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Old 23-02-2018, 13:09   #1
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US to Virgins - a Trip Description and What the Virgins are like after the Storm

We were supposed to have left the US and sailed to the Caribbean already last November, but some health issues got in the way. The result was that we finally got underway from Charleston SC January 11. Remember the artic ice storm that hit? Well we sailed out and down the coast to Ft. Lauderdale in that. Damned cold and we could only manage to sail for about 24 hours before having to find a marina.
We holed up in Lauderdale waiting for a weather window to cross the Gulf Stream, which finally came. Weathermen lie for a living apparently, because the window was definitely closed when we got out there – hard sailing and not much fun. Hit Nassau and rested for 3 days waiting for another window. There was some hurricane damage here although not as much as we had expected.
We had a 3 day run to the Turks. Sailed close-hauled, winds 20-25 knots right on the nose, waves running about 6 feet – unfortunately, also right on the nose. We double-hand so it was hard going. Lots of squalls to keep us occupied. We bailed out into Blue Haven harbor on Provencailes – or rather what was left of it – see pictures.




Most of the docks have been destroyed and from what we could see from the marina – a lot of houses also. We only stayed the one night, because the weather opened up again and we set sail, bound for St. Martin.
The wind was again right in our teeth and we were tacking close-hauled the entire way. We rigged our genua sheets inside our shrouds to gain an additional 4-5 degrees on the wind. The winds were still 20-25 knots, waves 2 meters.
The first couple of days.
Hereafter the winds picked up, now 25-30 knots and the waves ran 3 meters. The squalls had been coming with depressing regularity. As soon as one ended, the next one showed up about 45 minutes later. WE had to reduce the length of our watches from our normal 4 hours to 2-3 hours – it simply wasn’t possible to be up there longer. We were soaked despite being fully dressed in foulies. The watches were spent, easing out the main and reefing the genua when the squalls hit, then setting everything again as the squall passed, only to prepare having to do it again when the next one rolled in. The squalls would gust up to 40 knots and some of the irregular waves were running well over 3 meters.
After 4 days, the grib files said that the winds were going to go to 30-35 knots, gusting 40-45, which meant the squalls would be at least 40 knots, waves 4-5 meters all right on our nose and we decided to bail out – going to San Juan.

Hurricane damage
Enough of our little Sunday sailing – as we entered San Juan harbor we began to see the first of the storm damaged boats – miserable wrecks with broken masts and coach roof damage. We tied up at San Juan Marina and were here for several days, waiting out he weather. In the Marina there were lots of damaged boats. See some of the worst below. A very nice fellow gave us a ride back to the marina from the grocery store and started by apologizing for his aircon on the car not working. Despite being a professional person who earned good money, he was putting it off because he had to buy a big generator so he could have electricity in his house (and running water). The storm had also damaged his roof and windows and he had to pay for all that while waiting for the insurance company to make up its mind about reimbursing him. He told us that over 1 million people, 1/3 of the population on Puerto Rico, was still without running water or electricity. He was not impressed with the efforts of FEMA or the US government.

Finally a weather shift (meaning the winds went down to about 20 knots and we were able to make a run for Tortula.
Road Harbour was our first stop and it was here we cleared in. This was very depressing. There were more houses without roofs than houses with roofs, a sight that would greet us everywhere we’ve been. There are a couple of marinas in Road Harbour – they have pretty much ceased to exit – the buildings are virtually destroyed. The docks, what is left of them are in terrible shape.
We anchored but left again almost immediately, sailing to Trellis Bay at the airport where we picked up some friends who sailed with us. We grabbed a mooring buoy and looked around.
The entire beach is littered with wrecked boats. It is simply so depressing and sad. Before the storms there were 5-6 restaurants and bars here – now there is only one open. The small grocery store is open and has a reasonable selection – everything else is shut – although they are rebuilding. For those that have been there – the restaurant De Loose Moose was destroyed when a sailboat was tossed right into it. We counted over 20 wrecked boats lying on the beach.
We pushed onward to Joost van Dyke and here the scenario was just as bad. Most of the buoys were empty, but the biggest surprise was coming when we got ashore. Great Harbour, according to the pilot book has a jumping night life and several restaurants, not to mention clothing stores etc. Most everything is gone. The picturesque little church stands empty, the roof blown off and all the windows blown out. Virtually every single house you see is severely damaged. See the pics


This is a picture of a floor of a house that was blown away. The family is now living under the floor of what was once their house, while they wait to rebuild.



