In September last year, Hurricane Irma left a trail of destruction across the northern Leeward Islands, including the British Virgin Islands – home to the arrival of the annual ARC Caribbean 1500 each November, and departure of ARC Europe each May. The storm was one of the strongest to hit the region since records began causing the tragic loss of many lives, and devastating damage to homes and infrastructure throughout the region. Hurricane Irma, closely followed by Hurricane Maria struck the islands shortly before the start of their busy tourism season, but the message following was clear: the community wanted visitors to return, and everyone was pulling together to be able to give a warm welcome, especially to returning boaters.
At Nanny Cay Marina on Tortola, the race was on to get services back online and provide useable facilities to boaters which would support much needed yachting tourism during the season ahead. It was a daunting task; the older inner basin had been wiped out along with Peg Legs bar and much of the hotel, but slips remained intact on the newer outer marina. Salvage teams, marina management and staff, many returning each night to roofless homes, were spending their days restoring operations. Within 7 days, power, water and sanitation were functioning again and the Beach Bar was open serving cold beer!
Hosting the ARC Caribbean 1500
World Cruising Club’s annual ARC Caribbean 1500 is North America’s longest running sailing rally. With the strong support of the team at Nanny Cay, 18 boats taking part in the 2018 rally would be the first event hosted by the marina in the wake of Irma, making landfall there after a 1500nm offshore passage from the US east coast.
Before leaving America, close to $7000 was raised by participants for the powerupBVI Relief Fund organized by Cay Electronics. 100% of the proceeds went to the donated equipment with the rally yachts carrying a cargo of cables for solar panels, portable power bank kits, solar panels and lanterns, and charging stations to help power up the BVI, and continue with rebuilding process. The fleet also took along donations such as mosquito netting, tarps, power tools, and books/supplies for children as part of the coordinated relief efforts.
On arrival at the end of November, the Caribbean 1500 sailors found a marina indeed battered and bruised from the encounter with Irma. And yet, the crews were impressed and happy with the services that Nanny Cay marina provided. From out of the disaster a functioning marina had emerged ready to welcome visitors again. Every day, there were parties and socials including pizza happy hours, a beach BBQ, and a final prizegiving at Gennakers Café. On top of this, every one of the rally boats had their own slip with water and power, WiFi available throughout the marina, and excellent facilities to take a hot shower after the long passage. At all of the socials, the beer was flowing and the crews were exuberant, all excited to greet the next yacht to arrive in true rally spirit.
It had taken an awe-inspiring amount of determination to welcome the first band of ralliers just three months after the most powerful Atlantic hurricane ever recorded, and it was only the start of a crucial period of recovery for the BVIs.Cruisers return
Cruising information website, Noonsite.com
, received multiple reports and comments from visitors to the BVIs in the months following Irma. By December, one user reported “We’ve been here three weeks and plan to stay till early/mid-Jan. While the devastation is widespread and heartbreaking - the area is still beautiful and the locals are welcoming and appreciative of the dollars spent. The grocery stores are well stocked for provisioning. Mooring balls are available. Slowly but surely business are opening up. Customs is open during the day at Sopers Hole and regular hours in Road Town.”
Hosting a bumper Race Week
A highlight of the annual Caribbean racing season, the BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival was hosted by Nanny Cay at the end March 2018. 70 boats registered to race, or 83% of the number registered in 2017, and the outpouring of support from the international sailing community was heartfelt. On the water, typical Caribbean conditions prevailed which made for great racing and happy sailors. Truly, the BVIs were back in business!
Bon Voyage ARC Europe
At the beginning of May, World Cruising Club were back at Nanny Cay marina for the start of the west-to-east transatlantic crossing, ARC Europe. Caribbean Event Manager Peta Cozier had last been there with the Carib1500 fleet in November and said, “To me the improvements made are simply unbelievable in just a few short months. It’s wonderful to see the lights back in the homes on the hill, more rooms open in the hotel, the beach bar doing a roaring trade and the fishing fleets now out to work so we can enjoy surf and turf on the beach barbecue. There is of course much to do still but these guys have worked as a community and its incredible the difference there has been since November.
” The marina hosted 18 offshore cruisers preparing their boats and crews for the passage to Europe with the rally, plus many more sailing independently to Europe and the US east coast. Spares, provisioning and crew arrivals ran smoothly and the ARC Europe fleet got off to a flying start on leg one of the rally from Tortola to Bermuda.
Ambitious summer improvements and a sustainable future ahead
As the 2017-18 sailing season concludes, the re-building programme continues with further ambitious improvements set to take place before November. The final stages of clearing the post-Irma debris and wreckage from the inner marina is almost complete which will make way for the installation of new Walcon docks starting in June. Infrastructure for water, power generation, IT and security are also all set to be developed and installed steadily to not only restore but improve facilities for visitors and berth holders.
Nanny Cay has also committed to redouble efforts over the next few months to get their green initiatives (which were set back by Irma’s passing) fully back on track and eradicate the use of single-use plastic on site. There will be a newly built Community Recycling Centre encouraging the BVI community to drop-off items. Click here for a full report on all reconstruction at Nanny Cay Marina