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17 October 2016

Hurricane Matthew Prep & An Annoying Tree Frog

One of the things you do when you live on a boat in southern Florida is to check out the National Hurricane Center forecast on a regular basis. I'd been keeping my eye on Matthew ever since he was a wee baby in the Atlantic Ocean. At first he seemed like a sweet, little boy. Maybe a little fussy, but nothing too serious Then he grew up, turned into a monster and started making his way up through the Caribbean and Bahamas with his sights set on the east coast of the States.

It became clear as the days went by that we were in the cone. Unfortunately, this isn't the kind of cone that's filled with chocolate ice cream. This is the kind of cone that's chock full of nastiness which can leave devastating destruction and loss of life in its path.



Indiantown Marina, where I live on our Moody 346 sailboat, Tickety Boo, is considered to be a hurricane hole. It lies in a protected area inland about halfway between Stuart and Lake Okeechobee. Because the marina is situated off of the St Lucie Canal behind a lock, it's protected from storm surge. If you've seen the pictures of the flooding that Matthew has caused or pictures of boats washed up on shore, you'll know how devastating storm surge can be.

In the days leading up to Hurricane Matthew's arrival, boats started heading into the marina from the coast to hide out. Many of the boats, especially the super expensive ones, are members of the Hurricane Club. For an annual fee of $250, they get priority when it comes to being hauled out in the event of a hurricane. (They still have to pay the standard haul out and storage fees on top of the Hurricane Club membership fee.) The parking lot basically became a boat storage yard. Even if I had wanted to get hauled out, I wouldn't have been able to as so many Hurricane Club boats made their way to Indiantown.


While the ladies in the office and the Travelift crew were working overtime to get everyone situated, I was busy prepping Tickety Boo for the hurricane. While we would be protected from storm surge here, the winds were forecast to be brutal. This meant I needed to remove as much windage from the boat as possible (i.e., anything the wind could grab a hold of) and making sure she was securely tied up in her slip.

Fortunately, the sails and anchors had already been stored away, so my focus was on doubling up my lines where possible, adding fancy chafe protection in the form of duct-taped towels to the lines, getting everything out of the cockpit, taking down my American flag and removing the sun shade and canvas.
 
Everything went smoothly until I tried to take down the canvas. The term "canvas" is shorthand for the dodger, bimini and connector piece which provide cover over a boat's cockpit. Here's what ours looks like on Tickety Boo. The previous owners had it made in Grenada and it's in relatively good shape. Or so I thought.


When I went to unzip the dodger from the bimini, I found that the zippers were seized up and I couldn't get then to budge. I was starting to have a minor meltdown when my friends Matt and Jessica popped by to check in. Perfect timing! Matt is a life saver. He dismantled the frame and we managed to fold and tie down the dodger and bimini. Not an ideal solution, but the best that could be done in the time we had to get ready for Matthew.




In the process, I ended up ripping part of the canvas off of a track while we were taking it off and some of the snaps broke. I needed to do some repair to the canvas anyway, so once I can get the zippers off (thanks to everyone for the great tips on how to do this on our Facebook page), I'll start in on this sewing project on my Sailrite.

Once Tickety Boo was all squared away, I made sure that I had enough food to last me for days in case we lost power. I also filled up my tanks and jerry cans so that I would have drinking and  washing-up water.

After I was as set as I could be, I joined Matt and Jessica on the patio to chill out with a beer or two while we waited for our friends, Michele and Bruce, to make their way from Sunset Bay Marina in Stuart to Indiantown. While we were there, Matt and Jessica made a video on their hurricane prep for their new You Tube channel.

After Michele and Bruce got situated, we all went out for a "last supper" at the local Guatemalan/Mexican restaurant. We savored every bite, not knowing if it might be our last hot meal for awhile. I tried to get to sleep early knowing that I would probably be up all of the following night with the hurricane.

At one point, I started dreaming that my boat had been boarded by pirates in search of treasure. After a while, I realized it wasn't a dream. People were actually on my boat. I dashed up top to find a boat trying to get into the slip next to me in the middle of the night.

We had been told that two boats would be coming into the two empty slips next to me, but when they didn't show up that night, all of the nearby boats tied off to the piling between the slips. When a hurricane is coming, the more lines you can have securing your boat, creating a sort of spider web,  the better. You can see the piling in this picture, along with a very expensive fishing boat in the slip across the way.


Because we had lines blocking off the slip the boat was trying to get into, someone had boarded my boat to release it. I joined in the midnight fun and we all pitched in and ended up getting the boat settled into her slip. I'm amazed that this guy was able to maneuver into the slip without hitting me or the fishing boat.


I trundled back to bed, desperate to get some shut-eye. Just as I was drifting off to sleep, I started to hear noises. Not the usual noise of the turtles banging against my hull, but a strange noise inside the main cabin. I searched and searched and searched to try to figure out what it was, but no luck. As I tried to fall back asleep, I heard it again, right next to me. I turned on the light and there was the culprit - a tree frog. I guess he was just trying to find a safe place to hide out from the hurricane too. Eventually, I managed to trap him and escort him outside. By this time the sun was coming up and Matthew was heading our way that evening. Oh well, sleep is overrated.

That morning, I did a few last minute things like remove the portable A/C unit, unplug from shore power, turn off the fridge and wait. Waiting is the worst part. We've been through some serious weather on our boat in New Zealand, like ex-cyclone Lusi and ex-cyclone June, but this had the potential to be much worse.

