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HURRICANES: Don's stories, experience and advice

Don's videos now available online

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The Complete Street

Don's tips videos, available through the Sailing Channel, The Complete Street

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Double studded 2 speed winch handle

Double studded two speed winch handle
Double Studded 2 speed winch handle

Double Studded 2 speed Winch Handle

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INSURANCE and the beginning of yachting in the Caribbean,

INSURANCE and the beginning of yachting in the Caribbean, and its expansion to its present state, why it is now so difficult to obtain insurance coverage in the Caribbean, Don Street’s insurance experience, and advise as to how to obtain insurance coverage.

I arrived in St Thomas in 1956. I bought the engineless 46’ cutter Iolaire, built 1905. In Iolaire and then L’ll Iolaire, and other boats, for the next 63 years I cruised, raced, c---hartered ,explored, charted and wrote about the Caribbean. Read More 

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SECURING FOR A HURRICANE

Hitches, knots, line, chafing gear, cleats on docks, ring bolts, chain, shackles, swivels anchors vs sand screws

When securing lines it is not only a case of securing but also a case of being able to unsecure and re adjust the line.

When securing to a sampson post, bollard, or a winch, Do NOT use a clove hitch. Once a clove hitch is heavily loaded the only way it can be unsecured is with a good sharp knife.

Use a tow boat hitch, to the Americans, lightermans hitch to the English, as this hitch can be unloaded under heavy strain and line veered.

Lines that are on heavy load may have to be moved. Learn to reliably tie a line to the loaded line with a rolling hitch so that the load can be taken on the line secured by a rolling hitch and the loaded line moved to a better tie off point

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Tropical Hurricanes: Don's Experience

Chart of eastern Carribbean
The Eastern Carribbean. 


Donald M Street, who arrived in St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands in November 1956, is the compiler of the Imray Iolaire charts which cover all of the eastern Caribbean east of Aruba, and is author of guides covering the same area. Over the past 70 years he has built up a tremendous knowledge of how hurricanes affect the yachting industry in the eastern Caribbean

COULD YOUR BOAT WITHSTAND A HURRICANE?

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The Ultimate Insurance Policy

Plenty of good anchors and a large capacity hand operated 35gpm diaphragm pump

When cruising the Caribbean all boats should have a minimum of three anchors. The military always desires to go into battle with a mix of weapons. Similarly when cruising the Caribbean you should not rely on one type of anchor. Different bottoms require different anchors.

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Surviving Klaus

In October 1984 one low after another blasted thru Antigua. Iolaire was hauled on the north side of Antigua in Crabbs, no screw jacks, just wooden A frames jammed against the boats, then wedges driven in to hold the boats tight. 

 

When lows came thru the boats shook so much the wedges would fall out so we finally re drove them and nailed them in place.

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Tracking Hurricanes

After being caught in 1984 on the north side of St Martins by late season , mid november hurricane Klaus and surviving using six of Iolalire’s seven anchors,(click here for full story) I decided that I had to do some research. Klaus was the first hurricane anyone could remember that headed NE in the low latitudes.

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Caribbean 600 Aboard Kinship

Don at the wheel.
Don on Wheel Caribbean 600

Kinship place 4th in our division of 19, fantastic crew most have raced with Ryan Kinship's skipper for 20 years, the newcommers have all raced on board for ten or more years

 

At prize giving when they called for Kinship, Tom 92 lead, myself 89 second then Ryan and crew, the crowd let out a roar that could be heard all the way to St Johns. The roar was unique at the prize giving.

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Clean your fuel fool

Another thing I do is load up the boat with spare fuel filters. I get a couple of 5-micron elements for the engine and at least half a dozen 30-micron elements for the Racor filter. You might run for years along the coast on the same filter, but once you get offshore and the seas start bouncing the boat around, any crud in the bottom of the fuel tank gets shaken up, and you’ll find yourself having to change filters until your tank is clean.

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Tale of a Gale

In 1997 the 60th anniversary race of the Dragon Gold cup was being raced in Dunleary (theyacht harbor of Dublin). The Street family owned two old dragons Fafner built 1937 one of the 13 dragons Johannsen built to create the Belfast dragon fleet and Gypsy built by Anker and Jensen in1933. My son and namesake D111 had done a magnificent restoration of Fafner making her look like a modern Perttigrow. We trailed both dragons to Dunleary.

