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Author retraces ocean route of Haitian migrants

News of Haitian migrants dying in boating tragedies resonated so much with a Dutch novelist that he wanted to experience the actual trip firsthand.

A decade after his discovery, he traveled to Haiti, built a 21-foot sloop, recruited a trio of brave boaters, and sailed the very passage that hundreds of Haitians thread every year in a desperate attempt to reach Florida shores.

On Monday, the crew of the Sipriz – Haitian Creole for surprise – docked on a tiny island in Palm Beach County after a five-week journey that took the sailors from Haiti to the Bahamas archipelago and then to South Florida. By following the well-worn route, the Sipriz trip sought to highlight the precarious Caribbean path that so many Haitians take to make it to lot bo-a, or "the other side" in Haitian Creole.

"Not enough attention is paid to the fact that thousands of people take huge risks to escape poverty from a country that is only two hours [by air] from Miami," said Sipriz Capt. Geert van der Kolk.

On the 800-mile maritime expedition, the crew met leery locals and adverse weather. And in one hairy episode, hooligans looted their beached boat.

"For me, the adventure was the building of the boat and the excitement of open-water sailing," said Van der Kolk, 55.

To read the complete article, visit www.miamiherald.com.

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