Hurricane Joaquin

 
 
 

Tuesday before hurricane Joaguin.  We are in George Town on great exuma island and decide to sail down to Crab Cay to ride out what we thought would be a small squalls with northwesterly wind. NOAA and our weather router all say no chance of hurricane force winds or even tropical depression force winds. In fact, for the last four or five days watching this system, this storm was not even expected to come anywhere near the islands, but to harmlessly head north out into the vast ocean.

Crab Cay

 

We are the blue dot, Crab Cay. The anchorage is open to ENE through S winds.


Close up of Crab Cay. Good protection from the west. There is a deep narrow channel cut into the rock due west of us. Not sure it’s purpose. Wish we had the time to explore.

  

Back aboard rain dog I double checked the anchor. Yep, it’s dug in :-). There is a nervousness about, a feeling that this anchorage is not going to work at all. But the next high tide is after dark, so will need to wait till morning, reevaluate the situation.

  

Crab cay. I felt very claustrophobic here, just felt…wrong.

 

Tuesday night before the Hurricane. Though NOAA and Chris Parker still think the storm will turn north and not hit the Bahamas, they now give a 20% chance that it will impact the Bahamas. 10% chance it will be hurricane strength winds. But we decide it’s just too risky to stay at this anchorage.  The “non storm who cannot possibly hit us” is getting closer and closer. Traveling at 4 knots on a 240 degree heading. Wednesday we got up at 6 am, and after conferring with some locals, Chris Parkers latest info, and NOAA info, we attempted to get a mooring ball in one of the hurricane holes at Stocking Island but all the balls are taken. So plan b is Red Shanks hurricane hole anchorage. This Storm kinda sprang up and surprised many of us including best and brightest at NOAA, who still think that it will turn north before getting close to us. This storm has not done what any of the computer models said it would do, so why would we believe the predictors that it will miraculously become predictable. We must prepare for a storm.

 

So by 8:45 the next morning (Wednesday), we left Crab Cay and headed south, on a rising tide, threading our way through the shallows to the second hurricane hole at Red Shanks. Rain Dog is marked with a Blue dot above Burrows Cay.

 

Closer view of anchorage. The blue dot marked Browns is where we ended up leaving our inflatable RIB and motor.

 

Even closer, showing depth. 

You can see the very shallow sand bars we had to cross. Our charts had this water at 3.9 feet in some places, but we were assured by locals and cruisers that we could make it with our 5.5 draft. Plus, there were no other hurricane holes that were close enough without adding the risk of running out of time. Thankfully, it really is considered the best hurricane hole around. We made for the anchorage on a rising tide in case we run aground we would be able to get free. Running aground and having to wait for the next high tide , this late in the game, would be disastrous. 

 

Satalite view of our hurricane hole, Red Shanks.


Very close satellite view of anchorage. We are surrounded by land, protection 360deg along with a lot of shallows to tap down the wave action. There are no boats in our direct area( old satellite pic)

 

To our north is a Catamaran in the next hole who will ride out the storm aboard. He had several anchors out, they all held.

 

Leaving Rain Dog. Praying we will see her safe and sound. At this point the forecast is for 45-50 knots, but we can see the potential to get big and strong fast, so we are not taking any chances. The decks are stripped except the main sail which Brian wrapped with line. All potential water ingress sites are duck taped to seal against driving rain( solar vents, anchor rode hawse pipes) all scuppers clear, all unneeded through hulls closed. I have two layers of chafe gear from cleat to past anchor roller on both the snubber and anchor rode. The rode is captive on the anchor roller with a large fast pin that is also secured from coming loose. 

 

Anchor tackle. We had to anchor twice because we were not satisfied with the first setting. Second time was a charm.  I dove the anchor as soon as brian dropped it to adjust the position. Brian wanted the anchor in a position that it would have higher seabed all around, so that if we drug, it would need to drag up hill. The seabed here is very hilly, like hundreds of big ant hills. I positioned the anchor in between these hills, with a rather large hill downwind( a north wind). After allowing the anchor to settle a bit, I signaled Brian to back down on the anchor, engine at 1500 RPMs. A few minutes later I signal for 2500 RPMs, and finally 3500. The whole time watching what the anchor wanted to do under the loads of the engine in reverse. At 2500 RPMs I watched the anchor dig deep. At 3500, the anchor dug even more, now the only visible part of the anchor is a piece of shank, even the big roll bar was buried. Satisfied the anchor was as good as it could be( perfect really) I swam back to the boat, the seas were getting rather rough, even in this protected anchorage. The ground tackle we are using is 150 feet of 3/8 BBB chain, spliced to another 200 feet of 5/8 braid. Brian attached our snubber at the end of the chain rode( 150 ft). He then payed out another 30 feet of rode (5/8 braided line). If the snubber breaks, the anchor rode will snatch up and the 30 ft of braided anchor line will act as a snubber, absorbing the shock loads. #####We are in 10 feet. Brian calculated the surge and #######

 

Chafe gear was velcro’d and then duct taped to the snubber and anchor rode. Chafe pads were positioned at anchor roller where jumping anchor tackle may rub.


