Whilst watching the sunrise over St. Martin towards the end of delivering a storm-battered privately-owned BVI-based 50’ monohull, I got some time to myself to reflect on the last 3 months of hyperactivity since Hurricane’s Irma and Maria blew through my home and stomping ground.
Pretty much everything has already been said about the September devastation suffered by St. Martin, the British and US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. So I decided to think about the bright side from a Caribbean sailing perspective. Let me count the four good outcomes I came up with:
1. Far fewer boats I have to admit that, prior to the storms, there probably were just too many charter bareboats — especially in the most popular cruising grounds of the BVI and St. Martin. During the 2015/16 season, finding a decent spot to anchor — let alone pick-up a mooring ball — was challenging due to the growing number of boats. Those days are OVER for at least a year or two. So while the charter companies bring-in new boats and patch-up the best of the rest, the bays and harbors of the BVI and St. Martin are looking more like 1977 than 2017. So there’s no rush for a prime spot to anchor or moor for the night — or for a prime National Park mooring ball from which to snorkel or scuba dive. Which brings me to…
2. Better snorkeling and diving While the velocity of the winds wrecked havoc above the water, not much seems to have been badly disturbed below it aside from some inevitable coal damage close to shore. Water clarity is back to gin-clear and this season’s pioneering divers are reporting a better than usual amount of sea life. Maybe it’s the absence of noisy, splashy snorkelers around the usual hotspots, maybe it’s because of something else but enjoy it while you can.
3. A warmer than usual welcome Last season, some of the more highly-trafficked beach bars and restaurants were getting so busy that the staff seemed more rushed than welcoming. Not any more. Staffers of any bar or restaurant will be VERY happy to see you and your money at their establishment. Your presence keeps them employed and their bills paid. So enjoy spending your money…you could even consider buying a round of drinks as a charitable contribution!
4. Bargain prices With some potential charterers probably deciding to postpone their planned 2017/18 Caribbean charter, several companies will be getting ‘creative’ about their offerings. While this demand-supply equation is presently being mitigated by the lack of available boats for Christmas and New Year, the winter and spring seasons should see some good deals if you (or your charter broker) ask around.
So it ‘ain’t all bad’ as they say.
And the dismasted 50’ boat that I delivered to St. Martin? Her devoted and experienced owner is going to re-rig her with a new carbon fibre mast and a new suit of sails so she’s going to be better than ever.