Matthew and Me...
We arrived in Beaufort SC from Charleston, our last stop, in moderate
weather. Anchoring out on the marsh side opposite the mooring field for the
Beaufort Downtown Marina, we set about enjoying our time in a marvelous city
new to us, but dating back to colonial times.
Soon, however, it became apparent that the weather might get a bit exciting,
as Hurricane Matthew formed in the Caribbean. As is the case with nearly
all such storms, forecasting the future track of Matthew gave us hope and
despair (well, got our attention) in alternating measure. One time, it's
going to miss us entirely. The next, it's coming right at us, and is a
Category 4 or maybe even 5. If you're unfamiliar with those definitions, it
means a huge amount of wind and rain, or biblically significant amounts of
wind and rain. Not much which is capable of movement will remain in the
same place under Category 5 winds, which can reach tornado-strength speeds
in gusts, up to 200 MPH.
So, as it got closer, we continued exploring our options. As we normally
would have been in the Bahamas at this time, we're accustomed to not only
having a hurricane plan, but being ready to execute it. In the Bahamas, it
would be to get ourselves into a hurricane hole, as they are called: an
enclosed space, preferably with a convoluted entrance (to make the building
waves less likely to directly affect us), and a secure means of attaching to
something which could take the strain of Flying Pig's windage (the part
above the water all represents something for the wind to push on).
In our situation here in Beaufort, we could try to run someplace further
upstream, away from the coast, but there were no hurricane holes.
Additionally, the further upstream we went, the less room we would have to
swing on our anchor, which would be attached to as much as 300' of chain -
and more than one anchor.
Staying in a marina during a hurricane is very questionable, as the waves
and wind will inevitably overcome whatever efforts you've made to keep your
boat off the dock. The dock and the boat is nearly certain to sustain
damage, perhaps fatal to one or both. And, in fact, the two marinas nearest
us had boats which left their berths to go elsewhere; the ones at Downtown
marina who chose to leave the dock were put on moorings here. As well, a
large power boat sank in the Downtown Marina's docks, a victim of abrasion
against the dock and piers to which it was attached.
In some cases it was to go to anchor someplace; those I know of who did that
survived well. A sistership (one just like ours) had two anchors out in the
direction of the expected wind; one of them bit so far into the mud that it
took nearly two hours of constant pressure to get it to come up - and the
mud on the anchor when he got it up was merely damp, indicating that it was
We, along with another sistership (which had been in the same marina as the
other sistership mentioned above), however, elected to tie onto one of the
new moorings in the Beaufort City Marina. They were massive and in great
shape, so we felt that they would hold in the now-expected Category 2 or 3
storm. A couple of experiments later, we settled on using two bow lines on
each side, and attaching those to the two cleats on each side on our deck.
These were run through chocks on the toe rail and through fire hose which
added chafe protection. (Any time you have lots of pressure, particularly
on lines which are intended to stretch under load, you will create chafe at
any point where the line turns; the opening to the chock was one such
location. Additionally, as the line stretches, it creates heat, so we used
2" hose. That would allow plenty of water [driven at over 100MPH] to cool
that heat.) The four lines (two were 1" Mega Braid, plus one each 3-strand
1" nylon and 3/4" Regatta Braid) each were individually sufficient to take
the load, so we felt secure in our mooring.
The next step was to reduce windage. There was too much wind by the time
we'd gotten on the mooring ball for us to take down the 135% genoa - the
large jib on the roller furling. However, we'd carefully furled it,
wrapping it tightly as it came in, so aside from a bit of a tweak on the
last couple of feet, it was OK. However, as one of the moored boats here
discovered, having ANY place the wind can get under in that wrap will lead
to its becoming loose, and eventually flapping. So, in addition to adding
many turns which wound up the sheets (lines which control the genoa) on the
bottom portion of the sail, we also took our spinnaker halyard and
double-wrapped the furled sail in opposite directions. That led to not only
many turns of line around the entire furled sail, but those turns crossed
over each other, yielding "X" shaped intersections and diamond shaped
spaces. Even if some wind might have managed to get under one of the edges
of the sail, it could not move more than a few inches before any flapping
would be prevented.
