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Helping hand - Wanted: a few good Samaritans

SeaAid recruits cruisers to help bring essential services and supplies to remote villages they visit

SeaAid recruits cruisers to help bring essential services and supplies to remote villages they visit

Many big-hearted cruisers feel a special responsibility for the people they meet in remote coastal villages around the globe. Bret Diamond believes he can harness that concern to do some good.

Combining his training as an anthropologist with his work as a yacht captain, Diamond has started SeaAid. The non-profit organization recruits cruisers and yacht owners to help enchanting communities — notable not only for their beauty but for their lack of clean drinking water, sanitation and health care — upgrade these essential services.

Diamond, 43, of Portland, Ore., says cruisers or owners of crewed private or corporate yachts can help in several ways. They can buy and drop off hard-to-get supplies in communities along their cruise itineraries. Usually those supplies will be medical and cost less than $500. Or they can fund and staff a small-scale volunteer project to improve a community’s living standards. Diamond says these “microdevelopment” projects — drilling a well, installing a solar-powered water distillation system or non-electric centrifugal water pumps — are designed to cost less than $5,000 and take just two to four weeks to complete. An owner also can let SeaAid use a vessel for a few weeks as an operations platform for a SeaAid-staffed project, in return for which SeaAid crewmembers will deliver the boat to the destination of the owner’s choice at no charge for crew wages. And, finally, an owner can donate a boat to SeaAid for use as a project vessel or to train village youth in seamanship so they can work in the maritime trades.

“The core of our philosophy is that little, simple things can make such a big difference,” Diamond says. He says all projects and supply deliveries will be undertaken at the request of the communities and won’t be foisted on them.

Diamond says SeaAid will focus initially on developing a network of cruisers and yacht owners who are willing to deliver supplies. A few weeks before setting off, cruisers will send SeaAid a copy of their itineraries so Diamond can ask anthropologists and others working in communities along the routes what local leaders say are their most pressing needs.

Diamond graduated in 2000 from the University of Georgia with a master’s degree in ecological anthropology, and a specialization in sustainable agriculture and natural resource issues. A licensed 100-ton captain, he says he had worked at sea before that — salmon fishing in Alaska, captaining charter yachts in Florida, working as a bluewater delivery captain, and crewing on private yachts.

After receiving his master’s, Diamond took a year off to cruise the South Pacific, and that’s where his idea for SeaAid jelled. He saw vast needs, and he met a lot of cruisers who wanted to do something to help. “They’d say, ‘This is such a beautiful place. I sometimes feel guilty. We come into these communities, and in their eyes we have so much. And in our eyes, they have so little. What can we do?’ ” he says.

SeaAid is Diamond’s answer. Based in PortlandOre., SeaAid — (877) 850-2525,— is a project of the Institute for Culture and Ecology, an Oregon-based 501(c)3 research and education organization. Diamond began fund raising for SeaAid’s startup budget in December. He says he is seeking donations from businesses, foundations and individuals to get the organization off the ground.

“[Cruisers] are on their boats; they’re going through these communities,” Diamond says. “Without devoting a whole lot more time or money, they can make a big difference in these places.”