We checked in with Caribbean charter companies at the 2017 Annapolis Boat Show to get the latest updates on rebuilding efforts in the wake of a destructive hurricane season.
In the wake of 2017's incredibly destructive hurricane season, the charter companies located in the BVI and USVI definitely had their work cut out for them. The good news is that many are well on their way to reopening and getting sailors back out on the water. Most affected companies plan to re open in December 2017 or January 2018. Here’s a glance at the chartering season for winter 2018, from Florida south, based on interviews with companies at the show:
Charter Company Updates
A new restart date of December 9, 2017, for the flagship base in the BVI and the base in Puerto Rico, have been set. The base in St. Martin will open Feb. 1, 2018.
The proceeds of a fundraising drive and 60 generators have been directed to Moorings employees in the BVI and elsewhere. And, a total of $66.5 million in 130 new boats will be delivered to Tortola in the next six months. “That’s the investment we’re going to do,” says Josie Tucci, vice president sales/marketing for The Moorings. “We fully intend to come back stronger than ever.”
Moorings bases in the Bahamas, St. Lucia, Grenada and Belize were unaffected and are operational. Other announcements the company made at the show include the addition of the Exumas, Bahamas, base in 2018 and the launch of the new Moorings 5000 sailing catamaran in summer 2018.
Steve and Doris Colgate’s Offshore Sailing School
“We’re busy!” said Offshore president and CEO Doris Colgate on a break from booth duty at the show. “And we’re seeing a lot of new sailors!” Offshore, which has taught more than 140,000 people how to sail over 50 years in business, escaped hurricane damage at its Florida locations. The company expects to reopen its BVI sailing school, the official instructional arm of The Moorings, in spring 2018, according to Colgate. The Marriott Autograph Collection Scrub Island Resort, Spa & Marina on exclusive Scrub Island is currently closed.
Dream Yacht Charter
The company plans to be fully operational in St. Martin, the BVI and Puerto Rico by mid November and to restore its Caribbean fleet capacity to pre-2017 hurricane numbers by the end of the year.
While the company estimates that 60 percent of its 70 boats in St. Martin and the BVI will be declared a total loss, it draws from a global fleet of more than 900 boats in more than 47 bases. “We’re having a very fast recovery,” said manager Dan Lockyer. “It’s the nature of this business.”
The loss is a small percentage of Dream’s overall Caribbean fleet, Lockyer pointed out. Bases in Antigua, Martinique, St Vincent, Grenada and Guadeloupe are operational. The company is also purchasing 20 new boats for the St. Martin and BVI fleets for delivery by the end of 2017. Models include Lagoon 52s, Bali 4.5 catamarans, Dufour 520 and Sun Odyssey 519 monohulls. Dream is also purchasing the Regis Guillemot fleet in Martinique, adding 30 catamarans to its fleet there.
Horizon Yacht Charters
The numbers that Sylvia Driver, Horizon Yacht Charters director, was beaming the most about at the show were these: 15 generators ordered and $1,000 checks written to each BVI staff person out of their staff relief fund consisting of generous donations from yacht owners and charter clients alike. “I want our staff to keep their occupations,” she said. “The BVI is home to them and they’re not going anywhere. Their survival is of utmost importance..”
Activity at Horizon’s other Caribbean bases, which are undamaged, is brisk. These locations include Antigua, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada.
The company’s BVI base will resume operations January 6, 2018. For complete details about the new boats and other status updates click here
TMM Yacht Charters
While all of the TMM fleet sustained damaged, some catastrophic, the company hopes to see the season’s first charterers shove off the dock by mid-December 2017. Six new Lagoon catamarans are entering the fleet in the coming months. By mid October, the company had nine cats operational. “We’ll just start from where we started when we had nine boats in 1979!” said director Lin Crook, whose husband, Barney, founded the company that year. “You can only go up!”
Crook proudly added that Nalu, the Lagoon 450F, that was tied off behind her, would deliver 12 generators to the BVI base for TMM employees.
The Catamaran Company
Besides acquiring generators for its employees, the Catamaran Company, whose base and fleet fared decently in the hurricanes, is eager to help the islands get back on track by getting back to business. The logic behind its “Operation Sail It Forward BVI 2017” is straightforward: Go on a bareboat charter. Volunteer while there. Spread the tale through photos, videos, and words, and pump money back into the economy.
The first charter group heads out from the Catamaran Company’s undamaged base on Tortola’s east end on November 25, 2017, led by John and Autumn Vernon aboard Rum Away, a Lagoon 450. They encourage followers to sign up, donate funds, and follow their BVI charter. Even better: They hope their adventure will inspire other charterers to book. Their efforts have already paid off: A second “Sail It Forward” charter group will set out in early December.
Damage to the company’s fleet isn’t significant enough to keep the boats from going out, and 10 new catamarans are due in soon, including a 2018 Lagoon 450, according to director Kimberly Lee.American Sailing Association is still working to make contact with some of its ASA certified bases | American Sailing Association
According to staff from Voyage Charters at the show, four to five of the fleet of 28 catamarans at the base in Soper’s Hole, on Tortola’s west end, are salvageable. The company is still doing damage assessment and owners have put deposits on new boats, which are expected to arrive starting in December 2017.
CYOA Yacht Charters
The first booking of the season for John Jacob’s CYOA Yacht Charters, based in Frenchtown, St. Thomas, in the United States Virgin Islands, is October 23, 2017. “Obviously, it’s a slow start,” he said at the show.
Nonetheless, Jacob added, with the downtown being prepared for the resumption of the cruise ship season, “it’s getting put back together. We are open for business.”
“The chartering experience will be much like that in the Virgins 25 years ago,” he added. “West Indians are resilient and your money is crucial to their recovery. If you want to go sailing and snorkeling, it’s going to be great. CYOA has come through Hugo and Marilyn, and each time we’ve come back better. That’s our intention this time, and that’s how we expect it to go down.”
Waypoints by Atlantic Cruising Yachts
From the independently owned companies who are members of a new charter network called Waypoints, the news at the show was all good: We’re open, undamaged, and eager for your charter business.
These companies include Cruise Annapolis, Cruise Abaco, Virgin Islands Yacht Charters, BVI Yacht Charters, Harmony Yacht Vacations, and Sailing Florida Charters.
“We’re working with boutique companies to leverage decades of experience with new destinations,” said Susan Restauri, charter reservations manager. Destinations offered by these companies include: Chesapeake Bay; the Sea of Abaco, Bahamas; the Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas; Cuba; Great Exuma, Bahamas; west coast of Florida; US and British Virgin Islands.
American Sailing Association
According to Lenny Shabes, founder of the ASA, the organization is still trying to make contact with 15-20 of a total 350 instructional centers located in global sailing destinations. One thing is certain: Among many others, ASA-certified Key West Sailing Academy & Yacht Charter, situated in the Florida Keys, is unharmed and open for business.
This article has been republished from www.cruisingworld.com