We also trussed up both the staysail and mainsail, still in their covers - a
belt-and-suspenders approach - to not only minimize any potential to the
covers coming off, but to reduce the physical size by compression with the
The next step was the various lines - sheets used to control the sails, and
halyards used to raise them. They all needed to be protected from chafe -
flapping in the wind which would cause them to bang against something else.
These were extended as far away from the mast as possible, and tied tightly
to cleats or rails at the bow and stern.
Finally, anything not permanently attached to the boat was removed and
either placed below or lashed in the cockpit. Two deck boxes, our 5 jerry
cans and one dinghy fuel can, and a fiberglass propane bottle were lashed
into the stern of the cockpit. We put all the flammables in the cockpit in
order to keep any fumes or spills out of the boat. They were out of the
main stream of the potential wind, and heavy, so we felt confident that
they'd stay put as lashed. Our Honda 2000i generator and its fuel can had
their normal, strapped-in, location in the starboard front of the cockpit.
Before doing that, however, we'd removed the steering wheel to reduce the
area needing cover. We put a washcloth over the spindle and nut, and
another as well over the drinks caddy. We then put a sail bag over the
instrument pedestal. Despite our efforts, I overlooked the fuel shutoff
handle and the winch handle. The minimal possible flapping in the wind
still managed to make the cover move around enough to chafe a small hole at
both of those protrusions. We not only tied the bottom tight, but used
bungee cords at several levels, and taped those hooks together so that they
couldn't vibrate loose. The wheel we put below...
... along with everything else which could be removed. All of that went
into our forward berth. We started with our cockpit enclosure - the 12x15
area of the bimini, along with all the roll-up plastic windows. The cockpit
cushions, and our folding Sportaseats went on top of those. Our fenders -
those things which, at a dock, or next to another boat, minimize the
likelihood of damage to us or what's next to us - which hung from our
forward rails followed, along with both the Life Sling and throwable
horseshoe life ring which were previously on the stern rail.
The last was the Porta Bote (a 10' long dinghy which folds into the size of
a surfboard) and the bag of all the related parts - seats, cushions, oars -
completed our stowage of items which could either blow away or provide wind
resistance. The 6HP outboard was left on its rack, but the cover was lashed
tight. The propane grill was left on the rail, as the mounting bolts had
rusted, preventing simple removal, but likewise lashed. I climbed up to the
KISS wind generator, and, after removing the blades, put a funnel over the
blade spindle, preventing wind-blown water from getting past the seal.
And, finally, while I'd intended dropping it, the 23' whip HF (Ham and SSB)
radio antenna was left attached to the solar panels' frame; they, too, were
left attached to the arch. Our arch builder had made an error in
construction which I felt would work to our advantage; the solar panels are
angled slightly such that the forward part is lower than the stern, thus
making any wind pressure on them be down against the frame, rather than
trying to rip them off, as has happened to many other boats' panels in other
Thus secured, we loaded up bedding, critical items (passports, ship's
papers, etc.) which would be necessary should we actually lose our home,
toiletries and other necessities for surviving evacuation to a shelter, and
dinghied to a neighboring marina. There, we'd been offered a place to leave
our dinghy, motor and fuel can while the storm passed. We secured the
dinghy by filling it with water (hard for the wind to dislodge about a ton
of water in a small package!) and stowed the rest in that marina's storage
and workshop building.
Our sistership (the one who'd anchored out away from that marina)'s owner
gave us a ride to the location where someone we'd met when we were helping
two other boats get secured in the mooring field waited for us. He then
took us to the Red Cross evacuation shelter in another county.
The 4 days in the shelter were relatively uneventful, considering that there
were, at the peak, 900 people in, mostly (some were, like us, sacked out in
hallways, and the infirm had a separate space where they could be more
readily assisted), the gymnasium. Meals were provided, courtesy of the
cafeteria where hot school-level meals were prepared. That is, of course,
until the power went out, at which point we switched to cold meals.
