This is why I sailed south

Weekly Updates

This is why I sailed south

This week, the second most powerful hurricane (by sustained wind speed) ever recorded in the Atlantic Basin hit Barbuda, St. Martin, and Anguilla. St. Martin is close to my heart, as it’s where Tarka and I started our voyage. I know the place well, and unfortunately, know many people there. Most of these people live on boats and had already, or were able to sail out of the path before Irma arrived. However, I still have friends that I have not heard from, but I have heard second hand that they are OK. But after seeing videos of the destruction, I’m unsure if the island will ever truly recover. In addition to 90% of buildings being destroyed, entire forests have been removed from the island, and there’s little doubt that the reefs have been decimated.

Irma’s eye passing directly over St. Martin in the early hours of Sep. 6th

Irma is the perfect example of why I sailed south to Grenada when I did. Irma is also the kind of record-setting storm of a century, and all but impossible to prepare for. The only reasonable option is to get out of its way. But the truth is, when you live on a boat, even comparatively wimpy tropical storms are not to be scoffed at. I even loose sleep over minor thunderstorms, in constant fear my anchor won’t hold and I’ll end up ashore. Safely in Portland, I stayed up and watched the live feed from Maho Beach up until the camera was destroyed and tried to imagine what it would have been like to get caught in that storm. I concluded that even if somehow my boat survived in one piece, I would be mentally and physically broken in many.

Irma looming a day before landfall and the path Tarka and I took sailing the 500 miles south to get out of “hurricane alley” ​

In the days that followed, hurricane Jose is strengthened to near-category 5 status, and set up to follow in Irma’s wake. A hit from a second major hurricane in less than a week would both be unprecedented and completely devastating. Fortunately, Jose passed just north, sparing Barbuda and St. Martin hurricane-force winds.

Satellite photo of Jose taken just a few days after Irma made landfall in the Caribbean (you can see Irma to the upper left).

Tarka and I will smartly continue our voyage when hurricane season ends – this was always the plan. I should have been flying back to Grenada today, but Irma has changed those plans, and I now have an extra week in Portland. Though it’s raining ash here because of the massive wildfires, I am grateful that I’ll have more time to see friends and finish the tasks I had planned to complete here. Tarka and I also have a contingency plan should a hurricane set its eyes on Grenada, and we will sail the 90 miles south to Trinidad, safe from hurricanes.

barolfe