On September 6, 2017, Hurricane Irma made a direct hit on the British Virgin Islands, and nearly all of the charter fleets there suffered heavy losses. For Voyage Charters, whose base is in Soper’s Hole on the West End of Tortola, the destruction was enormous. “We were most fortunate that none of our BVI base team suffered physical injury,” says David Beavis, Voyage’s managing director. “However, all 29 vessels in our fleet were damaged. Thankfully, we had no charter guests on island at the time, as we always schedule the month of September for annual maintenance.”
Recovery from a storm of this magnitude is a long, tough road for any business anywhere, but when your business happens to involve sailboats and also be located on an island in the Caribbean, there are plenty of logistical problems adding to the challenge. “The home of our Voyage Charters BVI directors, Robin and Jo-Ann Downing, survived almost unscathed and, for many weeks, became a place of refuge for most of the on-island team,” Beavis says. “Once the basic needs of shelter, food and communication were secured, attention moved to assessment of damage to our vessels and facilities. With the assistance of a team of technicians brought in from the Voyage yard in South Africa, the repairable vessels are being refitted to factory standards of finish. We are also grateful for privately owned Voyage cats that have been made available to us in the short term.
“By Christmas of 2017, we had three Voyage vessels back in operation. That number is now up to 11, and by the end of 2018, we will have 17 vessels in service. We have received incredible support from our charter clients, who have shown no hesitation in returning to the BVI as soon as vessels were available. While not underestimating the volume of work to do throughout the BVI, we are extremely optimistic about the future for Voyage Charters and tourism in general,” Beavis continues.
Out of the wreckage left by hurricanes Irma and Maria emerge opportunities to come back better than before. By the end of 2019, Voyage Charters plans to have a fleet of primarily new Voyage cats, including the Voyage 575 (currently in development at Voyage Yachts) and the company’s first hybrid charter vessel, the Voyage 480 Electric. This vessel will feature the Oceanvolt SEA system, which offers quiet and clean operation.
Thinking of heading to the BVI on a charter vacation? Just do it! “The natural beauty of the islands is as captivating as ever, and the welcome of its residents particularly heartfelt,” says Beavis. “Voyage Charters looks forward to many more years of activity from our West End home!”