Caribbean Hurricanes Maria and Irma: Fact and Fiction

There is a growing misconception that the Caribbean has been decimated by hurricanes Irma and Maria. It was not. A few islands at its Northeastern corner—primarily Dominica, (edited 11/1/17) Barbuda, Sint Maarten, St. Barts, Anguilla, Anegada, Virgin Gorda, Tortola, St. John, St. Thomas, Puerto Rico and Cuba—did, indeed, suffer.

However, most islands south of Barbuda—that’s Antigua, Statia, St. Kitts, Nevis, St. Lucia, Martinique, St. Vincent, Bequia, the Grenadines, and Grenada were relatively untouched.

I write these words from Mount Hartman Bay in Grenada—we didn’t even get any rain from Hurricane Irma.

The sun never went away—it was a perfect sailing afternoon here, while Barbuda was getting hammered.

Thus, saying “Don’t go to the Caribbean, it’s been whacked,†is like saying, “Don’t sail the Chesapeake, there’s a gale in Maine.â€

Another thing to bear in mind is that one of the reasons that the Caribbean chartering industry is so perfect for the local economies of the Lesser Antilles is precisely because it is so mobile.

True, the posh mega-resorts on Sint Maarten won’t reopen soon, but there are already arrangements being made to send unscathed bareboat charter vessels from Antigua, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and Grenada to Sint Maarten and the Virgins to fill in for their decimated fleet.

The fully crewed scene is even more responsive—with marginally-profitable vessels that intended to charter elsewhere, already considering coming southward.

In many ways, the charter and recreational fleets of the Lesser Antilles will be the first to recover—with their independent power generation and their ability to make their own fresh water.

If there’s a silver-lining to the dark cloud of the hurricanes’ aftermath, it’s that the four hardest hit groups—the Dutch, British, French, and American islands—rapidly had boots on the ground.

The marine industry has undeniably taken a hit, but it will be the first to spring back. All the yards, yard workers, insurance agents, surveyors, shipwrights, fiberglass repairmen, diesel mechanics, and gen/set troubleshooters will be busy/busy/busy.

Was there some spasmodic looting, particularly in Sint Maarten? Yes, there was. But there has not been, as far as I know, one single act of violence related to Irma. Generally speaking, West Indians are very peaceful and tolerant—which is why I chose to raise my daughter here. In nearly four decades of headquartering out the Lesser Antilles, I have not seen one single act of violence by any West Indian ever, for any reason.

I was born on Englewood Avenue on the southside of the Chicago—these islands are, comparatively, a safe and crime-free Eden.

Another advantage the Lesser Antilles has post-Irma is that 99% of our visitors are not here for our infrastructure but rather our nature. While Irma might have damaged our airports, buildings, and our land-based communications systems—it didn’t wipe the smiles off our faces.

The sail to Jost Van Dyke was just as lovely the day after Irma as it was the day before. The same can be said for beam-reaching to Anegada, or cracking sheets and running off to Culebra or running southward from trendy English Harbour in Antigua to lush Grenada or Calypso-kissed Trinidad, and beyond.

Those huge lobsters hiding under the ledges of Anegada haven’t the foggiest there was a hurricane—it is business as usual for them. Ditto the local fish—they are still as tasty and fresh as ever.

In fact, the 2017/2018 season might be the best time to charter—not only because of low prices but because of empty harbors and deserted dive sites.

The very best reason to visit the northeastern Lesser Antilles post-Irma is to see how our polyglot community works together in peace and harmony.

After three circumnavigations, I can live anywhere I want on this planet. I choose to live in the Lesser Antilles because it affords me the highest quality of life imaginable—as an American sailor, husband, father, and grandfather.

Yes, Irma and Maria were category five storms but don’t worry—we’re a category six people!

— Captain Fatty, Mt. Hartman Bay, Grenada, September 18 2017

Cap'n Fatty Goodlander
Cap’n Fatty Goodlander has lived aboard for 53 of his 60 years, and has circumnavigated twice. He is the author of Chasing the Horizon and numerous other marine books. His latest, Buy, Outfit, and Sail is out now. Visit: