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28 August 2015

Thinking About Hurricanes Takes Your Mind Off Of Alligators


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About the only good thing that can be said about hurricanes is that thinking about whether one might come your way sure does take your mind off the alligators that swim near your boat. 


Since we became boat owners, I've found that I have a new interest in hurricanes and cyclones. (Hurricanes and cyclones are the same thing, what they're called depends upon where they start.) I'm usually far more interested in chocolate chip cookies and reading books, but when you start to hear the words HURRICANE and CYCLONE in the weather report and they're pointing at where you and your boat are, I forget all about cookies and books. 

My first experience thinking about cyclones was when we were in New Zealand. New Zealand is relatively safe from cyclones (although they do happen), which is why people overwinter there from the Pacific islands, but it can feel the brunt of ex-cyclones which still have hurricane or tropical storm force winds. We rode out two of these at Westhaven Marina in Auckland when we were full-time cruising there in 2014. Everything turned out fine both times, except for the computer, which is a long story and makes me look bad. You can read more about it here.

Now that we're back in the States in southern Florida on our new-to-us boat Tickety Boo during hurricane season, guess what I'm thinking about. Yep, hurricanes. First, there was Danny. Fortunately, Danny fizzled out and wasn't forecast to hit Florida.

Now we have Erika. Erika is looking to be a whole different story. I started to really pay attention to her on Wednesday when the forecasts came out showing her set to track into Florida. Where in Florida is anyone's guess. My favorite description is that Florida is in the "cone of uncertainty." 

We're living aboard our boat in Indiantown Marina during hurricane season (actually, I'm the only one on it now while Scott's in Scotland). One of the reasons we chose to come here was that Indiantown is supposed to be a hurricane hole. It's located far enough inland on the St Lucie canal near Lake Okeechobee that it should be safe from most hurricanes. Except when it isn't. Then boats get damaged and some even fall over. 

Lots of people store their boats on the hard here and they strap them down to the ground to keep them from blowing over. It's similar to what people do with RVs. Boat US describes what Indiantown Marina does in this article here.



We have some tie-down straps, but right now our boat is in the water and if we need to do hurricane prep, it will be about making her as safe in the water as she can be. Even if we wanted to get hauled out, we might not be able to. Indiantown Marina has a "Hurricane Club" - for $250, they'll guarantee that you'll get hauled out. We didn't pay the $250, so we're way down in terms of priority. The ladies in the office told me they've been getting a lot of calls about people wanting to haul out or lay up in a slip and we've been seeing more boats come over the past couple of days.

I'm guessing we may see a fair few boats make their way to Indiantown, especially before they close the locks. Along the Okeebhobee Waterway, 72 hours before a tropical storm or hurricane makes landfall, they keep the locks open from 6:00 am to 10:00 pm to allow boats to make safe harbor. Eight hours before landfall, they close the locks, and move the railway bridges and drawbridges into a locked position. Things you have to think about if you're not already inland. As if there wasn't enough to think about with a hurricane looming!

As of 5:00 AM this morning, the National Hurricane Center is showing Erika tracking west-northwest and heading into Florida early Monday morning. Yesterday, the track was along the eastern coast of Florida, today it shows Erika heading inland. Erika seems to have a mind of her own and things are still quite uncertain.

I'll be keeping an eye on things and be starting in on hurricane prep as needed today and tomorrow. We already took the sails down, but I'll need to remove the dodger and bimini to reduce windage. I'll also drop our dinghy from it's davits and secure it. Then it will be time to add extra lines and get some chafe protection in place and all sorts of other fun stuff. Good times.

If  you want to know more about hurricane preparation, check out what Carolyn at the Boat Galley has put together. 

Have you ever been in a hurricane? What kind of prep did you do? What do alligators think about when a hurricane is coming?

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15 comments:

  1. I had my boat in the Pahokee marina when Wilma came thru. The storm surge breached the breakwater and put my boat on the beach with the stern piling and a piece of the dock still attached. I would have been better off at Indiantown.

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    1. Yikes!! I just have to say it again - yikes!! In general Indiantown is probably a good hurricane hole, but it has been hit in the past with significant damage to boats. At least, you shouldn't really get too much of a surge in Indiantown because of the locks. We'll see what pans out over the next couple of days :-)

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  2. Our thoughts are in Indiantown too. At least they are still calling for it to be a tropical storm...that is better than a category 1. If we're lucky it'll move further west before it turns north. Let us know how it goes there. We weathered tropical storm Bill here on Texas Pearl and now it looks like The Pearl will get Erika. The joys of owning boats! Good luck.

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    1. Do you need anything checked on your boat?

      The 5pm forecast just came out and things are looking more promising with Erika potentially fizzing out and heading westwards. The NHS said that there is a significant chance that watches and warnings may not be needed in FL. Let's hope that's true!

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    2. That's what my husband has been saying, but my philosophy is worrying makes things better. He thinks I'm crazy...but hey the one time I didn't worry about a storm we got hit! It was only a cat 1, but it did a lot of busy work damage to our house...tiles blown off the roof, fence blown down, shop doors destroyed and trees mangled. So I try and do my part by worrying...it helps all those that don't believe in it! LOL

      Thanks for asking...I think everything we could do has been done. Maybe when the storm is over we could use a new picture of our little trawler :) We'll be keeping you in our thoughts.

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    3. I figure worrying is part of my job description - someone has to do it! I'll take a few snaps of your boat next week :-)

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  3. Yikes. Stay safe. I have managed to avoid hurricanes - only just though as we left St. Thomas the day before it was evacuated many years ago.

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    1. Great timing! From the 5AM forecast this morning (Saturday), it's still looking much better. I think (hoping) all we'll get is some rain (maybe a lot) and a bit of wind (but not too much).

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  4. Sounds like Erika may have decided not to visit Tickety Boo after all .. So glad to hear that on news this morning! You and MJ Sailing (and many others) have been in my thoughts.

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    1. Thanks Cheryl! She has just fizzled out to lots of rain :-)

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  5. Good luck, I hope that Erika veers away from you. I am assuming you have lots of chocolate chip cookies handy, just in case!

    www.travelwithkevinandruth.com

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    1. I was smart and stocked up on chocolate chip muffins. While other people were worried about getting enough emergency water, I focused on the really important things - chocolate!

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  6. Well done ! This is really nice and interested post all of us. we need to exchequer out chocolate chip once.

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