Thanks goodness for books. I read and snacked all day and waited. Then I read and snacked some more in the evening and waited. I would turn on my cell phone every couple of hours to get the latest track from the National Hurricane Center and the wind forecast and wait some more.

While I was waiting, one of the things I fretted about was that the boats parked directly behind my boat would come tumbling down and smash into Tickety Boo.

 
Turns out I waited for nothing. We ended up being incredibly fortunate in our neck of the woods. Hurricane Matthew tracked eastwards over the water and didn't make landfall near Stuart/West Palm as we had feared. We had some gusty winds, but nothing too serious. Sadly, that wasn't the case for so many people elsewhere.

Everyone got up the next morning, had a walk about to check things out and breathed a huge sigh of relief. I spent the day chilling out and counting my blessings.

What do you do to distract yourself when you're nervously waiting for something to happen? Have you ever experienced a hurricane or other scary weather event?

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25 comments:

  1. That would've startled me to hear someone on my boat in the middle of the night. I'm sure it was standing room only in the marina with so many boats. Glad you didn't get more than high winds.

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    1. We were incredibly lucky here. I only wish everyone else had been as lucky :-(

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  2. I'm with Alex - it would've freaked me out to hear someone on my boat like that!

    We've ridden out hurricanes - a couple of bad ones, others not so much - but it's always scary. (I can't even imagine being on a boat!) Plus there's the "storm fatigue" leading up to it, which is exhausting in a different way.

    Glad you all made it through okay!

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    1. You hit the nail on the head with "storm fatigue" - I was so mentally exhausted by the day of the hurricane with all of the prep and scary reports on the Weather Channel.

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  3. A lock? That explains everything. No wonder everyone runs to Indiantown, whether they can get hauled out or not. Did you have to make any preparations to Scamp?

    Stephanie @ SV CAMBRIA

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    1. Well, this is embarrassing. I forgot about Scamper until the last minute and then there was nothing I could really do. Fortunately, we didn't get winds high enough to topple her over.

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  4. I remember the earthquake in 1989. That was very scary. Very scary. You don't wait for those though, they just happen no matter what you're doing.

    I'm so happy you escaped this storm. I wish everyone else had too, but it was not to be.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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    1. Earthquakes are very scary. I've been in a few of them, nothing that serious, but it's still so disconcerting to feel the ground shake underneath you.

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  5. You obviously prepared very thoroughly, but so glad it wasn't needed. Better safe than sorry and happy that you were safe.

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    1. Definitely, always better safe than sorry. Happy to have done all that prep and not needed it in the end.

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  6. I hear you about the preparing, the waiting, and then the denouement. In our case we were supposed to get the 'storm of the century', with winds predicted in the 70mph range for our neck of the woods. Unheard of, actually. Everyone at the marina prepped, checked each other's boats, waited through the first wave of wind on Friday, the pre-storm to the big storm, then when Saturday came around watched our barometers. In our case, we worried and fretted about our house, surrounded by tall fir trees, much more than our boat. All for nothing. They totally didn't call this one correctly. Our top wind speed was 38 mph, which barely makes Galapagos take notice. People all went , 'Huh?'. Takes awhile to come down from that kind of adrenaline high when the stress has no place to go. But I'm not complaining. All our trees are still standing. Whew! Glad you dodged a bullet, too.

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    1. I'm really glad that storm in the PNW turned out to be nothing for both your boat and your house.

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  7. What an ordeal! Zips can be the bane of my existence - you don't notice them until they are being the worst. How wonderful Matt was able to help you. Snacking and watching a TV series are good ways to wait. Or an intense game of monopoly!

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    1. It was a good lesson to me that I should have checked the zippers long before that day.

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  8. I've not had to experience waiting for something like that. Glad you made it through OK. I've only been in one hurricane here in the UK, in 1987, but no one was waiting for it as the weatherman told us it wouldn't happen - you might have heard that story!

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    1. I wouldn't want to be a weather forecaster - half they time they get it wrong.

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  9. I had no idea there was anything like the Hurricane Club! Another example of what money can buy... I'm glad the hurricane veered away from you. Better safe than sorry with all the prep work. Have you tried Vaseline on the ceased zippers? One question:Why did you turn off the fridge after you unhooked the shore power supply? To save battery power on the boat or propane gas?

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    1. Good question - I didn't have anything that needed to be refrigerated by that point, so I turned it off to save on battery power. I worried that it might be cloudy in the days after the storm which would have impacted the solar panels. Plus, I think we have a dodgy battery so needed to conserve as much battery power as possible for things like lights and the water pump.

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    2. Aha. That makes total sense!

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  10. I've never been around anything like that. BC living is much more quiet. :-)

    I'm glad you got through it okay.

    Anna from elements of emaginette

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    1. Quiet living is a very nice thing to have :-)

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  11. I'm glad not to have such anticipation in my life but glad you made it through ok. Hope you get the zippers and canvas sorted too.

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    1. I'm glad you haven't had to deal with anything like this as well. It can be quite stressful.

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  12. I know absolutely nothing about sailing - but I hung on your every word.
    SO glad you remained safe during Matthew's visit.

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    1. Thanks! That's really good to know that it was of interest to people who don't know about sailboats. I try to write about things in a way that (hopefully) appeals to everyone no matter what their interests.

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