On September 5, 2017, St. John along with many other Caribbean Islands was hit by Irma, a category 5 hurricane. Two weeks later, we were hit again by Hurricane Maria, a category 4 hurricane.
Many of us have suffered catastrophic losses of sprit, as well as physical losses of homes, personal items and businesses.
And sadly, there was loss of life.
I am here to tell you that St. John has survived, and is rebuilding! Most of the streets have been cleared, and we have many new visitors/helpers from the mid-west…notably from Joplin, Missouri! These power men are busy along with our local, exhausted crews, installing new poles, and stringing new lines. News on the street is that Cruz Bay will receive power by the end of October, if not before! Last night the trucks rolled through Cruz Bay connecting businesses.
There were so many acts of kindness which occurred after the storms. Kenny Chesney/Bloomberg group has been instrumental in the rebuilding of St. John.
Those who know me well, know that I love animals. When I had arrived post IRMA at Cruz Bay Canine Cats and Critters to check on the status, I cried. There was no power and almost no supplies at CBCCC. Most of the equipment had been badly damaged, and the vets were extremely low on antibiotics. In addition, the veterinarians could not perform any surgery due to the damage of their anesthesia and oxygen machines. I immediately reached out to long term client and vet friend, Dr. Heidi Dirkse of Indian River Veterinary Clinic.
Dr. Heidi and staff bundled up much needed medical equipment, including a generator and anesthesia machine for Cruz Bay Canine Cats and Critters. She sent 13 plus boxes to Texas, where Dr. Gerry Brzozowski added an oxygen generator and other items to compliment the existing shipment. Dr. Stephen Ponder and his friend Anne, added multiple boxes. Renting a u-haul, Dr. Ponder delivered this shipment to the airport for delivery. This shipment weighed over 2000 lbs and was flown in by Dr. Ponder’s friend, Tim Duncan. Volunteer Steven Posterman picked up the boxes at the St. Thomas airport, and Kenny Chensey’s team sent over two boats to St. Thomas to pick up the boxes and deliver them to CBCCC. When we finally delivered all of the boxes two weeks later (a huge feat in itself), the staff at CBCCC was overwhelmed with joy. This endeavor took a lot of time, money and effort by multiple parties who had never met each other, and no personal gain other to help the animals of St. John. This is one of many magical stories which grace our island.
Low Key Watersports lost both dive boats in the storm. The vessel Low Key was crushed in Hurricane Hole, and the vessel Hey Now sustained massive damage, which we believe, will exceed the value of the vessel.
We made a decision in house to proceed with a purchase of a brand new, 36’ Newton with a Cummin’s single screw diesel. It will be rigged out in the latest accessories for diving, and will be named “HEY NOW.” She's scheduled to be ready for delivery in February of 2018.
In the mean time, we are converting the Ocean Runner Scarab to a six passenger dive boat. This should be ready to launch by December 1, 2017. Along with our prospective opening of the Dive Shop on December 1st, we think we will be able to offer full services for our wonderful clientele. We will continue with two tank dives in the morning, and training in the afternoon.
The Ocean Runner Powerboat Rentals will be fully operational with 2 x 35’ Contenders, 1 x35’ Scarab, 1 x 28’ Contender, and 1 x 24’ Contender for day charters. In addition, we will start with 1 bareboat Whaler for rent, - with 2 more on order.
Sadly, several of our long-term employees have decided to relocate to the mainland US. Remaining on our staff is as follows:
- Ed Polchaeck (Dive Master, Gear Repair and Shop sales)
- Hanna Weaver & Andrew Babcock (Sales)
- Basil Bsisu
- Luke Petzy
- Max Kostenblatt
- Codie Wilkie
- Jason Sparks
I will be leading the team into 2018. We will be offering a few different custom t-shirts for sale on our website very soon. They were designed to celebrate the strength of St. John, as well as Low Key and Ocean Runner.
A $5.00 donation through the first quarter of 2018, will be given to the Animal Care Center.
I hope to see many of our repeat clients coming down to St. John soon. You will find most of our restaurant in Cruz Bay and Coral Bay open.
As a business owner and villa operator, I can tell you the best gift you can give to St. John, is to come and visit. You will find open arms, and a whole bunch of gratitude.
Happy Underwater Trails!
Exploring the depths, without getting in too deep by Ellen Creager
Miami Herald Sunday Travel Section