Florida boat owners, aircraft heading to Bahamas with relief aid
ORLANDO, Fla., Sept. 6 (UPI) — Pilots, boat owners and philanthropists in Florida are preparing to travel to the hurricane-ravaged Bahamas with tarps, chainsaws, batteries, first-aid items, food and other supplies.
More than 30 privately owned fishing boats or yachts were loading supplies Friday in Pompano Beach, prepared to depart early Saturday for the town of West End on the island of Grand Bahama. That’s a little more than 90 miles over open ocean. Cruise lines and other maritime companies are sending aid, as well.
Florida fishermen who frequent the Bahamas were heartbroken over the images they are seeing, said Jeff Torode, a diver and board member with Shipwreck Park Pompano. He was working with an organization called Offshore Anglers of Pompano Beach to get supplies to five churches in the Bahamas.
“A lot of these guys fish in the Bahamas and have friends there,” Torode said. “It could have been us. I think there’s a sense of survivor guilt almost that we could have gotten this storm, but they did.”
Royal Caribbean said its ships are expected to modify their itineraries and make daily visits to Freeport to deliver food.
The cruise line’s Empress of the Seas had anchored off the coast of Grand Bahama Island to deliver 10,000 meals, 10,000 water bottles, equipment and supplies, according to a statement from Royal Caribbean International.
The Norwegian Breakaway ship left Miami Thursday with supplies going to Nassau, Great Harbor Cay, and the company’s private island Great Stirrup Cay.
Fort Lauderdale-based salvage company Resolve Marine Group is preparing to send a barge loaded with portable osmosis water treatment plants and 1 million gallons of water.
Resolve Marine was being paid by the Port of Freeport on Grand Bahama Island for a project that was underway before Hurricane Dorian struck, but the company is donating the barge and supplies as part of its charity work.
After the port opened Thursday, two cruise ships were able to dock there, said Aaron Jozsef, project manager at Resolve Marine.
Sands Harbor Resort and Big Dog Tackle shop in Pompano were serving as drop off points for supplies for the fishermen’s group, and they were asking for volunteers as early Saturday to take supplies to boats at the 14th Street Boat Ramp in Pompano Beach on Saturday morning.
Torode said he is aware that getting into the Bahamas could be difficult, but boaters believe the marinas at West End are accessible, because that area didn’t bear the brunt of Hurricane Dorian.
Later on, they will try to reach the Abaco islands that were devastated farther west, he said.
“A lot of people want to help,” Torode said. “We want to get the word out. We have a lot of items donated now and need help loading boats. The need will continue.”
The storm made landfall over the weekend in three different Bahamas locations, but then was stationary over Grand Bahama Island as a monstrous Category 5 for two days. At least 30 people are confirmed dead and 13,000 homes are believed to have been destroyed.
The Eagles’ Wings Foundation of West Palm Beach, a group that organizes pilots to respond to disaster areas, said it had made a few flights to identify landing areas on Wednesday, and would be sending flights with supplies.