The Second Wave
Hurricane Relief — Where Do We Go from Here?
The immediate response to the damage caused to some Caribbean islands by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September was impressive. With generosity matched by enthusiasm, people leapt forward to help, and vessels of all sorts laden with water, food and other relief supplies quickly carved wakes to the affected isles. [See reports at www.caribbeancompass.com/online/october17compass_online.pdf and www.caribbeancompass.com/online/november17compass_online.pdf]
But disaster relief is an extended passage. Although immediate needs usually get looked after promptly, often there is a huge need for help months later. Much progress has been made, and should be lauded, but, as Lulu Trask wrote on November 23rd in Superyacht News, “...by portraying too strong an image of survival and even one of a thriving destination, we run the very dangerous risk of indirectly suggesting the Caribbean no longer needs our help, when it absolutely does.” While some might think the need for relief from events that happened three months ago over, it isn’t. Others know there is much yet to be done but are feeling “disaster fatigue” and have lost motivation.
Now — with an influx of new and returning boats and more people arriving and moving around as the high sailing season starts, and with the holiday spirit of giving in the air — is the time for a renewal of energy and efforts to help Dominica, Barbuda, St. Barts, St. Maarten/St. Martin, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico get to the next waypoint on their voyage to recovery.
First, for a morale boost, let’s take a look at some examples of the progress being made in storm-stricken islands, and just a few of the perhaps lesser-known things being done — and then let’s see what we can all do to help now, in the all-important “second wave”.
Bright Spots in Puerto Rico
Although the recovery news from Puerto Rico in general remains distressing, at least in terms of marinas there is good news.
Puerto del Rey marina in Fajardo (www.puertodelrey.com) reports that over 1,300 vessels there survived a direct hit from Hurricane Maria, with 90 percent of the vessels in the water coming out unscathed and less than three percent sinking. Ninety-three percent of vessels in the marina’s Hurricane Storage program are in condition to be ready to cruise this season. Jorge Gonzales says, “Just days after the storm we were open for business. Our fuel dock, restaurant, helipad and apartments are all open for business. The San Juan airport is fully functioning, and Puerto del Rey is only 45 minutes from there. Winter cruisers escaping the cold weather can come to Puerto del Rey today and enjoy the full experience.”
From Marina Pescaderia on Puerto Rico’s west coast (www.marinapescaderia.com), José Mendez reports, “Glad to have new transients coming in for new adventures. Sad to see old transients/friends leaving for new adventures. Transients are on the move! Got the washing and drying machines and the rental cars back in action. Everything back to normal at Marina Pescaderia!”
See more hurricane-recovery business updates in this month’s Business Briefs, page 8.
Some of the Ongoing Efforts Underway
“Since the hurricanes hit, the Governments of Antigua & Barbuda and Dominica, along with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), have been working on the ground hand-in-hand with UN teams, co-led by the UNDP and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs,” said Irwin LaRocque, Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). “Also on the front line have been other CARICOM Member States and specialized institutions, France and its departments in the Caribbean, Venezuela, the United Kingdom, the United States and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Women and men are working around the clock to build back better.”
Louise Mitchell Joseph reports that the Grenadines Partnership Fund’s donation to the Diamond Trust allowed the Trust to send over EC$10,000 of materials from St. Vincent & the Grenadines to Dominica last month on the local cargo vessel Admiral Bay. “Thanks to Hand2 Earth for linking us directly with a Kalinago community family who were in need of building materials.”
In St. John, USVI, resident and country music star Kenny Chesney set up the Love for Love City foundation to help rebuild (loveforlovecity.org). In addition to assisting the hard-hit island’s human inhabitants, Chesney has partnered with Pets With Wings, Big Dog Ranch Rescue and the Humane Society of St Thomas to evacuate 90 homeless, abandoned or stranded dogs to Palm Beach, Florida to be re-homed.
To replace trees toppled by the storms, the UK Royal Navy carried 120 sprouted coconuts and young coconut trees from other islands to White Bay, Jost van Dyke and Brewer’s Bay, Tortola, BVI.
Hank Schmitt of Offshore Passage Opportunities (www.sailopo.com) reported on November 19th, “We just returned two hours ago from Dominica. We brought seven generators, ten power tools and 30-pound pails of screws and nails. I also paid a contractor to fix the PAYS Pavilion so they will be ready for the season. When I get home I will be ordering 30 more new mooring buoys for their mooring field. We also started a credit union so some PAYS members can borrow money to fix their boats and be ready for the season.”
