This time a year ago, several islands in the Caribbean were still reeling from the twin hammer blows dealt by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017.
Moved by the scenes of devastation in this popular and much-loved cruising ground, yacht owners and their crews exercised their compassion in the most obvious way and offered their services as aid-running 'mules'. YachtAid Global coordinated relief collections across the Med and various superyachts hopped from port to port collecting aid, everything from clothes and medicine to building materials and tools, to ferry it across to the Caribbean where it was desperately needed.
The crew of the 60m SLIPSTREAM was presented with the Yachts du Coeur trophy on 11 June this year. It was awarded in recognition of the efforts made jointly by SLIPSTREAM's crew and those of other yachts such as SEQUEL P, KATHARINE and VA BENE from the Burgess fleet, and several yachts from other fleets. We spoke to SLIPSTREAM's Capt. Phil Stevens, who shares the duty with Capt. Steve Osborne, to find out how important it is to give back.
"When there's a disaster, there are people who do get involved because it's so easy to do. We're in a good position to help and it takes hardly any effort,” says Capt. Stevens. "When we went to Dominica in 2017, it was a 12-hour detour over 10 days, nothing really. The Boss allowed us to carry extra fuel and that was his contribution.”
"After the run, we were asked 'Would you receive this award because we want to promote the whole thing?' and it's hard to say no. We asked The Boss if he was happy to do that and he thought 'Why not?'”
"Help is still needed out there. They've experienced it before and they're resilient in their methods and thinking but any kind of help would certainly be welcomed. If we become a mule again this year it will be a self-driven project, but I don't see that not happening. That's just in our nature, we've always had that focus on trying to do something extra if we can.”
The urge to do something was given form by Second Stewardess Becci Williams. "I put the word out on my Facebook page, then the Palma Yacht Crew page, and it really took off. I got 131 emails from other yachts wanting to get involved. I started another Facebook page and others linked to that. It was even publicised on the radio in Palma.”
"To start with we asked for clothes for the children and we got so much! Then we asked for tools, bedding, food, medication - everything. Some of the tools donated were old and not much use so we used the crew's charity kitty to buy some new ones. All the cabins were full, the lazarette, the main saloon, everywhere was packed!”
It's a small aside, that a crew should have a charity kitty, but it opens up another side to superyachting, as Capt. Stevens explains: "For about six or seven years now, with the agreement of all the crew, we donate 2.5 percent of every gratuity we get to a charity kitty on board. We've been involved in lots of different things that have been driven by individual crew. For example two crew went to Uganda on holiday to walk with gorillas, and went to an orphanage/school that obviously needed help. We bought a plot of land for them and built two school houses with donations from the crew.
"We don't just donate money, we get involved ourselves if we can. There was an orphanage in Antigua that we got involved with, and about 10 of the crew went up there for two days with a load of tools. They cut down the overgrown grass, repainted the inside, fixed hinges and hurricane shutters, paid for an electrician to come and fix the broken ceiling fans and put lighting in. We took tinned food and went supermarket shopping with them. The crew were so satisfied that they'd done something worthy. Everybody got so much out of it.
"When we left Antigua in April, we wanted to do something for somebody in Barbuda. We'd heard whispers that donations going to Barbuda weren't always ending up where they should so we wanted to do something direct. Through a third party we met a lady called Rose Brooks and we gave her USD 5,000 towards putting a roof back on her house. Her husband had been living there under a tarpaulin for two months.
"We'll always have a bit of time in Antigua so this year we'll spend a couple of days anchored off Barbuda with the boat filled with timber, nails, tools, generators and we'll go and physically do something for a couple of days. None of the crew needs convincing, we're all on the same page.
"We wear our heart on our sleeve,” concludes Capt. Stevens. "We're in a good position to help and it takes hardly any effort. We're so fortunate to do what we do anyway, and 2.5% of our gratuities soon builds up.”
SLIPSTREAM underway in the Caribbean, Capt. Stevens' favourite winter cruising ground.
L-R: SLIPSTREAM's crew: Chief Officer Liam Skelley, Deckhand Toby Bond, Chef Richard 'Tricky' Harrison, Capt. Phil Stevens, 2nd Officer Nick Clarke, Deckhand Ben Watts and Ben Dobson with Rose Brooks (fourth from left), to whom the crew donated USD 5,000 from its charity kitty to replace the roof of her Barbuda home.
L-R: Ben Watts, Ben Dobson, Rose Brooks, Nick Clarke and Toby Bond.
L-R: Ben Dobson with Rose Brooks.