Q: Adam, Bosun, 36:
“Ever since we heard about the carnage that has been unleashed on so much of the Caribbean by the hurricanes, I’ve been wondering what the best way would be to actually help out. There seem to be all these different crowd funding links and suggestions popping up on Facebook but I’m a bit sceptical about how much of this money will actually go to the people who need it. The other thing I’m thinking about is getting a bunch of mates together and actually going there to try and help out, do you know if there’s any reputable organisation or group we can talk to about that? Also there has been a lot of speculation about how this is going to affect the industry with the potential lack of a Caribbean season, do you think there will be job losses etc?”
A: The Crew Coach:
I’m deeply impressed and very heartened to hear you are keen to help out with the hurricane relief efforts. There has been huge devastation as a result of these terrible storms and it is wonderful that you want to help out. I really believe that we yachties need to care for and help the great people of these islands who host our yachts so graciously every year and provide such beautiful experiences for us and our guests. Good on you however for being careful about who you actually send money to, as there sadly are always people out to capitalise on the misfortune of others and you do need to do your homework.
With the hurricane season running until late November and a lot of places only just embarking on the clean up after Maria passed through, it’s far too early to know what this Caribbean season is going to look like with any certainty. However, we can make some educated guesses based on the information we have right now, and give you some advice on how to proceed on your winter job hunt, as well as how you can make a difference to hurricane-affected people in the Caribbean.
Here’s the lowdown on the situation as it stands:
Some lucky islands and archipelagos have been left fairly unscathed, such as Antigua, the Bahamas, St Kitts and Nevis, Martinique, St Lucia, the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Others took a catastrophic hit, including the British and US Virgin Islands, Barbuda, Puerto Rico Anguilla, Dominica, St John, St Thomas and St Maarten.
Other islands, such as St Barts and Anguilla sustained extreme damage, but the race is on to rebuild, with key figures on both islands declaring they are determined to be ready for the start of winter season. Planning to be in St Barts for New Years as usual is a great way for yachts to show their support for the region.
The Florida Keys have also sustained severe damage but are planning to be ready for the winter tourist season, while Fort Lauderdale and Miami were exceedingly lucky that the path of Hurricane Irma veered wide of the predicted path, meaning the main Florida yachting industry was spared the brunt of the storm.
Unfortunately, Turks & Caicos was impacted by both hurricanes, with information still coming in about the damage to the islands.
What it might mean for the winter yachting season
It’s true that there will be some yachts who choose not to go across this winter as a result of the hurricanes, but at this stage I think it’s a little too early to tell. Most people I have spoken to have said that charter yachts have not made this decision yet.
Sacha Williams, Charter Marketing Director of Camper & Nicholsons said,
“ I am hopeful that there has been a positive response from our industry to the fantastic initiatives working to help each island to repair and recover what they have lost during these difficult times. Some are positive that with assistance from the wealthy companies that own the big hotels and marinas, as well as government aid, that things could be up and running again (or at least 70%) by December. Others paint a far less optimistic picture. It is very difficult for us to gauge and at the moment we are working to relocate most charters to areas which have not been affected such as the Grenadines and the Bahamas.”
With news coming out of the Virgin Islands that many resorts will be closed for 6-12 months, and the infrastructure on Puerto Rico, Dominica and St Martin’s decimated, one can’t imagine that these badly affected islands will be ready for the start of the winter season in December, although rebuilding has begun and all efforts will be made to be ready. From a yachting perspective, the temporary loss of the Virgin Islands and St Maarten would be terrible blows, as these destinations are major yachting hubs for cruising, provisioning and crewing.
The good news
Our beloved Antigua has thankfully escaped major damage, with its resorts remaining open and marinas in good shape. This is hugely important for yachting in the region, as Antigua will act as an even greater hub than normal for cruising in the Leeward Islands. The Antigua Charter Yacht Show always marks the start of the winter season in early December, and it is scheduled to go ahead, which is extremely good news for all in the region.
St Kitts & Nevis is also a growing superyacht hub in the Leeward chain, with Christophe Harbour and the island’s many luxury resorts operating as business as usual.
The Bahamas can almost certainly expect a bumper season, with the area including Nassau, the Exumas, and the Abacos all avoiding significant damage, although some islands in the south of the chain did suffer a relatively minor hit.
Also, as the Windward Islands and southern Caribbean escaped most of the hurricane damage, we can expect an excellent yachting season for cruising from Martinique and St Lucia down to the Grenadines, and further south to places like Costa Rica and Belize.
