Ms. Joseph, an administrator and booking agent for Go Sailing Incorporated, has spent more than two decades in the Virgin Islands working in the marine industry.
I immigrated here from the island of Dominica. That was 21 years ago and I’ve worked in the charter industry or the marine sector of the BVI for 21 years. I fell in love with water, never looked back: always been around boats, and worked different positions within the industry — as a receptionist, customer service — having a little bit of bilingual French being so close to Martinique and Guadeloupe.
This is a bit shocking right now after Irma how the marine industry’s going to bounce back. It’s going to be hard because we depend on so much tourism to keep the BVI flowing and one of the biggest influences for the tourism sector is yachting. We can hold regattas here and there throughout the year, but people coming down here with their families to make memories, to go sailing, that has always, to me, kept the BVI floating — from [that business] touching a bartender, a waitress, a kitchen staff, a restaurant over in Anegada, over in Jost Van Dyke, Virgin Gorda, here on Tortola. The money would flow, the economy would flow, and you may not become excessively rich off it, but you will be comfortable.
Hence, I stayed within the industry that I loved, and I’ve worked for companies that most persons may not remember, like Stardust and Sun Yachts [in] 1996 — a 1999 merger with Sunsail, which was based in Sopers Hole and moved to Hodges Creek. Then from Sunsail, the purchase by The Moorings, and then MarineMax Vacations the last four years. And that used to be up in Hodges Creek and now they’re based in Nanny Cay and Scrub Island. They switched to that after Irma. Irma changes so many plans that you just have to roll with the flow where you can actually greet customers coming in that still want to come here, and you get them into a product that is at least in good working condition to send them out to have a good time so they can go back and tell their friends or social network the BVI is coming back stronger; it’s looking good; it’s not as bad as people think. The mental image just showing photographs of themselves in the water over at Foxy’s or at a bar in Virgin Gorda. Not everywhere is back yet, like main places like Peter Island and Bitter End. And some of the more popular spots are going to take time to bounce back. But we know that they will, because they’ve made an investment here not just for their own private businesses but for the community and the people that worked for them for so many years.
On the job
[I work] in administration. [There’s been] a lot of cancellations. Everybody got really worried and very scared [after the storm]. Of course, it’s just natural to question what the condition of the vessel is. You know they want real time photographs of everything, not just of the product but of the island itself. MarineMax had to make a real-time video just going out and speaking to partners — the restaurants around the BVI and favourite places like the Soggy Dollar Bar on Jost Van Dyke — just showing people: Okay, this is what is happening; they are actually rebuilding and give them time. Still, the best that you can do, as everybody says, is to come and spend some money and show financial support, because that goes a long way.
We find people actually starting to get a little bit more settled in terms of not pulling out 100 percent but actually saying, “Okay, I’ll take back 50 percent and hold 50 percent deposit for a future date when I can get away.” And we’ve had last-minute bookings where people are actually making a contract but want to be sure of the weather 10 days before. That’s the situation a lot of charter companies are dealing with. Everyone is saying that. You are building back that trust with your charter contracts and your clients. You’re still hustling at the boat shows to get people interested in coming here to the BVI and letting them know that, yes, it is looking green and the water has not changed.
After the storm
I was [here for the storm]. And afterwards, because of the devastation and the office and everything, my job was made redundant. I am now secured with [Go Sailing Inc.] but not as directly involved with the charter industry. Four months [went by before I secured another position]. It was rough. It is always very rough, but, again, you just try and keep your contacts within the industry and see how people are doing because it’s all of us feeling the same thing. It’s the same pressure. You’ve got your bills to pay, you’ve got financial responsibility, and in this industry unless you are invested and have a piece of the pie — which is stocks in that company, because the majority of the charter companies here are owned by main companies stateside — as much as you’d like to say, well, I’ve invested 21 years in this industry, you really don’t have a lot to show for it financially. You are just comfortable enough to afford to live here in the BVI.
This is home sweet home. Honestly, it is. The BVI has always been home and the pull to the water is amazing. There’s no other place like here. Going forward, the BVI is going to get stronger. We together should focus upon bringing back the BVI to what it used to be or better than how it used to be because on the whole it’s for all of our benefit.
Interview conducted, condensed and edited by Conor King Devitt.