"270km/h Tropical Cyclone Evan smashes Fiji"
"The town of Lautoka resembles a war zone."
"Strongest cyclone on Record,"
"No reported deaths,"
"Roofs ripped off,"
"Winds reach 135mph on Fiji's big island of Viti Levu."
I am filled with gratitude this morning as I type along listening to Bill read headlines to me. For those of you not on the metric system 270km/h equals 162mph -at the strongest point of the storm. The Big island of Viti Levu saw reported winds of 135mph and here in the marina we saw sustained winds well over 100mph. Our boat is not only still floating and all in one piece but we have virtually no damage at all. That is not the case for many of the other boats here at Vuda Pt Marina. Looking at the devastation around us and seeing how much damage was done to other boats by the boats around them I am certain that Bill decision to rerun the bow lines of our boat and the unoccupied boats around us made a huge difference in our outcome. We bitched and moaned through the hot work and envied a few of our neighbors who were sitting back drinking a cold one after their own pre-storm preparations but right now every minute of extra work was worth it.
I will try to draw a picture in your mind of how the boats are usually tied and then explain the change Bill made. When you moor your boat on a quay -essentially there are no docks or finger piers but rather you are stern in too a cement wall- you usually tie two lines off your stern and two lines off your bow to hold you in place. The two that go to land tie off starboard and port onto big steel rings and those that go to the water side tie off starboard and port to floats in the water that are then tied to something big and heavy underwater. If you look at a line of boats their bows are tied off with rope each forming a v going out into the water. Bill and I ran a second set of lines with chafe gear on both ends from our bow to our neighbor's floats spreading the force out one notch. Then we ran a second set from the boats on either side out a notch to our floats. Essentially we spread out the force and added redundancy while shoring up the holding power for our neighbors at the same time. If you think of it like spreading your legs and taking a more grounded stance, that's what we did.
On the quay side we added chafe gear to all four ends of the line already attaching Island Bound to the quay but then also added two more lines. The added lines went out another notch to either side like we did in front and we added not only chafe gear but length of chain on the land side to lessen the potential for a disaster if the lines slowly began sawing away on the rough concrete. During the worst of the storm while boats where laying all over each other crashing back again and again onto the boats next to them our little group of bobbers were heeling over but not grinding in to each other.
So.........a busy day ahead cleaning up so will say goodbye for now. Thanks for all the good wishes sent our way and we will write soon. Kat
Walking around the marina today seeing firsthand the effects of a category 5 cyclone was a lesson in gratitude. A category 5 cyclone leaves huge amounts of devastation in its wake. There is an odd quietness to the day in spite of the noise of the men already busy working with chainsaw, machete and truck. Everyone has a story to tell and everyone seems at least a little bit shell shocked.
Early in the cyclone S/v Wayward Wind -one of the largest vessels in the marina lost both bow lines AND the anchor chain that was supposed to be attaching them to the inner cyclone ring. For a time they used their motor to try and stay pointed forward and off the surrounding boats but as the cyclone clocked around things got worse. At the back of the boat they have a large super sturdy stainless steel V mount for their wind vane made out of 3” pipe which speared the cement quay and eventually ending up stuck under the lip of the walkway leaving them unable to move at all. Their weight pressed against the boat next to them and like dominoes all the boats in that line began grinding together. Our friends who suffered some of the worst of the damages of the storm were a few boats down. With winds so high inflatable fenders were being rolled up onto decks and useless the boats in that part of the line groaned and ground together with the sheer weight of the winds for several hours. The toe rails on several of those boats were turned into toothpicks and where hull touched hull midships were ground down to bare fiberglass.
In the morning word came down the line that the marina was hosting us to tea and a dazed but good sized group showed up. Over fruit and pizza we learned about the fate of others on the island and set up some work crews for beginning to clear the debris and open up the walkways and for helping the kitchen staff put on a meal in the evening for everyone at the marina. It was also a time to solidify plans for the marina appreciation dinner we had begun to plan before the cyclone hit. The idea for the dinner we'll hold tomorrow night came from an appreciation for all the hard work the staff put in to help ready the marina for the storm. They worked for days and nights, tirelessly and always with a smile. Many worked double and triple time and most did so while their own families and homes were on their own. We passed the hat and came up with $750 which the marina will turn into food and drinks and a kava bowl and the boaties will serve them for the night.
Throughout the day word trickled on about the fate of the rest of Viti Levu and the surrounding islands. The entire area is without power and water and they're saying we'll see about three week pass before we see those services back online. We may have a bit of luck since Vuda Marina sits smack dab next to Blue Gas an import gas company with a pipeline out passed our reef where the tankers unload which is considered vital to Fiji and so their power and ours will likely be restored before anyone else on the island. There is no phone service, no radio or TV broadcasting and thousands of people lost their homes and businesses. There are thousands still in emergency shelters. The local farmers really have it bad with crops wiped out -in many cases a year's worth of crops gone. We're told within days there will be virtually no fresh produce available for many months to come which almost makes me cry thinking about all the mouth watering papaya's, mango's, passion fruit and bananas I'm going to be missing.
The multimillion dollar high end super yacht attracting marina at Port Denarau is no more. The docks are completely gone. All the vessels in Port Denarau were sent away but somehow one 85ft super yacht ended up there on the rocks. Musket Cove marina is gone as well as is the cruiser beloved Five Dollar Bar who's bure style bar and BBQ pits -completely annihilated. There is a mangrove swamp not far from Vuda Marina where many of the areas larger vessels retreated to spider web themselves into the mangroves for protection. We're told everyone came through safely but that there are some big tales to be told about breakaway boats and crashing neighbors.
It's hard to describe the extent of the devastation. I walked around the ground of First Landing Resort next door and my mouth hung open for most of the tour. Branches as big as a house lay sprawled around. The porch on the spa at First Landing was crushed under one tree and their once lush tropical gardens look like a bomb dropped. Most of their bure rooms surprisingly made it through without damage. The pool looked unhurt but is filled to overflowing with debris and brown sandy water from the storm surge. Their workers had already cleared the main paths with machetes and were joking and laughing with me as I looked around at the devastation.
Again it is hard to describe the experience. A hurricane has always been the big boogeyman of my cruising fears yet I was never really afraid -well maybe a teensy bit. At moments I could feel and taste the adrenalin my body was dumping out for my benefit. About the time the storm was reaching its crescendo I repacked our ditch bag expanding the few meager initial inclusion. Next to the small bag with passports, boat papers and laptops I began a new pile. I added Rx eye glasses, prescription medicines, tooth brushes, our backup credit cards and our American dollar cash stash, computer plugs, Kindles and chargers, water, Cliff Bars and one set of clean clothes. At dinner last night Marilyn on S/v Zulu commented that maybe it would have been wise to leave ditch bags high and dry in the office for emergency pickup since no one knew exactly how they were going to get off their boats with big bulky bags in tow.
One interesting phenomenon was what happened when the winds began to abate. It sounded so quiet and felt so still in comparison that we were happily discussing how light the winds had become. Then we opened the companionway and boy howdy it was still blowing well over gale force! When you've recently been buffeted by hundred and something mph winds sixty feels like a nothing. I've definitely had my experience and I certainly never want to go through anything similar at sea. I'm now certain that I can live without ever experiencing another one -been there done that. So let's make this the seasons only cyclone for Fiji thank you very much. Then some dumbbell loudly states that having such a roarer on December 18 says that this could be a banner year for South Pacific cyclone activity. Thanks for that update buddy. Will write soon. Kat
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