Its creeping up to 2 years since Hurricane Irma roared through my islands, destroying everything in her path. She left utter devastation in her wake and my tiny islands full of family and friends left in utter chaos. I felt destroyed, upset and helpless in not being able to help in any way.
For 3 days I waited for news from hundreds of friends, and their families, mentally checking them off my list. They had spent the hurricane hours sheltering inside their bathrooms, under mattresses, in the laundry under their houses, I even heard of one family in their water cisterns with their children. I just can't even begin to imagine the horror.
Foxy's in Jost van Dyke after the hurricane...
I cried with relief when 4 days after the hurricane had passed I found a video online showing Foxy's main building still had some part of the roof on.... they must be alive..... here is this same sign last week.
They soldiered on after the storm, feeding all the local people out of the remains of their kitchen, using the food from the Soggy Dollar Bar, who's food supply had survived the storm. The community pulled together.
Those lush Caribbean islands, usually covered in GREEN were stripped of every single leaf. My friends stores were piles of rubble.
Latitude 18 in BVI - BEFORE...
For months they lived in the shells of their houses, with tarps for a roof, no electricity, no water, no food, no jobs because there were NO TOURISTS.
And those were the lucky ones..... even more people were left with NOTHING.... a community popped up in the outdoor stadium in St.Maarten called Carnival Village. My friends who run Dominos Pizza on the island arranged fun movie nights with pizza. When the going gets tough, the community pulled together and amazing things were done to help.
We even donated 1119 garments to women on the island, our good friends at John Cassidy & Sons, shipped 12 heavy boxes of our garments down to the island for us for FREE, and friends at Dominos Pizza in conjunction with the Rotary Club distributed that clothing out to the women on Pizza Night. I cried when they sent me photos of some grateful ladies with their tops.
While we spent many many hurricane seasons in St.Maarten during our 10 years in the Caribbean, we only had 2 minor hurricanes while we were there. We never took risks with our boat.... we always hauled her out, put her in the yard, took the rigging off, and when we were young we even lived onboard her in the boat yard (which is not fun to say the least) here I am showering under the boat in the mud in my bikini. Not an easy life that's for sure.... but even hauling out and dropping the rigging probably would not have saved our boat in IRMA, she was next level.... she destroyed everything in sight.
But 2 years on this story is no longer about devastation, this story is about optimism and the reemergence of my islands from the mess. The island people have been working so hard, cleaning up and re-building. I love this photo of my friend Ellen and her husband who are long time residents of St.Maarten. On a weekend visit to OysterPond they snapped this cool photo in front an awesome mural which has been graffiti painted on the side of a completely ruined building.
I mean, if you can't re-build it immediately, then you may as well make it pretty. I love this photo, and how cool is this mural! It just shows you what an incredible job they are doing on the island to clean up.
One of my favorite pages to follow on FB is Magic of the Caribbean, they started this blog in April 2018 to help show St.Maarten as she re-built, and all they post is gorgeous positivity and amazing colorful photos of paradise. How cool is this photo I found on their blog of the flight over to Saba.
I love it too how there are now environmentally friendly excursions and things to do on the island. Hurricane Irma destroyed so much above and below the water, but companies like Reef-It SXM have teamed up with the St.Maarten Nature Foundation to build a shore entry snorkeling park right near where the cruise ships dock in Philipsburg.
Now I know this spot REALLY WELL, because while we were living there on our boat, and going to work every day, my husband and I always kept our dinghy in the water. So, after work each day, we would grab a cold beer each, dinghy around to the outside of the harbour wall, and drop the anchor in the sand. We would go for a swim and a snorkel, there were fish everywhere and lobster and the water was the most amazing crystal clear water EVER.
Now Reef-It SXM have even gone ahead and put in some extra concrete "reef balls" at the site, to encourage the fish to come back.
"In an effort to help promote new coral growth and entice marine-life into the area the team at Reef-It have placed Coral Balls all around the tour path. These pieces of concrete are specifically designed to create places for fish to live and hide from predators. The concrete is mixed with a special formula that helps ensure that coral growth will be compatible with the structure."
Amazing to have that so close to the shore, so you can simply climb in and explore without having to take a boat trip or even swim out! They do educational tours too, so that local schools can come and learn about reef regeneration and they even teach people about using "reef friendly sunscreen"..... did you even know the damage everyday sunscreens cause to the worlds reefs?
It makes me so happy to see my island back on track.... and last week they got some much needed RAIN again too, so the island is looking lovely and green.
Check out this photo from Magic of the Caribbean of Great Bay, where the cruise ships dock in St.Maarten. I never got tired of looking at the color of that water.
One love St.Maarten x
Reply from Denise....