Shelter from the Storm

No one got any sleep that night in the motel. 

The four of us were crammed into one bed. The coming storm kept us tossing and turning, wondering what daylight would bring.
As it turned out, daylight didn't bring much in the way of light at all...it was a dark-grey-black-portend-of-doom-looking thing.

We had a handheld VHF radio in the motel with us to keep abreast of weather.
We learned from the last storm we spent in Escondido, that power and internet would go out soon...
That much we could count on.

At five am the radio started squawking.
Hurricane Paul was coming our way-and he was coming fast.

The weather models predicted various paths Paul might take, the majority had him swinging inland from the Pacific coast, around Magdellena bay-
The same bay that Kai celebrated his 10th Birthday in last March- 
and then heading on over our way. 
He could turn North or he could slam right into us.

Paul was upgraded to a cat 3 in the wee hours and now he was tossing out 150 mph winds and moving at 20 mph. 
Magdellena Bay is about 70 miles across the Baja peninsula from Puerto Escondido.
Time to get moving...

Jon jumped into his clothes and raced to the dingy to pump it out. I gathered the kids and within a half hour we were heading back to the boat.

The night before, I weighed the options about the safest place to be with the kids.
The motel in Tripuli is rustic and low profile...nestled at the bottom of a long, low valley beneath really, really steep mountains. Given the choice of battling a flash flood or a mudslide and trusting the structural integrity of a hotel who's pool was overflowing and had no power or communications (or any other guests, for that matter), or taking our chances aboard Pura Vida,  who was moored in a safe harbor with Jon at the helm- I choose to bring the kids back to the boat.

Jon had borrowed Terry's dive tank the day before and checked the mooring and added extra lines to secure us.
He had also pulled our headsail down the night before and made the basic preps for incoming weather.

We motored through a choppy sea, sideways rain and building wind back to the boat. The clouds whirling over our heads were dark and purple-tinged, my ears felt plugged the barometer was dropping so fast.
On every boat in the anchorage, people were on deck making their gear as secure as possible.
Larger, luxury yachts and even huge commercial shrimpers were coming from far-off ports, squeezing through the shallow entrance to the channel.
We had recorded 8feet on our depth sounder as we motored in the other day. I have no idea how the 60 foot shrimper snuck in here-but she did.

By 9am everything was starting to look pretty secure.
The solar panels were down, the bimini was off, the paddle board was stowed, every bit of of our  deck-side gypsy-life gear was safely tucked back in the boat; solar ovens, dive gear, solar showers and fishing poles and tackle boxes...
Jon put on a mask and fins and jumped into the swirling dark water to recheck the lines.
Only this time, he found a rather troubling issue with the thimble of the huaser line that he had not caught the day before- it was crumbling to bits.
Given that the winds were rising and the boat was spinning around on her mooring, there was not much he could do, other than put a new line through the swivel and double loop it to make it secure. Thank god, he caught it or it might have caused us a much bigger problem.
Jon climbed back aboard and added butchered plumbing hoses to the lines on deck to help cut down on chaffe.

Riding out a hurricane on a boat is busy thing to do.

The VHF radio was buzzing with traffic all day.

The local power and internet were out in Escondido and everyone could only get weather updates every 3 hours from the SSB.
The cruisers all tuned to the emergency hailing channel 16 to keep track of info. Until someone left a mic open, so 16 became a dead channel. The rest of the day, everyone surfed around, mostly on channel 22, swapping info and tidings and giving heads up and help to those who needed it.

Our friend Terrry ( and every other experienced cruiser) had warned us to watch out for chaffe.
A boat swinging on her lines in high winds can saw through even the strongest ropes in half an hour.
So every half hour ( and sometimes every five minutes), while the storm closed in on us, and the winds whirled around, we checked and re-checked our gear.

Several boats in our vicinity were having trouble with riding over their mooring lines in the big gusts of wind.
The lines were tangling under their keels.
This is a bad business on a boat. 
You need to have your lines doing what they should and holding you in place, not fouling under your keel.
When an older cruiser, a friend and a neighbor, was badly tangled and needed assistance, Jon threw on his mask and fins and freed the boat from the mess -just as the winds were starting to really pick up.
(He thanked us with a bottle of champagne the next day).
Everyone looked out for each other and kept an eye out for anyone who needed help.

At one point during the storm, a boat near us broke free from their mooring lines ( not checking chaffe !) and there was a nail biting few minutes as everyone in the vicinity desperately tried to hail them on the radio.
The renegade boat  was headed straight for the boat next to us and the couple who owned the one about to be T-boned, were on deck, yelling and waving their arms.
The wind swung around in a forty plus gust and the drifting boat started to head straight for Pura Vida.
Another skipper was on deck, blowing his ships whistle like crazy and finally, the sleeping captain of the stray ship woke up.
He had gone to bed when the storm started and turned off his radio!
Luckily, they got their engine going at the last moment and managed to find a new mooring and no one had any to suffer any damage-other than maybe a bruised ego.
-The snoozy skipper made a sheepish apology over the radio later that night.

As it happened, the hurricane was broken by the high mountain ranges surrounding Escondido and we were spared the worst of Paul.
I never recorded anything more than 40 knots around the boat although others had higher winds close by.
All in all it was a good practice run for us, and Jon especially, and once again Pura Vida and her crew survived, all in tact.

We were able to gain some confidence from the venture and even managed to pull off a smoked pork chops, mashed potato, peas and...gravy. A comforting dinner once the worst had passed.

The next morning brought high winds and clearing skies.

We dried out our very wet gear in the sun and put our girl back together...as we worked and chatted that old question came up, again...

Where will we go next?

Captain Jon prepares ship and crew for foul weather



kids snuggled in for the storm


The next day brought clearing skies
drying out









2 comments:

  1. the glittering eyeOctober 19, 2012 at 3:33 PM

    Where will any of us go next? WOW. A fantastic story.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I need to go dry out after that one.....
    :)
    Xoxo

    ReplyDelete