SimplySailingOnline.com shows by example how easily you can eliminate stress, become more independent, raise your children in a safer environment (while spending more time with them, instilling values not based on the mighty dollar) and avoid the traps of commercialism. Because we live and sail simply, we have been wandering for 11 years with no intention of stopping. This is not a trip for us; it is our life, and I hope to share our success with stories of laughter and tears, as well as how-to tips and DIY projects for preparing, sailing and making a boat a home, so that others can join us.
With Isaac using Marathon as a bulls eye day after day as he inched closer, we were glad we had not decided to stay in the Keys without a good plan. The best hurricane plan is one that is thought of before the season even begins. If we know we will be in the hurricane zone during season, we have a plan set up by early spring. This year our plan was a little vague. Put Eurisko somewhere safe and live somewhere else while Dave finished the project he was on. The problem was the "somewhere else." We could have rented an apartment (shudder), but as fortune would have it, we found Walküre instead. Instant hurricane plan.
The beauty of Walküre as a home during hurricane season is that she draws 13 inches and her masts are on tabernacles. Dave and I can lower them with ease at any time. Because I have not yet finished varnishing the main mast (only 2 coats to go!) it was still down. We only had to lower the mizzen to be only 8 feet off the water. Combine that with our shallow draft and there's hardly anywhere she can't go. And go we did.
Chris Parker of Marine Weather Center (also known as the weather God in our family) had been talking about Isaac for weeks, but his path was uncertain. Chris was recommending that interests in the Keys delay preparations as long as possible until they had a better idea where Isaac was going. With a probable Sunday landfall, we started preparing on Wednesday. We rowed our new dinghy, Irie, out of the harbor, half way down Sister's Creek, into Whiskey Creek and started investigating each possible spot where Walküre could ride out a storm. We finally settled on the end of a creek, around two bends from the nearest water deep enough for anything but a powerboat, too narrow for anything large enough to do much damage if it dragged down on us. By preparing early we knew that no one would be in our spot when we got there. Besides, very few boats could fit in there.
Dave's customer was out of town and had two boats on the hard to prepare, so we spent Thursday stripping canvas, securing the loose objects under his boats, preparing the interior for possible leaks, and gathering Dave's tools we would need to prepare Walküre.
Friday morning Dave moved the van to a higher parking lot in case we got a large surge. Now we were ready to move into our hurricane hole. We motored in with the bilge boards raised and the rig lowered until we risked not being able to turn around if we went much farther. Dave spun Walküre around and backed her the rest of the way to the end of the creek. The mangroves were less than 10 feet from either side and at least 20 feet tall, growing up to 40 feet where they met the ocean. Even if we had a huge storm surge, we would still be in the lee of the mangroves. We secured her with bow and stern anchors (the first time we've ever anchored her) to keep her in the middle of the creek, and Dave got to work replacing the kevels.
Walküre was built to Phil Bolger's specifications, but one detail bothers many AS-29 owners: the kevels are too small to cleat a proper sized-line. We planned to cleat many lines off both kevels, so Dave replaced them with pressure-treated 2x4's. They looked ridiculously long until we started cleating line after line on them.
Once we knew that Isaac was going to pass either directly over us or south of us, we could be sure of the wind direction: north clocking through to south. We tied our starboard (east) side accordingly. By the end of the afternoon on Saturday we were held in a spider web of 2 anchors and 14 lines tied to large mangrove roots. Dave had gotten some irrigation hose at Home Depot that we duct taped to the lines as chafe gear where they touched the boat. We organized the lines as neatly as possible, anticipating having to adjust them in the driving rain, probably at night.
Though Isaac was never forecasted to be more than a Cat 1, we were prepared for a Cat 3, but then, that's just how we do things. Sunday morning we listened to the cruiser's net. When it was over we finally had to get on the radio and ask, "Is it windy yet?" We later learned that everyone in the harbor thought we were messing with them. They were getting 40 knots sustained at the time. The light just offshore of Marathon saw 70-knot gusts, even though Isaac passed south of Key West. Yet we could have lit a match on deck the entire weekend, were it not for the rain. Two boats dragged in the harbor, and (regardless of their later bravado) you could hear the tension in everyone's voices on the radio. The harbor was not a pleasant place to be that weekend. In our mangrove cocoon, our only problem was boredom.
Finally, on Monday I could stand it no longer. I was ready to get back to "normal" life. Dave hitched a ride to shore with a friend who was tied to the mangroves farther out the creek so that they could move their cars back to the marina. When he returned he said, "We're not going anywhere today. It's still extremely uncomfortable in the harbor." We did leave Tuesday afternoon. By then the winds had died and boaters' memories were getting fuzzy. "Oh, it was perfectly fine in here." One catamaraner did admit, "We should have gone up the creek. Next time, we will." Luckily for us, he's too wide for "our spot." Will we use it again? If necessary, absolutely. The season is still young and the quarter-mile of line is in Walküre's lazarette, ready to keep us safe again.
Just how simple can you live in comfortably? MONDAY we'll share how we simplified even a 29-footer when we bought her. Not only is she still comfortable, she's actually MORE comfortable for her simplicity.
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