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Am I being outright reckless?

So. I'm currently a little bit south of Fort Pierce, FL, and pointed south.

I've had a number of discussions about this. Obviously, heading south puts me in the hurricane zone. However, if you run the numbers, the chances of actually getting hit by a hurricane are pretty small. Of course, the counter argument to that is that getting hit is a major life-threatening disaster.

I've pointed out a few times that if a hurricane does pop up and threaten me, I can hop into the gulf stream and run north to get out of the way. When I tell people that, they generally nod like it's a reasonable emergency plan.

However, it took me a lot longer to get the boat ready to go than I expected. And after a few days living at anchor, moving south ... I'm starting to have second thoughts about whether my skills are well enough developed to "go offshore and run north" should I need to.

Maybe in typing this I've already made up my mind, but I thought I'd open it up for discussion. I hear the Chesapeake is lovely in the summer, and mostly safe from life-threatening storms ... maybe I should just make that my home for the summer?
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Re: Am I being outright reckless?

Reckless is very subjective
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Re: Am I being outright reckless?

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Reckless is very subjective
Can't argue with that. However, I think that's part of the problem. When I try to get advice on whether my plan is a good one, it _sounds_ well thought-out, so a lot of people subjectively assume I'm not being reckless.

But I'm starting to have second thoughts. No matter how much research I did into the plan. Maybe I don't have enough experience to actually execute it?

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Re: Am I being outright reckless?

Well, it's going to work out fine.

Unless it doesn't.

But if it's going to happen, it's going to happen out there...
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Re: Am I being outright reckless?

You obviously do not have insurance, or this decision would have been made for you.

Running with the Gulf Stream North is easy and fast. You don't need to go all the way to the Chessie if a storm is coming. The bight of Georgia between Brunswick and Savanah is relatively free of direct storm hits, and those two places are inland.

However, this decision isn't as clear-cut and easy as you think.

First, the chance of getting hit by a hurricane in the area you are in is actually large. The chances are only small when you play with the variables to make them that way. For example, include the entire state of Florida, and all years back to recorded time, and you may think that the chances are low. But include just the area between Ft. Pierce and Miami, and just the years of forecasted expected active hurricanes, and the chances are such that most insurance companies are forbidding boats to be in this area right now. In the recent past, there was a forecasted predictive lull in hurricanes in the SE US due to global weather patterns, and this area didn't see a hurricane for a decade. In the past 3yrs or so, the forecast predictions were for active hurricane seasons, and this area took 3 major storms that did considerable serious damage. They should have been even worse, but the storm paths took the most optimal paths through the area to do the minimal damage possible. If they hadn't danced such a fine line, the damage would have been widespread and catastrophic.

Second is the decision when to run North. We've played this game several times in several places in the US and Caribbean, and that decision is extremely hard to make correctly and without emotion. The best that you can hope for is that the time to leave is clear to you, and that the weather in the Gulf Stream North is amenable. If it isn't, you have put yourself between a rock and a hard place.

The safest bet is to run north as soon as a storm looks like it has a good probability of hitting your area. This is generally 1-2 weeks notice. However, the forecast path is highly uncertain then, and it is likely that you made the passage for no reason, or the storm hits you where you went (albeit, generally less dangerous).

The worse thing that will happen is that inertia and uncertainty sets in, you keep second guessing when to leave, talk to people in the same situation, and convince yourselves that the best course of action is to stay put.

You don't mention why you are in Ft. Pierce, or where you are headed South, but the summer cruising isn't very good there. The summer cruising isn't very good in the Chesapeake either in July/August, but it starts becoming good soon enough, where SE FL stays crappy until October/November (and isn't that good then).

On the other hand, you have made good progress South that will have to be regained the hard way against wind and current, or mind-numbing motoring in a ditch, to get back.

Clear as mud now?

Mark
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Re: Am I being outright reckless?

Bill - as a frame of reference, my boat has been in Florida for over 30 years and has survived. She was within 50 miles of the eyes of hurricanes Georgeís, Charlie, Frances, Jeanne, Katrina, Rita, Wilma, and Irma. Storm prepped and tied to a dock or spiderwebbed across the mangroves each time. The key, in my opinion, is having a plan and being willing to secure the boat and evacuate yourself to a safe place.

And I found the Keys to be a great place for summer cruising - awesome snorkeling, good sailing conditions, and easy to find anchorages away from the mosquitos.

YMMV, of course, but I donít think itís reckless to be in Florida during the season if you have a plan.
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Re: Am I being outright reckless?

On the Western Pacific side hurricane tracks are pretty confined and relatively easy to avoid. Unfortunately that's not the case with the Western Atlantic storms. You can head south close to South America and stay clear of most storms. If you are in the hurricane zone there is a lot of ground to cover to get out of there way. The cone of their track is quite wide when they are far enough away to try and stay clear but you would have to sail hundreds of miles to the middle of nowhere to be safe. By the time the track is narrowed down the storms are imminent and not much time to get out of their way. Then of course is the fickleness of the tracks. Storms have been known to do 90 and even 180 degree turns, stop, or suddenly move at accelerated speeds. I'd want to have a hurricane hole within a days sail and not count on being able to outrun a storm. BTW, you aren't going to outrun a storm. They typically move way faster than even a super yacht can sail. There is hope of sailing at right angles to the storm's track and avoiding the worst of the wind and seas but you are still going to get dusted. If you leave days before the storm arrives and make the right decision in the direction to sail, you might get by without much discomfort. If you guess wrong, you'll be in a life or death situation in which luck will probably be the deciding factor whether you live or not. Last but not least, occasionally storms pop up out of nowhere and you better hope you're not in that nowhere.

