Guy Courtney was just looking to buy a sailboat.
He never expected a potential buying trip earlier this month in Marathon to evolve into the Christmas experience of a lifetime.
Just over two weeks ago after meeting Joseph Yacoe, the owner of a 62-foot sailboat named Emmanuel, the two became fast friends and Yacoe invited Courtney on a charitable trip to the Bahamian island of Eleuthera.
Yacoe is a cinematographer who has shot numerous movies and music videos including Def Leppard’s “Rock of Ages,” but that was never mentioned during a Keynoter interview Wednesday on Duck Key.
The duo was busy filling every spare inch of Emmanuel with wrapped gifts, food and clothes donated by friends of Yacoe and members of Marathon’s Cavalry Baptist Church. Altogether, nine people set out from Duck Key on the 26-hour sail at 2 a.m. Thursday, headed east for the Bahamas.
“We brought mainly the wrapped gifts for the children but we have a lot of donated clothing, a couple of brand-new sewing machines and toiletries for everybody,” Yacoe said. “We even have a table saw requested by a young man. Within like 15 minutes of me sending out a text message that this young man wanted a table saw, someone donated one.”
With the help of The People’s Church in Eleuthera, the group plans to spend the next week or so doling out the gifts and helping out on the island that sits 50 miles east of Nassau. The 1983 sailboat has enough room for everyone to stay on it.
“We were there in April doing a similar relief mission,” Yacoe said.
He, his wife and two sons live in Marathon but spent from 2012 to 2013 in Eleuthera. There, they saw firsthand thousands of Haitian immigrants often burdened by government red tape that makes getting a job difficult.
“It’s very hard for the Haitians there. They’ll never become citizens and they can only work if they have a Bahamian sponsor,” Yacoe said, adding another trip to remote parts of Haiti is in the works for April.
Of being asked to go on the trip, Courtney said he was overcome with emotion.
“You can call it spiritual, or a calling,” said the retired Chicago native, who had trouble putting into words what the trip means to him.
He said he’s been “downsizing his life over the past year” after living in Aspen, Colo., and is still searching for the perfect sailboat. Asked if he might buy the boat that brought him on the special Christmas trip, he said it’s “very much a possibility.”
Katie Atkins: 305-440-3219