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DON'S LOG: stories, experience and advice

Insurance and the beginning of yachting in the Caribbean

INSURANCE and the beginning of yachting in the Caribbean, and its expansion to its present state, why it is now so difficult to obtain insurance coverage in the Caribbean, Don Street’s insurance experience, and advise as to how to obtain insurance coverage.

I arrived in St Thomas in 1956. I bought the engineless 46’ cutter Iolaire, built 1905. In Iolaire and then L’ll Iolaire, and other boats, for the next 63 years I cruised, raced, chartered ,explored, charted and wrote about the Caribbean.

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Underwriters are not properly evaluating yachting risks in the eastern Caribbean

My great grandfather Col.Hugh McQueen Street was in the insurance business in Vicksburg Mississippi. He sent his son Charles Richard Street at age about 18 north to Chicago to learn the insurance business. This he did and became one of the leaders in the industry. He was famous for the fact that he could smoke a cigar, have a conversation on the phone and with the man sitting at his desk all at the same time.

He was also famous for saying”there area few brilliant people in business who are from the south” stressing the word From!

Digging thru his papers I came across an letter that was sent out to all his agents. “all risks submitted do not have to be prime risks. Describe the proposed insured and the risks. I will evaluate and come up with a premium that the insured can afford and we on the long term basis can make a profit”.

Unfortunately at the present time this does not appear to be the situation in the yacht insurance industry in the Caribbean.

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HOW DON STREET ENTERED THE MARINE INSURANCE BUSINESS

Yachting in the Caribbean began as a trickle in the 50s, which was the beginning of the charter industry in ST Thomas and Antigua. It got rolling in the 60s, accelerated in the 70s, sky rocketed it in the 90, and has undergone an exponential yearly growth in the 21st century.

In the early years many of the boats were uninsured. Insured boats, some insured in the state, some with Lloyd's. Almost all English boats were insured in Lloyd's.

There was no one in the eastern Caribbean who specialize in marine insurance.

I arrived in the Caribbean in St Thomas the end of November 1956, and bought in March 1957, Iolaire a 46' engineless sloop, later converted to a yawl, built in England 1905.

After working at various jobs I ended up in the charter business skippering Iolaire.

While I was teaching sailing at City Island YC the summer of 1961 I felt that I might not want to spend the rest of my life as a charter skipper so I took a three night a week course in insurance brokerage that would lead to taking an exam for NY state insurance broker license.

I completed the course, passed the exam but did not stay for the NY State Insurance brokers exam. Rather I sailed Iolaire south to St Thomas.

I discovered in my absence that a newcomer had set up an insurance brokerage office, basically general insurance but also marine. I was quickly hired and combined chartering Iolaire and selling insurance, marine , but also house car and motor cycle!!!!

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EXPANSION OF YACHTING LLOYD'S AND INTERNATIONAL UNDERWRITERS NOT PROPERLY EVALUATING THEIR RISKS AND DOING LITTLE TO MINIMIZE THEIR LOSSES

When I arrived in St Thomas yachting had just barely begun in St. Thomas and Antigua. In St Thomas there were on more than a dozen and a half boat in the Charlotte Amalie anchorage. The industry was supported by the fact that the USVI court was a federal court. A divorce granted in a VI court could not be contested. Divorces could only be granted to VI residents. Six weeks and you became VI resident. Hotels catered to gals establishing residence, yachts entertained bored potential divorcees. Young unattached males had a field day.

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Tropical Hurricanes: Don's Experience

Chart of eastern Carribbean
The Eastern Carribbean. 


Donald M Street, who arrived in St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands in November 1956, is the compiler of the Imray Iolaire charts which cover all of the eastern Caribbean east of Aruba, and is author of guides covering the same area. Over the past 70 years he has built up a tremendous knowledge of how hurricanes affect the yachting industry in the eastern Caribbean

 

COULD YOUR BOAT WITHSTAND A HURRICANE?

 

DON'S HURRICANE EXPERIENCE
Don Street's first experience with hurricanes was the 1938 hurricane that cleaned out the yachting fleet of Manhasset Bay(where street grew up and learned to sail) by putting ashore or sinking 400 boats. Further east in the Watch Hill, Westerly RI area, it killed 485 people and caused in modern dollars 1.4 billion in losses. It wasone of the most destructive and expensive Atlantic hurricane of all times until Sandy2012 tore New York city and suburbs  apart
Sandy did  more  damage so was  more expensive but  the loss of  life was  lest than 10 % of the  loss of  life  in the  38 hurricane.

 

Then the 44 hurricane , which NOAA refers to as "the great storm" hurricane force winds in a 600 mile circle sinking a US navy destroyer, a light ship, two coast guard cutter and ? cargo ships carrying supples to Europe. Well more than 300 seaman  must have lost there lives as 276 were lost  when the  destroyer sank. Thus in loss of  life these two hurricanes were the most destructive atlantic hurricane in  history.

