Fort Lauderdale, FL. – Just when you think you are being so smart, along comes the unexpected and puts you right back in your place! We had just been through Hurricane Dennis. There had been a lot to learn. We felt pretty smug about becoming “experts” in preparing for hurricanes. With all that preparation we had also been very lucky. Dennis came and went with no damage to our boat Kandarik except for our frazzled nerves. We never dreamed we would encounter another hurricane in less than ten days!
With the passing of hurricane Dennis, we had felt pretty confident that we would now be safely out of the hurricane path for the rest of the season. With great feelings of relief and the knowledge that Kandarik would be safely out of harm’s way, we departed Man-O-War Cay in the Abacos, Bahamas. The boat, we knew, would be safer there than in Fort Lauderdale. No hurricane in its right mind would follow Dennis. And Fort Lauderdale is a death trap for boats during the cyclone season. I had to get back to work at West Marine and Andy’s customers anxiously awaited his return to rigging work. So, foolishly with light hearts, we returned to Fort Lauderdale by plane leaving Kandarik on a substantial mooring in Man-O-War. What a mistake that might have been!
We weren’t home even one week when we started to watch with horror a monster hurricane named Floyd approach the Bahamas. For those of us who lived through Hurricane Andrew in 1993, we can only remember the terrible path it struck in Miami literally destroying everything in its raging path. And now Floyd was as powerful a Category 4 hurricane as Andrew, but three times the size! And where was she heading? We could not believe that our Kandarik was now once again right in the path of this killer storm.
How could I have so lightly written an article on Hurricane Preparation? Didn’t I know better even with all that knowledge and careful preparation. I never should have tempted the weather gods by being so darn certain that this would never happen again! And now our precious boat was going to pay the price for all my stupid carelessness. But, wait a minute, maybe, just maybe what I had written would save her after all!
By the time we knew that horrible pulsating eye of hurricane Floyd was to pass right over Man-O-War Cay, it was too late to fly over there to do anything more for the boat. The enormous storm was getting stronger and stronger, and really a man could not work in the kind of winds predicted to hit our beloved boat. Andy and I could only ask our wonderful friends to check on her one last time, do a few more strokes of preparation, and then hope for the best. We had followed that list I so flippantly had written, and now the real test was about to take place.
Floyd hit Man-O-War right on the button. There were sustained winds of over 160 knots! Some recorded gusts to 212 knots, and those same winds seemed to continue forever. The eye passed right over the anchorage so there was a dramatic shift of wind. This alone could cause the most damage. How could any boat remain untouched in these horrid conditions? Imagine how we felt! We knew what Kandarik was facing was real survival conditions.
Just before all communications were cut off, friends on the telephone told us it was blowing a steady 70 to 80 knots. At that time Kandarik was all right, but they were not sure we would have contact much longer. And then silence. Only the television weather channel here in Fort
Lauderdale showing the agonizing march of Floyd with winds and strength increasing all the time. How we suffered! What was Kandarik feeling? If only we had been there to share.
With the impact of the storm on the tiny island, we began to feel guilty that we were worrying about our boat. What about our friend’s lives, their homes, their island? We knew from the weather forecasters that this was a hurricane to end all hurricanes. What was happening out there? Even the ham radio operators, as brave as they were, had to stop transmitting during the worst of the storm.
And then it too finally passed. Still there was no word from the islands. The telephone systems did not exist any more. There was no electricity. The amateur radio operators had lost their antennas. The silence from these shattered islands was unbearable. Slowly word came to us through a few satellite telephones and ham operators. But all information was very sketchy. Every time our telephone rang we jumped hoping for word of the islands. But none came. Twenty-four hours went by with no word. There was a web site set up with frantic calls for information by family and friends of the islanders. Still there was no word. Then slowly a few remarks came through like “no reported deaths, terrible destruction, islands cut in two by rising water, almost all the boats sunk or destroyed, no phones, no electricity, no drinking water, flooding everywhere, etc. etc.” It was terrible.
And then a friend who also had a boat moored near Kandarik sent us an e-mail, “Kandarik is fine, we are fine, we were so lucky” You cannot imagine how we felt. These simple words took twenty years off our lives. Andy was on the first airplane that could land in the flooded airport.
We still could not believe that Kandarik had survived such a terrible storm. But, there she was, looking proud as a peacock, no damage at all while dancing on her mooring. Boats all around her were beached or sunken or badly damaged by other boats. But somehow Kandarik had survived unblemished. Maybe that list did work! Many other boats were as untouched as ours. These boats too had been looked after carefully before the onslaught of Floyd. Even so, we all agreed there was a tremendous amount of “luck” that had kept our boats safe from the storm’s fury.
Andy came home full of tales of awful destruction to the islands, the buildings, the trees, and of course all the poor boats that did not survive. The video he brought back with him showed ever so poignantly what nature could do in just twenty-four hours. There wasn’t a leaf left, a tree standing, a house untouched, everything was burned by the salt water. Cisterns were impregnated with seawater. Every cranny ashore was covered in seawater forced to intrude by the fearful wind. Masts were sticking out of the water; boats were crushed ashore driven on the coral by the raging wind, and damage was apparent on most of the boats that were still floating. The carnage was like a nightmare.
I sit here typing this to share with you. And as the words print themselves beyond my fingers, my mind is saying over and over again, “PLEASE, no Strike Three!”