International Rescue Group's yacht, in service for humanitarian aid missions, has just completed an 9 month mission to Haiti and meeting emergency management staffs in the Caribbean islands. Now returning from St. Lucia to Florida to load up for the next voyage to Haiti. We recently responded to Dominica's Tropical Storm Erika disaster relief needs, this was only 80 miles from our St. Lucia standby location. Click here for logistics details

Here's the basic voyage plan: departure ASAP OCTOBER 2015 Port Morgan, Ile a Vache, Haiti to Havana, Cuba where we are invited personally by the Commodore of the Hemmingway Yacht Club then we will continue our voyage, destination: Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Probable departure to Havana, Cuba about 15th October and Fort Lauderdale late October.

For those people who are worried about Cuba - see this from the US Government official site - humanitarian projects do not require a Treasury Department license any more. Thank you President Obama!

NOTE: This is a sailing voyage in a disaster relief organization! As we just discovered with the Dominica disaster, we were able to respond and make a big difference to thousands of people, working as an extension to the various Caribbean emergency services. In this case we're 10 days behind original schedule and this could happen any time...

This is a 97' gaff-rigged classic Dutch ketch with beautiful accommodations (see pictures below and this link for much more). All crew are always unpaid volunteers and all pay their own expenses including food which works out at $15 per day whether docked, at anchor or underway. Everyone learns how to sail , no experience required. 

Email Captain Ray on ray.thackeray@internationalrescuegroup.org with your interest and any questions, let's build an itinerary and get ready to sail on this lifetime opportunity! See below these photos for a lot more answers to your questions.

NEW: Here is our real-time position using SPOT Connect donated by Greg Parks.

See more details below these photos.

Ariel view of gaff-rigged ketch Thunderbird 5

Under spinnaker.

Fully equipped cockpit.

Main lounge.

Master Stateroom, queen-size bed, en-suite shower and head.

Guest cabin, full-size bed.

We are still working out some of the details but here are some general guidelines for those interested in this cruise aboard IRG's flagship Thunderbird 5, a 97' gaff-rigged ketch. Preference will be given to crew who wish to join the entire cruise. Cabins are available for immediate arrival - except last week in August is fully booked - in this paradise of a Windward Island, St. Lucia. We already have a number of enquiries for cabins and we'll set a departure date soon with the first one or two bookings. 

Cruise objectives
Normal modus operandum - 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 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, it's probably a month itinerary. There are stops we may make along the way to meet up with other like-minded sailors and spread the word of our humanitarian mission with crew agreement on their schedules. We're positive these days will pay great dividends in future assistance from those we meet and network with en-route.

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?
This is primarily a transit voyage from St. Lucia, W.I. to Fort Lauderdale, FL (we may make a stop in Haiti en-route) and then later to support station in Haiti but we will try to meet aid groups, ambassadors, establishing networks, making contacts and, above all, helping make a difference in the lives of thousands in case of emergencies. Many fun dinners on the foredeck with local island guests!

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?
You'll have a berth on board during the voyage, though please be aware you may share in an upper/lower bunk with other crew if you are placed in that cabin. You will be responsible for your cost 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 destination.

Crew 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. We are a charity, not a business!

Please note that payments are non-refundable. As funds will be spent on fuel and provisioning prior to commencement of the voyage, we can't refund because of no-show, cancellation or desire to depart before completing the passage or termination for any reason. 

What about phone and internet access?

Our boats are not equipped with satellite WiFi (which is horrifyingly expensive!) and the Caribbean isn't exactly bristling with cellphone towers, but there is always 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 land line telephones. 

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. This is summer - layers of light clothing are recommended. Our boats have enough foul weather gear for all crew with spares including harnesses and personal flotation devices (life vests). If you have your own handheld marine VHF radio it would be a good idea to bring it with you as your personal shore communication - highly recommended. There are boat handhelds but we've watched these tend to get drowned, damaged, left uncharged or lost on a regular basis! If it isn't the crew's own property, it tends to get abused unfortunately. We have one ship's dinghy with 10hp outboard motor, so shore communications are important for crew pick-ups etc. Don't forget your own prescription medication if needed. We have plenty of fins, dive masks and snorkels, but feel free to bring your own. Sleeping bags will not be required and there are plenty of sheets and blankets on the yacht. Unusually, there is also a washer/dryer laundry aboard.

How about food?
We will cook 3 meals on board from the point when you embark until final arrival. We'll work out diets and preferences on crew applications. We may be taking turns to cook. We eat very well especially when catching fish. We can troll multiple "meat hook" lines when sailing.

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. 

IRG does not carry medical insurance for our crews, that is a matter for personal decision.

Guns
Some yachts in this area do carry guns for protection, but it is IRG's policy not to carry firearms of any kind on our yachts and personal guns or projectile weapons are prohibited except an underwater spear for fishing. The locations we are visiting should not require any form of lethal protection!

What if I have to leave early?
If, in case of personal emergency back home, you need to return to your home sooner than planned 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 voyage. There will be multiple 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. Please be aware, however, that all expenses are committed at the beginning of a voyage and refunds are not possible.

Personal medical insurance
IRG does not carry crew medical insurance, you must take care of this yourself if you require it.

Isn't it dangerous to sail in hurricane season?
Actually, it's potentially dangerous to sail ANY time, but yes in the Caribbean hurricane season doesn't end until 1st November officially. Strangely however, there are many thousands of boats here anchored out or in marinas or on moorings. and the same in Florida which has the same hurricane season! The key is good weather reporting, and on our yacht we have a weatherfax AND an electronic weather receiver, so we will be getting forecasts every watch underway. Most hurricanes in the region form in the eastern Atlantic and  there's usually 5 days warning of a tropical depression forming, plenty of time to make it to protected anchorages. It's up to you to research the subject for yourself and decide what kind of risk you feel ready to take on this (or any other) voyage.

How do I apply?
Please send an email to Captain Ray asking for an application form. There's is also a waiver which was given to us by the one of the other very large and well-known sea charities, we adopt the same approach that's well tested.

Captain's preference
Your Captain is very east-going but with one pet peeve - no 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 walk the plank instead. We may come back to fish you out. Maybe not!

Back home…
You will need to provide us with a solid point of contact to call if something happens to go wrong while you are aboard. 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!

There will be more to follow and I'll add answers as people ask questions.

All the best,

Captain Ray
IRG Vessel Thunderbird 5 - 97' gaff-rigged ketch.