And, at the point at which the storm was approaching, we all had to move to
another building, as the roof structure was not rated for hurricane water or
wind loads. As it happened, the storm occurred overnight, after the dinner
meal and relocation was already finished, and we returned to the main
building in time for a late breakfast, so even then, aside from not having
power for another couple of days, we weren't really in any sense deprived of
life and sustenance. The school had an emergency generator which kept
low-level lighting present, but no other power was available. That meant
that the very minimal cellular service available in that area was even more
restricted in that there was no place - other than for those individuals who
had driven their own cars, and had charging sources in them - to recharge
cell phones. Later, just before power was restored, a generator was set up
on the front lawn, and I hunted up several outlet strips which I
daisy-chained to allow a total of 40 outlets for folks to charge their
phones. Just as most of them had succeeded, power was restored...
Given the circumstances, and the usual very mixed bag of the population, it
was still gratifying to see how folks just pulled together. I, for example,
volunteered to manage the toilet paper and paper towels in the men's room,
getting the special key needed to get into those dispensers from the head of
the school's janitorial staff, and emptied and re-lined the dozen or so huge
trash cans present. Others did the same for the ladies room, or mopped the
several places where there were leaks making the slick floors hazardous. I
also, as I really enjoy that sort of thing, did all the coffee service
during the periods when there was power. I learned that a 110-cup perk pot
took over an hour to make, but the 30-cup pot only took about 20 minutes.
After I discovered the 100-cup dispenser box, there was never a delay while
waiting for the next pot to brew, as I decanted the large one to start, then
the small one as there was room, while the large pot renewed, and so on. We
went through about 700 cups of coffee at each meal...
The Red Cross was, in a word, amazing. This was an evacuation shelter, which
normally would mean that there were no supplies available. However, the
local unit had stashed a few hundred cots and blankets, which were doled out
to the most needy (the rest of us slept on the floor). They also provided
all the food, some of which was donated by the local Publix supermarket, but
most of which was bought from their funds, and, as supplies ran out,
purchased from the school's supplies.
Despite the tensions and sometimes despair, the number of "incidents" was
minimal. There were a couple of instances where folks were escorted, in
handcuffs, from the building by the sheriff's deputies present, and a couple
of screaming matches, but otherwise it was a very positive experience in a
very negative situation.
For us, we met many new friends, and developed bonds with some which we are
sure will continue well beyond our time here. In the cruising world, we
become accustomed to developing new friends, and seeing them elsewhere
unexpectedly, along with constantly "paying it forward" - but we've also
come to know that the same is true in difficult circumstances in everyday
life, let alone a situation such as a hurricane, where everyone seems to be
determined to help their neighbor, sometimes before themselves.
All in all, we're very glad to have experienced it, on many levels. The
social aspects were gratifying. The infrastructure was wonderful, extending
down to the local chief of police - after he learned from hearing from a
fellow local cruiser who knew him - personally calling to see if we had a
plan for how to remain safe, and offering us a ride to the shelter if
And, we now have the confidence in our hurricane preparation such
that we'd stay aboard for anything under a Category 2 blow. We'd expected
to stay were it only a tropical storm (not yet a Category 1 hurricane), but
now that we see how we did in 100+MPH winds, and, being confident in our
ground tackle (the means to attach us to the seabed, if anchored) and lines,
in the case of tying off either to a secure mooring or to multiple anchor
chains, now would stay aboard in a true storm. We always had a hurricane
plan (which we'd normally expect to implement in conditions far less
favorable than we had here), but had never actually had to implement and
test it. Our confidence level, particularly if we had been able to remove
the genoa, now has us staying aboard in a Category 1 hurricane (up to 95 MPH
winds - we saw between 105 and 115 MPH winds in our harbor).
You can see pix of our preparation, and some of the experience, here:
Web-Folio -- Your Portfolio on the Web
Click on the Hurricane Matthew
thumbnail; that will take you to the various sub-galleries. If you're
interested, of course, feel free to wander around any of the other
And, we continue to be blessed in so many ways, by so many people. Thank
This wasn't one of my normal log posts, but it's appearing in the usual
places. I'll return to the 'regular programming' some time soon, I hope.
So, until then, Stay Tuned!
Morgan 461 #2
SV Flying Pig KI4MPC
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When a man comes to like a sea life, he is not
fit to live on land.
- Dr. Samuel Johnson