The windlass was a big chafe causing concern as our tackle runs very near to it. On a bucking deck the lines could chafe against the windlass.

 

We put a rubber boot over the engine start panel, a reminder to open seacocks before running the engine again.


The newer nicro vents can not be positively locked closed. So duct taping is our best option till we can revamp the vents. Note: gorilla tape came off clean 4 days later. We used cheap duct tape when prepping for hurricane Erika, we removed the tape 2 day later and  it took the finish off the vents and left residues.

 

I packed up clothes for four days, dog food, scuppers first aid kit, toiletries, boat papers, passports, chargers, all medications, and some sheets, pillowcases, towels, flashlights, and anything we cannot afford to lose. Top of that list is my mermaid engagement ring and kaela’s ashes, our beloved dog that passed away a few years ago. Everything we own is aboard Rain Dog.  Since the weather was already pretty squally, I packed everything in dry bags.


Time is running out. We have a long dinghy ride back to town and the wind is gusty.

 

 
 

We started for George Town in the dinghy, planning on storing the dink in lake Victoria. The wind was gusty from the north so we motored into the waves. We were soaked within minutes. We all three had life jackets on ( not inflatable!!) and had an emergency kit with small epirb, VHF, and flares, just in case. The red line shows our track north. But when we crossed February Cove and approached the last point to round, it was clear the harbor was way way to rough. We were already in conditions that swamped the inflatable RIB and needed bailing a few times. We did not think it was safe to go any further. We spotted a small Marina with a local man watching our progress. We dink’d over to him and asked if we could store our boat there. He apologized and said that they were evacuating all boats, no boats were allowed at the dock. Pointing south, he said the bast place to store our dinghy was at Browns Marina, that was where he was taking all the boats tied up at his docks. So we turned around and headed south for Browns Marina. At least it was downwind and the trip, though still very wet, was not as rough. The dotted red line shows how close we were to our destination. We had to go the long way to Browns, we tried to make the cut to approach from the north, but with the dark sky and water, we could not find it. So we went with the safe bet, though longer ride route.

 

We made it to Browns Marina.


We used the IPad blue charts to navigate our way around the back channels and mangroves

 

.

 

It was a total of a couple of hours in the dinghy. Very wet and rough!! We were all soaked and tired, ready for a hotel room.

 

Scupper perked up as we neared Browns.

 

Brian’s looking fatigued. No pics of me, I’m a mess, perks of being the photographer. Later when we showered, we both had dried salt crusted in our ears as if packed with table salt :-). Now that’s salty sailors!

 

Brian cleaning out the dinghy and bailing it one last time before they haul her out and secure her to a trailer.


Browns marine was so sweet. Even though they were extremely busy, and I said we would call a taxi, they took the time to give us a ride into town. T/T Rain Dog as safe as we could get her, up on land, using one of their spare trailers.

 

Soaking wet from the dinghy ride we piled our meager possessions into the car. We packed everything in dry bags, so our stuff was fairly dry.

 

Tow Turtles Hotel

 

Two Turtles Hotel is where we, and many other cruisers, found rooms to ride out the storm. It was on high ground and seemed sturdy. Turns out, part of the Two Turtles used to be a bank. 

 

The Bunker. Remnants of the old bank, carved out of rock buried in the hill.  Wednesday night, crew of Speck, Judy and Irwin scoped out the bunker and assure it would be unlocked. Judy and I went room to room to inform everyone (9 people total) that the bunker was our plan b if the hotel rooms became unsafe. I even had an air horn to blow during hotel room evac so everyone would know we were going to the bunker. The now hurricane Cat 1 is still heading for us and weather predictions still call for a turn to the north. They now give us a 15% chance of seeing hurricane force winds, 40-60% it will head north, missing us completely.


Clean, simple furnishings, a/c, and TV πŸ™‚

 

Our hotel room was on the second floor facing into the courtyard. Brian, sunburned from the long dinghy ride but freshly showered and happy to be dry again.

 

Hurricane Joaquin 5 pm on Wednesday.


Wednesday afternoon. Long lines for gas.


The locals are organized and helpful getting the important buildings protected πŸ™‚


.

 

There are still a few boats out in the harbor, but most are near or in Kid Cove, which has a north wind protection. There are two or three boats with crew aboard who plan on riding out on their boats.

 

Horseman Trimaran out in the harbor. The captain will ride out the storm aboard. He has one anchor out. He had a 40lb Bruce with 5/16 high test chain. After a couple snubbers parted (5/8 three strand), he ended up with all chain, no snubber. His rode was attached to a chain stop. No damage to boat, no dragging.

 

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4 thoughts on “Hurricane Joaquin

  1. Awesome stories, well written, informative, gr8 pics, much appreciated long awaited update, & best of all you all & Rain Dog are in good shape. We were thinkink of you often. Now we hope our other friends in the Bahamas faired as well as you have. One anchor, pretty big decision…😎

    • Thanks for the kind words. Hope you are well.
      Erika

      PS
      Yes, one anchor was nerve racking. Being a sailor since I was 19, the multiple anchor tactic has been drummed into my head. After looking at our options, we decided one big anchor was the best bet.

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