Paul Exner comments on the IMMENSE BVI rebuild after IRMA.

16 Oct

Paul Post IRMA.jpg

Here’s Paul Exner, on the long-term aftermath off Hurricane Irma in the BVI, as only he can put it…

AWARENESS OF STATUS … it’s one thing to be in denial, and another to place blame where it’s wrongly focused; and, it’s also possible to fall into a situation where I could misjudge any influence that appears to push against the plans I’ve made for myself when awakened by insecurity felt at two AM … but, in the face of IRMA, I’ve struggled to put “things” into proper perspective, at times … not because I’m weak or can’t be attentive … BUT, the pure immensity of shit coming at me is more than I’ve ever experienced.

I’ve written and thrown away dozens of articles since my last post over a week ago that just didn’t fit, or brought fear in me of the impact my written sentiment may bring. I hate feeling like I’m censored, or I have an agenda to deliver … I’ve tried to be aware of outward influences on me and I’ve done the “right thing,” and I’ve continually pushed my feelings into my subconscious and tried to do what I thought others thought I should do; burying myself in overt-censorship … my status weighs heavy on me, and I’ve just clammed-up. Sorry guys, I’ve had something to say, but haven’t really known how to word it.

TODAYS PHOTO … I’m fully aware of what’s going on around me. I have the mast of a fifty-footer across Solstice’s deck. I have a life-line system that’s in need of rebuild, and a destroyed wind-vane autopilot. I have a sizable insurance deductible of $11,200 to work with, and $80,000 of premiums I’ve paid without ever having a single claim since 1991. My Solstice is trapped, as you can see, in a situation that goes against the grain of her aura, but I’m not alone, many boat-owners and lovers of boats provide me company as I sit here, with a heavy squall about to dump more rain. This squall is not something I can negotiate or drop-sail for, this squall will come and do what it pleases as I sit and wait for good faith …

Fortunately, I’ve had a lot of good faith come my way. Many friends and colleagues have sided with my plight, and YOU KNOW WHO YOUR ARE … but, I built the Solstice to provide ever-present access to freedom that’s being trapped in a boatyard. WHY? Well … the clean-up is immense, a belief shared by many BVI-islanders. There are very few easy solutions to rectify the entanglement of owners, insurers, businesses, and other vested interests. Everyone is trying to do the right thing, but the negotiations are not clear-cut, and it’s just about the most complex thing I’ve ever witnessed … and before you apply judgement to any unfair view of limited experience the players have, know this … there is no single formal training on how to handle this situation … the good people working on this mess are skilled, interested, and trying; although, some are better equipped than others … there is no play-book for this.

Then, there’s all the other stuff coming at me and my family. There’s conflicting news of the BVI rebuild … some views created in a bubble, and other professionally written into stories that barely scratch the surface because the issue is just too vast to write responsibly, or spell-out in limited space. What’s true in one realm is the opposite in another. I doubt most of what I read and hear mostly because the tale changes daily. It feels as though we’re cast overboard and coming to grips that we’re here to fend for ourselves, toying with hopeful words exchanged in line for groceries, gasoline, telecommunication, or over a drink.

Businesses are just getting back on their feet, but there’s an enormous anchor cast to hold-onto how things were before IRMA … in my opinion, it will be YEARS before the BVI comes back, and likely a decade before this territory returns to it’s highest socio-economic state achieved before IRMA … YES, that’s right, I claim that the highest value of living and state of the territory bliss was on September 6th, the day IRMA struck … people who were born and grown here say: “Do you think it will EVER return to how great it was?” The responses on the street are NOT confident that it will; there’s much news to the contrary, but those opinions are well vested in the financial trenches of this place, and are not of the folks who do the work. Imagine the immensity of my claim for a moment: it took decades to grow the BVI into it’s HIGHEST SOCIO-ECONOMIC STATE, ever.

There are no accurate records, I REPEAT, no accurate records of who has left and is still here … many have gone and we cannot count who has left and stayed. The intentions of pre-IRMA inhabitants of the BVI are unclear.

What is clear is that we are getting Solstice out onto the sea again as soon as possible. The work is easy, but the plans are not so clear to create. We will persevere.

Paul Exner
Tortola, British Virgin Islands
16 October, 2017

This article was syndicated from 59º North Sailing // 59º North Blog


  1. Harry Yeterian

    I have a heaviness on my chest that feels like I’m going into cardiac arrest. I must have been living in denial by not knowing what happened to my beloved BVI. I knew Barbuda was badly damaged but did not know of the devastation to BVI. It will in fact take decades to rebuild and probably not to it’s former glory. I will return someday to relish in GODS glorious land. Slow and steady. Peace be with all of you.

  2. Rick Koskinen

    Your writing captures my own feelings unlike any editorial on the disaster I have read so far. Irma’s devastation was on a scale vastly different than anything I have experienced. PTSD is the closest description of what many caught in Irma’s path may be dealing with today, several weeks after the storm.

    Wishing you clarity on finding your best path ahead.

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