link near the bottom of the post. If someone has already commented, there will be a number and the word "comments" beside it. Just click whichever of these is there, click, "add comment" when the window opens, and type away.)

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Please let us know what you think. Feel free to ask questions and leave nice comments.