After the storm
“The dark sky lit up and the thunder rumbled immediately after; longer and more deeply than we’ve ever heard.”
This week we were expecting our first tropical storm and had to prepare for it. Since we’ve been in the Caribbean, the winds have been much more predictable and moderate than back at home, but that was the dry season. The hurricane season runs from 1st June to 30th November and this means we can get wet weather and tropical cyclones ranging from a depression up to a hurricane. Thankfully hurricanes don’t hit Grenada too often and we knew that this was not going to be a hurricane. Two days before the storm our phone data stopped working. This meant we couldn’t update our weather forecasts and had to rely on the morning Grenada cruisers net on the VHF radio for the weather forecast. As the days grew closer, we were told the cyclone had been upgraded from a tropical depression to a tropical storm. The Grenada cruisers Facebook group was full of contradictory information about what this would mean. The forecasting apps showed winds of 30 knots with gusts up to 40 knots, although one of the models was showing gusts of 50+. We overheard someone in a marina café saying that the wind funnels between the islands and you should add on another 10 knots to the winds that have been forecasted. So we were rather apprehensive about what would happen.
With the forecast still showing that Grenada was going to be in the eye of the storm, we needed to prepare the boat to withstand whatever may come as much as possible. The first thing to do was to put down a second anchor. Luciano took the heavy anchor and the long length of thick heavy rope that we use for this purpose in our flimsy inflatable dinghy and dropped it with a splash at what is supposed to be a 45 degree angle to the other anchor, although ours was more like 30 degrees due to the position of the other boats. However, we were still concerned. We had dropped a second anchor when we realised we were dragging with our main anchor in Barbados and it hadn’t helped at all. Still, our main anchor is much better now and had already been tested in winds of 35 knots. The other dilemma was whether to stay where we were or to try to move closer in to a more sheltered position. We were nearer the entrance to the bay than most other boats. Two other boats nearer the entrance moved to be closer in nearer the mangroves. We decided to stay put. We knew that one of the risk factors was boats on unattended moorings coming loose in a storm and bashing into you. We had three boats around us with no one on them, but we had been told by other cruisers that they were all on new moorings which had been checked recently, so that reassured us.
On Tuesday when the storm was due to hit, we brought down our cockpit tent in the morning, as we were concerned about strong winds ripping it. We also wanted the visibility to look and see if we, or any other boats were dragging. Torrential rain started that afternoon. It poured and poured. We put down towels in places inside where we had leaks from windows and hatches - mainly on our bed! Luciano put butyl tape around one of the rigging posts which turned out to be one of the sources of the leaks. The temperature rose inside as the hatches had to remain tight shut. It is always warm in the Caribbean. We put out some saucepans to try and catch some rainwater, but then the lightning started. The dark sky lit up and the thunder rumbled immediately after; longer and more deeply than we’ve ever heard. The saucepans suddenly looked like potential lightning conductors, so we brought them in, nervously grabbing them soon after a flash had passed. We wrapped one of our deflated standup paddleboards around the metal pole that runs through our saloon and is what holds the mast in place - Chocolate was having a nap in there and this felt like some sort of safety precaution. We put our electronics in the oven. Looking at our instruments, we saw that the wind was approaching thirty knots, but we knew that the worst of the storm was supposed to hit in the middle of the night between midnight and 3.00am.
By evening it was still raining hard, but the wind speed was not too strong, between about 15 and 25 knots, often dropping well below that. The wind stayed in the east, which was good for us as we had most protection from that direction. By bedtime there hadn’t been much change. We took it in turns to wake up every hour to check to see if the wind had increased. By the morning we looked at each other in puzzlement. The wind hadn’t increased. Was that it? We had no phone data to check online. At 7.30am the cruisers network announced over the radio that the storm had passed. Very sadly a couple of boats not far from us said they had been struck by lightning and were looking for electricians. We’re not sure if it was just because we were in a well protected anchorage that the winds didn’t get very high, or if it was just that there wasn’t enough time for the winds to build up as much as predicted, but we had a relatively easy time of it. There is another tropical wave on its way, but this one is unlikely to turn into a tropical cyclone due to the environmental conditions. The water now has had a bit of debris floating around; twigs and grass and a few coconuts, but nothing too serious.
We solved the mystery of our phones - it turns out that our SIM cards we bought in Martinique are not supposed to work outside of Martinique using the top ups we had been buying and the system had only just caught up several months after we left Martinique. Very annoying as they wouldn’t give us a refund for the top ups we had made and couldn’t use. We’ve now switched phone companies, have new SIM cards with a Grenadian phone number and can access the internet again. The weather is still showery but the wind has completely died, so all the boats are facing in random directions. Errands off the boat have to be done quickly inbetween showers. We’re relieved we’ve passed through this storm unscathed but we will be a little nervous about the safety of the boat when we are back in England. Grenada doesn’t get hit by hurricanes very often, but in 2004 and 2005 it did. Hurricane Ivan in 2004 was particularly severe, knocking over boats in the boatyards and ripping the trees off the mountains. 80% of Grenada’s nutmeg crop was destroyed. August and September are the most likely times to get a hurricane. Hopefully we will not be unlucky with a bad hurricane, but there will be nothing we can do about it. That’s why you pay through the nose for insurance while sailing in the Caribbean. But the risks are so worth it. Warm water to swim in, beautiful scenery and friendly people and the freedom to sail to the next place when your nomad’s mind starts to wander. Moreover, you live on your own personal island with no one to tell you what to do!
This week's Vlog.