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Going to the dogs: Crew transport food to distressed islands

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By Dorie Cox

The salon of M/Y Nita K is packed with 4,000 pounds of dog food bound for the island of St Maarten. And a freelance chef has a call out to yachts to transport even more to pets affected by recent hurricanes in the Caribbean. Chef Shannon Bates, who lives on St. Maarten, saw first-hand that animals there could use some help.

Bates had recently coordinated the shipment of 10,000 pounds of pet food with Royal Caribbean International when she ran into yacht friends at Bahia Mar Marina in Fort Lauderdale in mid-December.

“I just found Nita K and the captain said bring as much food as we could,” Bates said. She put out a call for yacht crew volunteers on social media and was inundated.

Crew on M/Y Nita K put the main salon to good use. First Mate Jean-Francois “JF” Lapeyre, Deckhand Kim van Jaarsveld and Chief Stew Varushca Degenaar lounge after nearly 4,000 pounds of dog food are loaded. Photo by Megan Legasse

Mate Steven Smith, Stew Bronwyn Fillippa, Deckhand Nathan Blair, Chef Niv Schechter and dock attendant Eric Correll from Bahia Mar met at the yacht and formed a line to load the heavy bags.

“So we loaded a hundred 38-pound bags,” she said. “I got an overwhelming response from people that wanted to help load and unload. I am so proud of the industry, I wasn’t expecting Nita K to take so much.”

“The salon smells like dog food,” Deckhand Kim van Jaarsveld said. “Not something we’re used to, being on a multi-million dollar yacht.”

Bates, previously of yachts Aquavita, Stellar and Jamaica Bay, is in south Florida until she can return to her home on St. Maarten. She looks forward to returning to Sunshine Greens, the microgreen business she started last year.

“I decided to stay in the states because things are difficult down there and I can help from here,” Bates said.

Her two large greenhouses were spared since she had packed her business away for the summer, so as the island rebuilds she will focus on her volunteer work there with the nonprofit group Animal Defenders International.

“They take care of homeless and displaced pets, and [help] people that can’t take care of pets,” Bates said.

Staff at Bahia Mar help Deckhand Nathan Blair and the crew of Nita K load 4,000 pounds of dog food onto M/Y Nita K, which is bound for St. Maarten. Photo by Shannon Bates

In Florida, she has connected with The Greater Good and Rescue Bank, groups which manage donations for dog food manufacturers and work with FEMA, and she volunteers with the Pet Project in Fort Lauderdale.

“We’re looking for any other boats going anywhere in the Caribbean,” Bates said. “It doesn’t seem to be a problem, there is food available.

She is standing by at shannonbates327@gmail.com to coordinate pet food deliveries to local yachts.

“Even if it is a small load, I can take 10 bags over with my car,” she said.

Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton. Comments on this story are welcome below.

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Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton.

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