Monday, June 5, 2017

1981 (7) – Dennis & Gert – A Stormy Couple

Riffraff Reef.  An art quilt, 22" x 31"

To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.

For most of the 1981 hurricane season, we were pretty busy tracking storms.  It almost seemed that, if you didn’t get a real biggie to clean the air, you were plagued with lots of little ones.  That year, conditions in the south Atlantic didn’t seem to be particularly favorable for development of big storms.  What we would have was, every three or four days over several weeks, reports of “disturbed weather” to the east, with the additional comment that further development was possible.

Hurricane Dennis was the most damaging storm of the 1981 Atlantic hurricane season.  It took almost two weeks to achieve hurricane status, up near the States.  When Dennis reached the Caribbean, it had degenerated from a tropical storm into a tropical wave.  While it didn’t look like Dennis would give us any serious problems in the Virgin Islands, we decided to go to Hurricane Hole on St. John, to wait for Dennis to pass our location.  It was a Monday, and, as Ed put it, it was either go to Hurricane Hole, or go to work.  (Mike, Ed’s boss, wasn’t happy with Ed’s choice.)

This was our third annual pilgrimage to Hurricane Hole.  It was good practice – sort of like a fire drill.  Very few boats went, although the Moorings sent over their whole charter fleet.  Dennis didn’t amount to anything; we got less rain than we would have in a normal week.

Riffraff Reef.  Detail.

We had more excitement a month later, with Tropical Storm Gert.  A depression when it crossed Antigua, upgraded to a storm as it approached St. Croix, Gert passed south of us.  Tropic Moon was moored in Maya Cove.  After setting a third anchor, Ed went to work, leaving me alone on the boat.  The storm was far enough to the south that steady winds seldom exceeded 25 knots.  But when the center of the storm passed our longitude, the northerly propagating swells came right through Salt Passage, breaking 6-8 feet high on our protecting reef.  As the storm tracked westward, and the wind changed direction, Tropic Moon shifted position.  Eventually, she was holding on only one of the three anchors.  Dressed in my foul weather gear, I went up to the bow.  I let out rope on one anchor, and pulled in on the other two, until I had Tropic Moon again balanced on all three anchors. 

The wind and the chop in the harbor were wild; Tropic Moon bounced around like a hyperactive puppy at the end of her leash.  When Ed got home from work, I could see him standing on the shore with the carpenter Ed traveled with, to and from Road Town.  It was obvious to both of us that it was too rough for me to row in with the dinghy.  Ed signaled me to stay on the boat.  He undressed, and gave his clothes and tote bag to his friend for safekeeping.  Ed walked to the head of Maya Cove, near the reef, and got into the water.  He swam across wind and current, while being pushed sideways by the rough waters.  I started breathing again when he reached the boat!

Each year during hurricane season, we seemed to acquire more anchors.  Ed had wanted some extras to set up a mooring in Maya Cove.  That way, when we left the mooring, we’d still have a full complement on the boat.  Ed located a pair of 35# anchors, for $25 each, from one of the charter boat companies.  That brought us to six anchors.  Maybe that would be enough...

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