Thursday, September 3, 2009

Hurricane Jimena

The weather is hot and still. Hardly a breath of air. It's 11h30am on the 30th August 2009. David has rowed ashore to collect another 15 gals of water and 15gals of diesel. He will have to go back for more water, we have enough diesel now. We are watching the weather closely, very closely. Hurricane Jimena is on it's way. The wind velocity at her centre is 125kts at the moment, but the center is quite small and still a long way off. Jimena is also slowing she's picking up energy, and, she has turned towards us during the night. This is not good.

This quote was taken from a weather site called
''August 30, 2009 10h30 AM MDT Jimena is now a Category 4 Hurricane some 515 miles south southeast of Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur. Hurricane Jimena is expected to continue to build over the next 36hrs with winds of up to 155kts.''

The following is the ''history'' so far of this Hurricane.
Tropical Depression 13E formed on the evening of 8/28 from a large area of disturbed weather having been stimulated by a tropical wave. TD13E was upgraded to Tropical Storm Jimena at 3AA MDT on 8/29. Build rapidly, Jimena became a Category 1 Hurricane at 9AM, six hours later. Jimena became a Category 2 Hurricane on the afternoon of 08/29. Jimena became a Major Hurricane during the night of 08/30 and was upgraded to Category 4 in the 9AM release on 8/30.

Category 4 Hurricanes have winds between 131-155 miles per hour and an associated storm surge between 13 and 18 feet. The hurricane center’s damage estimate is that these storms will cause “some complete roof structure failures on small residences. Shrubs, trees, and all signs are blown down. Complete destruction of mobile homes. Extensive damage to doors and windows. Low-lying escape routes may be cut by rising water 3-5 hours before arrival of the center of the hurricane. Major damage to lower floors of structures near the shore. Terrain lower than 10 ft above sea level may be flooded requiring massive evacuation of residential areas as far inland as 6 miles (10 km).”

We were hoping that she would be cavorting off into the Pacific, but it seems that there is a Tropical storm out there called 'Kevin', heading our way, and Kevin seems to be pushing Jimena over towards us, sandwiching Jimena between him and the Baja Peninsular of Mexico. Oh yes I never said...we are anchored in La Paz, Mexico. La Paz is on the inside edge of the Baja Peninsular, 92miles or 148km from Cabo San Lucas at the point. So you see, we are probably going to be in the thick of it.

Why don't they pick up their anchor and sail away? you are probably asking. Well, if you have a look at the forecast track of Jimena, she will eventually cover pretty much the whole peninsular, so, nowhere to run. The best we can do is denude the boat of all canvas, find a good spot to dig our anchors in and sit it out. Remember we are looking at forecasts...these are not carved in stone, they are just estimates as to what may happen.

I know a chap who sat through Hurricane Luis, a large and devastaing Hurricane, in St Martin the Caribbean...he took onboard 4 or 5 videos to keep himself and his crew entertained during the hurricane. He told me that he hadn't realised just how loud the wind can get and so they couldn't watch the videos.....

Two weeks ago our windlass decided to expire. Now for the uninitiated, a windlass, is not a young lady full of wind, but a device that pulls our anchor up from the depths. David has had to pull and belay the anchor by hand, consequently we haven't moved for a while.
Fortunately for us we have managed to find an excellent almost new windlass and David has been rebuilding the deck for it. Our last windlass was a vertical one and this one is a horizontal I won't go there, it's enough to know that they are different and the way to fit it to the deck is different too, so hence the rebuild. Plus David decided that he wanted the area to be stronger. He is, at the moment, doing some re-wiring, as he discovered that one of the wires had corroded. Later today he will be putting the final nuts and bolts together. If he finishes in good time, today, we may decide to hunt out our new spot for the duration of the hurricane, if not it will be the first thing we do tomorrow.

Everything looks so peacefull and normal out there.

These photo's are of all the same evening....the sun at different stages of setting....who would believe that there was a hurricane on it's way.

Late afternoon...5pm, 17h00...the wind is getting up and the sailors that have been here for years are talking on the radio about a's a wind that can spring up out of nowhere and smack at 70 knots. They occur even when there isn't a hurricane immenent. There are some rather hefty rain clouds and for the first time since we arrived here I think we are actually going to see some of that rain. It normally rains in the mountains and all we get is the humidity.
David and I are finishing our lunch/dinner/tea, whatever you would like to call it. We look at each other and simultaneously get up to start taking in the shade covers we have spread all over the boat. Twenty minutes later just as all the covers are rolled up and tied down, the wind arrives...hmmmm only about 25 knots...oh well, it could have been worse. Better yet, here comes the rain...wonderfull! It rained for quite a while..sort of cleaned the boat, but not much. We are not really worried about having a clean boat right now. The hurricane will ensure that it will be filthy, so there is no point in bothering. Why will a hurricane make the boat filthy, ... well the wind kicks up the dirt on land and along with water spray and/or rain it then proceeds to coat your boat with a layer of mud. The last Hurricane Delta left us with a 3/4 inch of mud aong the windward edges of the shrouds., everything was brown, the genoa had to be taken down and scrubbed with a broom and soap, but we never got it properly white again. We were cleaning mud of the boat for about 3 weeks afterwards.

