The videos of Hurricane Dorian were hard to watch. Grand Bahama, where my brother celebrated his 11th birthday, was decimated. Elbow Cay, where colleagues became friends during a management retreat, was unrecognizable. The Abaco Beach Resort where I ogled some of the nicest sportfishermen ever built during the Custom Shootout was all but destroyed.
What made the live-streamed clips on social media and the grainy phone footage from helicopters on television so hard to comprehend was the stark contrast from the vibrant, happy memories I have of those places. Clear waters muddied with debris, lush green landscapes now brown and bare, mounds of gray rubble where bright buildings once stood; it’s as if someone pulled a lever and flushed the color from the islands. The friendly faces of Bahamians that we’ve come to associate with that place were riddled with pain, their eyes filled with fear.
Anyone who has visited these tranquil islands has been introduced to the phenomenon of “Island Time.” More an ethos than a unit of measure, it symbolizes a laid back, carefree mentality that allows one to disconnect from stateside stress and reconnect with your soul. Island Time is a good novel in the shade of a palm tree. It’s stalking a barracuda, or vice-versa, in the shallows. It’s the sight of a kid collecting conch shells. It’s a cold Kalik and conversation with a bartender in a t-shirt lined oasis. Seeing that mentality wash away in the wake of Dorian was perhaps the hardest thing of all.
It’s hard to find a silver lining in such a dark hour of Bahamian history, but if you look closely, you’ll find your faith in humanity slowly restored. In the days after Dorian, while still within the cone of disaster themselves, Floridians were restless to answer the call. Bob Denison of Denison Yacht Sales told me how his clients had his phone ringing off the hook offering to take their boats to the Bahamas to drop off supplies. Sales Manager of SeaHunter Boats Eddie Leon reported the same generous spirit from his clients offering to use their boats to deliver aid.
Like those boaters, I was eager to book a flight to Florida and brave the stormy seas in a center console to help where I could. Blasting across choppy seas, Bahamas bound to give back to people who have given me so much; I could practically hear “Ride of the Valkyries” blaring as an outboard-powered armada made their way east. Alas, such a volunteer effort at that time would have provided more harm than good. Debris strewn waters would be too treacherous for anyone except trained first responders. So boaters did what they do best. They rallied. Cases of water and supplies flooded collection sites by the ton. GoFundMe sites raised millions of dollars.
As we went to press on this issue—the third installment of OUTBOARD—the Bahamas began accepting donations and help from boaters with craft filled to the gunwale with supplies. Boating gets a bad rap sometimes because of the high price of entry, which is fair enough. But we know better than to judge someone in our community by the size of our engines; it’s the size of our hearts that matters most.
Dorian left the Bahamas battered and beaten, but not broken. Not by a long shot. Bahamians are a resilient people with a generous spirit and a sense of community that we can all learn from. The road to recovery will be long and arduous. But if the boating community continues to stand behind them in the months and years to come—long after the 24-hour news cycle moves on—then it will be rebuilt stronger than it was before. Until then, I’ll keep my memories from the Bahamas close to my heart and look for ways to help. And I certainly won’t take Island Time for granted again.