I simply can’t describe the devastation even now 3-4 months after the storm. Obviously building materials are in short supply as is money for rebuilding.


Soper hole, a favorite mooring place Sailing in, we could see the wrecked Cats waiting on the buoys for their turn to be hauled ashore and repaired. The town almost isn’t there anymore. Pusser’s Landing is open (upstairs, downstairs is wrecked). All the other shops, stores etc. are closed and the building half destroyed. Ali’s cafe is open for breakfast. The one little grocery store is open but the assortment is very small.

Nanny’s Cay fuel dock (apparently the only one left on Tortula) is open but the docks on the inner harbor are gone – nothing left. A number of sunken boats still dot the harbor. The surge was apparently 4 feet above the level of the harbor. Most of the buildings are missing roofs. There are so many wrecked boats standing on the hard here that I will use the word uncountable – simply because we are probably talking about several hundred at least – everything form rental cats to 50-60 foot mono’s, many with broken masts, some with holed hulls, broken keels etc.
A lot are for sale and there are some that most certainly are real bargains. See the pics below



We asked several persons what the islands needed the most and their answer was:

Spend money – lots of money so we can get our businesses back in shape again. We would have loved to spend more than we did – but there literally isn’t anything to spend money on.

Sad is not the appropriate word – I don’t know what word is. I’ll write again after we visit the other Leeward Islands.
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Old 23-02-2018, 13:59   #2
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Re: US to Virgins - a Trip Description and What the Virgins are like after the Storm

Thanks for posting such a good detailed description of your voyage and the local conditions you saw.
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Old 23-02-2018, 14:17   #3
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Re: US to Virgins - a Trip Description and What the Virgins are like after the Storm

When one's little part of the world is destroyed, it takes a long time to fully recover.

Thanks, Carsten and Vinni, for reporting and sharing the pictures you took.

Fair winds,

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Old 23-02-2018, 14:54   #4
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Re: US to Virgins - a Trip Description and What the Virgins are like after the Storm

Thanks for the report,interesting but very depressing.
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Old 24-02-2018, 08:39   #5
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Re: US to Virgins - a Trip Description and What the Virgins are like after the Storm

Well done getting there and reporting. Hard to comprehend.
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Old 24-02-2018, 09:43   #6
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Re: US to Virgins - a Trip Description and What the Virgins are like after the Storm

here are some more pictures - these are from Soper Hole and Nanny Cay.

The devatastion is heartbreaking. I simply have no words to describe what walking through this huge yard of broken boats is like................
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Old 24-02-2018, 09:59   #7
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Re: US to Virgins - a Trip Description and What the Virgins are like after the Storm

Those of us who have been here, the entire time, are sometimes reminded of how bad the place looks, to someone who has not seen the incredible progress that has been made. Even Jost has made great progress, but from a starting point of having only Foxy's being remotely functional.

Our lives are not normal, but much normalcy has returned. The vast majority of people now have water. Electricity is now connected to 98% of the BVI, which, of course, doesn't help if you are in the 2%. It has been reported that there are 400 rooms available, and 1000 berths aboard boats, but I have my doubts, particularly on the room number.

A bright spot has been Nanny Cay. Whilst Peg Legs remains destroyed, and the second floors of two of the service buildings are gone, most of the rest of the buildings are fine. The hotel is doing well. Almost all of the docks on the inner harbour are gone (new ones ordered), but the new, outer harbour is in great shape. The chandlery is fine.

I am currently sitting in the salon of my boat, in the boatyard at Nanny Cay, as we bring repairs to a conclusion. Many boats have come through , either for partial or total repairs, and the place is humming, 7 days a week. One of the storage yard is also being used as a boatyard, and extra staff are working for the contractors.

Phones work, most places, there are a much smaller number of restaurants and bars functioning, and food and gas are no problem. Many of the roads are in bad or really bad shape, however.

Road Town, which lost every twig and leaf, is looking a lot less like Phoenix, these days, as the greenery recovers. But it will be a long, long while until the trees get big enough again to make much difference and provide their usual shade. Insurance underwriters are starting to pay out, so there is a ton of construction going on. In fact, our college is offering free courses in construction, for those who are willing to change jobs. It's a good idea, as many of the old jobs are just gone, and will be, until the businesses are back on track and tourists and the financial sector return.

