Friday, 5 September 2008

Hurricanes hardly happen - Huh!

Well not in Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire anyway! It's a little different on this side of the Atlantic. The hurricanes are certainly picking up pace as we move into September. With Gustav battering the Gulf Coast of the USA, Hanna making tens of thousands homeless in Haiti, Ike already wavering between a Cat3-4 and Josephine whipping up power to the East of the Antilles the weather charts are looking like a shooting range.

Although we consider ourselves pretty safe here in the Rio Dulce, we are in the hurricane belt and, as we saw last season, it is not impossible that we may see some of these high winds come in our direction before the season is over. We have only been close to one hurricane since we have been in the Caribbean, that was Emily back in 2005 when we were in Tobago. Yes we thought we were below the hurricane belt but Mother Nature wasn't in on the idea!

We had a hard sail to Trinidad to get out of the direct path and spent many hours tying the boat deep in the mangroves with every line we had aboard. The sheer physical work of preparing to face a hurricane keeps fear at bay. Stripping the canvas, tying down stuff you can't remove, making sure the batteries are charged, laying anchors, it wasn't until we had done all we could that I began to feel any apprehension of what might come our way.

We were lucky. The eye of the hurricane passed some 50 miles to the north of us and the worst we felt were 60 odd knots of wind. But it was as close as I ever want to be I can tell you. The sound of those winds howling through the rigging, the lurch of the boat as the direction changed and she was blasted broadside, the unbelievable quantity of rain, the sky as black as's the stuff of nightmares.

At the height of the storm one of the three anchors we had laid moved and we had to crawl on to the fordeck to attach a line to stop us slewing sideways into a closely anchored boat. It was pretty scary stuff even though I realise now that it was a minor incident.

You won't catch me being in the wrong place at the wrong time again if I can possibly help it. I will never underestimate the sheer power of the forces at work when that wind begins to howl...

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