By Eddie Morgan
Monday, September 23 – Wednesday, September 25
After weeks of planning, shopping for supplies and preparing the Papi for travel, Kevin Moak, Cole Wyatt and I departed Harbor Docks at 7 PM, starting our journey to Guana Cay. We would arrive in Venice, Florida, around 2 PM the following day. In Venice, we picked up Chris Brock—whose cousin Jamie Sweeting is a hostess at Harbor Docks, and has family in Hope Town on Elbow Cay—before departing for Stuart, Florida, via Lake Okeechobee, arriving around 4 PM Wednesday afternoon.
Thursday, September 26
Already overloaded, and now with seven additional passengers—Timmy Roberts his son Timothy (Marsh Harbour); Terri Roberts, her son Luke, and brother Bo (Guana Cay); Henry Evans and his son Jason (Cartersville, Georgia)—we left Stuart for our final crossing to Guana Cay.
After reaching the Abacos—around Cooperstown as we headed southeast—we could begin to see the destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian. It progressively looked worse until we arrived at the Guana Cay settlement around 2 PM, roughly 66 hours after we left Destin.
The view pulling into the harbor was breathtaking, the destruction far worse than any pictures or videos could do justice. We pulled alongside what was left of the loading dock at Orchid Bay Marina, and were greeted by many familiar faces who would help us unload all of the generators, tools, tarps, food and other supplies that were donated or purchased with monies that had been donated to our relief efforts.
After unloading—and giving some much-needed hugs—we tied up at one of only three remaining docks in the harbor, secured the boat, and checked in with the locals to make plans for the morning.
Friday, September 27
We awoke before dawn, checked in at the makeshift command center located in the Seaside Gospel Chapel, and headed off to the home of Jackie and Andy Sands (whose son Bronson is a cook at Harbor Docks) to help Andy repair his roof. None of us being roofers by trade, we leaned on the wisdom of Andy—who is one of Guana’s only roofers—and Chris, who is a contractor in his home state of Michigan. We spent the day wrecking the old roof, replacing the rafters and plywood, and drying in one side of the roof before knocking off for the day.
Saturday, September 28
Arriving at Jackie and Andy’s bright and early, we immediately got started finishing the other side of the roof while we still had Chris, who would be leaving midmorning to go help his family in Hope Town. The hard work done, Kevin and I cleaned up our mess on the ground while Cole assisted Andy with applying ice and water shield to the roof. By lunch, we had completed our first roof.
After a short break on the boat, we showered and headed to Donna and Charles Sands’ home to begin prep work for that night’s dinner. At 3 PM, we began cooking jambalaya, fried shrimp and coleslaw for what we believed would a crowd of around 80 people at the church where the community has set up a soup kitchen, feeding three meals a day to everyone on the island.
Shortly after 6 PM, the doors opened and what unfolded was not unlike the dinner rush on a holiday weekend in Destin. An hour later and over 100 people served, we cleaned up, ate a little ourselves, and headed back to the boat.
Sunday, September 29
On Sundays, many of the locals take a much-needed break, so we took the chance to check out our home on Guana. While assessing the damage, we found Lisa Sausen, who needed help clearing a path around the washed out road by her home. A few hours of chainsaw work later, a new detour was created, allowing vehicle access to homes that we previously only accessible by foot, including our own. The damage at our home too great for the three of us to tackle, we gathered a few mementos scattered about the yard and headed back to the boat, with gifts of beer, cigars, guacamole and Lisa—who desperately wanted to catch the score of the Patriots game on our TV.
Monday, September 30
After a few days of being seen on a roof, it seemed people assumed we were actual roofers, so Monday morning we were immediately sent to find Sidney Weatherford, who was missing a portion of his roof. An easy job even for novices…other than the 30-knot winds and it being a two-story home. We had the roof dried in before lunch, and went looking for more work. With only a few hours before we had to begin cooking our second dinner for everyone, we found Troy Albury and followed him to his home to help repair and replace a small damaged section of his hardie board roof.
