Photos by Tom Serio
Yacht Aid Global uses superyachts and the generosity of the boating community to help heal the Bahamas.
Hurricane Dorian was still spinning like a dreidel of devastation over the Bahamas when the boating community—much of it still in the crosshairs of Dorian themselves—jumped into action to offer aid. Volunteer flotillas began to mobilize, pop-up aid drop-offs were organized and GoFundMe accounts sprung up across the internet. There was confusion and chaos as our community came to grips with the devastation in the islands and how best to help.
For the team at Yacht Aid Global (YAG), a disaster relief and humanitarian aid organization, the path forward was clear. Established in 2006, YAG understood the value of using superyachts as emergency response vehicles in hard-to-reach locales. As self-sustaining ships, they would not be a burden on a location’s already depleted resources; they also boasted the volume to transport massive quantities of goods and offer shelter.
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“Yachts are resourceful entities that can reach the most remote areas that can sometimes be looked over,” YAG Director Zoran Selakovic told Power & Motoryacht. According to Selakovic, the biggest benefit of bringing a superyacht into an area like The Bahamas is their ability to use onboard watermakers to provide thousands of gallons a day of clean drinking water. “The first yacht to make it to the Abacos (a 155-foot Christensen named Loon) has a de-sal unit aboard that can make 1,000 gallons of water per day that can then be pumped from where the boat is moored to shore.” On shore, the water is stored in such a way that people can come fill containers day and night.
Another benefit of bringing a superyacht to the islands is their onboard satellite communications. In the days after Dorian, thousands took to social media trying desperately to locate and learn the whereabouts of friends and family. Loon and the many other yachts that work with YAG could use their sat comms to let their loved ones stateside know they were alive.
“During [Hurricanes] Irma and Maria we worked with over 100 superyachts from around the world. Yachts came from as far as the Pacific and the Med to help,” said Selakovic. “We’re hoping to get at least 50 superyachts involved [in the Bahamas]. We have two dozen in the works.”
As the first yacht to reach the Bahamas, Loon provided tons of supplies, shelter for emergency responders, created thousands of gallons of water and likely saved countless lives.
“It’s just absolute and total devastation. Everything is flattened,” said Loon’s captain Paul Clarke of the state of the Abacos. “It’s just horrible. We had 10 crew working nonstop. We were doing 200 to 300 miles a day in our tender, running to different islands with a medic and delivering aid.”
Working with YAG, the crew of the 240-foot Delta Marine-built Laurel arrived not long after Loon to drop off nearly another 30 tons of supplies; they would not return empty handed. Armed with kennels and veterinary supplies, they welcomed aboard 50 displaced dogs whose owners were either missing or needed to be evacuated.
Before disembarking to the Bahamas, Capt. Roy Hodges rallied his crew by telling them: “Most of your career will be protecting an asset for a wealthy owner. This is different. This is giving aid to people who desperately need it. This is also saving a lot of animals that deserve to be saved. I just want to say thank you to everybody for being enthusiastic about it. And if we go a little bit beyond our comfort zone, know that you’re doing it for a good cause.”
Looking at the current state of the Bahamas, the rising death toll and the mountain of adversity facing the islands, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. YAG seems to understand that with planning and perseverance, even the biggest of buckets can be filled a drop at a time and that even a single drop can have a ripple affect for good.
Editor’s Note: Like many of you, the AIM Marine Group has been watching the destruction in the Bahamas with heavy hearts. Seeing the place where so many of us have made memories with our families and friends suffer has spurred us into action. After lengthy conversations with first responders, the Coast Guard and other humanitarian relief organizations, we have decided to make a donation to Hope 4 Hope Town (gofundme.com/f/Hope4HopeTown).
Contrary to what the name implies, proceeds from this organization will reach not just Hope Town but all throughout the Abaco Islands. We hope you will join us in standing with The Bahamas and supporting the recovery effort. The Bahamas have given so much to the boating community, and now is the time to give back. We are also supporting Bahamas Red Cross (bahamasredcross.org)and Third Wave Volunteers (thirdwavevolunteers.com).