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Low Times for a Caribbean Captain

Originally from the eastern Sierra, Peter Whitney has been a friend of Latitude’s since he was aboard the Freeport 41 ketch Country Gentleman for the boat-destroying Cabo storm of 1982. He’s subsequently spent many years running charter boats in the Caribbean, many of them with Darcy Whitney, also from the eastern Sierra. They have a house in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands.

For the last bunch of years, Peter and Darcy have been running charter boats for The Moorings, most recently the $20,000/week Lagoon 52 Tobarths. If anyone thinks that the life of a charter boat captain in the BVI is just one bit of fun after the other, check out his report for the first 10 months of 2017:

"The year 2017 has been a tough year. The Lagoon 52 we operate was hit by lightning twice. But that was nothing compared to monster hurricanes Irma and Maria, which not only destroyed the catamaran we ran and our jobs as captain and chef, but much of the Caribbean, too.

"Loss of life was minimal considering the strength of the two hurricanes and the devastation. But well over 2,000 boats, most of them charterboats, were destroyed and/or damaged. Sustained winds of 160 -180 knots, with gusts to 220+ knots, just blew everything apart."

Like so many other islands in the Caribbean, St. Croix saw massive destruction to its charter boat fleet.

© Chris Hanley

"But there will be lasting pain, as the actual hurricanes were just the ante. The aftermath of the two storms is even more destructive, as homes, businesses and livelihoods blew apart. Things that people take for granted in the First World were taken away from us in a matter of hours.

"Except for those few that have generators, there are no lights at night. There is no refrigeration and thus no way to store food. There is no water to bathe with or flush a toilet. That means eventually you have to use your yard as an outhouse. Soon the insects, rats and diseases start making their rounds in the splintered debris.

"Utility power poles — approximately 3,000 on St. Croix alone — and cables litter the roads and must be navigated carefully in order to not be snagged by them. No one drives at night unless they want to risk big dangers. A good example of which can be found at the propane depot. People use sticks to raise power lines so that the large propane trucks can get underneath them without exploding."

The storm itself is one thing, but living on an island that’s been battered to pieces is another.

© 2017 Darcy Whitney

"There are long lines at the markets. To keep control, armed guards only let in small groups of people at a time to see what might still be on the shelves. One of the most desired commodities is ice. It’s delivered by police escort between 11 and 12, with only one bag allowed per household.

"As of late September we’ve had no electricity — except from our generator, which hasn’t worked in a month now. The road to our house was covered by a landslide, which left us no way out by vehicle. Our neighbor’s house is about to slide down the hillside. Rain, rain, rain – it doesn’t stop!"

The aftermath of this season’s hurricane’s saw boats slammed against the shore in unnatural positions. 

© 2017 Chris Hanley

"Cell phone and Internet service is spotty, and most people, like us, must drive to places on the side of the road to get reception. Since there is no electricity and no generator, our cell phones, computers are ‘battery challenged’. We have to charge them in our truck.

"We do have a makeshift shower that we devised using a garden hose, gravity and our small pool. But the pool water is turning green despite the bleach we put in. I don’t expect electricity will be restored to us for at least two more months, as Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, and St. John will take up most of the manpower for restoration. Installing thousands of poles and endless amounts of wire and cable will take some time to complete."

From Darcy Whitney’s Facebook page: "Peter [Whitney] has improved our outdoor shower. Water in the pool is green and full of mosquitoes. He rigged up the hose to pull water from the cistern and attached the sprinkler so we could have a spa type shower!"

© 2017 Darcy Whitney

"The National Guard has been doing a great job flying in and distributing essential things like MREs [Meals Ready to Eat], drinking water, blue tarps, and such for those in need. The sun came out today and the Caribbean Sea is a lovely turquoise blue. The leaves that were shredded and ripped off plants are being replaced by new buds, and here and there blossoms are opening. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, a new day is dawning and hope is being restored.

"Darcy and I are blessed in the fact that we did not lose our roof and had minimal damage to our home. So there you go. Our advice is to appreciate what you have now."

Words to live by.

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