New Base for a New Fleet
Whistler's B.V.I. origins and family legacy helped forge beneficial relationships for her. But it was soon clear to me that it's her dedication that's earned her the respect of island officials and hundreds of workers and contractors, most of whom are men.
She takes it all in stride and is proud of her efforts, particularly the improvements to the Mariner Inn Hotel, which she ordered gutted and completely renovated. But Whistler is graced with a self-effacing manner, and her comments remain low-key: "You learn to live here and really enjoy it," she told me.
Another key Moorings employee with a company tale is regional manager Clarence Malone, who's in charge of the entire Tortola operation. Cary hired him 34 years ago as a boat cleaner, and he's worked his way up from there at the Road Town base. The years of employment have instilled in Malone a passion about the company product, and he joined Whistler, Cochran, and me as we headed to the hotel.
The spacious new rooms they unveiled include WiFi, iPod docking stations, Bose sound systems, coffee and espresso machines, and bathtubs with captivating views. Whistler and Cochran slid a tub's glass door open and told me to choose between a sea view of Road Harbour and Sir Francis Drake Channel lying beyond or the latest news and sports scores on the massive flat-screen TV mounted on the wall.
The project reflects strengthened financial commitment by corporate parent TUI Marine as well as The Moorings' increasing presence in the power, crewed, and sailing-school markets, in addition to its longstanding dominance in the premium-service bareboat market favored by Americans in the middle to higher end of the income demographic. "We weren't going to cut corners on this project," Cochran told me over lunch. "Our customers and yacht owners supply great feedback and are quick to tell us when it's good and not so good."
Yacht designs favored by this mix of clientele and fleet owners include Beneteau monohulls, the Robertson & Caine-built Moorings 4600 catamaran as well as its 372 and 474 powercats. The bareboat fleet, according to Cochran, numbers 180, a combination of monohulls and multihulls; the crewed fleet stands at 20, and the power fleet at 16.
More weighty imperatives also drove the project. "In terms of sustainable tourism, you can't not think about the environment and our impact upon it," Cochran said. The Moorings' Crystal Green strategy combines environmental initiatives and best practices company-wide. The result is apparent, from the use of recycled wall tiles to "plicker" furniture, Cochran and Whistler's term for a modern, durable plastic furniture that looks like wicker and is in use throughout the base.
But the initiatives reach beyond furniture and tiles. The base now boasts a two-part water-quality system that Cochran says is allowing sea life to return and propagate in an inner harbor once infamous for its polluted state. By restructuring the breakwater, the company also added culverts to allow extra flow in and out of the inner harbor. It also installed a pump that flushes 50 million gallons from the sea through a pipe that runs under the water at the base, displacing stagnant water.
Other innovations include using biodegradable soaps for cleaning boats and the base, using recycled water for laundry as well as for boat washdown, the daily creation of 50,000 gallons of desalinated water, and the use of low-toxin copper-based bottom paints. And instead of relying on sand-screw moorings, the company installed Manta Ray mooring systems that use vertical chain placement, which reduces damage to the sea floor.
Among ongoing best practices for employees is training for fueling boats without losing fuel on deck or into the water and for handling oil spills.
"What we've tried to do is understand today what the customer wants more of tomorrow," Cochran told me before I headed out to see more old friends. "We offer the best products-crewed, bareboat, power, the sailing school. We're partners with the B.V.I. government. We've just continued Charlie's vision. It's a bit of a legacy to be part of what's so far the best charter base in the world."
Managing editor Elaine Lembo writes about chartering for CW.