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Destiny resurrected from storm-ravaged remains

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In the second year of a pandemic that shuttered Bermuda’s longstanding tourism industry, those who depend on tourism for a living, have truly suffered.

But one tour-boat operator spent the time restoring a storm-battered charter vessel that was written off by Hurricane Humberto.

Destiny is now the pride and joy of operations manager and owner, Aaron Sim’s company, Cruises for all Occasions.

And like the company name, in the absence of a large number of visitors, the new charter boat has prepared for all types of local events.

Destiny was refloated in February 2020, but not put back into service for nearly 18 months until this Cup Match weekend, after detailed interior fittings were completed.

The slow and methodical work that was occasioned by the tourism hiatus caused by the pandemic, meant time for far more emphasis to be put on what clients would experience while on the vessel.

That first Cup Match event was a swizzle promotional cruise. And since then, there have been cruise events for a high school graduation, a birthday and swimming cruises and cocktail cruises.

Captain Sims has leaned heavily on the local market. Some of his patrons who were familiar with the boat pre-storm, compliment him on the improvements.

The category 3 Hurricane Humberto swiped Bermuda in September 2019, with 100 miles per hour winds, leaving 80 per cent of the island without power, and a surprising amount of damage for a storm that passed by out to sea. One of the casualties was Destiny.

The tour boat operator purchased what was left of the vessel from the insurer and went to work on her repairs.

Aaron Sims has been around tour boats all his life and been involved in just about every aspect of the business. He started working summers on the glass bottom boat with Bermuda Island Cruises as a deckhand at 13.

He learnt hands-on how to do most boat maintenance himself. And being in the boat business, he has bought and sold his share of vessels.

His fleet today consists of the restored 78-foot glass bottom tour boat, Destiny, which carries 100 passengers and the 75-foot Island Girl, which is licensed for 50.

The latter he has bought, sold and purchased again. He then refurbished it and put it back into service for the America’s Cup in 2017.

The biggest hit he has taken from the pandemic has come from the closure of Southampton Princess Hotel.

He told us: “I had a contract with them, for their guests. That was my goal for Destiny – fix it up and put it into service and make it part of my presentation to renew my contract with the hotel – a contract which would have ended at the end of last year.

“But with the pandemic and the subsequent hotel closure, I had to regroup. I stuck to the wicket, patiently continuing to work on the boat and finally finished it.

“Right now, there is really no tourist business. I am dealing with local business, and there is some demand.

”The boats are more weekend warriors, though. There is no steady weekday business. Island Girl is out one or two days of the weekend.

“Over the Cup match, I had Destiny and Island Girl out the Friday, the Saturday and the Sunday of the holiday.

“I get calls from people, I think, because they have seen Destiny on the water, and we are promoting it on Facebook and Instagram. There are more enquiries for cruises now. I have stuff on the books into October.”

But he knows beyond October, quieter days are coming.

Captain Sims is still looking to develop business through next summer. The tour boat business is an expensive enterprise, with fuel, overheads, crew costs, together with government fees and taxes. There are significant costs of running on the water.

And he notes: “There is also a short window to really make your money. There traditionally are not many bookings for the winter.”

Destiny after being pushed on the rocks by Hurricane Humberto

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Published August 17, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated August 18, 2021 at 8:16 am)

Destiny resurrected from storm-ravaged remains

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