Because of the pandemic, many people have found themselves in unexpected situations. For 60-meter Perini Navi S/Y Seahawk and her crew, a three-day visit to Bonaire turned into three months when the pandemic began and the government shut down ports. During this unexpected, extended stay, they decided to spend their time positively and got involved with the community.
“Bonaire has a great community vibe, and the locals are so very friendly. We were the only yacht on the island and were docked [in the] center of downtown — we were a big talking point,” Chief Stewardess Keryn Rankin says. “It wasn’t long before we started meeting locals to discuss ways we could help.”
The yacht’s owners are involved with a shelter in Vermont, so the crew like to visit and help out with animal shelters wherever they are. At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Rankin and Gisela, one of Seahawk’s owners, visited the shelter in Bonaire, making an appointment with manager Sanne and discussing how they had been affected by the travel restrictions. Normally, the shelter has a shop set up at the cruise ship dock selling merchandise to raise funds and receive donations from tourists, but, of course, that completely halted. Seahawk had made a monetary donation but wanted to do more.
After a second visit, they noticed the puppy shelter was in dire need of renovation and Gisela suggested an overhaul. There was not a lot of shade for the puppies, the ground was dirt and dust, and they didn’t have much to play with or chew on. Although they hired a local building company to oversee the project, the majority of the work was done by the owners and crew.
“We dug out 30 centimeters of dirt and rock, then concreted half the area and placed sand in the other areas; built a large free-standing new roof for sunshade, an elevated deck under a tree, and an A-frame play structure with ramps and a run through tunnel; prepped and painted the entire area; [and] purchased and installed swinging toys, platform beds, and chew frames,” Rankin says. “As our stay on the island was extended, we progressed to do more for the shelter, including building a meet and greet area for possible adopters to meet the dogs, which also doubled as a space for volunteers to play and socialize the animals.”
Capt. Henry Bardsley was at the shelter daily and managed the project, being hands on with building a new deck and a large A-frame structure and pouring concrete. “A hugely enriching and humbling feeling to be able to do something so positive for a charitable cause. Knowing that you are doing good for the less fortunate, when we are all in such a fortunate position. You really want to do as much as you can for these causes,” he says. “Keryn Rankin opened my eyes up to the world of charitable possibilities, and I look forward to being a part of the next project. We, the Seahawk team, want to spread happiness across the globe."
“It’s not often you get to build a new animal rescue shelter with your crew and have so much fun while doing it,” Stewardess Thea Sedgwick says. “Meeting the people of Bonaire and being able to give our time was the most fulfilling, positive experience, and I truly look forward to the next project we embark upon.”
The Seahawk crew and owners also did a lot of diving and saw the amazing condition the reef was in and how it was teeming with life, so they wanted to help preserve that. With the assistance of their dive instructor Aubri, who got in touch with the local marine park conservation group STINAPA (Stichting Nationale Parken), they arranged meetings to see how they could get involved. Currently, they’re in the planning stage of helping STINAPA with several different projects — a survey of the “limits of acceptable change study” to determine what impact increased tourism, construction, and development will have on the natural environment and how to limit the impact on the reefs, and assisting the labs with completing a water quality analysis to ensure they meet the health and quality standards for the reefs to flourish.
Capt. Bardsley discussed the trash they had found on the beach with STINAPA, and they were recommended to meet with Carolyn Caporusso who represents OSPAR, which works to protect the marine environment of the northeast Atlantic. Caporusso held a presentation about plastic pollution and its impact, followed by a beach cleanup using the Clean Swell app to log what items they were collecting and their location. This information can then be used to lobby local governments to encourage change in plastic waste policies, Rankin says.
Not only did they enjoy their stay, but they want to help others discover the beauty and all Bonaire has to offer from mountain bike trails and “some of the best food in the Caribbean” to ocean swimming with horses. They’ve met with the local government and marine park conservation for the island to help implement five superyacht mooring buoys by the end of the year to encourage other yachts to visit.
“Sometimes the hardest part with charities is the first step — knowing how to get involved,” Rankin says. “We are so glad we could make a difference and leave our mark on the island in a positive way. I’m very proud of the work our crew did as a team.”
For those who wish to help now, Rankin suggests donating to FKK Animal Rescue at fkk-bonaire.org or Bonaire Animal Shelter at animalshelterbonaire.com. Also, no matter where you are in the world, you can participate in beach cleanups using the app Clean Swell. And if you’re looking for a pet, adopt an animal instead of buying one (a dog flown from Bonaire to Amsterdam only costs between $150 to $200, give them a chance at a loving home, she says), and if you can’t, consider visiting your local shelter for a cuddle or walking a dog.
“We left Bonaire on the 16th of June to make our way for Greece,” Rankin says. “We will most definitely be returning to Bonaire in December to continue our work and enjoy some diving.”