After thoroughly pummelling a lot of the Caribbean hurricane Irma proceeded to give Florida a coast-to-coast thumping. With winds up to 130 mph on Sunday, swamping homes and boats, knocking out power to millions and toppling massive construction cranes over the Miami skyline.
The 400-mile-wide storm blew ashore in the mostly cleared-out Florida Keys, then marched up its western coast. Its punishing winds extended clear across to Miami and West Palm Beach on the Atlantic side but soon reached Tampa and St. Petersburg where Wookie was tied up at the Harborage Marina. The Tampa Bay region was lashed with winds of 85-95 mph winds but was spared the ferocity with which Irma pounded the Caribbean Islands, Bahamas, Cuba and Key West.
I am happy to announce that Wookie and all other vessels in my marina were undamaged.
Wookie Lashed Down
My marina is full of experienced sailors who like myself, have lived through several hurricanes in Houston and Florida. So with great camaraderie we all set about securing our vessels. For me securing Wookie meant the following:
- Storing the engine below and using the jib and other soft cushions to brace it tight in the quarter berth.
- Removing the jib.
- Lashing the mainsail to the boom (did not remove as my sail is small and tight on the boom).
- Lashing the boom down so it would not swing about. (When the storm had subsided to about 50mile winds I ended up having to lash a 36 footers boom, which had ripped the traveller off the deck. This meant the boom was swinging side to side against its rigging lines. This should have been lashed down and I feel the owner was lucky it did not damage his rigging wire. Had these snapped we may have seen the mast come down).
- Securing halyards tightly against the mast so that they would not bang.
- Lashing the tiller so it would not swing about.
- Using double lines on the bow and stern with chafing guards that were anchored in place with plastic electrical ties.
- Using spring lines and fenders on the dock side.
- Tying the port stern cleat to the neighbours boat as there is no finger pier between us.
- Attaching spring lines on the port side.
- Taping the anchor chock and tying the anchor down tight.
- Removing the shore-power cord.
- Making sure all ports were securely shut.
- All power inside the boat turned off.
- Used towels, rags to stuff all lockers so that things would not get bashed about.
- Finally… closing the hatch doors and taping these and the lazarette locker so the wind would not squeeze water into the boat.
With my boat secure I helped neighbours with their boats and made sure no one had any loose items on their boats that could smash into Wookie.
As the storm subsided I did have to adjust the lines of a 30+ Carver that were inadequately tied or had worked their way loose, resulting in it being parked tight against a lovely dark blue hulled Tartan sailboat. I hope the fenders between them prevented any unsightly scratches.
A Whisky Break (Dock Mates) – Jake, Tom & 4-Legged Dock Master
With all the preparations for Irma it was only sensible we took a breather to share some whisky………….. Maybe an excuse to enjoy some bottled courage.
Waiting For Irma – September 9th 2017
Why Not Leave?
I was asked many times why stay? Firstly, for days no one was exactly sure where the storm was going. Secondly, the idea of leaving Wookie to wander aimlessly about the country was not appealing. Finally – the scene below was worth staying to face Irma. It brought to mind a saying my Rhodesian buddies and I would often use back home – “think about it forget about it”.
Tracking The Storm
Tracking the storm was a long arduous journey that lasted a week. Watching the storm smash the hell out of island after island in the Caribbean was gut wrenching. For many of us who have sailed these islands we are well aware of the hell these islanders were going through, and the trauma they will endure having to rebuild.
Originally the storm was to go up the east coast of the USA, then the east coast of Florida, then the center of Florida before Irma (who I referred to as the bitch) zeroed in on St. Petersburg.
In the end we all hunkered down and tracked the storm as best as we could. Many of us lost power during the storm but we did have wifi with some using their cell phones as hot spots.
The Legend Remains Aboard Nikki
Not surprisingly, Bruce Bingham elected to stay aboard s/v Nikki at a very small marina amongst the mangroves near St. Petersburg. During the storm, the Tampa Bay area witnessed much of its water sucked away by the “bitch”. Consequently he remained to adjust his lines when the water was draining away and then rushing back. You would think that at almost 80 years of age he would cool it! Happy to note the Flicka’s naval architect (and my good friend) is safe and I assume as cantankerous as ever.
A Bullseye on Wookie
I guess this map says it all……….. she did a clumsy tango through the Caribbean, a steady waltz over the Dominican and Cuba, then twirled as if a fiddle called and took a sliding country two-step to pummel Key West and north to Naples before settling into a clumsy waddle passing Wookie by a few miles to the east.
The “Bitch” Blows By
Finally, the Bitch departed about 10am on September 11th. Her winds subsiding to 65 mph several miles east of the Tampa area, which meant we did not get the massive storm surges we were worried about.
September 11th – 9am Irma finally departing – A relieved skipper.
Some minor damage I saw on my brief inspection was one cleat had pulled out and one finger pier was broken. The main water system at the marina was broken and several boats/booms were not properly tied. However, overall the marina fared very well and I commend the staff at the Harborage Marina who went to great lengths to protect our boats.
A Crazy Hurricane Season
I feel very fortunate the “Bitch” in the end, did fizzle out a little bit as she roared by Wookie. We were definitely spared her wrath. I wish I could say the same for all of my friends in Houston (hurricane Harvey), the British Virgin Islands, Key West and the Bahamas. Lets hope Jose, who is still out in the Atlantic, spinning away does not head our way in a few weeks.
To end this post, it would be remiss of me if I did not take a moment to remember September 11th – this sombre day where many died in the United States. To celebrate this country, its people and their sacrifices for many others around the world.
Thanks for taking the time to read my latest post.