The Caribbean Islands Are Ready For You Sailors!

As the summer approaches and you are making your sailing plans think of safety and be prepared.

When is the Caribbean hurricane season? What’s the second most significant reason for getting out from the Caribbean for hurricane season? What is the scoop with hurricane vessel insurance? What’s the best way to prepare your journey through the Caribbean to make sure you’re in a hurricane safe zone before the season starts? How do you prepare your boat for a hurricane?  We will discuss all those questions here but first is the Caribbean open for business? And the answer is YES!!

Paradise is Back Following Past Hurricane Destruction

Maria and Irma are two names that make the hair stand up on the necks of many in the Caribbean. In late 2017, in just a couple of weeks, these two Class 5 hurricanes cut vast swaths of devastation throughout the Leeward Islands and hit millions. Pictures of destroyed charter boats gathered up in coves and stories of power outages, and water shortages ruled the news.

Tourism, which is responsible for the majority of the region’s markets, dried up and St. Martin, Dominica, the British Virgin Islands, Barbuda,  and Puerto Rico were left to sort through the rubble and find a new path ahead.

One year later, the results of the recovery efforts are a testament to perseverance and support as loyal clients booked early charters to bring back the money. With renewed fleets, charter organizations are attracting sailors back, and on most islands, it’s almost business as usual.

Initial Assessment And First Steps

The recovery’s catchy part was to assess the damage for insurance purposes, which was no small effort that required surveyors and technicians on the scene to estimate the scope of the issue. The recovery could start, and the marine sector led much of this effort. Boat builders, charter companies, marine equipment manufacturers, and boating publications banded together to help.

Charter giant Moorings/Sunsail place (and fulfilled ) a goal of having 130 ships online just two weeks later and by Christmas of 2017 they’d pulled enough boats from the other fleets in the Belize, Mediterranean, and Abacos to have a good holiday season.  Clean-up and worker support were two significant initial challenges.

Around 400-plus ships were damaged at the British Virgin Islands, but locals joined forces to clean the devastation instantly. MarineMax presented a 484 powercat as a base for a medical supply team that delivered solutions to local clinics. Many captains flew down to volunteer once they could get in.

Dream Yacht lost 70 ships between BVI and St. Martin however they were among the first to revive at in Puerto Rico in mid-October and both bases in mid-November. Horizon Yacht Charters suffered from 100 percent of the BVI fleet in Nanny Cay although intended to be functioning at 70 percent by Christmas of 2018.

While the poorest of this circumstance, charter clients shuffled in Grenada and Antigua. Voyage Charters in Soper’s Hole figured they suffered 75 percent of the fleet but received almost a dozen new ships this year.

The sorting out of this situation was complicated. Equipment such as stainless, generators and masts for pulpits arrived did the job to help put the salvageable boats back together. To help substitute the lost ships, catamaran operators such as Lagoon and Fountaine Pajot started production, but it was not easy as many were already at capacity because of the surging popularity in recent years of multihulls.

Advertising was crucial and local authorities, like the tourism committee of the British Virgin Islands, moved promotions with a new twist: BVI was charged as being pleasant and less congested, just as they were 20 years ago. There was still rum, beaches, and ice and which attracted to the diehard sailors sufficient to spark interest. From March, loyal repeat visitants were booking every hotel and boat available in the BVI.

Back And Better

Sunsail, Dream Yacht, TMM, The Moorings, Voyagers, Horizon, and Conch Charters are raring to go with restored fleets and in some cases, reconstructed docks and base facilities. The 47th Annual Sailing Festival and BVI Spring Regatta returned in late March 2018. Some charter organizations are now stating bookings going out as far as 2020.

St. Martin that underwent a direct hit by Hurricane Irma encountered 180-plus knot winds that tore off parts of the home at the great Princess Juliana airport. However, SXM airport built two wedding-style, air-conditioned tents to control tourists at the air base where jumbo jets docking just a few feet above Maho beach is a traveler attraction in themselves.

Although hotel inventories are slow to recover on St. Martin, the Heineken Regatta was in full swing this season as was the St. Barths Bucket. This high profile races not just caused sailors and boat buyers with deep pockets, but they also earned international press where the message was clear –“We are open for business.” Even surrounding low-lying Anguilla, which was profoundly hurt, got into the PR game, ensuring everyone understood that the hotels may be finished, but the beaches were beautiful.

St Maarten airport landing

Antigua was left unharmed and Antigua Sailing Week was enough improved this year and has been held, as general, throughout about the whole April this year. The sister island of Barbuda, just 38 miles north, was thrust by 185-mile per hour winds and some 95% of the buildings were shattered. Antigua (where all of the charter boats are located) is making sure that sailors understand that you cannot judge the status of a single island by that of its nearby neighbor.

Dominica, a wonderland of vast national parks and nature preserves, experienced a direct blast by Hurricane Maria. A lot of boats from small sailboats to big ferries dotted the shore after the storm a week in Portsmouth Bay. Although Dominica does not have its own charter business, it is a quick jump from Guadeloupe where here a Dream Yacht Charter base functions. The government granted $20 million to recovery efforts, and a lot of its Waitukubuli National Trail has been cleared of debris. It is a destination for local charterers once again.

Puerto Rico that made the news often last year was mainly hard hit. Locals went weeks and even months without decent infrastructure but tourism centers got a boost with resorts and attractions in the cruise ship industry. Cruise lines added over 30 million dollars to the relief efforts of the country. Over 15,000 hotel rooms are back online, and at least three charter businesses are in operation such as Dream Yacht Charter, Sail Caribe and Sunsail that reopened instantly for business.

Ready For 2018-2019 Season

Some of the changes that have become apparent throughout the past year have been bright such refreshment of the present sailing fleets. The Moorings, Sunsail and Fantasy Yacht have magnificent boats now operating within their St. Martin fleets, and BVI and Conch Charters has added 25 new ships.

Other benefits are more subtle. The formation of a large backlog for boats has advanced the marine industry from boat builders to ancillary devices producers. Charter customer loyalty, which played a significant role in recovery, has been repaid with more convenience positions and less satisfaction by local businesses. The devastation has produced sailors and improvements are currently reaping the benefits.

Cold rum punch and brand new ships –you could hardly ask for more only a year after nature dealt these islands an awful hand. It’s definitely time to visit again.

When is your Caribbean hurricane period?

Hurricane season is from June to November in the Caribbean. That doesn’t imply that a hurricane will not form after or before but as a general rule, these six months are when the majority of the hurricanes create.

Which are the two main reasons for getting out the hurricane zone?

There are two reasons to avoid hurricanes. The first, and most significant, is for the protection of your boat and lives.

The second is for insurance purposes. Several insurance providers won’t fully cover damages if you are in a designated storm zone.  We suggest using any place south of Jacksonville, FL  is considered a hurricane zone. If we are in the area and our boat is damaged with a hurricane, we won’t receive compensation. We get a percentage of the coverage value.

Listen to the weather channel and stay up to date on storms, there are usually plenty of days of warning ahead of the storm. If you do not want to deal with hurricanes then pick some other parts of the world to explore on your sailing vessel.

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