M/Y Laurel: Delivering Aid and Rescuing 50 Dogs

27 September 2019 By Laura Dunn

On September 1, Hurricane Dorian spent days hovering over The Bahamas as a Category 5 with winds as fast as 185 miles per hour.

Bahamians desperately need the help of anyone who can intervene — something that’s likely to be true for years, even a decade or more. According to a September 13 report by the NPR, just two weeks after Dorian did its damage, the death toll across The Bahamas’ was 50 with 1,300 missing persons — which was updated from the initial 2,500.

Intervening in Freeport and Nassau
Understanding the massive need, Capt. Roy Hodges and the 21 crewmembers of M/Y Laurel made their way to Freeport from Newport, Rhode Island. After arriving in Nassau on September 5, they landed in Freeport two days later, where they delivered 30 tons of hurricane relief supplies and started loading 50 homeless dogs into crates for safe transport to Florida on September 9.

Although Laurel originally planned to intervene with relief efforts in the Abacos, the draft of their boat prevented them from entering Marsh Harbour. Instead, they sailed to Freeport. As they cruised closer to Grand Bahama, all the trees looked burned and it was absolute devastation there. “All the houses, all the roads, everything was just gone,” says Laurel’s Chief Officer Wikus Botes, who describes it as being just flat in Grand Bahama. “You couldn’t make out if there was supposed to be houses or roads or maybe buildings; it was just a mess.”

Everything east from Freeport was absolute devastation while everything away from Freeport was actually untouched.

Puppy Love
Chief Officer Botes spearheaded the dog rescue effort and was able to partner up with Big Dog Ranch Rescue in West Palm Beach, Florida, to take in the 50 dogs they rescued from the Abacos.

Once they safely prepared the dogs for transport to the States, they set sail on September 7 with the dogs safely tucked away in crates in the tender garage’s AC-ventilated area for two days — thus making them the most pampered creatures on board.

In addition to the clearance Chief Officer Botes got for Nassau, Freeport, and West Palm Beach, he also had to get clearance from U.S. Customs for the importing of dogs and a letter from Bahamas Customs for exporting them. However, before they could make the trek to the States, the Nassau humane society gave the dogs rabies shots, medical certificates, and a check-up. Once everything was complete, the stranded dogs were ready to make the trip to Big Dog Ranch Rescue.

Currently, three of the dogs were reunited with their owners, and Botes says nine have been adopted.

Botes was eager to thank the many people who helped to make their animal relief efforts possible, including Jennifer and Ray Huizenga, who used their private jet to transport about 90 crates, dog food, and medicine from Fort Lauderdale to Nassau — twice.

“The owner was so, so happy to allow us to do this as well,” says Botes, who adds that Tom Golisano, a Florida billionaire and philanthropist, got back to them straight away after they asked permission to use his superyacht. “He’s like, yes, go for it. He’s a big animal lover as well — he’s got a rescue dog himself,” notes Botes.

How to Support The Bahamas
Despite the massive damage to part of The Bahamas, it is very much open for business. Capt. Hodges points out that the northern Bahamas took on the most hurricane damage. “Central and southern Bahamas are still perfect,” he says.

Though Nassau remains quite functional and intact, the public consensus seems to be that it is too dangerous to visit. For instance, down the road from Capt. Hodges’ Eleuthera home, his friend owns a small Bahamian resort where there’s no hurricane damage and has been experiencing a lot of reservation cancellations. “It’s a shame,” he says, adding how important tourism will be to help spur regrowth.

Relief efforts will be needed for many years. “I think places like Green Turtle, probably Hope Town, I think they’ll recover fairly quick,” says Hodges, adding that there’s money and resources there. “I think that once you get into Marsh Harbour, I don’t think there’s as much wealth. I think that will take a very long time to recover — if I had to guess, I would say that it’s going to be at least a decade there,” predicts the captain.

As for the north side of Grand Bahama, Hodges says he thinks it’s going to be a long recovery. “Around the port and everything, there’s money there, so that’ll come back very quickly.” He adds that since there’s not much damage at West End, they’ll be back in action at some point soon (since there’s money in that region). As for Port Lucaya and surrounding areas, the captain worries that it won’t ever recover since it was on a decline before Dorian ever touched ground.

Be creative with your talents and resources. Capt. Hodges, for instance, who is also a pilot, is currently on standby to fly some doctors to the area to help. “Do anything. Everybody, they keep thinking too much,” he says. “Just do something,” he stresses.

Keeping Superyachts Safe and in Great Condition

For those owners who are worried about damaging their vessels during relief efforts, Chief Officer Botes says there’s no reason to stay away from getting involved due to this kind of fear. “No, it’s zero damage to the boat because we’ve got experienced crew on a boat who protected the owner’s asset,” Botes says, who explains that they cover everything as they go — both the exterior and the interior.

“If you let 20 strangers onto the boat, they will not be as familiar with the boat as the crew. You need to think of the safety of the crew and the vessel before doing anything else and that was my number one priority.”

Contact Numbers
Yacht Aid Global
Norma Trease +1 (954) 478-7448
Mark Drewelow +1 (619) 972-8695
Abe +1 (423) 430-7406

Big Dog Ranch Rescue WPB
Lauree Simmons +1 (561) 719-1754
Jackie +1 (561) 529-0779
Ashley +1 (561) 628-0011

Humane Society Nassau
Charlotte +1 (242) 357-7073
Dr Grant +1 (242) 456-8125
Vet. Amanda Pinder +1 (242) 422-6345

Bradford Marine Freeport
Michael Kelly +1 (412) 860-5660
Ray Lightbourne +1 (242) 727-1889