“Oh shit, is that bad?” I said, sitting up and eyes wide.
It began with a slight pitter patter, which soon turned to a stuttering putter, which became a grinding ‘grrrrrrr’, which led to a finale with a ‘KINK CLUNK’, followed by silence. The propeller had stopped, and we were dead in the water in the middle of the Caribbean Sea.
“Nah, we’re all good man” Vick re-assured me.
Well, we weren’t in the middle of the Caribbean Sea per-se…but as the Kapitèn Bato, or boat captain, yanked the boat engine rope over and over with no rewarding roar of an engine starting, it seemed as though we would be stranded east of Tortuga in Baie de l’Acul for an un-foreseeable future.
At least that is what my comically disastrous mind immediately started coming up with.
Scenarios involved a Gilligan’s Island-esque existence, or possibly man-eating sharks swarming our boat which didn’t exist when we were swimming in the water earlier. Or what if a freak storm were to hit! I would have no volleyball available to be my best friend…
“Actually, maybe we are fucked!” Vick said, then proceeded to laugh.
Truth be told — our rickety water taxi; built of weather-worn planks and corrugated metal roofing, had broken down off the coast of Northern Haiti and our “captain” had no tools with him.
And we had no cell reception of course.
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The day had begun as all cliché island adventures do: The sun was bright (of course it is, it’s the sun!) and the azure Caribbean water was calling us (of course it was, it’s blue…and it was freakin’ hot!)
Our motley crew; David, Vick, Mike, and I, were just coming to after a night of Prestige…the beer. There was nothing prestigious about us at that moment as we licked our dehydrated lips, grunted as we picked ourselves up off the beach chairs where we had passed out, and chugged water vigorously.
We had a meeting with the mayor of Cap-Haitian that afternoon, but chillaxing in the private beach cove called Belly Beach had been so much damn fun that we needed one last day to explore the area before leaving. We were on Haitian time anyway, and surely the Mayor was of course, so we could take our time cruising a bit.
After grabbing some of the typical finger-lickin’ grub of Haiti, fried pork and plantains, Vick was able to convince a boat taxi driver to spend the day with us taking us around the coast. Just like taxi drivers in big cities, they hate leaving their “jurisdiction”, but a few extra buckaroos is always enough to change minds.
TIme to cruise the Caribbean baby!
Sometimes the fates can be assholes, and maybe I should have taken this as a sign. It was kind of like an “Au Revoir suckers!” before we even set off.
But we didn’t expect anything to go awry as our boat slid off the beach and the engined roared up to take us out into the open waters. Actually, more like a lawn mower sounding when it turned on, but whatever!
With the wind blowing in my hair (of course the wind was blowing through my hair, we were moving!) the boat zipped out into open waters and we were finally going to get to tour the coastline.
All jokes aside, I gotta’ admit to you – The waters around Haiti’s coast are kind of mind-blowing. They really are like looking through a thick piece of glass.
Wanna’ play chicken? I think not. The cruise ship was in port near Labadee and people darted around in the distance on jetskies.
I mainly stuck to the bow of the boat marveling at the scenery while our boat driver explained a bit of the area.
Along the coast it was common to see little outcrops of ruins from clubs or resorts that once was. It looked like an utterly amazing spot to relax, but Haiti’s tourism has yet to recover.
Razor sharp rock outcroppings line the coast in many places, I’m guessing from some sort of volcanic activity?
I’m on a boat! It was crazy chill cruising around, and at that moment I was totally diggin’ the rickety boat. But that wouldn’t last of course.
Totally looks like Jurassic Park huh? We all at this very moment started singing the theme song at the same exact time.
All was fine and dandy. We were swimming in the warm waters off the coast before heading back. I mean, look how freakin’ happy Vick is…and this is his own country!
But all would stay at such gleeful levels. After diving for a bit off the boat, we all boarded and realized it was getting WAY late, and we still had a meeting to make it to!
And then it happened. Or began to…
It took our boat driver a few pulls to get it started this time. At first I didn’t think much about it, but as we continued on I kept seeing the driver fiddling with the engine.
We started cruising closer and closer to the coast because I’m guessing he knew something was wrong.
Then, with an orchestra of mechanisms failing, the engine grinded to a halt.
There wasn’t much around us at all, just some huts in the distance with smoke from cooking fires rising into the air, and far off silhouettes of boats out of yelling range.
This guy paddled up to us with an assortment of handmade souvenirs, but alas, I don’t think a small carved paddle would help us out of this one.
At this point I had nearly bitten off all of my nails. Our two other Haitian friends were completely relaxed and chatting, but I was thinking up the worst ends to this dilemma as possible.
Suddenly the driver got the engine working again, and our little boat that could began cruising again!
And again the engine failed.
Luckily for is this time the engine happened to fail close to a stone landing. Our driver let the boat drift over to the landing tied up the boat.
From the top of a hill a few Haitians called out, and the driver called back. Then a gent came strolling down the stairs and to the landing.
It’s amazing just how Haitians up and help strangers out, but as I’ve said before, it’s a quality I noticed all over Haiti.
They hoisted the engine onto the landing and the presumable owner of the house broke out his tool box. I have no clue what was done, but it seemed after a few trial-and-error experiments and the engine back up and running!
And though I was still pretty skeptical of our boat’s ability to get us back…I let out a HUGE sigh of relief.
But with sights like this would it be all that bad to get stranded here?
As much as I love a life untethered, I wasn’t ready quite yet to play Survivor Man on a random island near Haiti.
Though we didn’t make it back in time for our meeting because of that unexpected mis-adventure, getting to cruise along the coastline of Haiti was a damn good time, and is exactly one if the reasons why I fell in love with the country.
Not the breaking down part…the beauty of course…
Ever had a mishap like this one? Share your mis-adventure!