Hurricane Irma, remembering 1 year on Part 3

Captain Matt looks back 1 year after the worst hurricane on record to hit the British Virgin Islands. Part 3 looks at the realisation of the destruction Irma left behind.


"Survival skills are techniques that a person may use in order to sustain life in any type of natural environment or built environment. These techniques are meant to provide basic necessities for human life which include water, food, and shelter. The skills also support proper knowledge and interactions with animals and plants to promote the sustaining of life over a period of time. Survival skills are often associated with the need to survive in a disaster situation" Wikipedia Sept 2018


We have a private road leading up to our house which is about 1/4 mile long, it was blocked with fallen trees, galvanised roof panels, rocks and other debris, the first job Abi & I had was to clear the road so that we could at least get out onto the main road leading from Cane Garden Bay to Road Town. Part of our tool kit at home now includes a chain saw which we didn't have that day! It was hard work but by the end of the day we had cleared it enough to allow us to get our cars (now dented with broken glass) through.

Car tossed around like a matchbox toys onto the trees

The next day we decided to get in our cars and make our way to Road Town hoping to be able to get some cell phone coverage so that we could let our friends and families around the world know we were safe. As I drove down the hill into town suddenly my phone pinged into life and my phone filled up with messages, some from people I hadn't seen or heard of for years. It was such a relief to finally reach out and let people know we were safe and to find out how bad the storm really was. I didn't get a chance to read all the messages as I desperately wanted to go and find out how well the boats faired.

As I drove through Road Town the devastation was incredible. Cars flipped over everywhere, apartment blocks with entire walls missing, galvanised roofing everywhere.....people were walking around clearly in shock. It was unreal and felt like I was dreaming. As I parked my car as close as I could get to the dock where the school boats were, I felt my stomach turning over and over as all I could see was broken and sunken boats across the whole of Village Quay marina. I walked along the dock to where I had left my two boats, all that was there was just two empty slips and scattered around everywhere was masts half sticking out of the water. The enormity of it all finally hit me and I sat there and just wept. What on earth was I going to do, where was I going to go from here? The island I called home had been destroyed - there wasn't a building, boat or car untouched.

After a while I picked up my phone and tried to call Abi, I was really surprised I could get mobile coverage because there had been nothing in Cane Garden Bay. Abi had gone to her office in Nanny Quay to check the building and the boats of the diving school where she worked. I couldn't get through to her so I checked my messages and saw one from Scott, a chap I had taught a while back who had a dream of becoming a sailing instructor one day. His message went like this, "Hey Matt, it's Scott! I was on island for the storm and I think I've found your boats!" I couldn't believe it. 1. that he was kind enough to call and 2. that my boats were floating. I quickly called him and we met up soon after, exchanged stories as we drove around to the other side of the harbor where we found the boats looking pretty beat up but both still floating! What an emotional roller-coaster! I had every emotion possible in a day. The smallest thing felt like a huge win in this nightmare.


There was little we could do right then so I decided to drive down to Nanny Cay to meet Abi to check the damage down there, Scott decided he'd tag along as well, (it was actually really nice to have the company. The destruction we seen will stay with me forever). Nanny cay is home to the biggest marina complex in the BVI and the wreckage from the storm was incredible. Boats were on top of other boats, on buildings and on docks. We couldn't drive down to the marina a large catamaran had been blown across the road - no one could drive in or out. It was an absolute mess but one great thing was a lot of our friends were there, it was great to see everyone was OK. We were doing a mental check list of all our friends day on day, making sure everyone we knew had survived the nightmare. Abi's dive shop was still intact but it had lost part of the roof so we all helped to move stock so that it was safe and not at risk from the elements, because a new hurricane was heading our way...

"Can we ever put our lives back together. Where on earth do you begin?" I wondered.....


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