 

Damage  ashore  was not that bad It severely damaged but did not clean out the Manhasst Bay yachting fleet. Snipe number 3 owned by Don Street and his three older sisters survived, but damaged. Street at age 14 filed his firm marine insurance claim as a result of hurricane damage.

 

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TROPICAL HURRICANES AND THEIR INTERNAL TORNADOES
Tropical hurricanes start as a low pressure wave in the region of the Cape Verde islands. Some lows pick up a circular motion and are almost immediately noted by NOAA satellite and given a name. They are then carefully tracked by NOAA/hurricanes with the positions given every six hours.

 

Tropical depression , have winds to 34 kts/39mph/18mps and a bit more .

 

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TRACKING HURRICANES
 

After being caught in 1984 on the north side of St Martins by late season , mid november hurricane Klaus and surviving using six of Iolalire's seven anchors,(click here for full story) I decided that I had to do some research. Klaus was the first hurricane anyone could remember that headed NE in the low latitudes.

 

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Hurricane Whole (6.39 MB) 

Article from Hands On Sailor - Hurricane Whole

 
TROPICAL HURRICANES (16 KB) 

click the above link to down load the file tropical hurricane, their tracks the antilles, their strength and internal tornadoes

 
BEFORE THE HURRICANE (Click Image to Enlarge)

Hurricane_CW.jpg

AFTER THE HURRICANE (Click Image to Enlarge)

 

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SHARING KNOWLEDGE
2017's hurricanes devastated boats both in and out of the water. If your boat is in the Caribbean, Don Street advises on how you can keep it safe and continue to sail during the hurricane season
An area from west of St Barts to the east coast of Puerto Rico is often called Hurricane Alley, because the islands in the area have over the last 35 years frequently suffered either a direct hit or major damage by a hurricane that has passed close by.

With two exceptions, none of the yard managers have laid up boats during hurricane season in such a fashion that they would stand a very good chance of surviving a hurricane.

 

The yard attached to Marina Puerto Del Rey had 237 boats properly laid up: tied down, well supported by screw jacks, masts out, no total losses: just three per cent suffered major damage during 2017.

 

In St Martin, Sir Bobby Velasco says: "I lay up my boats the way my daddy taught me: wooden cradles, everything tied to together with cross spalls, well nailed together and masts out". Boats in Bobby's marina survived undamaged except for sand blast damage from hurricane-blown sand. Elsewhere in St Martin, where boats were hauled ashore there was massive destruction.

 

In marinas in hurricane alley in 2017, outcomes varied from massive destruction, to many boats sunk, to no sinking but major damage, except Marina Puerto Del Rey. Puerto del Rey with its 12ft-high 1,000ft-long breakwater was specifically built so that boats would survive a direct hurricane hit to the marina. The marina has a total capacity of 950 boats, of which 552 were in the water. Just 4% suffered major damage, 2% were total losses.

As a resut the marina became very popular and  filled almost to full compasity.In 2019when Dorina approached therewere only 45 berths aailable to boats wishing  to shelter  from  Dorian.

 

In the islands to the south of Hurricane Alley – Antigua, St Lucia and Grenada, where large numbers of boats lay up ashore for the hurricane season – the marina managers claim they have learned their lessons by observing the disasters: Antigua as a result of Hugo, Grenada as a result of Ivan in 2004. They lay up boats properly so that they will survive a hurricane.

Fin-keeled, deep-draft boats have their keels in a pit, boats are in specially built steel cradles or are very well chocked by numerous screw jacks, and boats are tied down with straps to either dead men buried in the sand or sand screws.

But the vast majority of the boats are stored with their masts in. Wind pressures go up with the square of the velocity. When the wind gusts to 180mph the wind pressure is astronomical: 83lb per sq ft. That means that on a 60ft mast with the wind gusting 180 mph, the load exerted 30ft above the deck is 5,450lb. When the wind is fore and aft, or near to it, this load really does not matter. But with that load on the beam, will the boat stay in the cradle?

 

Every time a hurricane passes through hurricane alley, boats pour into supposed safe havens, such as Ensenada Honda on Culebra, Hurricane Hole St Johns, or inner Benner Bay on St Thomas. In every major hurricane they are disaster areas with a total of well over 100 boats sunk, and a similar number suffering major damage.

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Caribbean 600 Aboard Kinship

Don at the wheel.
Don on Wheel Caribbean 600

Kinship place 4th in our division of 19, fantastic crew most have raced with Ryan Kinship's skipper for 20 years, the newcommers have all raced on board for ten or more years

 

At prize giving when they called for Kinship, Tom 92 lead, myself 89 second then Ryan and crew, the crowd let out a roar that could be heard all the way to St Johns. The roar was unique at the prize giving.

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HURRICANE HOLES

Ever since 1975 when yachting in the Caribbean really took off, for 45 years I have been reading about, and personally being told about the disasters that happened in the so called hurricane holes. Every time a hurricane come thru the islands of the eastern Caribbean boats flock to the so called hurricane holes and disaster  Read More 

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