Traumatic. That’s how Ann E. McHorney, owner of Select Yachts, describes being on the receiving end of the 2017 hurricane season. With offices on Sint Maarten and in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, her charter company also has had a front-row view of the recovery — and on Sint Maarten, she says, the charter buzz is vastly improved.
“Demand is way up,” she says. “A lot of people didn’t charter last year. We have people who need to get their Caribbean fix.”
While many charter yachts moved to the southern Caribbean last year to avoid the storm-torn northern islands, this year more of them are expected to stay in the traditional hot spots, including Sint Maarten. As of late October, McHorney says, all 45 yachts in her fleet were already booked for Christmas, with early January bookings also coming in heavy.
Clients aren’t overly worried about the island still being in recovery mode. Basic infrastructure and tourist-friendly businesses are functioning, and that’s enough for many Caribbean fans.
“It’s just not pretty yet,” she says. “You’ll still see some damaged buildings. But the roads are all operational. There’s restaurants. There’s activities. Where the marinas are, it looks pretty darn good. The yachting sector was the first to come back.”
Booking a charter, of course, is one of the best ways to help the tourism-dependent island continue to recover.
“There’s still roofs missing,” she says. “Some people are living like they’re in the Third World. Houses were damaged that haven’t been restored. A lot of people left the islands. It’s impossible for them to deconstruct and reconstruct that quickly.
“But you do a charter, you’re out on the water, it’s fine,” she adds. “You see all the green. The green is back. The bays are nice, and in some ways prettier. There’s not as much activity. The fish are having a great time.”
In and Around Sint Maarten
Charter yachts can base in Sint Maarten with itineraries that include St. Barths, Anguilla and other islands. The Heineken Regatta has brought racing excitement to the island for nearly 40 years. This year’s regatta is February 28 through March 3. Poker Playtime Casino Royale is planning 35 poker tournaments and a championship event payout of $250,000. The dates are March 20 through April 1.