With our perpetually warm breezes and seas, the Caribbean is definitely a global yachting Mecca year-round. But when summer comes to the rest of the world, cruisers must decide whether to stay, and many local yachtsmen travel abroad for business and pleasure. The question becomes, do you take your yacht elsewhere or leave it here?
The pluses and negatives of leaving a boat in the Caribbean will vary from owner to owner and with the use of the yacht, says John Duffy, president of the Antigua and Barbuda Marine Association. “In very general terms, the main plus is cost savings. If the Caribbean is the main area of the yacht’s use, then cost of shipping or sailing to the U.S. or to Europe has to be taken into account along with wear and tear. Berthing costs in the U.S. and Europe are generally much higher than the Caribbean even when taking into account the increased insurance costs during the hurricane season.”
In the past, adds Philip Baumann, of Bobby’s Marina on St. Maarten, “Insurance companies used to insist that all vessels leave the hurricane zone from June until the end of November. This still applies to mega yachts, so most of them go either to the Med or New England. As for cruising boats, in the last few years we have seen a big increase in demand for hurricane storage from them.”
While there is a degree of risk leaving boats in any hurricane-prone areas during the summer, Keith LiGreci, boatyard manager at Nanny Cay Resort & Marina in Tortola, British Virgin Islands, says, “There are many great hurricane holes, marinas and yards that can help decrease the chance of damage if a hurricane does come through.”
Numerous marinas and boatyards throughout the islands have lifts and storage options for boats of various types and sizes. For example, “We have a 70 ton wide body lift that we have hauled up to 100-foot vessels and catamarans up to 32 feet wide,” LiGreci says. “We are fortunate to have cradles for both monohulls and catamarans. The cradles are built up under and around the vessel, bolted together and, in conjunction with eight pad supports and six-foot long sand screws that are strapped to both, the cradle and yacht can withstand up to Force 12 winds and gusts to 147 mph. Our cradles can be adjusted to fit any size and type of vessel.”
East at Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbour, marina manager Tommy Decker says, “We can lift and store boats up to 60 tons both sail and power. Wet slips for these boats are available as well. We can also accommodate 300-plus boats in our dry storage area.
On St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, DeAn Price, office manager at Independent Boatyard says, “We have a 50 ton travel lift and can lift vessels with a maximum 17-foot 6-inch beam. That means we can’t lift catamarans or tris unless they fold.”
Wise boaters will plan ahead. “We take reservations for storage starting January 1 and are full by February since 75 percent of our business is repeat,” says Price. “So it pays to call early.”
In Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Olga Diaz de Perez, administrator at Sunbay Marina, says, “The storage we have is at the slips for boats 25- to 70-foot long and dry stack for boats 25 to 30 feet long. We have had people from Africa, Norway and the U.S. that have left their boats with us.” Also in Fajardo, Puerto del Rey Marina offers both boatyard and drystack yacht storage.
Bobby’s Marina on St. Maarten will close its Phillipsburg yard this fall and open its new yard in Cole Bay, between Island Water World and Port de Plaisance. “We will have a 150 ton travel lift and a 75 ton travel lift, so we’ll be able to haul and store vessels up to 150 tons or around 180 feet. This yard will have all the facilities of a modern shipyard.”
With the opening of the Marina by St. Kitts Marine Works Ltd, says Patrick Ryan, who founded Fortress Marine Lt. with Philip Walwyn and Doug Brookes in 2008, “St. Kitts has a viable option for vessel storage on dry land. The 15 acres of storage area are within easy access to the sea with a sandy soil that can be easily excavated for the keel to be buried.”
Regiwell Francis, owner of St. Kitts Marine Works, adds, “The present lift has a 165-ton capacity. We’re hoping to expand the yard to 26 acres in about two years.”
On Antigua, Duffy says, “Storage ashore is probably only available for boats up to a maximum of about 100 ft, more due to the lifting facilities than space, however, boats of that size and larger could easily remain in the water despite hurricanes. Damage in the water generally occurs from poorly tended boats breaking free and colliding with well-secured boats.”
St. Lucia offers both wet and dry storage facilities, says Cuthbert Didier, manager at the Rodney Bay Marina. “We provide dry storage for vessels: 10 feet to 95 feet sailboats, and wet storage 10 feet to 220 feet sail and motor vessels. The dry storage has water, and electricity, 24 hr security, a machine shop, fiberglass shop, and qualified sub contractors in electronics and generator repairs. All types of repairs can be performed including mechanical, machine, electrical, fiber glassing and antifouling.”
In Grenada, Clyde Rawls, general manager for Camper & Nicholson’ Port Louis Marina, in St. George’s, says, “We are building a destination marina and have no yard facilities. However, there are great yards in Grenada, for example Spice Island Marine and Grenada Marine, which offer secure space on the hard, and some great tradesmen as well.”
Finally, in Trinidad, says Gina Carvalho, administrator for the Yacht Services Association of Trinidad & Tobago (YSATT), there are four boatyards capable of holding a total of some 860 to 870 yachts on the hard for monohulls and catamarans.” Lift capacity ranges from 70 tons up to 150 tons.
Carvalho adds, “Some cruisers have work done on their yachts while they are away and some prefer to wait until their return to do so. Being the repair hub of the Caribbean, Trinidad is well equipped to handle the smallest of repairs to complete refits.”