Phew … Thank heavens 2017 is now behind us. What a year of devastation it was: fires, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes – all of biblical proportions.
As a cruising sailor for over twenty years Charlie often said that life was best on board a boat but when children came along he changed his mind and moved ashore. He has often questioned his decision – now more than at any other time. When his beautiful steel cutter was finally sold in the BVI he knew he would rue his decision. Horror of horrors … moving into a square box that couldn’t move anywhere … with neighbors, a necessary vehicle (or two), schooling, reliance on others for electricity, Wi-Fi, phone etc., and the expense of it all! You have to borrow money, right? And it’s then that they have you by the short and curlies. Gotta keep working – harder and harder and harder. Worrisome notes keep arriving in the mail – things like ‘derelict on repayment of loan’, and ‘impounding of assets’. The rat race is upon you!
There are aspects of a severe hurricane that many don’t realize until they affect you. There are people wandering around the islands wide-eyed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) – I mean even more than usual. Looting becomes rampant. Unplanned for events like epidemics of flies and rodents, increased accidents requiring medical attention, garbage and soggy detritus that is unable to be collected. People become unemployed and many suffer poverty almost immediately, unable to buy basic foodstuff. Charlie even recovered some cheap gin he had put in his paint locker for stripper – it’s now back in the bar!
To counter balance the awful, there is the heart-warming wonderful: generous donations, free meals, free accommodations, donations of sundry essentials etc., etc. An individual’s true character bubbles to the surface in such times.
The sensible cruisers, or those with no immediate ties to land, watched the encroaching storm, Irma, and made the decision to sail south away from the danger area. There can be no doubt that this will be an increasing trend in the future. In the storms and floods of 2017, the Northern Leewards including the Virgins, Puerto Rico and Turks and Caicos were worst affected. The damage can only be described as devastating and catastrophic.
In the future there will be a huge increase in insurance premiums and stipulations like better ways to store yachts and rigs. There will likely be a huge exodus of yachts, further affecting Caribbean economies.
But hey! It’s 2018! A time for new beginnings. The sea and sun, the islands and reefs, the trade wind breezes – they are all still here. As a Caribbean visitor you will taxi your way through island villages very much on the mend and when you depart the dock on your sailing adventure a tranquility not seen since the 1970s will enchant you. Anchorages will be pristine and beautiful with NO CROWDS. You have left the cold and snow behind. The traffic jams are history and the Caribbean is your oyster. Sail to any one of dozens of beautiful anchorages and down a painkiller or two and prepare for that sumptuous lobster, fresh fish or seafood dinner. The reggae music will keep your feet tapping and miles of smiles will greet you at every turn.
Every cloud has a silver lining they say. So the recent very dark cloud must be followed by a bright future.
AGAIN … Happy New Year!
Julian Putley is the author of ‘The Drinking Man’s Guide to the BVI’, ‘Sunfun Calypso’, and ‘Sunfun Gospel’.