While most boating enthusiasts rightly try to steer clear of storms, there are some who head toward the trouble to lend a helping hand. When Cyclone Winston tore through Fiji in February 2016 – destroying tens of thousands of homes, causing an estimated US$1.4 billion in damages and more than 40 deaths – Yacht Help Owner and Operator David Jamieson was there to lend assistance.
Jamieson has lived in Fiji since 2002 and has long been involved in assisting remote villages there with the help of his superyacht clients and allies, delivering schoolbooks and medical supplies to those in need.
While helping with the Vanuatu Cyclone Pam relief effort in 2015, he and Nigel Skeggs, the manager of Port Denarau Marina, set up Sea Mercy Fiji with a mission to, in the words of its website, “be the most effective preventive, curative, promotional and rehabilitative floating health care provider and service delivery mechanism to support the remote citizens of the island nations.”
When it came to Cyclone Winston, this meant utilising yachts to distribute aid and assistance to remote areas of the archipelago hit hard by the storm.
“Firstly this was always a team effort,” says Jamieson in a September 2016 interview with Asia-Pacific Boating. “Within two days after the cyclone the magnitude of what had just happened dawned on us. We immediately set to work identifying areas that we could reasonably reach with a handful of volunteer cruising yachts available at the time.”
Sea Mercy purchased tonnes of basic first-response goods and the yachts sailed to areas that Jamieson knew had not yet been visited. When these yachts arrived at their destinations, they were greeted by scenes of utter destruction and dazed villagers.
“These islands had gone through the eye wall of 160 knots and 80% of the houses were blown over, after which a five-metre storm surge washed everything they owned out to sea. Even though the yachts we had were overloaded with supplies, the greatest thing that we ended up providing was hope.”
In all, Sea Mercy contributed about US$750,000 most of which came from superyachts, says Jamieson. “The superyachts that came to Fiji were directly involved with delivery of essential supplies of water, food, clothes, farming equipment, seeds and books to name a few things,” he says.
Jamieson has worked alongside another volunteer group YachtAid Global, which organizes the delivery of disaster relief, development and conservation aid to coastal communities worldwide. YachtAid was founded in 2006 and is a registered non-profit. Over the past decade this organisation has delivered aid to more than 20 countries, including Vanuatu and Fiji, in collaboration with more than 40 superyachts, helping over 100,000 people worldwide, according to its website. – Parker Robinson