Most of us go about our lives, noting the improvements we see, every day, and to some extent, we have become inured to the devastation that still surrounds us. And then, someone new arrives and spends their first few hours in shock, a stark reminder to the rest of us. Best off are the charter guests, because as soon as they get out on the water, the place is still gorgeous, the water is great, snorkelling better than it has been in years, and there are enough places to go. And no crowds. Almost all guests are really happy that they have come, and booking a charter IS a place where money can be spent. A favourite destination is Anegada, which was "relatively" unscathed, but North Sound, with the exception of Leverick Bay, is still a war zone.

Two things I can say, with some certainly. The Marine Debris Removal Group has pulled together considerable resources from the private sector, and hundreds upon hundreds of boats have been pulled from the water, disposed of, sold, shipped away, you name it. There is even a new boatyard at East End, specifically set up to help with this, and a hoped for by product is that it will become an established boat yard in the future. East End has a strong marine background, which has largely been lost over the past few decades, and all hope that rebounds. I will be eager to see what is reported when we meet, next week, but the Debris Removal Group has been charged to help the government prevent the BVI from becoming the typical post-hurricane Caribbean island, with wrecks laying on beaches and in anchorages, for years to come. Trellis Bay is a particular hotspot, as most of the boats anchored there were without insurance, and so government is having to take on the task. There are others, and the inner harbour at Road Town now boasts a couple dozen badly damaged boats tied up with their sterns to the mangroves. These are all wrecks bought from insurance companies by folks who think they can reasonably be re-built. No doubt, some will be, but others may become abandoned, and none are likely insured. I am sure that this week's meeting will address this, as it's a new issue. But, the BVI is very concerned that none of the anchorages become graveyards, and they do mean business. Some laws limit what can be done, and some laws will be changed.

The other thing that I will say is that a small group was tasked by the government with trying to really nail down the figures for marine losses, as opposed to estimates, both obviously high or obviously low, that have been bandied about. The "hard" information that we now have is that the BVI charter fleet consisted of about 900 boats, pre-Irma. We were able to account for all the fleets ( except a few tiny operations), other than Moorings/Sunsail/Footloose, who represent about 40% of the fleet, and whose results have yet to be tallied. For the other 60%, the tally is better than initially supposed, but still very grim: 60% lost or constructively lost (not worth repairing). 33 % damaged, including almost all levels of damage, and 7 % undamaged or virtually so. A boat that lost it's stanchions and had a nick or two, for example, went into the "undamaged" total. If the Moorings numbers match the rest, that would be a total of 540 charter boats totally damaged, with a loss, in dollar terms, of about $250 million to $275 million. This is considerably more than the previous "official" estimate of 200 vessels lost, and the number does not yet include private boats, or all the locally owned smaller boats that fish, etc.etc. We expect the ratios to be considerably better for the foreign owned private boats, and the little locally owned boats. A great many more of these were stored ashore. But the numbers will be way higher than the original report of ECLAC (the Caribbean branch of the UN) and way lower than the "2000" boats lost that has seen much currency in the media.

The bright side is that many of the charter companies are back in operation and many new boats, or boats from other bases, have arrived. We originally thought that it would take about three years for the charter fleets to be totally rebuilt, but it looks more like two years, these days. In fact, by the beginning of the coming season, most operations will be in pretty good shape, and some will have totally recovered their fleet numbers, which is amazing.

The major resorts are still in the early stages of recovery, as they deal with their insurance issues, but some are starting to be partially re-opened, which is a good sign.

Hopefully, this will be of some use to those considering a trip here. It's still paradise, although much of it certainly isn't, at the moment, but just about everyone is involved in the re-build. As far as tourism is concerned, we will get there more quickly than many will suppose.

Thanks very much to Carsten for bringing up the subject. i can recommend a few places for his crew to visit, if he likes, and I am eager to see his report from St. Maarten.

Cheers,
Tim
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Old 24-02-2018, 10:04   #8
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Re: US to Virgins - a Trip Description and What the Virgins are like after the Storm

hi Tim

please let me know where we should visit. I should have mentioned that the local population seems to be taking this in stride - although the virtual annihilation of some of the places we've been is appalling and beyond belief

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Old 24-02-2018, 10:28   #9
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Re: US to Virgins - a Trip Description and What the Virgins are like after the Storm

We are here now, in the BVI on our path up from Grenada. Dominica, St Martin, the VIs...all have been hard hit, but they are springing back at differing rates.

There are certainly fewer charter groups out, but the folks who have chosen the VI for their Mooring/Sunsail adventure seem happy, and many of them are getting to sail brand new boats.

