- The US Virgin Islands are dealing with an influx of yachters who haven’t been able to dock in other Caribbean islands.
- As The New York Times’ Emily Palmer reported, the territory typically has about 270 boats that dock each year. That number has recently swelled to as many as 600 boats at once.
- Those who are on their boats are only allowed to come ashore for essential supplies, and they have to travel to dump their waste.
- The US Virgin Islands have been under a stay-at-home order since late March and are expected to hit their peak in coronavirus cases next month.
- The islands are the latest place in the United States that are dealing with an influx of visitors whose sheer numbers threaten to strain local resources.
The US Virgin Islands are one of the few territories in the Caribbean currently not turning away boaters. As a result, yachts have been flocking to their ports in record numbers.
The New York Times’ Emily Palmer reported that as many as 600 boats have been seen in the territory’s waters at a time, nearly 400 more than is typical for this time of year.
Many mariners interviewed by Palmer were vacationing in the Caribbean when the pandemic struck and were turned away from the ports of other countries. The US Virgin Islands, which are an American territory and have a population of just over 100,00, consist of four islands: St. Croix, St. Thomas, St. John, and Water Island. The islands’ government can’t completely close the ports or airports because doing so would stop food and medical imports from making their way in.
The islands are also not adequately equipped to handle a coronavirus outbreak. The territory has been dealing with the coronavirus since March and had 51 confirmed cases of the virus by mid-April. On March 13, Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. declared a state of emergency for the islands. He issued a stay-at-home mandate on March 23.
Because of these restrictions, mariners have to stay on their boats and are only allowed on to the islands to pick up essential supplies. The island of St. John’s does not have a pump-out station, so boaters have to travel out to sea to get rid of their waste in a disposal.
As The Times reported, boats parked near the Virgin Islands National Park, in particular, are dealing with an overflow of trash as garbage collection in the park has ceased. The park has allowed select residents to help with the collection of garbage as well as grocery delivery.
Nate Fletcher, owner of Blue Line Yacht Charters, told the Times he is using his boat to collect trash twice a week from mariners at sea. He is charging $5 a bag, and it’s helping him pay his bills.