April 10th 2015: I'm Ray. Captain Ray to my volunteer crews who join me from time to time. Today I met a single-handed sailor who has been sailing his 80 year old wooden Bristol Channel Cutter out of Wales and after years is still sailing by himself. This morning he was bunkering some fuel and water and I waved him off to Antigua where he is going to participate in the classics yacht races. He's been sailing his boat around the Caribbean alone for years and appeared to be very happy about it.
And now I'm learning what it's like to be truly alone on a boat.
How did I come to this? For the last five months I've been fundraising, preparing the vessel for voyage, repairing broken equipment, buying replacement parts, assembling a crew, planning a humanitarian aid mission, accepting cargo intended for orphanages, children's homes, subsistence fishermen and clinics in Haiti and sailing the boat, usually 24 hours a day on her mission. The crew have now all departed to take up the rest of their lives, leaving me alone at anchor on relief standby in St. Lucia in the Caribbean Windward Islands.
The organization is International Rescue Group (IRG) and I'm the founder. IRG is an all volunteer NGO and our mission is disaster relief and humanitarian aid. What we've accomplished is entirely funded by our unpaid volunteers, some manufacturers who have donated equipment, wonderful people who have donated their boats, and a few cash contributors (not many of those).
Somehow, with almost no cash but with dedicated crews, we manage to keep our two fairly large sailboats in the Caribbean operational. The boat I'm on is a Dutch-built steel gaff-rigged ketch with very traditional lines, originally built for the German Navy as a cadet training vessel.
She is 97 feet overall, over 19 foot beam and 7 foot draft. She has two 1,500 gallon per day watermakers which can make 3,000 gallons of potable water per day - enough for 10,000 people in an emergency. We are planning to acquire an IEHK (Inter-agency Emergency Healthcare Kit designed by the World Health Organization and United Nations) that we can carry on one of our vessels - designed to provide a doctor and nurse medical supplies for 10,000 survivors after a disaster scenario. Our boats will provide much-needed accommodations for medical professionals at island or coastal communities.
We have another 56 foot boat also managed by unpaid volunteer Captain Sequoia. We had our first "fleet" action when we jointly sailed to Haiti a few weeks ago, and are now planning our next.
But none of this comes without dedicated and motivated volunteers to help fundraise, run local awareness events, coordinate disaster response and recruit medics and boat crews.
If being involved in an organization like IRG attracts you, please contact me and I'll be glad to discuss how you can help.
So here I am, alone in a metal shell floating on the sea and getting used to solitude. But I have the confidence that there are people out there who will step forward and join me to continue our mission to help wherever we can.
PS After I wrote the above blog, Tropical Storm Erika blew through the island of Dominica with major devastation and loss of life and I spent a month in logistics and scheduling supplies for the disaster relief operations, sailing two missions with a total of 24 tons of supplies to Portsmouth and Roseau, Dominica.