Dealing With Hanna

Once again we find ourselves preparing for a major storm. It just seems that weather has turned against us from the time we reached the west coast of Florida and is showing no sign of giving us a break just yet. The marina we are currently in is very exposed in severe weather and staying at the dock is not an option, so we made the decision to haul out if a storm did approach. We were off the boat and away visiting relatives on the west coast of Florida when it became apparent Hanna was moving in the direction of the boat. On Monday we made a call to the marina to let them know we wanted to haul out and made plans to get back. On Tuesday we drove for about 6 ½ hours and reached the marina late afternoon. Once again we verified that the boat was to be hauled and started getting it ready for the storm.

After 14 named storms we have pretty much gotten this down to a science. But the question still comes up, why do we do this to ourselves? While the winds were down and from the right direction we removed the headsail and depending on the potential of the approaching storm we either tie the main and mizzen securely with the sail covers on, or remove them altogether. Hanna is expected to only reach minimal hurricane force and pass to our east so we opted to leave the sails on and tie them down. With full battens and batten cars, removing them is a major task, but we would not hesitate in stronger conditions. Given the fact that the boat would be out of the water and in a more protected area, they stayed on the boat. But the headsail must come off no matter what. We have seen over the years what a loose flogging headsail can do during a storm. Our furling gear does have a hole in the base and the drum to slide a bolt in and lock it in place but we still don’t feel safe doing this.

Next comes securing the wind generator and the self leveler for the radar. Again, we have taken these down in the past for really severe conditions but not this time. Both were tied securely and the manual brake on the wind generator locked down tightly. Next comes the removal from the decks of all loose items that can get blown away or flog around in the wind. Also items like the GPS antenna that could be hit by debris are removed. The solar panels on the hardtop and over the dinghy davits are very vulnerable so they must come off, be wrapped in a protective blanket and stowed inside the boat. Items like the man overboard pole, Lifesling, horseshoe buoy and other safety equipment normally stored on deck are stowed inside the boat. Even though the electronics are supposedly waterproof we still cover them with plastic and tape it all down well with good old duct tape. The deck dorades are removed and the deck plates for them are put in place. This keeps wind blown rain from getting in below. The outboard needs to be removed from the dinghy and stored on its mounting bracket on the stern and the oars, life jackets, etc. which are usually in the dinghy are stowed in the boat as well. At the same time, we remove clothing we will need, important papers, expensive removable electronics and any items we feel we just can not afford to lose. There have been times over the years when we have completely stripped the boat inside and out. We have also ridden out storms on the boat on occasion but this is not a decision we take lightly. We do evacuate more than we stay on board and many factors come into play to finally make that decision. We do not recommend anyone staying on board since once things start to go wrong, in most cases there is very little that can be done and you put yourself in a life threatening situation. A boat can be replaced but a life or limb can not.

Since our hardtop and windshield can not be removed very easily, we still try to secure them as much as possible. In very strong winds it is conceivable that they could be lifted off go airborne. So we run lines over them and secure the lines to hand holds and to the taffrail. In addition, the topping lift for the mizzen is dropped enabling the boat to be hauled out backwards so the weight of the boom and the mizzen tied down at the stern help keep the hardtop in place. The boom end for both the main and the mizzen are secured so that they can not swing from side to side should the sheets give way during the storm. All hatches and ports are dogged down tightly and the hatches are taped all around to again keep wind driven rain out. We know from experience that water will enter from these storms from places that were never a problem before and except for storm conditions will not usually be a problem. Any other spaces that the winds might drive in rain are covered and taped down. Once we have checked and inspected everything over and over and are satisfied we have not missed anything we can just wait for the call to pull the boat out. And we waited and we waited. We are not sure how it happened but we went from what should have been first on the list for haul out, since we called well in advance, to the bottom of the list and one of the last boats to come out. But finally it did happen. I suppose it was due to the fact that we are transients and all of the other folks are locals at the marina full time. The currents here are very strong and the tides are 7 to 8 feet so we are pretty much relegated to high tide and slack water. The crews at the marina seem to be hauling boats all day but at max ebb and flow were mostly hauling power boats that could be pulled with a fork lift and larger power boats that could maneuver in the current. They did an outstanding job with both our boat and the other boats they hauled. Always very friendly, helpful and professional and it was obvious they knew their jobs and did them well. After a bit of adjusting of the travel lift because of our keel configuration we finally came out of the water. Hauling the boat is always a stressful time for us since we don’t do it very often. We were absolutely amazed at the growth on the bottom of the boat considering the fact that we had the bottom painted in Texas, hauled out and had it power washed and zincs replaced days before we left and had been on the move for over 2000 miles. We don’t know what paint the yard actually put on the bottom but suspect it might have been house paint.

Once she was out and on the stands we gave everything another once over looking for anything we might have missed. We still have some food in the fridge, although not much, so every system on the boat was shut down except the fridge and the bilge pumps. Yes, we leave the bilge pumps on when the boat is hauled out. I have seen too many boats sink on the hard over the years and if water does finds its way in we want a way for it to get pumped back out. Even with the fridge running every day, as long as the pumps don’t have to run for a long time, our battery banks will easily hold up for a week or much more with out any recharging. Since we will be staying nearby we will also be able to monitor things. Hurricane Ike is also in the Caribbean and our wonderful weather service does not have a clue where it is going so we may be out of the water for a time until it has either gone elsewhere or passes us by. One final duty is to cover the companionway so that the rains won’t get in and then just wait for the outcome. We have some wonderful friends here in Beaufort that are putting us up at their house until the storm blows through. We never get used to these things and it is always a very stressful time for us since we have everything to lose if the worst happens. But what ever happens is now beyond our control. Once again we have done our best and the rest is up to God, the universe, or whatever higher power might be out there, even if that higher power’s name is Hanna or Ike.

Hanna passes 85 to 100 miles to our east and on Friday we get rain for most of the day. The winds are up a bit but no more than 15 to 20 and the rains are only intermittent. The storm passes to the east Friday night and the winds still don’t get more than maybe 25 in our location. By Saturday morning the sun is shining, the day is clear and beautiful as the storm makes landfall in North Carolina and we have a nice day instead of the mess we expected. With any of these storms we have learned long ago that any outcome can be expected. The south coast of South Carolina dodged the bullet and so did Sea Trek once again. We would now have the task of putting the boat back together but we have never complained about not having to deal with a worst case situation.

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