On the same day, Ray Thackeray of the International Rescue Group (members.internationalrescuegroup.org) reported, “We dispatched a 42-foot Morgan, S/V Relentless, to Puerto Rico with supplies yesterday morning (one of the crew is from Fajardo and I’m confident the supplies will reach the people locally who need them most), and two more boats are sailing in here in the coming week to load up for PR as well, bound for Fajardo, Culebra and Vieques.”
The cell-phone company Digicel has committed to rebuilding seven primary schools and 360 homes in Dominica’s Kalinago Territory that were devastated by Hurricane Maria. Chief Executive Officer of Digicel Dominica, Nikima Royer-Jno Baptiste, stated, “Our focus on helping the country build back better has seen us committed to rebuilding seven primary schools in the Kalinago Territory, Castle Bruce and La Plaine… our scope has extended and we will also be rebuilding the homes of a number of children attending these seven schools.”
As seasoned seafarers, members of Team Wadadli, rowers from Antigua who compete in the Talisker Whisky transatlantic rowing race, were instrumental in the evacuation of the island of Barbuda. As Alison Sly-Adams of Antigua Nice (www.antiguanice.com) reported, the rowers had already selected the cause of marine conservation to raise awareness of by participating in the current Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, but Hurricanes Irma and Maria “moved the conversation of climate change to a whole other level”. They decided that Barbuda had to become a key part of their journey. “Barbuda needs all of our help and this event will be the perfect platform to highlight why it’s ecologically such an important space and engage the world’s media in helping us raise the funds that are needed to rebuild it.”
As recently as November 20th, VI-R3 (vi-r3.org.) distributed 2,000 cases of water, 130,000 C and D batteries and many hygiene kits to an estimated 3,500 to 4,000 St. Croix, USVI residents. VI-R3 (formerly Hurricane Relief for Our Sister Islands) was founded by brother-and-sister team Sarah and Matt Ridgeway on the night Hurricane Irma hit St. Thomas and St. John. The two were born and raised on St. Croix and lived through the recovery efforts after Hurricane Hugo. After Hurricane Irma, the siblings, along with friends and other local volunteers, worked with the Coast Guard to get permission to transport relief supplies to St. Thomas and St. John and provide assistance to evacuees. After Hurricane Maria, the group changed the organization’s name to VI-R3, with the intention of forming a permanent group that is able to respond immediately if the Virgin Islands experience another hurricane or a natural disaster in the future.
Editor’s note: There is a very interesting effort underway to coordinate future boat-lifts and other yacht-based hurricane-relief missions in the Caribbean, to make sure supply deliveries aren’t duplicated and the right things get to where they are needed. We’ll have an update on that in next month’s Compass!
“Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Member States must seize the opportunity to help the countries that were devastated by the recent hurricanes to build back better and become the first climate-resilient nations in the world,” says CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque.
Many CARICOM Member States were struggling to overhaul outdated power plants prior to the passage of the hurricanes. CARICOM Energy Programme Manager, Dr. Devon Gardner, highlighted the example of Dominica, which, pre-hurricane, was on the verge of reaching financial closure for the construction of a geothermal plant. That facility could have reduced the island's dependency on fossil-based electricity by 50 percent. Now, the government is faced with the priority of providing for its citizens who have been heavily impacted by the hurricane. Gardner says, “Our future lies in the reduction of risk from extreme weather impacts, which requires adapting our economic, social and environmental systems to changes that are already unavoidable. A strategic focus on energy, climate and disaster risk… is needed, such that the efficient and cost-effective production, delivery and use of renewable energy decouple our development from expensive fossil fuel use.”
The European Investment Bank and the Caribbean Development Bank have set up an emergency post-disaster reconstruction financing initiative that will support investments for infrastructure reconstruction projects in the Caribbean in the wake of the recent hurricanes. The new US$24 million financing package is in addition to the US$120 million Climate Action Framework Loan II signed in May this year, and which remains the EIB’s biggest loan to the Caribbean. Eligible investments will include infrastructure reconstruction, with a focus on “building back better” and integrating climate risk and vulnerability assessments into the projects. This will help reduce the Bank’s Borrowing Member Countries’ vulnerability to future natural disasters and worsening climate change impacts.
