Crew with a Cause: Helping the Kids in The Bahamas

12 November 2019 By Lauren Beck

It’s been more than two months since Category 5 Hurricane Dorian slammed into The Abacos and Grand Bahama, causing an estimated US$7 billion in damages. Hundreds are still missing. The breaking news coverage may have died down, but efforts behind the scenes are still ongoing.

YachtAid Global (YAG) made headlines during the relief efforts after creating Operation Topaz to coordinate yachts to carry aid to the affected areas. Many superyachts were on the scene just days after the storm to help.  

“It was easy for me,” Capt. Aaron Abramowitz says. “I have spent the better part of twenty years cruising in The Bahamas — fishing, diving, and in general enjoying all that The Bahamas has to offer. The least I could do was offer my time and skills to help the people and the place I love recover from this disaster.” Abramowitz currently runs his yacht management company, Oceans Yachting, in Palm Beach, doing relief with YAG as often as he can.

Abramowitz was on a 50-meter sailing yacht in 2009 when he was first approached by YAG founder Mark Drewelow to help with a school in Costa Rica that was experiencing water issues. “We later crossed the Pacific and kept in contact for the remainder of our trip and have worked together as a voice for YAG and on specific projects since then,” he says.

The Bahamas was no different. In Dorian’s aftermath, he was involved in multiple operations from procurement to delivery based on the needs identified by the people already in the affected areas. “We quickly mobilized assets, industry professionals, and, in many cases, regular citizens willing to set aside time to help others in need,” Abramowitz says. He coordinatized most of his help from Florida and by the time he got to The Bahamas, things had improved slightly on the ground. “The conditions in Abaco continue to improve but they have a long road ahead and still need assets to assist in the rebuilding process,” he says.

Abramowitz says YAG continues to identify the needs for the northern Bahamas and is currently working on several operations headed there shortly. He credits the skills he gained over the course of his yachting career as a big help when it came to organizing materials and assets to make these operations run smoothly. “That said, I don’t feel that I did anything specifically on my own; YachtAid Global is a team that works together every step of the way.”

The most recent trip over in October had Abramowitz on board for the trip. This time, the boat was loaded with school supplies for Sand Point J.A Pinder Preschool, Crossing Rocks Public School, and Cherokee Primary School, including computers and iPads, art supplies, notepads, stationery, projectors, and more. Some items were specifically requested, but other items were added by YAG. With many schools still closed in the affected areas, students are converging on Cherokee. “It was unbelievable to see high school kids in the Cherokee Church that drove over an hour one way, whether their parents brought them, [or they] hopped on the back of a truck,” he says. “They’re coming from all over.” Abramowitz noted that school closures mean more kids are having to share the available resources, too. “At the end of the day, [these supplies are] going to get these kids back in the classroom learning rather than sitting there idly waiting for their time to use the limited resources currently available,” he says.

They’re currently putting together a second round of school aid, which Abramowitz says will most likely be a multi-vessel operation with a series of smaller vessels heading over and heading in different directions to cover more ground more quickly. Stay tuned for details.

YAG has been on the ground from the beginning for Operation Topaz, with 10 superyachts actively involved in operations. “We work at the UN level and incorporate industry best practices in all that we do,” says Mark Drewelow, YAG’s founder and executive director.

Since the beginning, Drewelow explains that YAG has coordinated hundreds of medical flight evacuations, thousands of evacuations by sea, tens of thousands of gallons of drinking water, and hundreds of tons of general disaster relief supplies, ranging from immediate needs, and lifesaving items to rebuilding supplies, school supplies, and comfort items. YAG conducts needs assessments with their partners on the ground, and then find volunteers to move the cargo. “We expect to be involved in various types of ongoing recovery and rebuild work in Grand Bahama and The Abacos for months and years to come,” he says.

“I believe that as owners, captains, crew, and industry professionals worldwide, we have an obligation to help when and where we can,” Capt. Abramowitz says. “Often, we have the financial means, assets, and skills needed to make the greatest impact. It doesn’t take a natural disaster for you to get involved, either — YachtAid Global works around the globe currently supporting projects that you can help support. It’s nice working on something bigger than yourself.”