HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — A crisis along the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, along with gang violence and an unstable Haitian government, have left the people there in dire straits. The only way to get aid there is by sailboat.
It’s extremely dangerous, but there’s one man willing to take the risk, and he’s currently docked in Hampton, Virginia.
Capt. Ray Thackeray will load his 97-foot gaff-rigged ketch with about 100 recycled sails for fishermen, 50 bicycles for children as well as solar panels, batteries and medical supplies.
“If one person can help one other person, then it’s a benefit to them and it’s not just providing food or money, it’s providing the the ability to grow where they are,” Thackeray said.
He’s been sailing aid supplies to places like Haiti for the past 10 years since retiring from the dot-com business in Silicon Valley, California.
Thackeray lived in Haiti for about three months at one point and is well-acquainted, he told us, with the people and their needs.
“I’m getting messages every single day saying, when are you coming, we need help,” Thackeray said.
Getting his boat to the people, however, is quite risky since the Dominican Republic sealed all borders with Haiti. The country is being run by gangs, and desperation has even turned once-honest fishermen into pirates.
“There are cases right now in the Windward passage between Cuba and Haiti of recreational boats being taken and hijacked and in some cases the owners killed,” Thackeray said.
Thackeray uses sea routes he won’t talk about and will deliver under the darkness of night.
He plans to pull up anchor in a few weeks. Until then, the sailboat will stay at Salt Ponds Marina in Hampton, which donated dock space. That allowed the old sailboat to get a new engine so it can continue on International Rescue Missions for years to come.
If you would like to donate supplies for the Haiti mission the organization, International Rescue Group has an Amazon wish list on its website.