We are still working out some of the details but here are some general guidelines for those interested in the cruise down the Caribbean chain aboard IRG's flagship Thunderbird 5, a 97' gaff-rigged ketch.
Please inform me of the sections of the cruise you wish to sign up for. Preference will be given to crew who wish to join the entire cruise. We are presently in Hollywood, FL and cabins are available from January 4th. This was the original departure date but we haven't sold any cabins to "Volunteer Vacationers" (which is how we hope to partially fund the voyage, so some success so far!) on the earliest part of the voyage so we will depart a little later. Also one of the orphanages can't deliver a load of supplies until January 5th. So we'll have a little more time for crew to get used to this very compex vessel before sailing.
We need our crew to join the boat as early as possible from 4th January to help prepare for the voyage and get as much work as we can in fundraising before departing. We will be able to work with good WiFi and phone access when we get to Rum Cay also.
We will be sailing from our anchorage in Hollywood, FL to Venezuela via many islands including Rum Cay, Bahamas (to scope out this island as IRG's new base for the Caribbean), Haiti (to deliver supplies to two orphanages) and in general we will be hosting emergency management officials from as many islands as we can visit aboard the yacht to develop relationships.
Will I need a Passport?
You will need a Passport. More specifically, you will need a current passport that will not expire for at least 30 days after you expect to return. The vagaries of wind and wave coupled with the uncertainties of any relief mission make it prudent to have at least that much of a buffer period on your travel documents.
How long will I be gone?
For this voyage, figure on 3 months. See http://bit.ly/thunderbirdcharters for the more detailed itinerary though this may change. We've got a few stops to make along the way to meet up with other like-minded sailors and spread the word of our humanitarian mission. We're positive these days will pay great dividends in future assistance from those we meet and network with enroute.
We plan to spend time working on and establishing local relationships and a presence; many times in disaster relief, the hardest part is getting the people who need help to realize that you are a resource and how to get to you. If you can stay longer than the itinerary in the link above, that's great, but if you can't be gone that long, that's fine too.
There will be other missions later in the season where we may be able to fit you in. We'd love to hear from you with details of your future availability.
OK, so what's the plan?
What will we be doing when we get there?
Meeting other aid groups, establishing networks, making contacts and, above all, helping make a difference in the lives of thousands in case of emergencies.
Can you be more specific?
Not right now, there are too many details to be worked out once we arrive. However, if you were the kind of person that needs a stable, rigidly ordered schedule, you probably wouldn't be considering the opportunity anyway. Right?
How about money?
Everybody on this mission is a volunteer so nobody is going to get paid for the voyage or the work we do. You will however, be free to claim bragging rights for participation, resume/CV points, and good karma. We are going to coordinate transport to and from Port-au-Prince on Haiti on day trips that will be in company (none of our crew will be expected to travel alone), and you'll have a berth on board during the mission, though please be aware you may share in an upper/lower bunk with other crew. You will be responsible for the costs of transport to and from our port of embarkation and for your lodging once there when not on one of our boats. You will also be responsible for your own lodging and board once we return to the mainland.
We recommend that you find a sponsor or sponsors to help defray the costs of your travel and lodging and we can help you with that via IRG's online fundraising system - we can accept credit cards and PayPal transactions. Any excess sponsor monies will be gratefully accepted by IRG in the furtherance of this mission. All our members should create their own personal member profile on IRG's website and develop fundraising messages, invite their friends, family and colleagues to watch your boat's progress and use our online infrastructure to accept donations that can be tracked to your efforts.
HOWEVER - we are all sharing in food costs ($6/day) and immigration fees (latest information was $20 per person in Haiti).
EARNING SOME MONEY FOR CREW ALONG THE WAY - we do have two charterers booked and hope (but can't guarantee) that tips will come our way which will be distributed amongst the crew which could be as much as 20%. You can get some idea of the passenger charges on this page. We'll all sit down and try to brainstorm ways of making some money along the way, some to fund the boat's operations and some for the crew. I'm confident we'll figure out some ways of paying our keep... We'll reward any charters that our crew can sell, so please promote the above website any way you can!
Note: In the interest of friendly competition, there will be a very nice prize for the person who presents IRG with the largest monetary sponsor donation!
What about phone and internet access?
We can't answer this right now. Our boats are not equipped with satellite WiFi (which is horryingly expensive!) and the Caribbean isn't exactly bristling with cellphone towers, but we are likely to have mobile roaming access for emergency calls on shore, and our shore support people on some islands including Haiti and Rum Cay do have WiFi and landline telephones. One of our boats has a satellite phone but Thunderbird 5 does not. We'll try to get one but that depends on booking some "volunteer vacationers" to help pay for it...
What should I plan on bringing?
Nothing out of the ordinary, but no hard luggage - plan on a soft duffel or "sea bag". Packing lists and the details of required and suggested items will follow. Multiple layers of light clothing are recommended. Our boats have enough foul weather gear for all crew including harnesses and personal flotation devices.
How about food?
We will provide meals on board from the point when you embark in Florida until the point you return to Florida. We'll work out diets and preferences in the next several days. We may be taking turns to cook.
What about my medical conditions?
If you should have any chronic medical needs (hypertension pills, allergy medicines, etc.) you will need to bring enough to carry you through the mission with plus at least 10 additional days, just in case. For vaccine recommendations, please read this bulletin from the CDC (click here).
IRG does not carry medical insurance for our crews, that is a matter for personal decision.
What if I have to leave early?
If, in case of personal emergency back home, you need to return to your home sooner than your vessel arrives back in Florida you will be responsible for your own airfare. This can be quite expensive so if you have any doubts about the stability of things at home, we strongly discourage you from applying for this maiden voyage. There will be other missions throughout the year and you'll accomplish more if you can keep your mind in the game without having to worry about your home situation.
Personal medical insurance
IRG does not carry crew medical insurance, you must take care of this yourself if you require it.
No audible Rap music. Repeat - no Rap, Hip-Hop or anything that sounds remotely like it! Please don't test The Captain on this one, as your device will be instantly be pitched overboard. If it's on a ship's audio system, the evil perpetrator will be pitched overboard instead. We may come back to fish you out. Maybe.
Speaking of back home…
You will need to provide us with a solid point of contact to chat with if something happens to go wrong while you are there. This should be a mostly responsible individual who has some inkling of your past and your ongoing doings. Therefore, if you happen to be an international spy who is deeply undercover and/or wanted by Interpol, you should probably forego this opportunity.
Please don't let our application form daunt you, it solicits much of the information mentioned above, please fill it out as best you can and if we have any questions we'll contact you. There will be more to follow very soon.
All the best,
IRG Vessel Thunderbird 5 - 97' gaff-rigged ketch.