People should come visit--there are bars and restaurants and grocery stores and marine supply shops open. We are a family of four and we aren't lacking for anything.

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Old 24-02-2018, 13:13   #10
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Re: US to Virgins - a Trip Description and What the Virgins are like after the Storm

Thank you for the report. Spent a lot of time at De Loose Mongoose. Used to eat Thanksgiving dinner there and spent nights in one of their rooms. Did you notice Aragorn's Studio? Is it still there?
Sad but I have faith they will recover. Hopefully these devastating hurricanes don't represent a pattern but I fear they do.
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Old 24-02-2018, 13:30   #11
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Re: US to Virgins - a Trip Description and What the Virgins are like after the Storm

Aragon is there and intact.
Sufficient supplies at the grocery, and good BBQ chicken!
No laundry building left....
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Old 24-02-2018, 13:44   #12
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Re: US to Virgins - a Trip Description and What the Virgins are like after the Storm

Thanks for the thread Carsten. For many years before I retired from high school science teaching I used to charter one or two boats out of Conch Charters for my marine biology class during our Spring Break. Kids would live on the boats, and SCUBA dive to see and learn marine ecology first hand. So sad to see your pics of the terrible damage, but also glad to hear that things are improving. The reason I'm posting is to suggest to any teachers reading this thread that they could do a work/study/play trip to BVI - get kids volunteering for a week on a local rebuild project then take a week sailing and diving. It would be a great community service and educational experience for high school or college students. I'd do it for sure if I were still teaching.
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Old 24-02-2018, 17:11   #13
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Re: US to Virgins - a Trip Description and What the Virgins are like after the Storm

Quote:
Originally Posted by carstenb View Post
hi Tim

please let me know where we should visit. I should have mentioned that the local population seems to be taking this in stride - although the virtual annihilation of some of the places we've been is appalling and beyond belief

carsten
I would suggest the Bight on Norman Island, where Pirates (but not the Willy T) are functioning. Same for the other bays on Norman, and the Caves and Indians. Great Harbour, Peter Island, still has great snorkelling, although you are not welcome ashore on the island. Cooper Island Beach Club is closed, but Cistern Rock, at the southern end of their mooring field, is a good snorkeling spot. The Baths, and the restaurant, Top of the Baths, up the hill a short walk, is open. You can go into Spanish Town, but probably will find it somewhat depressing. Savannah and Pond Bays, on the west coast of VG, have always been nice spots. North Sound is something of a disaster zone, but Leverick Bay is good and may have fuel by now. Don't know, but it has been imminent for some time. Anegada is fine. Marina Cay was destroyed, but the snorkeling is still fine. The Dogs should be good, as well, as should be Monkey Point, if there is no North Swell. You have already been to Jost, I guess, and I haven't, but White Bay is reported to be functional. Cane Garden Bay is really hurting, but the water quality has recently been declared safe, and it's still a beautiful beach. The palm trees that were a great part of its attraction are gone, however.

Restaurants would include, in no particular order, Top of the Baths, Leverick Bay, the restaurants on Virgin Gorda, Pirates, Foxy's, and quite a few on Tortola, such as Red Rock (at Penn's Landing, East End, Tortola) Charley's (Moorings Base), Gene's, at Manuel Reef Marina, and the Beach Bar at Nanny Cay. Others are partially open, or opening soon, so this is a partial list.

That should take care of quite a few days! Have a good time.

Cheers,
Tim
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Old 25-02-2018, 04:00   #14
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Re: US to Virgins - a Trip Description and What the Virgins are like after the Storm

Thanks to Carsten, Tim, and others for their very interesting and informative reports!
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Old 25-02-2018, 13:23   #15
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Re: US to Virgins - a Trip Description and What the Virgins are like after the Storm

We have been in the USVI for about 3 weeks. The islands are beautiful and green again, though the greenery is all new-growth on stubby trees. The sea is perfect. Snorkeling is good. Many of the hotels and resorts are closed, but many restaurants are open and groceries and fuel are readily available. Electricity has been restored. Life in Charlotte Amalie has returned nearly to normal. There are still many damaged buildings that need repair. The number of cruise ships is about 1/3 or less of the usual, so the town is less congested than it used to be.
The Virgin Islands National Park is packed with boats in a normal year. This year, only about five to ten percent of the moorings are taken. It is wonderful.
As long as you bring your lodgings (your boat) this is a good year to visit. So come on down.
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