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Yachting Hurricane Aftermath

Did you ever wondered what happened to all those yachts that were shockingly plastered across the news back in September; those having met the ill fate of either Hurricane Irma or Maria? Boats that were capsized, overturned, and stacked haphazardly on top of one another.

BVI yachts pile up

Well, visiting North Sound Marina in Antigua, I stumbled across what could only be described as a yachting graveyard. Dozens of boats, brought over on a 200 foot barge from the British Virgin Islands (BVI), are scattered around the yard in various states of disrepair. Some with gaping holes ripped out of the hull, side rails hanging off, rudders bent at alarming angles, and not a mast to be seen in sight. On taking a closer look, you can really appreciate the level of destruction caused by these hurricanes. The interiors of the boats are severely water damaged and the amount of barnacle growth startling, especially when it’s on the top side of a boat!! It is a disturbing reminder of the power and devastation that nature can wield.

Hurricane damaged yacht

So, what is the fate of these vessels? With a wave of damaged boats hitting the market after 3 major storms, is possible to pick up a bargain, or will these boats quickly become the proverbial ‘hole in the water’ waiting to be filled with money, sweat, and lost hope, when the daunting task begins of repairing it to make it sea worthy again. With transportation, and then storage costs to consider while the boat is being repaired, it may not seem such a good deal after all, especially when sinking in saltwater is the most damaging occurrence that can happen to a boat. With boats not being able to be attended to immediately, due to the ensuring devastation that follows such an event, it results in engines that are not flushed and pickled straight away and are therefore permanently damaged by corrosion. With the engines making up a significant portion of the boats value, this not good news. Saltwater causes damage to electrical devices and connections, requiring a complete rewiring of a boat. Soft furnishings and carpets will have to be thrown, along with waterlogged wooden bulkheads, which undoubtedly will have started rotting. With likely damage to the steering systems and engine controls, it is safer to assume the worst for a saltwater-submerged boat.

Inside hurricane boat

Paying someone else to repair a storm-damaged boat is rarely cost effective. Some boats do find their way to shipyards, who will repair them during the slow season to keep their employees busy. They also have the added bonus of not having the overhead of storage fees. But before getting too excited and placing your bid, read the fine print. Many auctions require that the boat be moved, sometimes within days or hours of the auction’s close. Storage fees, if the boat is not moved, can sometimes be high, so don’t assume you have time to get the details worked out later. Some transport companies and marinas may require you to have insurance on the boat, but getting insurance on a salvage boat may not be easy.  Purchasing and restoring a storm-damaged boat can be a rewarding way to get a boat at a reduced cost, but it also can end up being a big mistake. Understand what you are getting into before you write the check. Bids can often be a binding legal contract, so having second thoughts may not be an option. Remember, don’t let emotion take over for common sense. Set your top bid price and stick to it.  No deal is so good you cannot walk away from it, and it can be very hard to walk away from a bad deal.

Hurricane Cat

It is amazing to hear the progress being made by these Caribbean islands, with the BVI and Puerto Rico planning to welcome back guest for the winter sailing season early this December, and with St Martin hoping to follow suit in February 2018. Moorings have already excitedly announced that they will receive 130 new boats, exceeding the value of $66.5 m, to replace their decimated fleet by Hurricane Irma. With websites constantly being updated to inform you on which restaurants, bars, shops and facilities will be open if you are preparing for a trip, you can ensure that you will be well informed when planning your cruising itinerary. With plenty of support and hard work we wish the affected islands all the best in their recovery, so that we can all continue to enjoy this tropical sailing paradise.

Virgin Sound

By Laura Barber

Posted on December 1, 2017