The US Coast Guard Southeast reported on November 17th that post-hurricane maritime response operations through out the USVI began off of St. Croix to address direct impacts of grounded vessels on sensitive reefs and other marine habitats. The Coast Guard is overseeing efforts in conjunction with the USVI Department of Planning and Natural Resources to identify and oversee the removal of more than 400 vessels across the islands. Vessel owners have until December 1st to notify the Coast Guard and DPNR of their intentions for their vessel. If vessels are left unclaimed after the December deadline, they will be considered abandoned and removed for maritime environment safety. The report said that there are almost 300 vessels in VI waters that have no known owner. Federal assistance is available for vessel owners who do not have insurance or financial means to recover a vessel they would like to have returned to them. If a vessel owner no longer wants their vessel, it can be signed over, and the vessel will then be removed, cleaned and transferred to DPNR for further disposition. Vessel owners can find more information at http://usvihurricaneboatremoval.wordpress.com.
BVI Director of Tourism Sharon Flax-Brutus has suggested that tourism-based economies institute a “national shutdown policy” to be triggered in advance of a major hurricane. Flax-Brutus explained that following Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which left many tourists stranded for several days on affected northern Caribbean islands, tourist destinations were now tasked with reassuring visitors that their safety was paramount. She argued that it could no longer be a case of guests at hotels staying at their own risk during a major hurricane, nor was it fair for hotel workers to be made to safeguard guests, while leaving the workers and their properties exposed to danger. She suggested that depending on the severity of the storm, it should be mandatory for guests to be evacuated to safer destinations, or to return home. She pointed out that clear and precise guidelines for visitor protection would be a good step towards erasing any lingering fears.
Similarly, should yachting facilities have mandatory evacuation plans as well? Although marinas in Puerto Rico reported that most boats there safely weathered the storms, some marinas, boatyards and fleet-storage “hurricane holes” in the BVI and St. Maarten weren’t so lucky. As quoted in the November 2017 issue of Dockwalk (www.dockwalk.com), the general manager of one marina in St Maarten said, “We had 43 boats that sought shelter in our marina, ranging from 40 to 175 feet. Of those, 40 sank at the dock… A 135-foot yacht brought part of the dock down with her… an 80-foot catamaran flipped upside down on top of the dock.” He was further quoted as saying his marina “suffered less damage than other marinas on the island”.
What you can do now
Donate. Donate. Donate. See a list of reputable donation sites on page 25 at
www.caribbeancompass.com/online/november17compass_online.pdf or an updated version at
Carry some cargo. Your boat might not be big, but stow a bucket of nails or a big pail of powdered laundry detergent to bring to someone rebuilding or cleaning up. Solar-powered lights and battery-operated fans are still needed where electricity hasn’t been restored. Bugs are still a problem: give away mosquito nets and insect repellent (non-aerosol if possible). If arriving in a hurricane-affected island before Christmas, think of the kids.
Lighten up. Buy that fish that guy is selling, even if there’s steak in your freezer. Buy the handicraft item or souvenir that‘s going to put food on someone’s table. Let the kid carry your bags or scrub the bottom of the dinghy so he can bring his mother a few dollars. It’s all part of the rebuilding effort.
Gifts That Keep on Giving
The “hurricane kids” are growing up fast — and need your help.
School Supplies for Now
Principal Teddy Wallace of the Roosevelt Douglas Primary School in Dominica requests that boaters bring the following items, and no doubt other schools in hurricane-affected areas would appreciate them, too. (If bringing school supplies to Dominica, declare them to Customs as “gifts”, and leave them with PAYS or contact email@example.com if you can’t take them to a school yourself.)
Picture books and flash cards for learning math, letters and words; construction paper; glue or glue sticks; toilet paper (biodegradable); thumb tacks; children’s scissors; paper clips (small and large); chalk, white and assorted colors; world maps, Caribbean maps or globes; heavy-duty staplers; pencils; pens; crayons; rulers; correction tape or fluid; pencil sharpeners; first aid kits; packaged white copy paper (for Xerox copier); Tupperware-type containers; used sails (for sun protection in outdoor areas); assorted color dry-erase markers for whiteboard; blackboard paint, and insect repellent.
Books for Later
Hands Across the Sea is an excellent organization that gets books to schools and libraries throughout the Eastern Caribbean. Your donation now will allow them to order and have books shipped next year, when the damaged school libraries will be ready for books!
For more information and to make a donation, visit www.handsacrossthesea.net.
||Top of Page
Copyright© 2017 Compass Publishing