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Old 12-03-2018, 08:41   #1
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Devastation Continues - St. Maarten

Sunup found us a couple of nautical miles from St. Marten and here we had to wait. The bridge over the channel into Simpson Bay only opens every hour and you can sail in on the odd hours and out on the even hours. The sea was calm and we enjoyed the sunrise with fresh brewed coffee (tea for Vinni).
Finally, we sailed in and across the bay towards Lagoon Marina – Oops! Where are all the buoys shown on the chart that supposedly mark the channel? Blown to China by hurricane Irma 5 months ago. Ok – so we slowed way down and snuck our way across the bay, keeping a wary eye on the chartplotter and the depthfinder. Suddenly we stopped as we hit a sandbar. Damn! We were on our way round 3 anchored wrecks and apparently I needed to be much closer to them than I was.

Simpson Bay I big, very big. The island has a French side and a Dutch side. We were on the Dutch side. Everywhere we looked, there was devastation, Mario and Grazyna had warned us. There are still many sunken boats lying in the water all through the bay.
Amongst others, this Superyacht. What you can see are only the two upper decks – the rest is under water. Vinni and I are speechless. Such a ship has a professional Captain and crew. Why the hell did they stay in the harbor with a Cat 5 hurricane on the way? Those ships can easily sail 20+ knots and could have sailed away from the hurricane without any problems. If they had left just 1 day before it hit, they could have been all the way down south by Grenada enjoying drinks in the sunset.

Vinni and I also went over to the French side – here, the devastation is even worse. Sunken boats everywhere in the water, the shores lined with wrecks. We walked around Marigot. Almost all the stores were still closed and those that weren’t closed were in terrible shape. Even MacDonalds was still closed – here 5 months after the storm.
Here, on the French side, the population seems apathetic. There isn’t the same charm or laughter we’ve come to know in the Caribbean. We walked on a main street and we both felt that most of the locals we met along the way were sullen and unfriendly. We weren’t afraid – but we didn’t feel completely secure either. We’ve never felt that way before when we wandered streets in the Caribbean.
There seems to be a great difference in the energy levels in rebuilding here in the Caribbean. On BVI they were rebuilding like mad and repairing damaged boats and hauling sunken boats out of the water. On the Dutch side of St. Maarten, things are going much slower, but they are rebuilding – the locals say the slow pace is due to the unusually incompetent local government who are more intent on embezzling than rebuilding. The French side is influenced by the French socialism – after this is all the fault of the society, so the society should take of me and repair all the damage without me having to lift a finger – so everyone is waiting for Paris to show up and make everything right again.

I do want to say that many things are open or trying to open so you're not completely at a loss down here - but my god the wreckage is everywhere.

This is so horribly sad that we really don't know how to describe it

here are some pictures:
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Old 12-03-2018, 11:34   #2
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Re: Devastation Continues - St. Maarten

The yacht is insured, the crew...not so easily repaired when wet. I can empathize with any professional who says "You want me to go WHERE? In a Cat5 storm?!"

Or, they might have been docked waiting for parts or repairs, unable to safely put out to sea. One never knows.
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Old 12-03-2018, 12:07   #3
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Re: Devastation Continues - St. Maarten

Surprising to see that a relatively well-heeled island like St Maarten is so far behind in its cleanup, 5 months on.

Sad.
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Old 12-03-2018, 12:52   #4
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Re: Devastation Continues - St. Maarten

Second time in 25 years that Simpsons's Lagoon has been the site of a hurricane/sailboat disaster...Just not a good place to stay in a hurricane!
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Old 12-03-2018, 13:16   #5
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Re: Devastation Continues - St. Maarten

Good report and appreciated. Send more pictures if it works for you to do it. You just don't get many up to date status reports in the media.

This is such a cool Island, geographically and politically, and it is sad to see things aren't moving along faster.
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Old 13-03-2018, 08:19   #6
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Re: Devastation Continues - St. Maarten

Your assumption of a link between any particular political ideology and community resilience/disaster recovery is both naive and inaccurate. It is far more complex than that. Colonial status may be a factor here compared to other islands.
Very sad to see having visited the area. I wonder at what point people will decide it is not worth rebuilding and abandon the islands. Not only will this happen again it will happen more frequently and still Nero fiddles...
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Old 13-03-2018, 08:43   #7
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Re: Devastation Continues - St. Maarten

The problem with leaving land and "sailing away" from a hurricane is that the path of it only becomes more predictable as it moves closer. Make a wrong guess, and you could find yourself trying to survive a Cat 5 at sea.
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Old 13-03-2018, 08:45   #8
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Re: Devastation Continues - St. Maarten

[QUOTE=roland stockham;2595499]Your assumption of a link between any particular political ideology and community resilience/disaster recovery is both naive and inaccurate.

Then what in your opinion is causing the lack of clean up if not the government? because to my knowledge, governments exist to serve the people, and this is clearly not.
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Old 13-03-2018, 09:29   #9
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Re: Devastation Continues - St. Maarten

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Originally Posted by danielamartindm View Post
The problem with leaving land and "sailing away" from a hurricane is that the path of it only becomes more predictable as it moves closer. Make a wrong guess, and you could find yourself trying to survive a Cat 5 at sea.
In the case of Maria, this would have been true. Not so for Irma. The storm was very well forecast with regard to its path, and that was because there were some very clear steering influences. The question was not if it would head further south, but rather if it would be further north, which the forecasts said. Not MUCH further north, maybe 20- 50 miles, but that would have been enough to spare St. Maarten, Anguilla, and the BVI most of the damage that occurred. The question was how quickly it would make its way around a high pressure system that was a bit more south in the Atlantic than normal. The slight curve north came a little later and a little less, and that's what nailed these islands. But South would always have been safe. In Maria, she was coming up from the south, and, in my opinion, out maneuvering that storm would have been much more risky, from anywhere in the Leeward Islands.

