Ed Thompson is a Key West-based captain on a private fishing yacht that travels all over the Caribbean and Bahamas in search of big game. Of course, he’s not the only one. There are dozens if not hundreds of boats, employees and owners that do the same. They call themselves the “Brotherhood of the Blue” and band together in interesting ways. For example, if a mate has to travel back to the mainland for an emergency, one of his “brothers” jumps on the boat to take his place.
And they make friends with the islanders wherever they stop; like San Salvador in the Bahamas, a popular destination on the bluewater circuit. Thompson said the fishing industry is a significant portion of the island’s economy, but the locals’ friendliness goes far beyond quid pro quo.
“They take such good care of us. One day, I gave a lady some fresh wahoo and the next day she was waiting at the dock for me with a basket of friend chicken,” he said.
And then there’s Pops, who Thompson swears was dropped off by Christopher Columbus and been there ever since. He has a beat up guitar he uses to serenade the anglers every night, weaving the boat’s name and the day’s catch into the lyrics.
The account of Thompson’s rescue mission, below, stands out for the number of people that jumped into help, how many of them call the Keys home and can understand the magnitude of not only how devastating a hurricane can be, but also the true size and momentum of giving.
There are many other individuals in the Keys mounting similar expeditions — including Cracker Charters on Duck Key, Foxy Lady out of Delray Beach, Chillin’, Bud & Mary’s Marina in Islamorada — and we commend them all.
“My industry cares,” Thompson said.
By Ed Thompson (as told to Sara Matthis)
The storm decimated San Salvador. It basically withstood tropical force or greater conditions for 72 hours and the worst was between Wednesday, Sept. 30 to Friday, Oct. 2. It was a category 4 on approach and a category 3 when it hit. The eye crossed over the island before it pulled out to the northeast.
Friday, Oct. 2
The cell towers stayed up throughout the storm, but the island lost power about 12 hours in. I was able to chit chat with Michelle Williams of Riding Rock Marina every few hours. The last time I talked to her, on Friday night, she said it was going very bad and her last words to me were, “God bless. I hope we make it through this.”
Then I lost all contact with the island for two days.
Saturday, Oct. 3
By Saturday, the Brotherhood of the Blue came alive and was frantically posting on Facebook looking for news. I called my boss Steve Swindal, owner of Blue Heaven, and he agreed that we needed to do something. He told me to call the pilot of his private plane and have it brought to Key West, pull the seats out of it, and load it up with supplies. I immediately started a Go Fund Me crowd-sourcing account. Within a couple of hours, we had $3,000 with a goal of $10,000 and by Tuesday of this week, we topped $23,000.
Sunday, Oct. 4
The manager Rob at The Home Depot in Key West was extremely helpful. He pulled someone over to help and took us around the store, noting the weight of each box, mindful of the plane’s load capacity. At Publix, it was the same thing. We got everything over to Tony at Landmark Aviation at the Key West Airport, and they were also very helpful. They gave us a staging area and helped us put everything in the hangar. We collected 1,500 pounds of supplies.
Monday, Oct. 5
We landed at about 11 a.m. It was pretty bad. There are some homes that only have shingle damages and there are some that have large potions of their roofs missing. There is no power on the island. I toured the power plant and while no one could say when power will be restored, It was hinted that it could be as much as 3 to 4 weeks before the island could get full power back. All of the spare filters and parts that were stored on the second flood of the power plant were ruined when the roof came off. I spoke to some homeowners on the south side of the island and houses were wiped off the face of the earth. One couple had to walk five miles back to civilization and then get a ride to town. The best news, however, was the number of private planes landing there to offload supplies. I counted seven. They have no interest other than helping the people of San Salvador.
About San Salvador
San Salvador (known as Watlings Island until 1925) is located in the Bahamas on the outer (or eastern) fringe. It is widely believed that during Christopher Columbus‘ first expedition to the New World, San Salvador Island was the first land he sighted and visited on 12 October 1492. About 1,200 people reside on the island, and its biggest town is Cockburn Town, the seat of local government. A Club Med resort, called “Columbus Isle,” is located just to the north. According to reports, Club Med was heavily damaged, a dire prospect for the majority of inhabitants who are directly, or indirectly, employed by the resort.
For more information about relief efforts, please visit San Salvador Hurricane Recovery on Go Fund Me or log on to Thompson’s blog: reportsfromtherip.com. There are other Go Fund Me categories for Long Island, Turks & Caicos, Rum Cay, etc. Yachtaid Global is also organizing relief efforts, as well.