That afternoon found us cooking at the church again, this time spaghetti, garlic bread and a green salad for roughly 120 people. With one dinner service already under our belts, Monday’s dinner was a much smoother operation. We enjoyed a few cold beers with the locals that hung around until we were done and turned in for the night.
Tuesday, October 1
We started the morning on the roof at “Seas the Day,” the home of second-homeowner Michelle Ruiz, which she had lent to a crew from Caribbean Landscape helping clear debris from roads and homes on the island. We replaced a tarp that had blown free and moved a Port-A-John that had blown into her yard, then headed back to town. On our way, we found Andy Sands, again working on his home alone. With no other tasks assigned, we spent the afternoon wrecking out the mold-infested ceiling, floors and walls in the home and hauled everything off to one of the many burn piles set up on Guana Cay.
Jackie had insisted that she cook for us that evening, and cook she did. We enjoyed a feast of Bahamian delicacies—hog snapper, conch, and baked macaroni and cheese—before stumbling back to the boat.
Wednesday, October 2
Originally planning to leave on Thursday, we already had plans to meet up with Joe Warrington and the M/Y Melia—a 108-foot former supply boat turned yacht that had been providing relief to Marsh Harbour—to take on some fuel for our trip back to the states. Our day already shortened, we quickly installed a window unit and repaired a toilet for Glenda Snively, helped wreck out a damaged floor for Charles Sands, and headed south towards Hope Town to rendezvous with the Melia.
Many folks in town—particularly the Rastafarian Jamaican workers—had complained about the lack of fresh seafood available, so while waiting for the OK from the Melia to take fuel, we jumped in the Sea of Abaco around Scotland Cay and gathered up a handful of lobster and conch to take back to Guana. Getting back to the Orchid Bay docks after dark, we cleaned our catch—which we would distribute the following morning—and offloaded 60 gallons of diesel fuel for generators on the island.
Thursday, October 3
Our final day on Guana Cay was a shorter day, as we had to prepare the Papi for travel that afternoon. We installed a window unit in Tami Siewruk’s home, which she was going to be using to house more workers. Tami had taken charge of coordinating many of the relief efforts in Guana Cay and has done a marvelous job thus far issuing tasks to locals and volunteers, creating systems for issuing tools and generators for temporary use, and coordinating with people back in the states—like Ricky Sands and Katie Hoog, who have gathered and arranged delivery of an immense amount of supplies—to make sure Guana gets what it needs.
We finished the day by helping Lisa remove a refrigerator that had failed from the second floor of her home, and demolished and cleaned up the tennis court, which would be repurposed into a temporary medical clinic and outdoor shower facility.
We ate dinner once again with Jackie and Andy, but this time we did most of the cooking for them. After a dinner of grilled lobster and ribeye, we returned to the boat, and for the first time all week the fish were biting. We caught mangrove and mutton snapper until we ran out of bait, saving them in our cooler to give to the island in the morning as a final parting gift.
Friday, October 4
While leaving Guana Cay is never easy, Friday morning was especially tough. For the last week, we had worked on roofs, floors, plumbing systems and HVACs. We had cooked, cleaned, cleared roads and demolished tennis courts. We left with hope—the beloved fig tree remained, and had already sprouted new life—and the knowing that we did what we could in our time on the island. The rebuild will be long, but while the community is motivated to come out better than before, they will still need our help in the months and years ahead. Goodbyes are supposed to be hard—and this one sucked—but it was time to get home to our families. We only had a three-day boat ride to go.
Saturday, October 5 – Sunday, October 6
Just like days one and two in reverse, we navigated the locks through central Florida and arrived in Venice just before dark Saturday evening. Immediately upon docking at the Crows Nest Marina, we were hailed by a 40-foot trawler taking on water. We helped them tie up, hooked up a bilge pump and stabilized the vessel until Sea Tow arrived. Finally, our relief efforts for this trip were complete.
Sunday morning, we were greeted by an angry Gulf of Mexico and battled six-foot seas for most of the day before backing into our slip at Harbor Docks at 7 PM.