31st August 2009
Speaking of the hurricane...Jimena has again veered towards us. Sods law I call it. I have taken all the shade covers off and stowed them below, the kayak is tied down to the deck, we will probably 'sink' the dinghy (Flea, is her name,) and tie her to the mangroves, (if there are any). This means that we fill her with water so that her gunnels are at surface level, she has two boyancy tanks built in and we will also attach some fenders for floatation. If she sits 99% below the surface and we tie her to the mangroves, her chances of survival are very good. Otherwise she will probably be trying to learn how to fly, and we will have enough on our hands without having to deal with Flea too.

David has just got back from doing a water run and buying some electrical bits for the windlass. Yes he is still doing that, he's fitting in a button into the deck so that you can stand on it to activate the windlass and pull in the chain.

It's 1 o'clock and we are lifting the anchor to go and collect another CQR anchor that a friend is lending us. This will give us 3 heavy good anchors. A Claw, our main one, the CQR, Bob's one, and the Danforth that will be deployed if we lose either of the other anchors. It was easy to collect the anchor, there was a small bouy attached to it. I drove the boat up and positioned it over the bouy so that David could pick it up with a boat hook. He hauled it onboard and we were off. We had an idea as to where we wanted to ride the Hurricane out, and that's where we were heading.
We navigated through a few other boats, riding on anchors and moorings, hoping that they would all survive this with little or no damage.
Soon we passed the two docks on the Magodi, a spit of land that sticks out and makes this anchorage safe from huge waves, and we were almost at the spot where we wanted to anchor. We had been told that the holding here was excellent. There is another boat, it's Solar Planet, slowing down we had a chat with them. They had bow and stern anchors out and seemed quite ready for anything, though to be honest we don't like the idea of a bow and stern anchor...the boat can't feather to the wind and it causes extra strain on the anchors.....To the south was a wreck of a 36ft yacht sticking out of the water, balancing on a raised mound of sand, and to the south east was a couple of huge barges rafted up together. We didn't like the look of these. The question being, what if they dragged or came adrift? We would be right in their paths.

We motored on. As we went further and further west we realised that there was a spot in the middle of this new bay that would be deep enough for us, if we could get there. The water around this 'hole' was pretty shallow, sometimes less than meter. For once our depth sounder was working...we wound our way through to the hole and at 15h30 dropped the anchor. I put the boat into astern and pull back on the anchor...she dug right it...what a relief, the holding is good here too.
The great thing about this spot is; It's shallow all around us so there is not a lot of water for the wind to pick up and make into huge waves, there is nobody else around us to drag down on us and if something does get loose it will go aground long before it gets to us. I am very comfortable with this anchorage. One of the things we promised ourselves after our last hurricane was; ''if we are ever in this kind of situation again, we will either sail away into the ocean if possible or find a remote spot away from everyone to anchor''. It's not possible to sail away from this one so we have found our remote spot. What a relief.

16h00, the first anchor is set, the main still has to come off and the rain has arrived. It's belting down, we hide out inside, confident that by 17h30 we will be able to go outside and continue the work. We ate a cold dinner. Tomorrow I'll make a bolognaise and rice. The weather will be cold and wet, we will need warming up. The rain and wind never let up...soon it was dark.

1st September 2009.
We must start to get the mainsail off the boom....the boom is 5.7meters long and the mast is 55feet high from the boom...the main sail is HUGE and fully battoned which makes it extremely heavy. It's 06h45, the sky is heavily overcast and the mountains are difficult to see through the mist of rain over them. It's still quiet here. We decide to get that mainsail off before any wind arrives. By 08h00 the main is off and we are flaking it on the deck. There is intermittent drizzel, and we have a breeze of about 5 knots. David and I fold and roll up the main. The idea was to stow it below, but it's just too big so it ends up in the cockpit.
Next is the second anchor. David and I discuss how to lay it so that when the wind changes direction and we swing around, we don't trip up the first anchor.
It starts to rain, we'll get soaked before we are finished this chore. I put the boat into astern and we reverse up to the spot where we have decided to drop the CQR. In it goes and everything runs smoothly. Great.

