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."
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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