Life

Touch of paradise amid hurricane valley

JOE BELANGER, QMI Agency

Work, work, work . . . There's no telling what London-born David Crofts will be found doing in his role as general manager of the Comfort Suites Ports of Call Resort in Providenciales of the Turks and Caicos Islands. JOE BELANGER/QMI Agency

Work, work, work . . . There's no telling what London-born David Crofts will be found doing in his role as general manager of the Comfort Suites Ports of Call Resort in Providenciales of the Turks and Caicos Islands. JOE BELANGER/QMI Agency

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Some might call him David 'Hurricane' Crofts. Of course, he's earned the moniker.

Crofts in the general manager of the Comfort Suites Ports of Call Resort on the island of Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

In the last eight years, Crofts has 'weathered Ivan (category 5, 2004), a double hit by Hanna (category 3, September 2008) when it stalled over the islands, seven days later Ike (category 4, September 2008) and last August's Irene (category 1).

Oh, and there was a 6.9 earthquake in the mix about four months later.

Some Londoners might recognize Crofts' face and name: He was a Beal Art student (class of 1977), then moved away to work and play out west before returning to London in the early 1990s to study hotel management at Fanshawe College, a career choice based on his love to make art and travel to fuel his inner muse.

"My first job was in Gibraltar where I worked as a front desk clerk," said Crofts, who is in his early 50s. "It's the Mediterranean, the European experience and it was a fantastic lifestyle I'd go back to in a heartbeat."

Less than two years later, Crofts returned to Canada working at Vancouver hotels for nine years, starting at a two-star and finishing at a five-star before accepting a chance to go to Grand Cayman where he was welcomed by the category 5, hurricane Ivan, packing winds in excess of 252 km/h.

"It was a catastrophic event and we were shut down for four months and had no water or electricity for six months across much of the island," Crofts recalled. "Yes, you are frightened for your life. We were evacuated to a gymnasium and the roof blew off soon after we arrived and we were there for 30 hours.

"I remember these two large industrial fans and the down pressure was so strong they were spinning so fast, you couldn't even tell the blades were moving," he said.

For months, Crofts, as everyone else did, bathed in the sea and took showers in the rain while they rebuilt the hotel "and life went on."

Four months later, the island was hit by an earthquake that registered 6.9 on the Richter scale and damaging 97% of all homes.

In 2008, Crofts moved to Providenciales of the Turks and Caicos Islands as executive assistant manager at Beaches resort and 40 days after his arrival, hurricane Hanna, a category 3 packing 178 km/h winds, struck then stalled and hit a second time.

Hanna was followed a week later by hurricane Ike, a category 4 packing winds of 215 km/h.

"It was a real mess," Crofts recalled, adding the resort was closed for three months."

After a few years of relative calm, Providenciales was hit last August by hurricane Irene, a relatively weak category 1 packing winds of about 140 km/h.

Eight months later and a lot has happened in Crofts' world. He took over the Comfort Suites Ports of Call Resort, bought last year by the Mississauga-based Papke Properties, owned by Dale Papke, who immediately started investing in the property. Next winter, the hotel will become an independent operators be renamed, Ports of Call Resort.

Crofts says his decision to work in the hotel industry was two-fold: to have steady work; and, to find fresh ideas to keep painting. Much of his art is colourful, Caribbean-themed, as well as jazz works for a local festival. Crofts has a steady network of clients. His art work can be viewed on his Facebook page, David Crofts.

"This line of work really allows me to see different parts of the world and to find that inspiration," he said.

"I just love it. I mean, it's the Caribbean."

joe.belanger@sunmedia.ca


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