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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hurricane Hillary Headed Our Way?


Hurricane Hillary has been under the watchful eyes of the fleet for days now. She was officially classed and named five or six days ago but is nowhere near the North Sea Fleet. There is no worry or panic because every model and every long range forecast shows her missing the Sea completely. That’s one of the good things about hurricanes they don’t exactly sneak up on you.

Every morning and every evening on the local Nets she’s been tracked and talked about, debated and studied. Every dinner gathering and every afternoon float has held conversations on strategy and new decisions are made for course changes and moves to better ground. Finally today the models show her making it up the outer Baja coast and then (possibly) turning east to jump across the peninsula in three or four days. Right now her pattern says the farther north she blows the weaker she becomes (she was at one time blowing 125mph) with a jump over the peninsula expected to take her top wind speeds down to about 35mph. Piece of cake, in fact if she brings some rain we will wallow in the fresh water boat rinse.

Like everyone else have been following Hillary along her path. We chose to north to Puerto Refugio knowing that if Hillary was truly coming our way -which is still a guess-, we would have two choices for safe anchorage: Puerto Don Juan to the south and Puerto Willard to the north. So, after spending days in Refugio we left yesterday at 7am for a 10 hour passage to Willard. Too tired to deal with the shallow waters we spent the night in the deeper outer anchorage and planned to enter the shallow inner safe harbor on the mornings rising tide.

Up, breakfast, a bit of tea and we moseyed into the shallow inner harbor plotting a deep route and discovering where the bay shallows up. We found a great spot where we would be well tucked in from the fetch. Fetch is how far the waves have to build up: If you are in a small enclosed bay the waves have no room to build to raging heights. If you are at the end of a big open bay the waves can build the entire length of the bay leaving you working against the high winds and the big waves. We congratulated ourselves on finding a deep enough channel to enter the hurricane hole and on being the first boat here which gave the very best choice of spots if high winds blow.

Then we started having problems. Once Bill maneuvered us to just the right spot tucked in snug behind the hills and spits and out of reach of virtually any fetch I dropped the anchor. But the anchor drug and drug and drug. I pulled her back in again and saw that we had a twenty pound ball of mud and wire grass scooped up in the head of our Rocna. Ok, let’ try again. We dropped her five times each time we simply drug across the bay scooping up mud and wire grass and leaving the tip skittering across what must be hard pan or shale under the mud.

We tried several methods of laying out our all chain rode but only succeeded in bringing up bigger and bigger balls of mud and that damn spindly wiry grass. Frustrated and disappointed we even moved to another less desirable part of the bay hoping maybe we could find a spot where the wire grass wasn’t thriving but no such luck.

By now it was almost 11:00am (it was a ten hour day to get here from Refugio) and our options are getting fewer. We simply cannot stay if our anchor won’t set. If reversing out engine at full throttle drags our anchor and us across the anchorage then it stands to reason that if a big wind comes along it too will drag us across the bay until there is no place else to go which can only be the beach. Bad idea!

So OK regroup. There were a couple of other anchorages close by but neither of them would offer us protection from a hurricane. Puerto Don Juan is 80 miles away, two days of traveling unless we want to do an overnighter and is undoubtedly filling up fast with other boats as part of their hurricane strategy. But, but…..we had traveled ten hours yesterday and it was a really, really long hot day. And, I was really looking forward to dinner off the boat. And, I was going to have a chance to get on the internet for the first time in almost two months. And, worst of all we can’t possibly make Refugio until well after dark and we hate entering an anchorage after dark.

So what’s the big deal you may be thinking? Isn’t Hillary predicted to at worst have pretty much blown herself out by the time she crosses the peninsula to the Sea? Don’t the models show that she isn’t even all that likely to make it across the peninsula? Yes but since we expect at least a 35 mph blow and since hurricanes have been known to do some pretty unexpected things and since the possibility for damage if she were to change her fickle little mind are pretty enormous the only prudent thing for us to do is to plan on being somewhere safe and asecure. Even if it means motoring 80miles back to Puerto Don Juan. Better safe than sorry is our motto.

~hot and tired already~


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