The Coastal Star

On the Water: Local boaters shuttle supplies to Dorian-battered Bahamas

Hurricane relief supplies jam the boat showroom floor at Tuppen’s Marine & Tackle in Lake Worth Beach. Tuppen’s co-owner Steve Sprague, along with others from Palm Beach County, used their boats to transport donated goods to West End, Grand Bahama Island, on Sept. 7, the Saturday after Hurricane Dorian pummeled the northern Bahamas. Willie Howard/The Coastal Star

By Willie Howard

Ocean waters off the coast of Palm Beach County were filled with boats zooming east toward the Bahamas on the morning of Sept. 7 — the first Saturday after Hurricane Dorian pounded the northern Bahama islands.


Private boaters and owners of marine-related businesses — many of them accustomed to running their vessels to the Bahamas for fishing and diving excursions — rallied to deliver food, bottled water, generators, hygiene products and other supplies to people who lost their homes and belongings in the hurricane.


The Old Bahama Bay marina at West End, Grand Bahama Island, was overwhelmed with private boats delivering supplies on that first Saturday after the hurricane, said Steve Sprague, co-owner of Tuppen’s Marine & Tackle in Lake Worth Beach.
“The people were so happy to get the supplies,” said Sprague, whose store and boat dealership were jammed with donations for the relief effort.


Sprague said his friend Paul Smolcheck of Wellington used his boat to bring food and a grill to Bootle Bay on Grand Bahama Island. He cooked hamburgers and chicken sandwiches for anyone who wanted them at the marina on that first Saturday after the hurricane.
Fishing for Families in Need (F4fn.org), a nonprofit started in 2007 by students at St. Andrews School in Boca Raton, began taking contributions for the Bahamians soon after the storm.

Members of the football team and the Caribbean Club at St. Andrews School in Boca Raton sorted and packaged donated goods for hurricane relief. The nonprofit Fishing For Families in Need, founded by St. Andrews students, delivered the goods to the YMCA in Freeport. Photo provided by Fishing for Families in Need


The students collected, sorted and packed a truck full of donations from business donors, including Nomad Surf Shop and Belzer’s Hardware in Boca Raton, to help people affected by the hurricane on Grand Bahama Island.


The donated goods were shipped to the YMCA in Freeport for distribution in mid-September, said Nicholas Metropulos, executive director for Fishing for Families in Need.


Capt. Mike Simko, an avid angler and broker with HMY Yachts, worked with the West Palm Beach Fishing Club to collect donations for the Running Mon Sunrise Resort & Marina in Freeport.


The fishing club donated generators and fuel for the relief effort, while fishing club members donated food, clothing and supplies needed to clean up the hurricane-ravaged resort.

A woman lifts a basket of food brought by South Florida boaters to the marina at Old Bahama Bay on Sept. 12. Photo provided by Steve Sprague


Simko planned to lead a group of boaters to deliver the donations after waves from Hurricane Humberto subsided.


Jeremy Efron, owner of Tight Lines Marine in Lantana, collected water, food, children’s toys and other supplies at his boat dealership and planned to deliver the donations in a 35-foot Contender to Green Turtle Cay.


“One of our friends who lives there will take everything and distribute it,” Efron said. “It’s so sad what happened over there.”
Efron said he planned to take two extra drums of gasoline on the boat because fuel is likely to be scarce in the Abacos. If people on the boat have spare fuel, he said, they’ll leave it for the Bahamians.

Coming events...

Oct. 5: Basic boating safety class offered by Coast Guard Auxiliary, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the headquarters building at Spanish River Park, 3939 N. Ocean Blvd., Boca Raton. Fee $35 (or $5 for youths ages 12-19). Register at the door. Bring lunch. Call 391-3600. Leave a message.

Oct. 23: Jordan Funt of Three Buoys Tackle discusses deep-drop fishing off the coasts of Florida and the Bahamas, 7 p.m., West Palm Beach Fishing Club, 201 Fifth St., West Palm Beach. Free. 832-6780 or www.westpalmbeachfishingclub.org.

Oct. 26: Basic boating safety class offered by Coast Guard Auxiliary, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the classroom building next to the boat ramps, Harvey E. Oyer Jr. Park, 2010 N. Federal

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