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Bahama Journal: Mailboats Get Back To Business
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Posted by:Sep 14th 2004, 12:46:41 pm
Fig Tree News TeamSeptember 14, 2004
Bahamas Mail Boats Resume Schedules After Hurricane

The mail boat system is an integral part of the transportation system in The Bahamas and is considered a vital link between the Family Islands and New Providence.

Eager mail boat operators shifted into high gear Monday as some of them prepared to resume the critical service that had been interrupted because of fierce weather conditions.

Thousands of people who live on the Family Islands depend upon the ferry service to deliver food items, other essential supplies and mail.

Almost two weeks ago, Hurricane Frances caused an unwelcome interruption in mail boat schedules.

“We lost roughly about $30,000, but I wouldn´t say that we´re upset,’ said Autnal Wilson, chief engineer of the GrandMaster. “The hurricane only held us back a week from making a trip to George Town, Exuma. So this won´t kill us. Things worked out pretty good.’

Other mail boat operators also complained of lost revenue, but seemed to accept that it was an act of God.

Hurricane Frances barreled through The Bahamas with winds in excess of 130 miles per hour.

Donald G. Albury, captain of the Bahamas Daybreak III, which mainly services North Eleuthera, said because of the hurricane, his vessel had to be moored at Coral Harbour for more than a week.

“I don´t know the boat´s exact freight rates, but this certainly affected the money we could have brought in,’ Mr. Albury explained. “But since then, we´ve been able to keep a pretty good schedule.’

The owner and operator of the Captain C, Etienne Maycock, seemed to have a much clearer picture of his financial loss. The mail boat services the residents of Ragged Island and the cays.

“If I had to estimate, we probably lost between $15,000 and $18,000 and, no doubt, this hurt us,’ he said. “It sure put a dent in my pocket.’

Joseph Patton, captain of the Lady Francis, pegged his loss at an estimated $8,000, considering that his boat is much smaller than the others.

The mail boat system is an integral part of the transportation system in The Bahamas and is considered a vital link between the Family Islands and New Providence.

For some residents of far-flung islands like Inagua and Mayaguana, in the south, a regular mail boat service means the difference between living comfortably and struggling to survive.

The wrath of the hurricane also meant that in some islands store shelves were empty.

“We haven´t had mail boat service since the week before the hurricane traveled, and this has affected us tremendously because all of the stores are empty,’ said Persis Charlton, a resident of Mayaguana. “And the stores that are not empty are so expensive. A tin of tomato paste is $3.50, and a five-pound bag of rice around $3.00.

“So we are trying to do our best because we still have to feed our families. But this depends on how far our money can go. We need to have this system resumed as soon as possible.’

The Lady Matilda left the capital Monday morning for Mayaguana, according to Hermis Chisholm, senior officer at the Ministry of Transport & Aviation.

Miles away, in Acklins, Chief Councillor Stephen Rose said residents there were simply forced to adjust.

But the service to that island resumed almost immediately after the dangerous storm had passed.

“There wasn´t any mail boat service on the island for a short period, but it resumed immediately after the hurricane,’ he said. “The few small petty stores pretty much stemmed the tide for us. So we really did not have a shortage in food and water supplies as such. But there were persons who rely on getting their personal items from Nassau, especially in areas like Chester´s, Salina Point and Lovely Bay, where there is a shortage of water.

“But the island pretty much survived the shortage of emergency items and this is mainly because Acklins residents normally live by the adage, which speaks of putting up things for a rainy day. Had the mail boat service been delayed by about two weeks, we would have pretty much been in hell.’

Macushla N. Pinder, The Bahama Journal

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