If you choose to sail in the Caribbean in the summer, especially in the month of August, you could—not inevitably, to be sure—find yourself somewhere along the track of a hurricane. Then what? I talked with Tim Johnson of TMM and Sylvia Driver of Horizon Yacht Charters to find out.
PERSONAL SAFETY You won’t be “caught” by a sudden hurricane; hurricanes don’t arrive suddenly. On any cruise, anywhere, you should be monitoring weather forecasts regularly. Moreover, with cell phones on most charterboats in the Caribbean these days, you can expect a call from the company to alert you by phone or VHF that a hurricane watch has been declared. You’ll be called back to the base if the watch is raised to a warning. The exact protocol is related to the geographical extent of the cruising ground.
The company will help you find a place to stay on the island to wait it out, or to fly out. Not all hurricanes, of course, are multi-day events with serious outcomes; you can often continue your cruise when the storm passes.
Charterers are rarely responsible for making sure the boat is prepared and safe, though this sometimes happens. It’s more likely that you and the boat will have returned to the base before the storm hits. For safety reasons you won’t be allowed to stay on the boat at a dock.
REFUNDS You are unlikely to get a refund for days lost; it’s more usual to be able to extend your current charter for these days (if the boat is available) or to receive a credit for a future charter. Some strings will probably be attached to this credit.
Contractual arrangements Some charter companies spell out their policies in their contracts (Horizon does); others, like TMM, don’t have a written policy. If this is on your mind when you’re making arrangements for the charter, by all means ask what the company’s policy is. Amy Ullrich
Sail Away Archive
Charter a Passage (July 2006)
Less is More (June 2006)
Summer in the Islands (May 2006)
Caribbean Notes (April 2006)
Where to Go Now (March 2006)
Wedding Bells (February 2006)
Charter Cats (January 2006)