Campbells' Quest: When Good Names Go Bad (BLOG) - PassageMaker

First Published October 13th, 2015

CQ7

Hurricanes, cyclones, and typhoons wreak the same havoc under different names. In the Atlantic and Northeast Pacific it’s “hurricane” in the Northwest Pacific; “typhoon” and “cyclone” in the South Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Bimini was beautiful and new and happy until it wasn’t. Paradise tarnished when the Bahamas gateway became a speedboat disco on weekends with deck parties blaring until the early hours. Brown’s Marina and the Big Game Club were still Hemingway cool, but when Hurricane Danny slapped Dominica and turned in our direction, we ran Largo to the deepest hurricane hole we knew without even a look back.

The narrow rock pass cut into GHC, leading to the Marina. Best run during daylight.

The narrow rock pass cut into GHC, leading to the Marina. Best run during daylight.

We anchored late in the day over white sand in calm seas near North Rock, and woke early for the 12-hour run to Great Harbour Cay Marina. Radio chatter confirmed other big boats moving to Great Harbour Cay for protection, which was easy to understand from a satellite view. The Marina is tucked away from storms; hidden below high ground in the island’s center and accessed only by a narrow rock pass through deep water.

Hurricanes, cyclones, and typhoons wreak the same havoc under different names. In the Atlantic and Northeast Pacific it’s “hurricane” in the Northwest Pacific; “typhoon” and “cyclone” in the South Pacific and Indian Oceans.

But nomenclature has the smallest impact in a big-weather event, and our fear of Danny reached far beyond his etymology. Whatever we called the storm barreling our way, neither of us had been on a boat in one, and survival was our only thought. At the time, we didn’t know we would re-do the drill twice more within two months.

There are a few basic rules in hurricane prep.

As longtime Florida folk, we knew the routine: water, food, power, batteries, communication, a clear plan “A,” and an evacuation plan if Plan “A” failed. On a big trawler, we live by this routine every day, so most of the checklist was done before we started: stored water, a watermaker, solar power, two generators, a 1700 amp hour battery bank with a large inverter/charger, redundant 12v and 120v electrical systems, freezers, a month’s supply of canned, frozen, and dry food, a sat phone, Bahamas and U.S. cell phones, portable and fixed VHF radios, iPads, medicine – all checked off. But that’s everyday life on a liveaboard boat.

Dock Line Outline

This Category 1 wind and rain storm was challenging us with a whole new game we were scared to play, requiring a new checklist for our safety: secure the boat from storm and surge, lock down all seams against leaks, test all primary and backup bilge pumps, and have a plan for severe water inside the boat – the kind of flood bilge pumps were never designed to handle.

Then there is the plan for everyone else’s stuff, the defensive storm prep: checking all boats for secure ties, lashing down loose debris and furniture that may become airborne, and so much more. We drew up a list with the help of Marina staff (a legendary hurricane hole knows a lot about storm prep), and we walked the marina together making notes and plans to fix the dangers in order of priority. We are newbies – and we're learning from friends and boat neighbors as we went along, trying to help and stay out of the way.

We moved our boat and strung her out between two concrete docks, using a large inventory of stout lines to build a spider web of protection for Largo. In the photographs, you can see the final plan and a photograph of 14 lines designed to be adjusted from the boat, and hold Largo centered in a severe storm surge. Up to a point, the plan was to stay aboard. Up to a point.

Fourteen lines and one Jay Campbell.

Fourteen lines and one Jay Campbell.

Before we finished securing the marina and Largo, Hurricane Danny swerved south to the Dominican Republic, and ran out of steam. We were clear for the moment, but none of our work went to waste. In a very few days, Hurricane Erika appeared, and shortly after that, with me on the mainland, the real monster banged at the door: Joaquin.

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