The Island of Broken Boats, Irma’s Wrath, a close-up and personal look at broken hopes and dreams by LF2SF.

I want to start by saying that I have written this with the utmost respect and sadness for those who lost their boats to Hurricane Irma whether in BVI, Puerto Rico or Florida.  Every boat in my pictures belonged to someone,,,meaning they were someone’s hopes and dreams.  Knowing I was going on a Bareboat Vacation in the BVI, I wanted to get a up-close and personal look at the real situation from Hurricane Irma; not quite knowing what to expect.  Both me and my wife were surprised at the damage that remains, in full view of the tourists on almost every island.   But one of the reasons I was there was to look at how boats fared, where they were and how recovery operations were going.  I was to be surprised and saddened, because things seem to be going fairly slowly, even after 7+ months.  Even from the first moments in BVI airspace from the small Cessna we flew on, we could still see damaged and sunk sailboats still littering the mangrove hurricane holes and would continue to see damaged or totaled boats throughout our trip.  Driving in by taxi from the airport on Beef Island to Roadtown, we were given our first real taste of the power of the storm; as we drove past sailboats tossed like dinghy’s onto shore, still sitting where Irma threw them 7-months ago.  Portions of Roadtown Harbor reminded me of a war zone, with rows upon rows of boats,,,,,partially sank or just barely afloat.  Opposite the 1 working fuel dock in Roadtown Harbor,,,,an eighty foot ketch was stern-first out of the water,,,,,just sitting around.  A random mast was still attached to whatever sailboat was under the water, five slips down from where we refueled.  Several days into our trip, we spent one night in Trellis Bay, which was a lesson in sadness.  The restaurant on Bellamy Cay (the Last Resort) was nearly completely destroyed and there were 30+ boats on the beaches around Trellis Bay, nearly all registered as complete losses.  Sitting less than 10 feet from the front door of Aragorns Studio Art Center was a 30 foot sailboat and next door a larger sailboat had come on shore with such force it landed on the roof of the bar there, completely destroying the bar.

Another 10 feet and Aragorns Studio could have been flattened. The palm tree probably saved it.

Right next door to Aragorns, the bar was gone, as a sailboat had landed on top of it, flattening it.  Next to that, was this giant (new) sailboat,,,,probably 48-54 feet long and 16 feet wide,,,,thrown ashore.

Look carefully, you’ll see the owners tent in the background, as they try to salvage gear from this very expensive boat.
Trellis Bay with 35+ wrecks still on the beach.

While we were there, several insurance adjusters and claims managers roamed the beaches, doing their work on specific boats,,,still.  But the worst was yet to come for me, as things became a bit more personal when I took the time to wander through Nanny Cay Marina, looking at places we had been.  The docks that used to form a complete marina were simply gone.  Looking closer, I could see a piece of a dock,,,,still attached to sunken powerboat, most likely belonging to Virgin Traders.  If you look at the picture carefully, you’ll see a sunken powerboat still attached to a dock.  There used to be more than 10 docks with slips in this same location.  The powerboat in the middle of the picture is in support of divers cutting away the destroyed dock pylons,,,,still.  See below:

Wandering next through the newer docks, I could see they fared better, but I was curious about all the boats on the hard.  There’s now at least three sections of separate boats on the hard in different yards,,,,,where there only used to be one section.  Wondering through slowly, I was stuck simultaneously by the fact that so many sailboats were in the yard with no masts and the fact that it felt like a hospital ward or a morgue tour.  Really, the feeling was real and quite palpable, I wasn’t able to shake it for the rest of the day and was probably a bit morose with the family after my wonderings.  Continuing still down the line of boats, there were few that escaped with NO damage, even the damage that seemed more minor was thousands of dollars worth of repairs,,like the boat that looked completely perfect until you saw it’s broken rudder.

Continuing my walk, it became more like a graveyard than a hospital ward.  More and more boats were showing signs of having been underwater and completely destroyed; and I knew in my heart that one of the boats still in the yard might be a boat I knew about.  Fellow bloggers and sailors with kids had a sailboat in the harbor that was a complete loss during the hurricane,,,,and I hoped she would already be off-island; but knew in my heart that she was probably still there, somewhere.  Like a horror movie,,,,I kept waiting on the inevitable, hoping I wouldn’t have to see their beautiful and proud boat all messed up,,,,somewhere among all the other hopes and dreams that lay strewn around that yard.  Wandering furthest down the yard, I came upon a number of cruising sailboats that were not even put in the jack-stands, they were laid on the ground by the crane because they were completely sank and recovered from the bottom of the harbor,,,,which had become their graves.  One of those boats turned out to be the boat I had hoped not to see.  I paid my respects to the boat and a bit of a tear welled up in my eyes, knowing something like that could happen to me or other cruisers.

Nothing escaped Irma, the boat on the far left of the picture is an Amel.

Out of respect for the boats and their owners who have lost hopes and dreams, I’ve done my best to either not photograph names or cut them out of my pics.  However, if occasional boat names are seen in pics, please don’t be offended, as I’m trying to illustrate several points.  1- Most boats with deck stepped masts simply didn’t have masts anymore,,,,the masts were just gone.  2. I saw a number of heavier cruisers with keel stepped masts that were simply broken in half or bent to hell, but the mast was still there.

Heavier Cruiser with a deck stepped mast,,,,just snapped instead of missing.

Which is better or worse,,,,don’t know, these are just observations.  I also saw several boats driven ashore that were in perfectly good shape,,,except their large exposed rudders were either bent, cracked or jacked in some other way,,,,,take heed.

Cracked and jacked rudder.
Yes, that’s a huge hole in the side of the boat.
Boat with it’s whole fiberglass side just split.

My observations from the boatyard and Trellis Bay are that no boat was spared; meaning heavy cruisers and light Hunters and old wrecks alike are lined up and totaled.  There was no “type, make or model” that set a pattern that I could see, both sailboats and powerboats were equally thrashed from my observations.

Powerboats were not spared either.

I did see a lot of catamaran’s still in the water, most upside down, waiting to be recovered.  The fact that there are hundreds of boats in the BVI STILL in the water or on beaches waiting to be recovered speaks to the fact that Irma was the largest hurricane in recorded history of the Island, there were (and still are) lots of boats in the BVI and the fact there was limited resources on the island; and insurance still has not paid off all claims,,,,some boats cannot even be found because they’re still in the water.  All of this being said,,,,nowhere did we go in the BVI where there was not active projects and repairs going on,,,and the people always smiled and said hello.  It was pretty neat, cause even as obvious tourists, there wasn’t anywhere in the BVI we went where I felt unsafe from the people,,,but the traffic and taxi drivers were awesome cool scary in that unsafe near the cliff driving sort of way.  Even with all the destruction I’ve mentioned, the BVI is totally back up and running, rebuilding and attempting to get back to normal business.  Don’t pass up a chance to go there and see for yourself or grab a t-shirt from the link below to give them a bit of help.




6 Responses

  1. So sad to read and see the devastation. Saw a newsclip
    there but the victims need to go through an application process they – govt – haven’t got figured out yet. Disgusting.

  2. But here’s my question fellow mariner….if it happened to you would you buy another boat, even if it was a much more meager, and start again? I will never give up my dream and I bet you wouldn’t either.

    1. Yes, I think I would buy another boat,,,,,but my family would have to be in on the deal too. Without my wife and family, there’s no way I’m buying another boat or anything else. One of the stories I wrote about was a British family who abandoned their Hanse at sea,,,,,then stayed in the BVI while looking for her,,,,to eventually give up and head back to England. I think they just gave up eventually, losing hope and running out of money.

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