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June 5, 2009

Hurricane Safety: Part I – Crisis in Culebra

Filed under: Miscelaneous — Tags: , , , — Robert Jordan @ 6:26 pm

Hurricane season started June 1st. This post is part one of a guide to finding safety in the New River. It will tell a story of how Rob Jordan rode out the double whammy of David & Frederick in the late 1970’s. Also, see our New River Guide and List of Bridges for navigational help.

I was down by St. Thomas sailing on my old wooden sailboat, Chinook, when a buddy of my brother’s came by. Hurricane David was coming any day, and everybody was seeking shelter. The buddy said he knew a great place. We would go to Culebra between here and Puerto Rico where the Navy used to base. It had a quiet harbor with one entry and not too many people around.

Culebra is an island between Puerto Rico and St. Thomas

Culebra is an island between Puerto Rico and St. Thomas

So I sailed over on Chinook and he on his ferro-cement boat. We anchored off the lee shore, had dinner on his boat, and waited for David. All a sudden the biggest blackest storm cloud rose overhead. My buddy said, “You better get back to your boat.” I about dove in my dinghy — that’s how little time I had. It was blowing 30 and pouring.

We were both anchored on three sides off to the lee shore. The whole night I lay terrified. The wind slowly was shifting. A lot of people don’t realize the wind shifts in a hurricane. It clocks counter clockwise. Hurricane David beat me more and more towards that lee shore. If I had dragged just a little I’d of been crushed on the rocks.

The next morning the storm had blown over, and I looked out. Hoards of boats lay bashed against the shore. My buddy and I lay fast. Thankfully, our three anchors each had held. I said forget this. Another hurricane is coming, and I’m not doing this again. I said goodbye to my buddy and fled for safer cover.

Let me tell you. You won’t believe it, but one of the best anchorages are mangroves. You think they’re just there, but they have extensive root systems. During David, the 1st hurricane, I found a group who moored to mangroves and partied. I decided to join them in the mangroves for Hurricane Frederick who hit 2 days after David. We partied the whole time. It was great.

Months later, my buddy’s luck ran out. He left his ferro-cementer, Gypsy, moored at Water Island. Another hurricane was coming, and he decided to leave his boat. After the hurricane passed, he came back and checked on her. She was gone! Days later, they heard she had broke loose and crashed on the reefs of Savana Island. Real unlucky, Savana was the only island for miles around. They went scuba diving and looked down and saw the wreck. Their clothes were wrapped around the rigging, twisted up. The engine rested on the seafloor. The ferro-cement lay in pieces.

You can’t be too careful in hurricanes. And if you prepare right, you can avoid trouble. Stay turned for Part II. Jordan Yachts will cover hurricane hideouts of the New River. We’ll tell you where to dock and what to avoid and what to look for. Contact Jordan Yachts anytime for help finding dockage.

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