Thank you *again* for all your messages over the past few weeks asking how things were going with the boat. We are sorry for making you wait so long to hear about what we are up to in St. Martin, but as you can imagine, an internet connection down here can sometimes be hard to find, and also, we are generally keeping busy!
When we left off last time, we were in a taxi, heading to the boat yard, where we were about to discover how our boat had fared through Irma. We couldn’t believe the devastation we passed through on the way, and couldn’t wait to get to a place we knew and see some familiar faces. We had spent 5 days on the yard in January, when we had met our new boat for the first time (we had bought it sight unseen a few months earlier from a Canadian couple who had left the boat in St. Martin).
The taxi finally pulled into the boat yard and parked in front of our boat, which was thankfully still standing on the hurricane chocks (stands made of telephone poles) we had left her on ten months earlier.
When we stepped out of the taxi, we could not believe what we were seeing. We had been under the impression that Time Out Boat Yard (affectionately known to the cruising community as TOBY) had not been too badly hit by the hurricane, but clearly it was just relative to the other marinas on the island, most of which were obliterated. Seeing many of the boats surrounding ours toppled over on their sides made Mel well up with emotion. A tornado within the hurricane had clearly carved a path through the yard, narrowly missing ours yet overturning those next to and across from us. It so easily could have been our boat. But there seems to be a horseshoe hidden in the bilge somewhere, and every day we are thankful that our boat (and by extension our whole year) was spared.
View from our boat. Most boats are on their side.
In terms of damage, the high winds had blown vaporized salt water through any possible opening in the boat, but besides that and some debris, she was pretty much as we had left her. What a relief! Of course, with any boat, there is lots to do to make her ready to launch, like change hatches whose hardware was degraded during the hurricane, and change various systems on board that have reached the end of their lifespan.
That evening we celebrated by drinking Presidentes with the wonderful individuals who work in the yard, and heard all the terrible details of Irma. Some of the guys had sat through it in a shipping container on the yard, listening to the winds reach sustained speeds of up to 315 km per hour. Keep in mind that Irma was a category 5, but its destructive force was off the charts, and likely closer to a category 7 hurricane. The guys were lucky to have survived, but then came face to face with the human reaction to catastrophe: mayhem. Madness followed as the locals looted and pillaged whatever they could get their hands on. The yard’s office was broken into the very first day and everything of value stolen, but otherwise the gates were locked and the premises kept safe by around-the-clock watches by staff. We are so thankful for their absolute dedication to protecting the yard and its occupants, especially after the trauma of losing their homes (many of their own boats did not make it) and seeing their fellow citizens turn into a thieving mob.
Now that we had seen firsthand that our boat was still in good shape for our cruising adventure, it was time to get to work!
Next up: life in St. Martin