August, look out we must! | Sailing Blog - Technical Hints and Tips - Sailing Television

August, look out we must!

The old Caribbean rhyme to predict the hurricane season goes like this

May no way
June too soon
July stand by
August look out we must
September remember
October all over

Well here comes August and we are still keeping a sharp eye out. Hurricanes can't just pop into existence out of nothing, generally ones that hit the Caribbean form from a depression that is coming across the Atlantic from Africa - a tropical wave. So you get a few days warning at least. Then the choice is to run away or choose the best place to batten down and somehow weather the storm.

Running away

Its generally acknowledged that hurricanes will not go much south of Grenada as the spinning effect of the earth's rotation - the Coriolis Effect - is reducing the closer we come to the equator. Here is an image showing the tracks of hurricanes over the last 150 years. Looks like we can run south to Grenada or Trinidad and be out of the path of all but the very occasional storm. If one did seem to be heading to the southern side of the range we are then ready to run even further south?
hurricane track

Where to Hide

Where would be a safe place to hide is a trickier question. Many cruisers we have met this summer have picked out a nice summer spot and are planning to hide nearby if a storm threatens. There are still many boats in Marin Martinique and are planning to stay if a hurricane comes. Our experience in the mangrove for a direct hit of Tropical Storm Chantal (in Marin) made it clear we could be safe there with winds up to 50-60 knots. But increasing to a proper hurricane at say 80 knots means forces are doubled. I am not at all confident we would have been safe where we were, and I think there would have been serious problems out in the main harbour. Nearby Rodney Bay St Lucia looks like a safer alternative, and Marigot St Lucia also looks safer. But when winds get higher and anchorages get crowded with last minute hastily-anchored charter boats, I think a truly safe hurricane hole will still be a very risky place to weather a storm.

Distant Shores II - Hurricane Plan

Perhaps my choice is reflected in our name... in the event a "proper" hurricane is coming our choice will be to head for "Distant Shores". We will run south. The destructive path of the hurricane isn’t very wide and if we can get out of the worst winds and south of the main-event, we will have a blustery day as it heads past to the north. That’s our plan anyway!

Each hurricane season and each tropical storm/ hurricane is very different and we will judge as they come, but a well-found cruising boat should be able to make the distance needed to get out of the path of the storm given the proper notice. This strategy is more difficult if you are further north, but from here in the Southern Grenadines the decision is simple. Go south. And nowadays we can have the proper notice with such good weather forecasts and internet access to the information from just about anywhere. Even at anchor in the lovely and remote Tobago Cays last week we had reasonable internet access for just $1//day and could start the day with a coffee and a look over the National Hurricane Center forecast.

Is there a storm over the horizon?? Look out we must!
PSBow Tobago
Have you been in a hurricane or tropical storm? What would you do if you were cruising and a storm was coming?

Hurricane Blog Entries
Part 1 Hurricanes - Watching the Weather
Part 2 Tropical Storm Likely
Part 3 Tropical Storm Chantal is Coming
Part 4 Securing in a Mangrove
Part 5 Tropical Storm Chantal Arrives
Part 6 Tropical Storm Moves Off

We filmed all this for an episode in Season 9 - Martinique Tropical Storm here on Vimeo

Check out the whole Tropical Storm Adventure plus lots more sailing on Season 9 Distant Shores on Vimeo in Hi-Def Download
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