Outside the Caribbean, these hurricanes will almost certainly point to a stronger charter season in places further afield, such as the Indian Ocean, French Polynesia, South East Asia, and Australasia.
Much more will be known in the coming weeks, and we can expect that by the time the Fort Lauderdale Yacht Show rolls around on the 1st of November, the yachting industry as a whole will know more about what to expect for the season.
How can you help?
The yachting industry is in a superb position to help, with their fleet of yachts crossing to the Caribbean that can carry aid supplies, and owners and crew able to offer donations and their time. The UN is relying on private yachts to help, and it’s wonderful to see our industry answering the call.
Links to donations are below, but here are some other important ways you can help.
1. The most important thing is for Captains to be encouraging their yacht owners to continue their plans to cruise the Caribbean this winter.
Debbie Blazy, Director of Crew Placement in Antibes said,
“It’s still too early to know what will happen. Speaking to the charter teams it appears that yachts are altering their itineraries but so far we don’t have any who have cancelled their seasons. Of course our hearts go out to all of those who have been affected and I would hope that yachts would still go across, as much in support of the local areas as anything else.”
As we all know, the first obligation of Captains and crew is to ensure guests have an incredible time, so it would be great to see everyone share their Caribbean cruising experiences on Facebook this winter in the relevant yachting groups, giving honest and reliable accounts of places to go that still offer wonderful cruising after the hurricanes. Reviews could mention hotels that are open, good anchorages, places that still have their tropical vegetation, operational marinas, and coral reefs and beaches undamaged by the hurricane. This will help yachts create excellent charter itineraries the guests will appreciate, so they’ll go back and tell their friends that the Caribbean is still an amazing cruising ground. Planning great charter itineraries will take a great deal of research this year if you’re planning to do it alone, so if everyone can collaborate it will be to the benefit of yacht Owners, Captains and crew, and Caribbean locals!
2. For Captains and crew who will be chartering in the Caribbean, there are numerous ways to help simply by deciding where and how to spend your time and money.
Whenever possible, hire local dive instructors, masseuses etc.
Where there are resorts reopening, show your support by visiting them; particularly the locally owned ones.
Buy local where possible.
Ask your crew if they’d like to volunteer in rebuilding efforts.
Consider taking supplies over on your crossing, even if it’s just stationery for local kids.
For those in a strong financial position that can take time off work, consider getting a delivery over and volunteering your time.
Hire local dayworkers where available.
3. Above all, be compassionate.
Remember, it may not be a ‘normal’ Caribbean season for you- but it certainly won’t be for the locals of the Caribbean either. Be sensitive about their situation and their pain, many of these island communities lost loved ones and saw their homes destroyed, so if you find yourself frustrated by the lack of supplies, delays or infrastructure problems, remember to show understanding.
How to Donate or Supply Aid
Here at The Crew Coach we have a longstanding collaboration with B1G1 (Buy One Give One), who have a special hurricane relief fund set up here: https://www.b1g1.com/projectdetail/1090
Yacht Aid Global do sensational work helping in these kinds of situations, you can check out what they’re doing and how you and your yacht can help here. http://yachtaidglobal.org/get-involved
BWA Yachting began Frye’s Ark, a relief effort that is harnessing the power of yachting donations and organising yachts to cross with supplies. https://www.gofundme.com/ARK-BWA-AID
Superyacht Charities is also mobilising their efforts to help out, with an aim of raising 25,000 GBP. https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/superyachtcharitiescaribbeanfund
Many yachties suffered a collective heartbreak after seeing the damage to the Bitter End Yacht Club in Virgin Gorda. You can donate to the local relief effort to help the employees and residents here: Bitter End Yacht Club Employee Irma Relief Fund.
Last but not least, don’t forget about the less popular yachting destinations!
Don’t forget places like Dominica, which only has a relatively small yachting clientele and is absolutely reeling after being pummelled by Hurricane Maria, with many deaths, 90% of buildings destroyed, and every tree on the lush volcanic island stripped of leaves. You can donate to the Dominica American Relief & Development Association here: https://www.gofundme.com/dominica-hurricane-maria-relief
Puerto Rico has similarly suffered, with at least 30 deaths, untold damage to homes, and an island-wide loss of power that is predicted to last a month or more in some areas. CONPRmetidos is a non-profit taking donations here: https://www.generosity.com/emergencies-fundraising/puerto-rico-real-time-recovery-fund
If anyone has thoughts on how this situation is going to impact yacht crew this season, stories about their own hurricane experience, or additional information on how to help out, please let us know in the comments below.
Image credit: Yacht Aid Global