Despite all the destruction that Hurricanes Irma, Jose and Maria wrought in the British Virgin Islands, the archipelago remains the most-requested destination among bareboaters who book through The Moorings. In fact, if those autumn 2017 storms hadn’t wrecked so many boats, even more bareboaters would’ve been in the islands this past winter.
“We literally can’t build the boats fast enough for people who want to go,” says Ian Pedersen, marketing manager of the Americas for The Moorings, which lost about a third of its Tortola fleet in the storms. “As soon as we can get more of the boats in, everything will be back to normal.”
MarineMax Vacations also was reporting surprisingly high demand soon after the cleanup began. New Year’s was sold out, with a near-normal level of inquiries by the end of January.
MarineMax lost just four of its 44 boats to the storms, and the company expected not only to be fully operational by March, but also to have 10 percent growth in the fleet’s size by June 1 — including the addition of a new 36-footer (shown on the previous page).
“It’s totally different: no flybridge, and outboard motors, with two cabins,” says Raul Bermudez, vice president of the MarineMax charter division. “There aren’t too many two-cabin boats out there. If you’re just a couple, it’s tough to find a boat that makes sense. That one, in high season, it will be about $5,000 a week.”
Bermudez has been visiting the BVI once a month since the storms, and he’s finding what bareboat clients are reporting: damage still being repaired on land, but harbors with water as clear as ever, and beach bars with open doors and rum specials ready.
“In the outer islands, now that everything’s green again, yeah, you see damage to the houses and roofs, but the beaches are all cleaned up, and it’s great,” he says. “I’ve been down to Soggy Dollar and had fun. Foxy’s looks like nothing happened to it. Some of the people who were repeat clients or owners, they’re loving it. There’s no worry about picking up a mooring ball. There’s plenty available right now.”
He also says more bareboaters than usual are leaving mainstays like Tortola and making the crossing to Anegada, which lies beyond the most popular islands.
“Being 13 miles away really made a difference,” he says of storm damage, or lack thereof.
The best news for The Moorings, Pedersen says, is that because so many of the boats in its fleet are being repaired or replaced, clients will have a ton of new rides this summer and for winter 2018-19.
“I’m looking at it like a wildfire effect,” he says. “Yes, we lost all these boats, but some of them were on the older side anyway. Now the majority of the fleet is going to be less than a year old. So in 2019, that’s the time to come charter with us. They’re all going to be brand-spanking new.”