The Moorings, a charter boat company with operations in the British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and St. Martin, and Sunsail are holding a fundraiser for employees devastated by hurricanes Irma, Jose and Maria at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club in Florida Thursday night.
Master of ceremonies for the Sailors Unite event, which occurs on the opening night of the St. Petersburg International Boat Show, is Tucker Thompson, host of the 35th America’s Cup.
“It should be a pretty good crowd, and we’ve had nice support from Saint Pete Yacht Club,” Josie Tucci, sales and marketing vice president for The Moorings, told Trade Only Today. “It will all go directly to team members in the BVI, Puerto Rico and Saint Martin.”
The Moorings’ operation in the BVI will reopen on Dec. 9. Its small Puerto Rico operation is slated to reopen for business then, but that will likely shift to the Feb. 3 reopening date that is projected for the St. Martin operation, Tucci said.
The islands still have an uphill climb before they’re fully recovered, but Tucci said it’s time for the charters and boaters to bring tourism dollars back to the region because the land resorts are largely still closed.
“It really is up to sailors and powerboaters to come back first,” Tucci said. “I would say yes, come back. It’s definitely time. You have to be a little bit adventurous and love the BVI. But 54 percent of our bookings at the Annapolis Boat Show were for the BVI. People said, ‘Tell us it’s ready and you’ve got boats, we want to come down.’ ”
The company, which lost 130 boats in the storm, will have 39 operating on the first Saturday of reopening and will quickly ramp up from there, as it will receive 130 new boats in all, for a value of $66.5 million.
“I think the journey from the airport to wherever the charter company is that they’re going to will be a dose of reality,” Tucci added. “It’s a fine line. There are other charter companies that opened earlier than us. I think we’re doing what’s right for our customers, and we needed to be ready ourselves to provide a decent service. I’m feeling really good about our decision to reopen Dec. 9. There are a lot of people who are so happy to be going, and we’ve had such good feedback.”
There’s a limited amount of places that are open, but in terms of actual supplies the supermarket has been fully stocked for six weeks, Tucci said.
“If you’re going to provision your boat, it’s no problem,” Tucci said. “None of the big resorts are open; you can count on that. But there are little places here and there.”
The BVI Facebook page called BVI Traveller is a good resource for those who want to see what’s open, she said.
“We’ve had people ask if they could come help with recovery,” Tucci said. “If anybody can come and support us for a fundraiser or if anyone has something they want to donate for the fundraiser, that would be quite cool, as well.”