Hurricane Irma, remembering 1 year on.

Captain Matt looks back 1 year after the worst hurricane on record to hit the British Virgin Islands.

Part 4 is the final part in these reflections. How do we rebuild our lives after this natural disaster. (Click on Part 1Part 2 and Part 3 to read the story so far)......

Kindness is a behavior marked by ethical characteristics, a pleasant disposition, and concern and consideration for others. It is considered a virtue, and is recognized as a value in many cultures and religions (see ethics in religion).[1] In Book II of "Rhetoric", Aristotle defines it as "helpfulness towards someone in need, not in return for anything, nor for the advantage of the helper himself, but for that of the person helped". Wikipedia Sept 2018

A few days after Irma passed us we were getting reports that there was another hurricane brewing in the Atlantic. Thankfully for the BVI hurricane Maria passed South of us but did impact Puerto Rico pretty badly. We felt the winds but it was nothing like hurricane Irma.

 British forces arrived on BVI - photo courtesy of Forces Net.

British forces arrived on BVI - photo courtesy of Forces Net.

In the days that followed the British army arrived, curfews were put in place and gradually we all seemed to shake off the initial shock and get on with the task of rebuilding our lives, our homes and our businesses. I spent a week filling in forms, taking photographs and trying to get insurance claims in for the boats and office damage so that at least our claim was at the top of the huge pile but it was pretty obvious the claims were going to take time so we had to think up another plan if we were going to reopen the sailing school and honour the bookings we had already taken. 

Working with Diane and Emma, who had escaped the storms because they in the UK, we managed to get in touch with all of the people who had booked in courses, letting them know we were all OK and we would be back in business but couldn’t give anyone a time frame - we didn’t have any idea ourselves. Everyone was wonderful, not one person cancelled and they all vowed they would reschedule! We kept in contact with regular updates.

In the meantime a close friend of mine in the UK contacted me, he offered to provide a boat for us whilst the insurance claims progressed so that we could continue our business! I was overjoyed and thankfully. Together we found the ideal boat, it was in Costa Rica. So my friend jumped on a flight to check it out and agreed the sale, one month later we had put a crew together and stood on the dock in Costa Rica ready to sail ‘Tack Till Nordic’, Tortola Sailing & Sights new boat back to the BVI!

 Tack Till Nordic - Tortola Sailing &Sights new school boat

Tack Till Nordic - Tortola Sailing &Sights new school boat

 Tack Till Nordic motley crew ready to hit the high seas

Tack Till Nordic motley crew ready to hit the high seas

We sailed our new boat from Costa Rica to Panama, through the Panama canal, Panama to Aruba, Aruba to Bonaire, and from Bonaire back up to the Virgin islands, arriving back on Tortola the first week in December. Whilst we had a little bit of work to do on her, we could now offer a first course since the hurricane, starting 23rd December, just in time for Christmas! We called everyone who needed to reschedule and the diary quickly filled up and we were back in business!

Our new instructor Paul had just started and as the first crew of the season left the dock I felt incredibly humbled and emotional by the amount of help and support we had been given to get the first class in a new boat leave the dock just 3 1/2 months after Irma. I would never have believed this possible sitting on Village Quay dock days after Irma.

The months that followed we concentrated on letting people know we were open for business and slowly new bookings came in and we started to concentrate on getting ourselves ready for the following season. My positive thinking was paying off. It was very hard somedays but I knew I had to keep pushing forward to rebuild the school.

We desperately needed a keelboat so after putting word out I was contacted by a guy from Puerto Rico, he offered us a J24 keelboat, for free if we committed to converting it to an IC24 which involves replacing the entire deck and making the cockpit larger. The reason why he offered it to us was because it's a race class that he wanted to see it recovered and being used as most had been destroyed in the storms. Off again I went, this time I flew to Puerto Rico to look at the boat, spoke to someone who could do the conversion. 4 months later I sailed to Puerto Rico and towed the new keelboat back!

It was all coming together, Around about the same time I was also offered a 22' Rigid Inflatable power boat that had been sunk in the hurricane. The tubes needed replacing and it also need a new engine which I managed to buy from another damaged boat. After a few months of hard work and new tubes being fitted we had ourselves a powerboat to run courses on!

So, we now had a 50' monohull yacht, a 24' keelboat and a 22' rigid inflatable, what we really needed was another sailing yacht or even better a catamaran so we could start doing our catamaran courses again.

A friend of mine got in touch and came down for a weeks sailing, we talked about him wanting a catamaran that he could use occasionally and in between he could also make some money from it, once again it fell into place. After a search of what was on the market we found a Leopard 44' for sale which seemed perfect! 4 double cabins, each with their own bathrooms, generator and air conditioning yet the size of it was comfortable yet not too large to teach on! The catamaran joins our fleet in a few weeks time ready for the start of the season!

 
 

As the 2018/19 season begins we also have two new instructors joining us, remember I mentioned Scott part 2 of this story? Well he finally made the life changing decision to come on down to the islands full-time! Our other instructor joining us is Tom who lives on his own boat, is a Padi Dive Master and is also a kite surfing guru! (AS soon as they send me through their photo I’ll update our website with profile so you can ‘meet them’.)

The last 12 months have been challenging, hard at times yet somehow rewarding. I look back often and wonder how we recovered after something so catastrophic, but we did! One thing it has given me and I can tell you, that no matter what life throws at you and no matter how bad it feels at the time, it really will get better. I can tell you all with the right positive attitude you can come back stronger!!

We're very excited about the fore coming season and there are other things bubbling away with talk of a Power cat and more yachts joining our fleet. Come sailing at the friendliest sailing school in the Caribbean!

Captain Matt, Out.