Hurricane Dorian became a monster unexpectedly and changed the world of the Bahamas... As Founder of OWNA, and living in SE Florida, I have had the privilege of helping with collaboration between major and local organizations, all working to collect, get supplies to the islands and distributed to the right people and help the local community to coordinate the next stages of recovery; cleaning up the debris, securing homes from weather, rebuilding an infrastructure to open tourist business to build their future.
The efforts of these organizations are immense, having moved 1000s of tons of supplies, landed 100s of volunteers to distribute, offering professional support. Cooperation is leading the way, especially after this first round of 24/7 response. As the supply chain finances decrease and the needs become more specific, everyone is working together so that not one area of the islands is missed with supplies to meet their specific needs at their stage of recovery. I have been working alongside the most amazing folks who are giving 1000%.
Bahamas Paradise Cruises has coined the phrase, ‘Volun-tourism’, encouraging anyone who wants to help in the restoration of the Bahamas to book a cruise, at less than half price. The Cruise ship is coordinating relief efforts with local organizations, while providing all the necessities of the passengers. You can simply go to enjoy the weather and ‘still white beaches’ or volunteer your skills, for minimal cost. The Tourist business is paramount to the stability of the islands and rebuilding of affected areas. 90% of the islands are fully operational and need boosted tourism to offset the challenges of helping Grand Bahama and the Abaco Islands recover.
Our goal is to offer the opportunity for Volun-tourism to the cruising community heading for the Bahamas this winter season. OWNA is stepping up our program to realize a dream. Since 2008, I have sought the software expertise needed to provide support to the transient, seasonal, as well as full-time cruiser; sail and power vessels. We are now able to utilize sophisticated logistical satellite data gathering software, developed by Eagles Wings Disaster Solutions, along with software development guru, John Simion, to aid in interactive functionality. Our vision is to empower the Marine Community to 'Cruise with a Cause'.
Since Hurricane Dorian, the entire world has gathered to help the shattered physical world of the peoples in the Great and Little Abaco and Grand Bahama Island. Great strides have been made in an incredibly short period of time. The fast paced professional first responder groups are finishing up their campaigns. The vast fleets of Black Hawk Helicopters that brought initial lifesaving drops of food and evacuations, are heading home... but the work has only just begun. The stage of recovery moves from emergency relief to restoration of the basic needs of the local residents; to allow the traumatized but powerful community of Bahamians to return to their homes to begin rebuilding their lives, their businesses, livelihoods; kids returning to school... Normalcy in a different form.
It will take a long-term effort to stay committed to help the Bahamian people toward a timely restoration. There are seasoned organizations based in FL that are leading the way, committed to provide the resources. I know the Sailing and Power yachting community is staging to help. OWNA is gathering up-to-date progress information from the organizations who are working 24/7 to continue to bring aid, workers, and support via barge, plane, ships; in every island affected. They want your help and donations. Every penny is used to further the recovery of local families. They need your volunteer efforts on-the-ground.
Given the logistics and the incredibly fragile infrastructure on the islands, and the potential of security issues as the islands move through the recovery process, LOCAL ORGANIZERS ARE STRONGLY ENCOURAGING YACHTS TO COORDINATE EFFORTS WITH THE ESTABLISHED PRIVATE GROUPS THAT ARE ON THE GROUND MANAGING THE RECOVERY PROGRESS. RESTORING THE BASIC NEEDS FOR LOCALS IS THE PRIORITY.
Treasure Cay, Spanish Cay, and Hopetown have some limited fuel already. Water is a real problem so folks with water-makers will be an incredible asset. Whether a resource for supplies, on the ground in the islands, or aboard your vessel coordinating your efforts, we are here to help. Whether you want to volunteer in your favorite anchorage devastated by Dorian, decide to take a detour to help on your way to the Caribbean, make a stop on your way to some other cruising grounds in the Bahamas, Eleuthera, Exumas, Hispaniola, the western Caribbean... please help us to help coordinate this effort for your safety and the greater restoration of the Bahamas.
The mantra of the Caribbean Community the season after it was devastated by IRMA was, ‘We are ready for you. Please come vacation in the Islands”. As we saw and still see after Hurricane Irma, the charter, transient and seasonal, as well as full-time cruiser, sail and power vessel community are making a powerful impact helping in all phases of recovery dealing with the disaster; outpouring supplies, expert skills, and support, emotional and practical. There are thousands of dedicated vessel owners and organizations that changed lives by caring. I know the participants in the upcoming sailing and power boat rallies as well as individual yachtsmen doing their great circle route around the Atlantic, are heading south and want to help. The Bahamians are heralding the same mantra. “Come to the Bahamas and enjoy… come vacation here and lend a hand.” They are all doing everything they can to get back up and running for your visit.
The OWNA Heartbeat APP from Virtual Badge allows individuals or vessels to download an application that provides vital information for security, as well as a data collection and analysis, locations of supplies, and resources. There are forms embedded specifically to the effort in the Bahamas for gathering general information of islands assisted, as well as detail forms for immediate efforts in a specific location. There are forms for use during any cruising season anywhere in the world for long-term efforts to support island coastal communities. The forms are geo-located via the smartphone. The data downloads once in WiFi connection. The information has small data usage as it is all simple text excel data, pictures reduced to thumbnails.
The process to get a badge includes downloading the application, creating an account, choosing OceansWatch NA as the organization, answering the questions for the credential (yacht information, safety information); then the badge is pending, and approved. Virtual Badge APP is used by thousands of workers for huge corporations; thus, it has this credentialing ability. Organizations with multiple members can have their own badge designation, the information from their workers' badges analyzed, reports available to the administrator of group. It can be used to validate quality and quantity of the organization’s efforts, useful in grant development. The data is also available to the larger effort.
The collective voice in an effort like this one is not about who does or gets what, but instead, the fact that someone is being helped; their lives on the mend. The OWNA Heartbeat APP is a tool to help implement a solution... the rest will be done messenger to messenger, face to face, with hard work offering an opportunity to build lasting friendships. OWNA... where smiles greet you and the sense of satisfaction follows in your wake.
Organizations I interacted with… it is not at all an exhaustive list.
First Responders: and many more
Eagles Wings Pathfinders
Puerto Rico Relief Flights
Pacific West SAR
Yacht Aid Global
Local FL relief orgs and organizations on Islands:
Brian Malone for Hopetown- Office is North Sails St Petersburg
Ed's Flying Relief