From the owner of Dream Machine:
My wife and I own Dream Machine, one of the Beneteau 45s managed by CYOA. Several months ago we scheduled a short early season trip which we just completed (Nov. 6-11). I know there are many wondering if spending the money/time to charter is worthwhile or if they should wait and/or spend their vacation money and go elsewhere. I hope my ramblings here will give you a sense for the current conditions in the islands and what I believe the state will be short term. You have perhaps seen some of what I would consider “marketing fluff” about the islands being “open for business”. Is that really true or is that just the islands putting on their best party faces to attract visitors which they desperately need? Read on or skip to the bottom and read the summary.
I flew into STT Monday the 5th. The airport from an arrival point of view seems entirely intact. The baggage claim and rental car counters are undamaged and functioning. I picked up an AVIS rental car and drove down to CYOA which I returned the next day at the float plane terminal which was all intact and functioning. At CYOA I found the dock full of shiny cats that looked ready to charter. On the monohull side of the dock I found Dream Machine looking good. The boat had just come out of the boatyard the previous Friday and I was prepared to spend some time helping to clean her up and get her ready. But no need – the staff at CYOA must have busted their butts ‘cause she looked pretty much the same as when we had seen her last in August which is to say looking very good. I spoke to many of the staff. They seem happy and optimistic as they now have a sense of hope moving forward.
The next morning I drove to Plaza Extra for provisioning. This is my usual grocery store on STT and it’s a little bit of a drive. I wanted to see if I could do the same tasks the same way as I always do them. Other than most of the traffic lights being inoperable the trip to the store and back was uneventful. Plaza Extra was fully stocked and there was the usual number of people shopping. I fully provisioned the boat, i.e., I bought enough food to eat all meals on the boat in case I found this to be necessary.
I’d like to make a comment here about the 800 pound gorilla in the room, i.e., the destruction from the hurricanes. Up front I would like to apologize if I offend anyone in the islands with the next statements as I realize that on an individual basis many have lost much and many continue to struggle through hardships. So here goes…. While I saw many things that were destroyed I also saw many, many, buildings that seemed to be in pretty good shape. And everywhere I went an enormous amount of cleanup must already have taken place. This was true both in the US and BVI. I have to be honest – I was prepared for things to be much worse. It really didn’t look that bad. Sure… if you wanted to find something to gawk at you didn’t have to look very hard. But a good portion of what I saw had either what appeared to be minimal damage or didn’t look damaged at all (from my somewhat distant viewport). Everywhere I went both on the US and BVI side there was a massive amount of activity going on. More seems to be pouring in – I saw cargo boats pulling up to the docks on the US side full of containers and a whole bunch of utility, dump, concrete, etc. trucks ready to be off loaded. It is truly impressive to see the amount of activity happening. But of course I am a bit sobered by the thought that the reason for the very significant activity is due to a significant need.
We left the dock Tuesday afternoon and got back onto the dock on Saturday morning. Every trip is too short but this one was much too short. Our itinerary was Maho Bay on St John, Road Town (to go through C&I), The Bight on Norman Island, The Indians, The Baths, Leverick Bay, Sandy Cay, Foxy’s, back to Francis Bay and then back in to the dock. And if you thinking that’s a long way for only three full days you are absolutely right.
The water is still as clear and blue as ever and the islands are still emerald green, the wind is still blowing the right strength and direction, and the sand is still white and mostly in place where it belongs. But there is one thing completely missing – the number of boats we saw out sailing was less than ten. That’s ten total over three days. Imagine being in these beautiful anchorages and you are the only boat there! That’s what we experienced and it was absolutely mind blowing. The solitude and quiet currently available has probably not been experienced by anyone for a hundred years. I can’t adequately describe how amazing it is to be out in the SFD and see no one else as far as the eye can see in any direction. Or be on a mooring ball at The Bight or entire North Sound and not share the bay with anyone one else. No worries trying to get to The Indians to pick up a ball or the Baths. All the balls are yours. Truly a unique and special experience!
Here are some observations:
- Mooring balls are all in place everywhere we went
- We didn’t try to use a credit card anywhere so I can’t comment
- You have to go through C&I in Road Town. It was the first time ever that I have gone through the BVI entry process where the officers seemed happy to see me and I didn’t get a stern lecture about using the wrong pen color or missing a check box. I know this is hard to believe…
- We ate dinner at Leverick Bay outside on the patio next to the pool. Our waitress provided us excellent service, was happy and efficient, and our food arrived in very short order.
- The store at Leverick was open and fully stocked. The showers and laundry were both open and I could dump garbage there. I did not go out onto the docks but they looked to be ok minus the services at the end of the T dock and minus electrical.
- We had no bugs out in the anchorages. Ashore there were a few but consistent with what we saw last October. We brought plenty of bug spray with us and used none of it.
- We did not need fuel and water so we did not look for it. My usual stops for fuel/water are gone (Leverick and Marina Cay).
- The path through the Baths was rough and needed work. It was passable but just barely.
- Sandy Spit is essentially gone. And Sandy Cay has had some erosion but still an attractive and fun stop.
- Vegetation all over looks a bit beat up. But a surprising number of palm trees are still standing with some greenery and I suspect they will fully recovered in a few months
- Very few birds!
- We saw no debris in the water anywhere
- Given the activity level I believe most popular beach bar places will be up and running in some form by the new year.
From a sailing perspective it is currently an experience that will unlikely be available again in my life time and should not be missed – Assuming you like deserted anchorages and ability to go anywhere at any time without seeing another boat. You may not be as satisfied if you are seeking the beach bar scene which I think will take a little more time to recover. My opinion is that we’re currently in the pioneer stage up to the end of the year. The next stage will be early adopters which will probably be a period through spring and after that it will be back to business as usual. This is your chance to date a supermodel. She may not have all of her makeup on but she’s still a supermodel.
If you have any questions I’ll be happy to try to answer – please send an e-mail to email@example.com
Cinnamon Bay, St. John, USVI