As Hurricane Florence approaches the east coast of America, my husband, Simon, and I have been reflecting back to last year when Hurricane Irma hit. At this very same time last year we took our boat out of our marina, moved her up a river, anchored her in the safest place we could find and then left the area for higher ground.
Hurricane Irma was the third storm that our sailboat survived while living in South Carolina.
After spending the hurricane season as liveaboards in Charleston we decided another season on the south east coast of America was not tenable. Our boat, Britican, is now in Trinidad, just north of Venezuela. She’s in an area that hasn’t seen a hurricane since the 1930’s.
I couldn’t go through the fear and anxiety of potentially losing our home for another season. And it wasn’t just the fear of losing our home that was the issue…
During the lead up to a impending hurricane a liveaboard has several days to contemplate options.
With a boat you can move it – but should you move it south or north (east or west)? What if you move your boat to a worse position? What if the hurricane changes course (as many of them do)?
And if you don’t move the boat there’s at least two days of hard labor to prepare the boat to weather a storm. The sails have to come off, valuable possessions need to be packed, every vent and opening needs to be sealed closed and on the preparation tasks go.
Unbeknownst to many people, most marina’s along the east coast of America have hurricane evacuation policies.
The evacuation policy isn’t for people – it’s for the boats (and the people)! That means that some marina’s might have a clause that states something like, if a Cat 2 or higher hurricane is projected to hit you must move your boat out of the marina. Many marinas, like the one we stayed at – the Charleston Harbor Marina, were not created to withstand hurricane force winds or tidal surges.
By the time the marina knows it’s going to be a Cat 2 (for example) there’s usually not much time left. Perhaps a few days at most. So – even if you deliberate back and forth on whether you move out of the marina or not, in the end, it might be forced upon you.
When marina’s evacuate their tenants, the boat owners usually have no other choice but to anchor somewhere outside the marina or up a nearby river.
They then have to figure out how to get to shore and discover if it’s possible to leave the dinghy on shore.
(As I type this one of our readers just text me noting that he’s being evacuated from his marina in Beaufort, SC. Simon has been on the phone non-stop answering questions and trying to provide support to our mentee’s that have boats in NC and SC over the past couple days. Having lived through a few hurricanes Simon is eager to offer as much help as possible).
Also, it’s not just the boat you have to consider.
What do you do with the dinghy? During Irma we had to leave our dinghy tied to the back of the boat (long story about why we couldn’t secure the dinghy), but when our neighbors returned to our boats (before we got there) they found our dinghy blown into the reeds. Thankfully, it didn’t have a scratch on it but it was the end for our old outboard. Our sailboat also dragged to the side of the river, but we were incredibly lucky that no damage was done.
With all these things to manage it can be easy to forget about personal safety.
During Hurricane Mathew, we left things relatively late. Simon and I even deliberated about staying on the boat while anchored up the river. My brother called me and said, ’Nothing is more important than you and the family. Stop farting around. Get the boat sorted, get in the car and get out of there.’ I think I was in a bit of shock but after hearing my brother I snapped out of it and realized that he was right. I had to do the best I could for our boat, our home, and then make sure my family and I were safe.
So what’s my purpose for writing this?
Hurricanes suck. In the past they seemed to be far and few between. But for some reason they seem to be getting bigger and hitting areas that have been relatively quiet for many years. When buying a boat it’s not just about choosing the right boat. It’s also about choosing the right location for the boat – especially during hurricane season.
For boat owners living through Hurricane Florence our hearts go out to you.
We know how terrible it is to deal with hurricanes. For those that haven’t purchased a boat yet, this is one of the crappy sides to owning a boat. Perhaps if the boat is new and you have insurance (that will pay out) it’s not the end of the world…but let me say that the longer you own your boat the more you fall in love with her; the more she becomes a part of the family and the more your heart breaks when you know she’s in danger.
Simon and I have been reporting our highs and lows for over four years now. For the most part, we do live the dream. We love sailing, the lifestyle, community and our sailboat. It is a dream that’s totally worth pursuing…but there are problem areas and hurricanes is one of those areas.
Okay – you got the message.
We’re sending positive thoughts to boat owners and landlubbers alike. It’s too late to be too useful now but Simon and I have created a Hurricane Preparedness guide. It includes a few checklists that we used to keep our boat as safe as possible. If you’re ever going to keep your boat in a hurricane prone area it might be worth having.
More about Hurricanes
- All About The Caribbean Hurricane Season
- Waiting for a hurricane to hit – here’s how it feels…
- Preparing our boat for a hurricane!
- Hurricane Irma
- Hurricane Irma Update
- Sailboat Hurricane Plan – Anchoring up a river!
- Preventing Anchor Drag – Lessons Learned