Hope and a Plan

After a bru­tal hur­ri­cane sea­son, the yachts and is­lands in the north­ern caribbean ex­pect to be ready for win­ter char­ter es­capes.

Yachts International - - On Charter - By Kim Kavin

It took about a week after the mon­strous, Cat­e­gory 5 Hur­ri­cane Irma plowed across the north­ern Caribbean in early Septem­ber, but sure enough, rays of light started to beam out from amid the dis­as­ter re­ports—enough that char­ter ex­perts felt con­fi­dent ac­cept­ing new client book­ings ahead of the Christ­mas and New Year’s hol­i­days.

Ini­tially, two forms of dam­age were feared: to the des­ti­na­tions, and to the yachts. In terms of the des­ti­na­tions, the Vir­gin Is­lands, Sint Maarten, St. Barths and Bar­buda re­ported se­vere wreck­age, but Irma largely spared other is­lands in­clud­ing An­tigua and St. Kitts, which both have in­ter­na­tional air­ports and su­pery­acht mari­nas. And IGY Mari­nas—which op­er­ates Yacht Haven Grande and Amer­i­can Yacht Har­bor Ma­rina on St. Thomas, Rod­ney Bay Ma­rina on St. Lu­cia, and Isle de Sol as well as Simp­son Bay Ma­rina on Sint Maarten—said about a week after Irma that re­pairs had be­gun and the com­pany was “op­ti­mistic that our mari­nas will be op­er­a­tional in most, if not all, af­fected lo­ca­tions for the up­com­ing win­ter sea­son.”

Many of the boats in fleets of crewed cata­ma­rans and smaller mo­to­ry­achts (in­clud­ing Re­gency Yacht Char­ters in the Vir­gins and Se­lect Yachts on Sint Maarten) sur­vived un­scathed or with min­i­mal dam­age, and some larger yachts still in the Mediter­ranean showed ev­ery in­di­ca­tion of stick­ing with plans to move to the Caribbean for the win­ter.

“I’ve al­ready had calls from boats in the Mediter­ranean ask­ing what they can bring when they come over for the sea­son,” Sarah Se­bas­tian of Ni­chol­son Yacht Char­ters & Ser­vices on An­tigua said in mid-Septem­ber. “I just booked a 10-day char­ter, An­tigua to Tor­tola, and he said, ‘If the is­lands don’t look nice, we’ll help in re­con­struc­tion. We’ll use the va­ca­tion to help.’”

Kath­leen Mullen, who runs Re­gency Yacht Char­ters in the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands, said she ex­pects the hall­mark lush, green fo­liage to re­turn by Novem­ber, the bays to be calm and full of fish, and the beach shacks to be serv­ing conch while larger fa­cil­i­ties re­build.

“I have been sur­prised, and pleased, with the vol­ume of new book­ings com­ing in for win­ter 2018,” she said about a week after the storm. “I hate to re­veal how old I am, but al­though this is very, very bad, my ex­pe­ri­ence after Hur­ri­canes Hugo and Mar­i­lyn tells me that if we can re­mem­ber to be kind and tol­er­ant with each other, life will come back to these is­lands more quickly than you think at first.”

Ann E. McHor­ney, who runs Se­lect Yachts out of Sint Maarten and south­east Florida, said some char­ter clients asked after Irma to change their itin­er­ar­ies to the pris­tine south­ern Caribbean, but she en­cour­aged them to stick with the north­ern is­lands.

“Most of the book­ings aren’t un­til Christ­mas and New Year’s, and you’re on a boat,” she said. “What else do you need be­sides fuel and pro­vi­sions? Those things will be there. Maybe there will be rum shacks in­stead of beach bars—a lit­tle more like the old Caribbean— but Tor­tola had noth­ing when I started char­ter­ing. It’s still ter­rific.”

She added that as aw­ful as the ini­tial dam­age es­ti­mates were from the Florida Keys, re­ports com­ing out of the Ba­hamas post-Irma were great.

“The Ba­hamas is fine, at least in the Nas­sau area,” McHor­ney said. “There are no ques­tions about char­ters hap­pen­ing there.”

Only one mo­to­ry­acht based in Florida, Se­bas­tian said, had can­celed its regis­tra­tion for the An­tigua Char­ter Yacht Show be­cause of storm-re­lated dam­age, and the yacht­ing com­mu­nity on An­tigua was pro­vid­ing help about a week after Irma, not look­ing to re­ceive it.

“We’ve nearly got enough funds to fund a mo­bile hospi­tal in Bar­buda, with do­na­tions mainly from the yacht­ing com­mu­nity and the peo­ple at English Har­bour,” Se­bas­tian said. “It’s hur­ri­cane-proof. We’re go­ing to put all the sup­plies in there so that the doc­tor can go back and live on Bar­buda.”

And she agreed with McHor­ney that, by the time char­ter clients re­turn, enough of what makes the Caribbean so spe­cial will also be get­ting back to nor­mal.

“The is­lands are all open for busi­ness,” Se­bas­tian said. “They’ll look lovely and the feel will be the same. You can still snorkel the reefs and go to the beach, and the lush fo­liage will be back all around. The build­ings might take a lit­tle longer, but it doesn’t mat­ter about the build­ings if you’re on a boat.”

If we can re­mem­ber to be kind and tol­er­ant with each other, life will come back to these is­lands more quickly than you think first.’ at

An­tigua was spared Hur­ri­cane Irma’s worst. This is how the prime su­pery­acht mari­nas looked after that storm passed.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.