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
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.
, 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
, 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
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.