30 years and had never seen anything like Irma and Maria. Conch lost about 40 boats to the hurricanes, and several more had dropped their rigs. But they too were slowly rebuilding, and had several charter bookings for later that month. Twist had recently been cruising in the islands and said there was a silver lining to the dark cloud of the storms. “The good news is that if you charter now, you’re virtually on your own. Everything is pristine. I think people are coming back.”
In Road Town’s harbor, we stopped to chat with Mark Sanders of Tortola Marine Management, who said the carnage after the storms was arresting. “Your eyes just can’t process it,” he said.
Sanders explained that much of the damage in Road Town had been incurred when a trio of ferries broke free of their moorings and crashed through the marina. TMM suffered a “good hit,” he said, and had lost about 11 boats. Because there were only so many resources on Tortola, where some of the damaged boats were being fixed, others were being shipped to Florida and South Carolina for repairs. But like so many other companies, TMM also had 16 new boats on order, all catamarans from Lagoon and Fountaine Pajot. The hurricanes had certainly been hard on the BVI, but they seemed to be creating a windfall for almost all of the French boatbuilders.
We didn’t have time to call on every charter operation, of course, but reports from the islands confirmed that most operators had weathered the storms and were regrouping and getting back to business. Dream Yacht Charters, for instance, had 70 boats in St. Martin and the BVI, and estimated that 60 percent of them were total losses. But they had also purchased 20 replacement boats and were back in business. The docks of the Catamaran Company, located on Hodges Creek on Tortola’s East End, remained relatively intact, as did much of its fleet.
Conch’s Twist has the final say here, and his words sum up the sentiment of everyone in the charter business in the BVI. “There’s one thing everyone can do to help us return to normal,” he said. “Charter a boat and come on down.”
Herb Mccormick is CW’S executive editor.