The sound of a table saw tearing through a sheet of plywood pierced the silence of Jost Van Dyke’s Great Harbour. From our mooring in the middle of the bay it was the first sign that something was amiss in the postcard-pretty cruising destination that is literally right out of a Kenny Chesney song. After pulling up to shore in our dinghy, we saw a very different picture. My colleagues, Digital Director John Turner and PassageMaker magazine’s Managing Editor Brian Lind, glanced at one another while trying to hide their shock. It was as if we were teleported into a war zone.
This visit to the BVIs had been in the works for months. We discussed going down to the islands with two of the largest charter operations in the Caribbean—MarineMax and The Moorings—and brainstormed how Power & Motoryacht and the entire Active Interest Media Marine Group (publishers of Anglers Journal, Sail, Soundings, Soundings Trade Only, Yachts International, PassageMaker and others) could help the recovery effort. “Come. See the islands. See that we’re back open for business,” was the reply.
In an unprecedented partnership, MarineMax and The Moorings (fierce competitors under normal circumstances) agreed to work together to each lend us a boat and an itinerary that would allow us to report back on the current state of the islands.
We found a fair share of destruction. In Tortola, near The Moorings base, 50-foot-plus power cats were piled upside down atop one another. Looking closely at the damage-free hullsides, I came to realize these boats didn’t simply roll over but rather were sent airborne, flipped in one fell swoop, like a coin being tossed through the air. Car windows, on the vehicles not completely totaled, were replaced by Saran wrap and any other scraps of plastic their owners could find; Irma’s winds sent debris flying through them like shrapnel.
Remnants of Irma were everywhere; the storm left a scar that may fade over time but will likely always be visible. There were sure signs of recovery, too. Every day we were there fuel docks, marinas, restaurants, and hotels were reopening. Our last day in the islands was the first day The Moorings base in Tortola opened to the public and welcomed a capacity crowd.
Part of me was sad to be leaving the islands, but mostly I was glad to see the fleet getting back out on the water. I knew the boaters aboard those power cats were going to experience a unique level of solitude, sure, but also what locals are calling the cleanest, clearest water they’ve seen in decades. I knew they were going to gain a new, special kind of connection that comes with having seen a place at its best and at its worst. I knew they were going to meet some incredible people with infectious positivity.
During our week cruising the islands I had the chance to speak with everyone from bartenders and business owners to school teachers and politicians. Almost all conversations ended with them thanking us—from a place in their hearts—for visiting, for returning to the islands, and helping restart their economy. Our dollars would go directly to helping them rebuild their cars, their homes, and their lives. “Please let people know that we’re here,” said a nurse on Jost Van Dyke, “and we’re back open for business.”
For more on the Caribbean Comeback I invite you to read my full report (here). I’d also like to leave you with this challenge: Whether you’re a Caribbean charter veteran or someone who had this destination on your bucket list for some time—now is the time to go. Sip a Painkiller at Pusser’s, enjoy a meal at Foxys, climb the boulders at The Baths, and rediscover what makes the Caribbean special. Rediscover the one thing stronger than a category 5 hurricane: The spirit of the people.