Skip Novak takes us through the damage…
I was sent the photo when the weather had cleared. There she was, ashore by her stern at Key West. The rig appeared to be still standing, but the back end will be a mess when salvaged. That was the maxi yacht Fazisi, my Whitbread ride in 1989/90. Not long before, I had been trying to contact the owners to see if they would be interested in bringing her across for the Volvo Legends Regatta ending in The Hague next summer. I had no idea where she was. Now I know and the Legends project looks to be a non-starter.
Two months after Hurricanes Irma and Maria violently swept through the Caribbean we now have a better handle on the damage and it is indeed devastating for those island’s economies. We all tracked it while it was going through. Then, during the immediate aftermath there was a near stunned silence. Reports of loss of life and fuzzy cell phone images and video clips began to dribble in revealing the properties asunder and livelyhoods ruined, not to mention the sad news of rampant looting in places like St Maarten and Virgin Islands. Clearly, it was inappropriate to be worrying about the yachts in tatters, many upside down in the lagoons or high and dry well onshore. That came later.
Richard Branson, on emerging from his posh wine cellar/bunker on Necker Island, strangely romanticized his adventure of living through “one of the wonders of the natural world” – a thought which might be have been appreciated by those reading the Sunday papers in the UK, probably less so from those who had lost everything.
Back in the early 70’s I delivered what might have been the Mooring’s 6th (6th!) Morgan Out Island 41 from the builder in Clearwater Florida to Tortola. This was a plastic floating mobile home where just about everything that could break did while on the passage across the Northeast Trades. The Moorings had a single quay back then. There were a few other yachts around the bay.
Well, anyone who has bare boated there in recent memory or have sailed in the many regattas hosted by the BVI know the scale of these operations that now exist along with the general proliferation of yachting in general in the Caribbean. It is a full up car park. Even if the companies wanted to move this bareboat fleet out of the track of a Category 5 hurricane it is logistically impossible. C’est la vie. After the right-offs are all tallied up I can’t help to think that when these mega charter companies re-equip how many power cats will replace the sailing cats where the average punter was too lazy to put up sail and motored everywhere anyway.
One wonders, though, about the larger one off yachts who were left to tough it out. Fazisi surely fits into this discussion. What were the owners thinking? There were several days warning to this debacle. Easy to jump on a plane, buy some tins of beans, cast off and head for an ad hoc holiday in the Yucatan. That’s what I would have done. Of course, not taking these bigger craft out of the area altogether might be a consequence of over subscribed marinas further north and nowhere obvious to go. As I said, it is a full parking lot – everywhere.
An old timer sailing friend of mine, also bemused, said that back in ‘the days,’ when it was hurricane season, you got out of dodge and went somewhere else. And, he added, that ‘hurricane hole’ in Simpson Bay Lagoon at St Maarten that is now a disaster zone was actually created by a hurricane some hundreds of years ago. To whit, Branson, who is no fool, ordered his yacht down to Grenada when the hit was obvious.
The pictures of Irma’s and Maria’s handy work throughout the islands were telling. Yes, there are mono hulls a plenty pushed on shore and banged up, but for the most part upright at least above the horizontal. Many catamarans are upside down. I love cruising catamarans, as I have said before in this column. One can’t help to think though that the stories of these bareboat cats flying through the air are exaggerated, but the upside down photos don’t lie. Makes you to take a pull. Now somewhat unfashionable, lead keels surely slow you down, but it is true when it matters they keep you on the right side of a hell on water.
Skip Novak takes us through the damage…