There’s no doubt last year’s hurricanes caused a major upheaval within the Caribbean charter industry. Nor is there any doubt that it has rebounded well. The biggest and most obvious obstacle—after rebuilding bases and other infrastructure—was boat availability. But a year down the road many fleets have already been largely rebuilt.
And it’s not just the heavy hitters, like Sunsail, the Moorings, Dream Yacht Charter and Horizon Yacht Charters—which lost hundreds of boats between them—that are replenishing their fleets.
CYOA Yacht Charters in Frenchtown, St. Thomas, for instance, recently took delivery of 10 new cats and monos, with more in the pipeline. (In fact, CYOA’s fleet largely survived Irma’s blasts, although the USVI’s infrastructure was hard hit.) Meanwhile, Sail Caribe, whose Puerto Rico-based boats miraculously survived Hurricane Maria, has opened a base in Red Hook.
On Tortola, Conch Charters’ 50-strong fleet was virtually wiped out, but the company is happy to enter the winter season with 19 boats at the time of writing. Similarly, Horizon saw its entire BVI fleet destroyed, but had already managed to replace 35 of its boats by the end of October. Finally, Navigare Yachting goes into the winter season with 29 boats, while the BVI Yacht charters fleet is up to over 50 monohulls and catamarans.
With the immediate crisis over, many companies are also now turning their attention to new destinations and opportunities. Navigare, for example, has announced a new base in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, to take advantage of some of New England’s beautiful cruising grounds and is also now partnering with Navy Point Yacht Sales in Ontario, Canada.
Similarly, Dream Yacht has a new Croatian location, in Pula on the Istrian Peninsula, close by a national park that typifies the beauty of this coastline, along with new bases in Belize and St. Lucia. It has also developed the first-ever fractional program for charter boats.
At Sunsail, the brand’s newest base in Palma, Majorca, has been a big hit with American sailors, and the recent announcement of by-the-cabin charters in Sunsail flotillas in the BVI and Mediterranean has opened up a whole new kind of customer base.
Finally, the Moorings opened a new base in the Exumas this year, one of the first companies to start operations in this part of the Bahamas. They also have a new base in Antigua, which was left unscathed by the last year’s hurricanes, though sister island Barbuda was not so lucky.
Bottom line: the choice of bareboat and crewed charter destinations has never been greater. The question now, what remains to be discovered?