As a professional crew, myself, I would hesitate to call out the crew of that megayacht. Crew do take vacations, in shifts, there are crew changes, owners make strange decisions to "save" money (yes, even on big boats), and most important, Irma occurred during the time of year when much maintenance is done, and St. Maarten is one of the places where it gets done. So, there may well have been no options available. But, if the boat could have been moved, then........everyone associated with that boat will be second-guessing themselves until eternity.

Carsten, thanks for the report. And, I do hope you tried some of the places in the BVI that I passed along. Smooth sailing!
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Old 13-03-2018, 09:43   #10
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Re: Devastation Continues - St. Maarten

Thank you for the update and the photos, sad as they are. I understand Puerto Rico is still in the Stone Age in many places, too. Must be due to a poorly lead government.

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Old 13-03-2018, 09:58   #11
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Re: Devastation Continues - St. Maarten

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Thank you for the update and the photos, sad as they are. I understand Puerto Rico is still in the Stone Age in many places, too. Must be due to a poorly lead government.
As much as I resent the use of crude language on a formerly family friendly site your assessment of the Puerto Rican politicians is correct.

Agreed, so I have edited his post, Pete7.
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Old 13-03-2018, 10:00   #12
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Re: Devastation Continues - St. Maarten

At Coral Bay in St John, USVI, out of 100+ boats in the harbor, only about 15 survived. My brother-in-law is down there helping his friend re-build his house, and the lack of help from FEMA or the military is striking. But the community has come together to do repairs mostly with their own resources. I was just in St Kitts, which was barely grazed by Irma / Maria, and the government spent $9M on repairs / re-building. St John, which took a direct hit from Maria after Irma, and had no water, no electricity, and a huge % of houses missing all or parts of roofs, has received $11M in assistance from FEMA. It's going to be a long road back for St John, St Martin, et al.
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Old 13-03-2018, 12:12   #13
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Re: Devastation Continues - St. Maarten

"I wonder at what point people will decide it is not worth rebuilding and abandon the islands."
Entire cultures have packed their bags and abandoned their homelands. Historically, I think the Anasazi in the US southwest are thought to have done this. In South America, there were similar questions about pre-Incan civilizations. In the mideast, in Europe, all over there have been civilizations that "vanished". When a river silts up and a port no longer in feasible...same thing really.

Look at Berlin after WW2. Survivors picked over the rubble, cleaned off bricks, started rebuilding with them. They didn't sit around and hope for the sky-god "FEMA" to drop new shelters....So yes, this can be cultural. And economic, because when you've got no wealth and no income, and no potential income because that comes from tourists who don't want to tour the rubble...hard place to be.

Then once it has been abandoned...in will come speculators and resorts. And tourists. Until the next storm.

Look at Haiti. The slaves revolted and freed themselves. And had no resources, so like much of Europe before them, they deforested the land and oops, never recovered from that. Still no resources, so "recovery" becomes a moot point.
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Old 13-03-2018, 13:49   #14
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Re: Devastation Continues - St. Maarten

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Thank you for the update and the photos, sad as they are. I understand Puerto Rico is still in the Stone Age in many places, too. Must be due to a shithole government.
I spent weeks in BVI after Irma helping with the recovery there, a few days in and out of St. Thomas, and am now in Puerto Rico. I can tell you that St. Thomas and Puerto Rico are far ahead of BVI in their recovery. What is the difference? Not British or American or Hispanic cultures, but FEMA and other resources of the US government. The UK restored law and order in BVI and then left. BVI'ers are proceding on their own. Their best assets are big companies like Moorings that can spend the money to accomplish recovery quickly. But there are still sunken boats in some harbors and many beaches are littered with boats. In USVI and Puerto Rico the US Coast Guard removed hundreds of damaged boats. It takes economic muscle to do that, and most of the Caribbean islands just don't have it.

Puerto Rico faces a different challenge in that it is much larger and has an interior that is much harder to reach with electricity or other services than small islands like St. Thomas and Tortola. But cruisers and charterers should have no problem enjoying BVI, USVI, or Puerto Rico.
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Old 13-03-2018, 18:04   #15
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Re: Devastation Continues - St. Maarten

I have been in SXM since Irma and have to agree that a lot of the problem in St Maarten is related to government. A huge barge was brought in to Simpson Bay from the Bahamas by one of the large marina owners at great expense. It was capable of dealing with the mega yacht and could have lifted many more boats that required two smaller cranes in tandem. They were boarded by the machine gun wielding local Dutch side coastguard and run out of town because their paper work was not in order (official line). The minister in charge was more focused on making sure certain favored people got the work (common knowledge), people (IMHO) with inadequate equipment and experience. This does nothing to speed the islands recovery and effectively punishes the large marina owner for being proactive. The same type of shenanigans occured on land under the same minister including a $100k flagpole project just after the storm.
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