As the largest hurricane in the history of the Atlantic began closing in on the little island of St. Maarten/St. Martin the world watched and waited with bated breath. This was especially true for those with a seafaring background and those who had family there. Captain Lucille Frye was one such person. A resident on island, and a class 4 Captain on mega yachts, she was in constant touch with her family offering updated weather reports and keeping everyone informed from Europe where she happened to be at the time. The family was hunkering down before the onslaught; having endured the “once-in-a-lifetime” Hurricane Luis they had a very good idea of what was to come and how the aftermath would test everyone’s mettle.
Contact was lost, the weather reports showed that the eye passed over the island and knowing that aid would be needed Lucille swung into action. Being in contact with many people around the world she was able to assist with the coordination of the first much needed medical supplies to land on island and get delivered directly to the hospital.
A team was beginning to come together, a team of dedicated people who wanted to helpdirectly where help was needed. There are many people in the yachting circle who reached out wanting to help the people on island. Funding was set up and asthe donations grew; help could be sent.
The first private boat making way into Simpson Bay Lagoon – ARK # 1 - was captained by Andy Sinkey. Andy had lost his boat during Hurricane Luis and knew full well what was happening on the island. Now a resident on Dominica where he and his wife built an off grid eco hideaway in between working together on charter yachts Andy immediately volunteered to fill a yacht up with supplies in Martinique and sail it up to St. Maarten.
Sadly no sooner did he get here with relief supplies than the threat of Hurricane Maria stalled his immediate return trip. Andy and the yacht sat here, unable to return while the eye passed over Dominica where his wife and sister were holding the fort.
Andy lost contact with his family and the totally devastated island. Desperate to return he needed to find new crew to sail with him back down island but not before he collected another 4 tons of supplies including much needed medical supplies from the St. Maarten Medical Hospital as they now had some to share with Dominica.
Andy finally made it home to find his family safe and started the long process of rebuilding.
(ARK # 1 delivered 4 tons of immediate aid relief that included water, food, gas, diesel, tarps and medical supplies and K 1 Brittania distributed these supplies. The plan to rotate the ARK # 1 between St. Kitts and St. Maarten did not materialize with the onslaught of Maria in Dominica.)
In the meantime, new ideas for relief for St. Maarten was moving ahead. The yachting circle really love coming to the island in high season and they wanted tooffer as much help as they could to help from a distance. Donations came in from many companies, crew and individuals in the yachting industry.
During the Monaco Yacht Show Captain Juan Koelenberg on the 63m explorer vessel M/Y SuRi generously offered the yacht to be part of this aid as ARK # 2. With the owners blessing, he kindly agreed to collect aid in Barcelona, Spain and stop in St. Maarten en route to the Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show.
Lucille and the BWA St. Maarten team gathered lists from some small foundations on the island who were really in need. With only a few days to prepare the lists were sent to Antonella Della Pietra and her team at BWA Yachting Spain. This incredible team literally shopped till they dropped, gathering together and labeling supplies listed for the foster homes, children’s homes, care centers and foundations for both the people and animals who were desperate for items that were literally swept away by the winds from Irma.
Essential furniture such as cots, beds, mattresses, linens, bedding, personal items, school supplies, animal food and cans and long life foods were shopped for. These items were all designated to help the children and their caretakers to a “new” normal way of life.
M/Y SuRi and the ground team in France made up boxes of supplies and stowed them onboard before they headed out on the proposed sail to Florida. As time was so short before the yacht left the bulk of the shopping was done by the BWA team in Barcelona, Spain; this meant that the yacht had to make a quick stop there to enable the team to get the supplies and stow them on the yacht.
M/Y SuRi is a 63 meter expedition vessel with an enormous amount of space between the small seaplane, helicopter, tenders and water sports gear they carry. Pallets of long life milk, water, bedding, school supplies, animal food, donated clothing, new clothing, bedding, mattresses and pillows, furniture and food were stowed. These were easily put on and taken off the yacht as there is a big crane with a long extension arm on the aft deck.
M/Y SuRi eventually arrived on St. Maarten and transited the Simpson Bay Bridge on the afternoon of Wednesday 18th October. This was an incredible event as M/Y SuRi is the largest vessel to enter into the lagoon since the passing of the September hurricanes. Kurt Luckert was instrumental in seeing that all debris was cleared and the dock could accommodate this large vessel and vehicles in the driveway. Divers had to ensure the waterway was complete clear of sunken vessels from Simpson Bay through the bridge and the entire water area in front of Palapa Marina. Shore Support, and The Scuba Shop lent tenders and manpower and BWA saw to the clearance and gave huge support with their manpower.
The crew was welcomed and enjoyed a relief party that evening at the Upperdeck such as only Soggy Dollar can provide.
Thursday morning all teams gathered early and the offloading began. Human chains quickly transferred the supplies from boat to shore, the organizations came and collected their consignments and the yacht was out of the lagoon on their way to the Florida Boat Show by the 3 o’clock bridge. From Captain and all crew the word is how much they love coming to the island and although the islanders are dealing with such devastation they were received with the warmth the yachting community knows they always get when the arrive here. They hope that more yachts will make their way to the island this season.
M/Y SURI’s crew, as well as the BWA teams France, Spain and St. Maarten, is grateful to be part of this effort the caring yachting community put into place. They worked incredibly hard to get the consignments to the right people, at the right place, in a timely manner. The support from the overseas yachting community includes individual yachts and BWA, assisting member of the Super Yacht Aid Coalition (SAC) with Yacht Aid Global. (YAG)