Several times over the years, I’ve written about the importance of Junkanoo to Bahamian culture.
For well over a century, Green Turtle Cay residents have gathered on New Year’s Day to welcome in the coming year by donning colourful costumes and marching through town accompanied by a cacophony of cowbells, whistles and the infectious rhythm of goat-skin drums.
But when Hurricane Dorian devastated Green Turtle Cay this past September, the storm not only destroyed the island’s Junkanoo shack where residents gathered to make costumes and to practice, but it also ruined many existing costumes and instruments.
With so many locals left without homes and jobs, and with so much rebuilding to do, it seemed unlikely they’d want (or be able) to stage a 2020 New Year’s Junkanoo rush.
Two weeks after Hurricane Dorian devastated the northern Bahamas, the 55’ Nordhavn trawler M/V Adventure arrived at Green Turtle Cay to assist with the island’s recovery. Together with a group of friends and volunteers, vessel owners Captain Bradford and Lorraine Carlton quickly established a food kitchen, which they dubbed the Adventure Cafe.
For twelve weeks, Team M/V Adventure has served breakfast and dinner to the entire community. On November 21, the group announced that, since running water and power have been restored to many homes on the cay, they’d be serving their last meal today, December 13th.
Of the many things for which I am grateful this year, Team M/V Adventure is high on the list. Thanks to them, to the Green Turtle Club and to everyone who’s helping to give Green Turtle Cay a Thanksgiving dinner later this week.
It’s true that many resorts and vacation rentals in central and north Abaco are temporarily closed due to damages sustained during Hurricane Dorian. But several south Abaco resorts are open and ready to welcome guests.
I’ve received numerous reader emails since Hurricane Dorian and by far, the most commonly asked questions are “How can I help Dorian victims?” (which I’ve answered HERE) and “What Abaco businesses are open?”
To keep everyone informed (and to help me keep track, since the list is growing daily!) I’m compiling a master list of open Abaco businesses, which I’ll share over the next few days here on the blog.
Though much of the world’s media has moved on to other stories, our friends and family in the Bahamas are still struggling in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.
While it’s true that some communities are making progress in their recovery, many areas still have a long, long way to go. Thousands of Bahamians still have no electricity, running water or access to banks and other vital services.
The reality is that foreign aid is still very much needed in the northern Bahamas, and will be for years to come.
For those wondering how to best help Bahamians affected by Hurricane Dorian, I’ve recently updated my “How You Can Help” page. Please take a moment to check out the list and contribute if you can toward these worthy organizations.
In the nearly ten weeks since Hurricane Dorian, we’ve talked a lot about the helpers. And rightfully so.
Hundreds of relief workers and volunteers have put their lives on hold to come to the Bahamas to feed storm victims, raise sunken vessels and muck out buildings.
Thousands of kind donors have contributed funds, food, clothing, vehicles, construction materials and more. And the Bahamian people are incredibly grateful for this support.
But on Friday night, Tom’s news report – shot while we were in Abaco in late October – was about Bahamians. In this case, the residents of Green Turtle Cay who are working tirelessly to rebuild their homes and lives.
Until the 1970s and 80s, few Green Turtle Cay residents had home telephones. Most had to walk to the hilltop telephone station to place calls.
Later, the VHF radio provided a vital communications link for local residents. What it lacked in privacy, I’m told it made up for in entertainment value.
Thankfully, over the past few decades, communications in Abaco have improved significantly. Not only have land lines become common, but the quality of cell service and Internet rivals that in the U.S. and Canada.
But then came Dorian. And now we’ve gone back – quite
literally — to the drawing board.
A lot of blog readers have emailed to ask how the Green Turtle Cay Ferries fared during Dorian.
Prior to the storm, GTC Ferries had four vessels in operation: Bolo, Bolo II, Bolo III and Bolo IV.
With Dorian churning toward the island, the ferry company hauled Bolo and Bolo IV from the water and secured them on the hard at the boat yard. They tied up Bolo III in Black Sound and moored Bolo II deep in nearby Munjack Creek.
Today makes two years since we lost Eric Sawyer so unexpectedly. His passing was a shock then and it’s still difficult to accept.
I wanted to take a few minutes to remember him (if I close my eyes, I can still hear his laugh) and to send love to his parents, Brian and Caroline, his sister Michelle and her family, his brothers Ronel, Peter and Richard, and his thousands of friends in the Bahamas and around the world.
When Tom and I arrived on Green Turtle Cay last week, we were prepared for what we would meet. We’d seen the images and heard stories of the destruction Hurricane Dorian had visited upon this little island.
What I wasn’t expecting was how beautiful New Plymouth still is. Bruised and battered? Definitely. Still in need of help? Absolutely.
But, as the saying goes, true beauty comes from inside, from the heart. And the heart of Green Turtle Cay is bigger and stronger than ever.
Though some of our young people have left Green Turtle Cay post-Dorian, many remain. And on Thursday evening, local residents took a few hours away from the ongoing recovery effort to stage a fun Halloween event for the town’s children.
Over the past six weeks, Tom and I have received so many kind calls, emails, texts, Facebook and Whatsapp messages and more, inquiring about our little house by the ferry and how it fared during Hurricane Dorian. Until now, however, I just didn’t feel ready to talk about it.
Early on Sunday, September 1, as Dorian barreled northwest along the coast of Abaco toward Green Turtle Cay, we began hearing how severely Hope Town and Marsh Harbour had been hit. At that point, Tom and I made peace with the fact that Fish Hooks would likely be destroyed.
This terrific video was posted yesterday on YouTube by a member of Team M/V Adventure. Team M/V Adventure helped set up the Adventure Cafe, which has been feeding the folks of Green Turtle Cay as they attempt to rebuild their town and their lives after Hurricane Dorian.
I just did a rough tally, and over the past 14 years, I’ve shot more than 115,000 photos on Green Turtle Cay. And yet, in watching this video, there were entire street scenes that I didn’t immediately recognize. The amount of damage and destruction our little island has sustained is absolutely heartbreaking.