I wouldn't count on being able to run away from a storm. Would put my money on a good hole to hide in or getting completely out of the danger zone.

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Re: Am I being outright reckless?

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Originally Posted by colemj View Post
You obviously do not have insurance, or this decision would have been made for you.

Running with the Gulf Stream North is easy and fast. You don't need to go all the way to the Chessie if a storm is coming. The bight of Georgia between Brunswick and Savanah is relatively free of direct storm hits, and those two places are inland.

However, this decision isn't as clear-cut and easy as you think.

First, the chance of getting hit by a hurricane in the area you are in is actually large. The chances are only small when you play with the variables to make them that way. For example, include the entire state of Florida, and all years back to recorded time, and you may think that the chances are low. But include just the area between Ft. Pierce and Miami, and just the years of forecasted expected active hurricanes, and the chances are such that most insurance companies are forbidding boats to be in this area right now. In the recent past, there was a forecasted predictive lull in hurricanes in the SE US due to global weather patterns, and this area didn't see a hurricane for a decade. In the past 3yrs or so, the forecast predictions were for active hurricane seasons, and this area took 3 major storms that did considerable serious damage. They should have been even worse, but the storm paths took the most optimal paths through the area to do the minimal damage possible. If they hadn't danced such a fine line, the damage would have been widespread and catastrophic.

Second is the decision when to run North. We've played this game several times in several places in the US and Caribbean, and that decision is extremely hard to make correctly and without emotion. The best that you can hope for is that the time to leave is clear to you, and that the weather in the Gulf Stream North is amenable. If it isn't, you have put yourself between a rock and a hard place.

The safest bet is to run north as soon as a storm looks like it has a good probability of hitting your area. This is generally 1-2 weeks notice. However, the forecast path is highly uncertain then, and it is likely that you made the passage for no reason, or the storm hits you where you went (albeit, generally less dangerous).

The worse thing that will happen is that inertia and uncertainty sets in, you keep second guessing when to leave, talk to people in the same situation, and convince yourselves that the best course of action is to stay put.

You don't mention why you are in Ft. Pierce, or where you are headed South, but the summer cruising isn't very good there. The summer cruising isn't very good in the Chesapeake either in July/August, but it starts becoming good soon enough, where SE FL stays crappy until October/November (and isn't that good then).

On the other hand, you have made good progress South that will have to be regained the hard way against wind and current, or mind-numbing motoring in a ditch, to get back.

Clear as mud now?

Mark
Thanks for the detailed and helpful post.

To answer a few of your questions: I'm in Ft Pierce now and just leaving because a bunch of things went off the rails with the boat refit. The original plan was to be leaving for the Keys in November of last year, but due to a long series of events, I'm just getting off the dock now. I've been encouraged by a number of people that S Florida and the keys can be fun in the summer for people (like me) who don't like crowds, and was considering heading there anyway, if I could feel confident that I had a good hurricane plan.

Regaining lost ground sucks ... but sometimes life is toil.
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Re: Am I being outright reckless?

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Bill - as a frame of reference, my boat has been in Florida for over 30 years and has survived. She was within 50 miles of the eyes of hurricanes Georgeís, Charlie, Frances, Jeanne, Katrina, Rita, Wilma, and Irma. Storm prepped and tied to a dock or spiderwebbed across the mangroves each time. The key, in my opinion, is having a plan and being willing to secure the boat and evacuate yourself to a safe place.

And I found the Keys to be a great place for summer cruising - awesome snorkeling, good sailing conditions, and easy to find anchorages away from the mosquitos.

YMMV, of course, but I donít think itís reckless to be in Florida during the season if you have a plan.
This is an interesting viewpoint. Unfortunately, I'm completely new to S Florida. I don't know many people. And I don't know where the good places are to lock the boat down for a hurricane. And I'm not sure how to figure all that out quickly. Aaaand ... the disturbance in the gulf right now has me thinking that I should really know these things _already_.
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Re: Am I being outright reckless?

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Storm prepped and tied to a dock or spiderwebbed across the mangroves each time. The key, in my opinion, is having a plan and being willing to secure the boat and evacuate yourself to a safe place.
We've taken two hurricanes in FL similarly. However, at those times we were temporarily not cruising, and we had a car and a safe place to go to, where we already had food, water, etc.

Doing so while actively cruising is difficult. You are not going to find a dock, period. Even if you found a suitable mangrove creek, you probably aren't going to get there before locals do unless you hang out around it all summer. Then, how does one evacuate themselves - call Uber? From a backwater mangrove swamp in the middle of nowhere? If Uber did show up, where do you tell them to take you? The roads will be a standstill, and all hotels full or closed.

I agree with you for residents or not full-time on the boat, but it is a completely different situation for a transient cruiser.

Mark

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