It was January in the BVI. From our anchorage in Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke, we watched a parade of bareboats and crewed yachts come and go, twenty to thirty every day. Business, to our eye, seemed normally robust. Why, I wondered, were people still willing to charter while the sails of the economy were losing their wind?
Curiosity and my rowboat took me to seek answers that I figured would have four basic themes: we booked last year and didn’t want to lose our deposit; money’s no problem; grandma just died/I won the lottery; living is important, too. Indeed, I heard all that, but the blissful faces I found prompted me to dig deeper.
No one I spoke with regretted booking their Caribbean charter. In fact, they were jubilant, emphatic, reassured. Many found their charter so cathartic that they were already making plans and reservations to return, some within a few months. The enthusiasm I was hearing was infectious.
Whether or not it was true, one New Yorker zealously proclaimed, “We’ve got money to blow!” Another, who called himself John Hancock, responded to my question with, “What economy?”
Everyone spoke about the storms they were missing, some of them not weather-related. Toronto’s Kathy James explained that chartering gave them the only chance for winter sailing since their own boat was in cold storage.
Lost-salt-shaker music blaring from a catamaran drew me to eight Parrotheads having too much fun. Onboard, Trina Geer from Oklahoma City excitedly announced, “We’re gonna come back in a heartbeat even it if costs a lot of money. I told my husband I’d eat cornbread and beans everyday for as long as it takes to save up the money.” With a widening smile she added, “Course, I like cornbread and beans.”
Another cat loaded with six lawyers, a dental hygienist, and one opera singer looked at their cruise from a different angle. They were all gainfully employed but rationalized the trip by comparison. “If we’d booked a hotel in Antigua as a couple,” one said, “It would have run $10,000. But with this boat, eight of us are dividing that same bill. It’s a great deal.”
Repeatedly, I heard that chartering a boat had become even more important because of the ever-increasing stress. It was, I could see, a morale builder, short-but-effective therapy. Steven Stromberg from Washington state explained, “I feel like I’m alive again instead of a statistic in front of the TV. It’s given us an escape from the economy. It’s removed us from the chaos; we can take a second breath and go back.”
The most poignant story came from a member of a North Carolina crew. It wasn’t, she said, a good time financially to charter, but she and her five friends did anyway. On board was the trip organizer, her former boss and friend, who was suffering from debilitating multiple sclerosis. It was obviously difficult for him to get around the boat, yet his joy-filled face told the other side of the story. For all of them, not to have come would have been a missed opportunity; one they knew they would not have again.
For all of us, a charter lasts beyond the days of island time steeped with sails and sun. The anticipation of a tropical vacation fills weeks with research, planning, preparation, and dreams. The days on the boat create timeless memories that we take home as gentle reminders that there is life beyond the stock market and credit crunch.
CHARTER ADVERTISING INFO
Conch Charters, 800-521-8939
CYOA Yacht Charters, 800-944-CYOA
Horizon Yacht Charters, 877-494-8787
Fair Wind Charters, 866-380-7245
Island Yachts, 800-524-2019
The Catamaran Company, 800-262-0308
TMM Yacht Charters, 800-633-0155
Le Boat, 800-734-5491
Star Clippers, 800-442-0551