Friday, June 15, 2007

Jolly Harbour - And a category 5 hurricane (part 2)

Wow, three people today gave me a bollocking for not writing my blog more often and “on time”. I can only laugh.
Anyway, back to the hurricane Luis, my dad’s boat and Jolly Harbour.
As we rounded the point and saw Steven Mendes’ boat sitting there exactly as we had left it we must have forgot for a split second about dad’s boat. But as the second past we began to panic. Where the hell was it? There were several other boats that had come into that bay after we had left and none were there now. We sped up into the newly decimated mangrove habitat that was a magnificent display of the complex marine ecosystem 24 hours before. This is a photo of the boat i started the eco tour on in the mangroves, and it is the same one we were on that day.

It looked like it had been burned……the whole island did. Not a green thing was left on the island. As we got deeper into the inlet we spotted two of the other boats which had dragged their anchors and were now high and dry up on top of the mangrove wreckage. The first thing we saw of my Dad’s “Blue Rapid” was its taught anchor rope coming out of the water going behind of some rocks. Our hearts sank at the sight but as we got closer the Blue Rapid started coming into view. The big anchor had dragged and the little one had burst its line allowing the boat to get washed inland towards the rocks. Somehow with rocks on either side of her, she managed to squeeze between and get washed about 15 feet back onto land and over the mangroves. They had to be about 4 feet above sea level too. We tied up my little boat to some of the red mangrove roots that still managed to be secure in the mud and piled out to inspect the damage to Blue Rapid. As we were doing that, Eddie Barreto came along to inspect his Carriacou yacht that was also sitting high up on some mangroves. There was one other yacht belonging to my friend Kevin Gomez’s dad, and that was also up on land tilted sickly on its side. As we walked around below Blue Rapid we started to realize that the stains from the mangroves were just stains and actually there was no damage at all to the boat. Dad was elated for a few minutes until he realized how far the boat actually was out of the water. We were in the middle of nowhere and there was no way a crane could get in there. Pulling it back into the sea would be quite a job and would possibly damage the rudders props and shafts. Anyway, it was still intact as were all the other boats in that bay. Many around Antigua hadn’t fared as well. Many were lost. The next day we got Uncle Nick (Dr. Fuller) to come up with his salvage boat “Nicole” which had survived the storm in some other mangroves down the coast. He is probably the best salvage guy in the Eastern Caribbean with all the gear and no how. We took off the props and he started pulling. While he was doing that I went looking for my dad’s anchor with my scuba tank. Not only did I find his but found two others from the other boats which had busted off. Anyway, after about 2 hours of pulling Uncle Nick and “Nicole” finally managed to bring The Blue Rapid back to a more dignified resting position…afloat on the water. This pic is of my Dad in the middle below with some of the other "antiguan olympic team" after a fishing trip years later on Blue Rapid. Good thing she wasn't wrecked.Anyway,....finally we could go back to Jolly Harbour. Oh ya……JOLLY HARBOUR!!!
We had heard that some of the buildings had lost tiles from their roofs and that two boats had sunk. One had fallen which was in the part of the boat yard which didn’t have a concrete floor, but it sounded like Jolly Harbour and all of the 500 or so villas was still standing. So we finally get back to the little dock with Steve’s boat on one side and Dad’s on the other and notice quite a bit of damage to the dock. We do a little investigating and find out that just a few hours before the storm was about to detonate over Antigua and Barbuda “Lobster King” and his glass bottom boat pulled into Jolly Harbour looking for refuge. The first available dock he found was Dad and Steve’s so he pulled up and tied off. And wouldn’t you know it………the next morning he came down to find that his boat, like most others tied to docks in jolly Harbour, was as secure as he had left it. My Dad and Steve probably could have done the same without any trouble!!!! Jolly Harbour had made it through the storm like no other place in Antigua. The electricity and water was running the day after the storm even though it took three months where I lived to get electricity back. The vast majority of boats were fine as were the villas, and the next week villa sales and rentals picked up. A few years later there were still many villas unsold and prices were still hovering fairly low without anyone making any money on their original real estate prospecting on villas. All of a sudden the US dollar started a downward slide against the pound and Euro and people from Great Britain and Europe started buying. In fact, they bought at such a manic rate that by the time local people realized what was going on there were no villas left in Jolly Harbour. There were only re-sales and the prices on them were going through the roof. Right now it is not unheard of for a simple villa in need of some work to go for US $300K. Even after Luis they were being sold for about $140. How things can change so quickly is surprising for some people. Not for others…..I bet old Dr. Erhart R.I.P wasn’t surprised at all.