Last of the Wind and Wood Traders

Take a look at the above sloop. It has a lateen sail and an outrigger. It is a wooden handmade boat crafted from the tree of Haitian forests. It is a small freighter. The sails are made from recycled, salvaged material like advertising banners and such. Along with bedsheets and cloth, it is all sewn together to catch the wind.


There is no GPS or radio. There is no engine or charts. The captains of these sloops are the last of the wood and wind traders.

They learned their craft by desperation. Haiti is a failed state. If it were not for remittances, there would be no economy -- a negative Gross Domestic Product.

These freighter are seen in our harbour. It takes three days and three nights for them to sail from Haiti. They have no engines, so they are becalmed when the winds do not blow. I was walking home last night, and as I was walking up the bridge over the harbour, I saw a Haitian sloop trying to sail upwind in the harbour. It was tacking from side to side, avoiding the cruise ships, luxury yachts, sportfishers, mail boats, freighters and tramp steamers. It took the sloop ages to make its progress up the harbour, but it had no other options without any mechanical power.

I have seen these sloops unload their wares. There are big bunches of bananas, fruits and roots that indiginous to Haiti that are brought here for some ready cash. They unload at a dirty wharf, and the expat Haitians who live miserable lives here, come for a bit of home. These sloops are also a conduit for money and mail to the homeland. And it is all accomplished in wooden boats driven by the wind.

It is somehow a romantic story, but it is also very sad.

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