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@Work: Crabby's Watersports

Nov. 11, 2004 – The nooks and crannys of Coral Harbor, Hurricane Hole and other spots around St. John are ripe for exploring by sea, and Crabby's Watersports makes it possible.
Located harborfront along Route 107 near Voyages Restaurant just outside Coral Bay, Crabby's Watersports rents kayaks, dinghies, snorkel gear and vests, beach chairs and floats. It also sells quality snorkeling gear, towels, sunscreen, dry bags, inexpensive binoculars and myriad other items you may have forgotten.
If you're a local resident, owners Doug and Phyllis Benton will give you 20 percent off the rate on all rentals.
This makes a day out on the water affordable. You'll get 20 percent off the regular rate of $45 a day for single kayaks and $70 a day for doubles. You'll get the same 20 percent off the $125 a day rate for renting inflatable dinghies with 15-hp motors. Half days go for $75.
And if you want to start out in Hurricane Hole for a paddle back to Coral Harbor, the Bentons will drop you off.
Doug Benton pointed out that gift certificates for kayak and dinghy rentals make good holiday presents.
The Bentons moved to Coral Bay, St. John, from West Hartford, Conn., in June 2003. They made their first visit to St. John on a day trip from St. Thomas in 1989. After a camping trip to Cinnamon Bay Campground the next year, they became regular vacation villa visitors.
In 1990, they bought a lot in Upper Carolina with the hopes of building a retirement home. After Hurricane Marilyn hit in 1995, they decided to buy a severely damaged house on the lot above theirs because it had a better view. They eventually knocked it down and built a new house.
The house was in the vacation villa rental market for several years when the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon occurred. Then a close friend died at age in her 40s and another friend dropped dead at 51.
"Everything was pointing to 'you don't have immortality,'" Doug Benton said.
As the stateside economy went downhill in Sept. 11's wake, the couple began to rethink their lives. Doug Benton owned an office furniture dealership and Phyllis Benton worked in corporate communications.
While they knew they wanted to make St. John their full-time home, both wondered how they'd earn a living.
Although Benton had none of the usual carpentry and plumbing skills needed in St. John's construction boom economy, he did see a niche that needed filling. When Coral Bay Watersports closed, the Bentons lost their opportunity to rent dinghies on their trips to St. John. Doug Benton knew he had enough ability to rent kayaks and dinghies, fit masks and snorkels and keep the inventory up, so they decided to open Crabby's Watersports.
They weren't quite ready to make the move, though, so they settled on hiring help until they made a permanent move. Since then, they've spent their days renting gear to tourists and locals, and getting acquainted with the small Coral Bay community.
"I like the small town atmosphere. Most of the people are pretty nice and the tourists are always in a good mood," Doug Benton said.
Call 714-2415 for more information.

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