This is how Flea is normaly carried on Puddytat, with the solar panels across the the panels are off and in the cockpit.

Now for Flea, she is suspended between two davits on the back of Puddytat, and she will probably flap around in the wind if we leave her there. David drops her into the water and passes me her oars, bailer and anchor. He jumps into the water and fills Flea up by taking her bung out. She won't sink completely due to her built in boyancy tanks, but at least she will be protected from most of the wind. David snorkels on the props...they are covered in barnacles and need to be cleaned. So he stays in the water and does the job. It still raining.

It's 09h00. The VHF comes alive with one of the yachties reporting on the Hurricanes status. The centre is now 30miles wide...not 10. the barrometer reading in the center has climbed from 700 odd to just over 900millibars...THIS is GREAT news, this means that it's losing it's intensity, and it's veered off to the west a bit more and will make landfall higher up the coast than originally thought. Wonderful news.

We are ready. 10h30 and all the preparations are done. The wind at the moment is probably 15 to 20knots, and the rain has cleared for a bit. David is making coffee and bread. I'll start lunch. Man I'm hungry.

Midday.... Lunch is simmering and the bread is rising. The rain has started again, wind speed about 20knots again is blowing from the ENE. The Hurricane is supposed to arrive at about 17h00...

Seems like it's early. Haha ..I woke up from my nap to see David taking the newly baked bread out of the oven, yummy smell, and to realise that things were noisier. The time is 15h00 andthe wind's speed has been rising for the last half an hour. Still it isn't at all that strong. The rain is pelting down, visibility is down to 80ft or so. it's cold, windy and very wet out there, warm and snug in here. It's good to know that the boat hasn't got anything that will obstruct the wind, that we are nicely streamlined.

We just had an announcment on the VHF, Jimena has been downgraded to a catagory 3. Woohoo! That's great news. Things are looking up. It's gone quiet. This feels wierd. A chap comes on to the VH and tells us that Jimena is at 22deg N and 111deg W and that it's reducing in strength. He also says that the eye will be level with us at 22h00, Huh I say to myself, that's impossible. We are at 24N 120 miles away still, the Hurricane is travelling at 10 t0 12knots it will take it 10 t0 12 hours to get here...He then goes on to say that there will be no more heavy winds and that we can look forward to a quiet night. I am amazed. No! I think, the wind will start to rise and gain intensity by about 2am and then the eye will get level with us at about 10h00 tomorrow, we will still be having whatever she will throw at us for at least 4 or 5 hours after she has left us.....I discuss this with David, yes, he agrees. There are some people out there that will be getting a surprise if they think they are going to sleep tonight, he says,...shame.

Anyway things happen almost as we thought, The wind gets up in intensity at about 01h00am, but not having a wind meter we don't know how hard it's blowing...we take a guess and decide that it's about 30 to 35knots....nothing to worry about. We have set up the GPS with waypoints to show where we dropped the anchors and once we have been pulled out by the wind David sets our position on a hand held GPS. This will tell us the distance from our original position. It's working well. We never get further than 36meters from our orignal position, this means we didn't move, we were just swinging around on the anchors. After a while of vigilance we realise that Puddytat is secure. During the night David and I get some much needed sleep, about 3 hours each I think. We think the wind never rose higher than 35knots. The waves never got higher than 2ft 6inches. A very comfortable time.

I woke up at 06.30 to the same momentum that I went to sleep at, at about 03.00. Gentle rocking, and a cooling 30 odd knot wind. I hauled myself up and took a short video of the dawn, a couple of photo's, chatted a bit to David while he prepared his first espresso coffee of the day, and set about making his toast for his breakfast. I drifted off to sleep again.

10h00, nothing's changed, winds the same..gusting faster every now and then but nothing to get excited about. We eavesdrop on the VHF and hear stories of boats that have dragged during the night, what they did and where they are anchored now. One of them was Solar Planet. Yes, we are really pleased that we didn't anchor near them.

David and I wonder how the people, who dragged in this little wind, would actually do in a real Hurricane...not well, we think. That's always the problem with things like this. People have no idea how strong the wind can get and they also rely on tiny little anchors, some of which we would only use for our dinghy, never for a full sized yacht. Then they drag and then they panic and then they crash into your boat and damage is done...nooooo we stay well clear.

16h00 the wind has died down considerably, David has gone swimming to retrieve Flea and bail the water out of her. Two of her fenders came loose during the night, one we rescued and is on Puddytat, the other is still barely hanging on. So these will be retied so she looks good again. The water is now muddy brown, after being churned up all night.
The sun is out and the world is returning to normal again. We have decided to spend another night out's so pleasant, and go back to our old anchor point in front of La Paz city tomorrow midday.
Life is good.

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