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Spinnaker Poles on Cruising Boats

The majority of modern cruising boats do not carry spinnaker poles as cruising on the east and west coasts of the states and Canada there is seldom a dead down wind run of hundreds of miles. The cruising man feels that with the modern asymmetric spinnaker he can sail deep enough that he does not need a spinnaker pole. For short dead down wind runs, the smart skipper rigs a strong main boom fore guy/preventer. Then he takes the windward genoa sheet out of its normal lead and runs it as far aft as possible. He then sails slightly by the lee and genoa, or asymmetric sheeted the same way will fill on the opposite side from the main.

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Setting up for Trade Wind Passages

Everyone dreams about the perfect trade-wind passage — 15 to 18 kts of wind, light puff- ball clouds overhead, long swells rolling up from astern, perfect sailing day after day, and little necessity to do anything more than make minor adjustments to sheets and halyards to minimize chafe by changing the nip.

 

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Removable Staysail and Heavy Weather Staysail

Any single headsail rigged boat with headsail on a roller furling/reefing system should have a removable staysail stay and a heavy weather staysail that can be EASILY AND RAPIDLY set up when it blows up and headsail sail area has to be reduced. This is essential if it is desired to preserve the windward going ability of the boat and keep the boat in balance .

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Proper Dorade Ventilators

The original Dorade ventilators were designed in 1932 a year of two after Dorade was built in order to bring in air when the spray was flying and the decks awash(Dorade and boats of her era, the freeboard is so low that from the modern RIB you step DOWN on to Dorade’s deck) and all hatches were dogged down. The ventilators (photo from Mat Brooks) stood a full 3’ above the deck. The dorade box only had to adsorb and get rid of rain and spray, no problem as the drain holes in the dorade box were adequately large.

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Mast Steps

When entering harbours and exploring coves in any area where the water is clear rather than using GPS navigation, electronic charts using that wonderful navigational instrument given to us at birth eyeball mark one backed up with a hand bearing hockey puck compass and the chart of the area on deck will save the boat from many groundings. Eye ball navigation is greatly improved if there is a bow lookout whose range of visibility is greatly increased if the bow lookout is standing on top of the bow pulpit. If the lookout is on the lower spreaders everything becomes crystal clear.

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Making Sails Last

This article is strictly for the cruising sailor who uses good old white Dacron or one of the long lasting off shoots of Dacron developed for classic yachts. It is often said experience is the best teacher, but lessons learned are often a painful and expensive. This article is based on my personal experience, of more than 70 years of maintaining sails often under difficult circumstances backed up by information from Graham Knight of Antigua Sails. He has been repairing sails in Antigua since 1970. He has probably repaired or supervised the repair of more sails than anyone else in the world. Staying on top of the situation, and moving with the times, as described below I extended the life of Iolaire's sails to the point that often sailmankers/repairers said to me "it is good that everyone does not take a good care of sails as you do because if they did it would really cut into our sail repair business!!"

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Loss Of Steering Loss Of Rudder

Tiller too short

On boats that have wheel steering there should be an emergency tiller that works. All too many emergency tillers are useless. Go out in heavy weather, test your emergency tiller, not only going to windward, but also on a broad reach and dead down wind, two points of sailing that require a lot of steering. Alternately install the emergency tiller, go out of harbour well clear of other boats, run in reverse at 5 or more kts and try steering a zig zag course for one hour using your emergency tiller.

 

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Inadequate Bilge Pumps In Modern Yachts

About twenty five years ago Peter Hayward, the inventor of the safety harness, who was considered by Llyods the top delivery skipper in the world, wrote a one page article in Yachting Monthly.

He stated that good delivery skippers seldom lost a wooden boat on delivery as if it was in poor condition the good delivery skipper would not deliver it. If the wooden boat hit something and began to leak, since all wooden boats tend to leak to some degree, they have pumps that are big and work.

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Improving Reaching Performance

When sailing the Windwards and Leeward the majority of the time is spent on a close, beam or broad reach. To maximize the time on a beam reach the sailor should study the tidal information on the back of all Imray Iolaire charts.

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Heavy Weather Staysail

The vast majority of boats sailing today are single headsail rigged with the headsail on a foil that the headsail can be reefed when it blows up without any member of the crew having to leave the cocpit. This has practically revolutionized sailing. No longer is it necessary to have a couple of young tigers on board that are willing and able to work on the foredeck in heavy weather changing hanked on headsails.

Now the geriatric ma and pa can sail a 45’ boat with little problem. It is possible to reef a headsail and preserve its shape if the headsail sheet is moved forward so that it is in the correct position for the reefed headsail. To take the guess work out of as to where to move the staysail lead, most sailmakers will put two stripes on the luff of the sail parallel to the luff. (see note side bar) The smart skipper will in moderate weather reef the headsail to the first stripe, ascertain and note the correct sheet lead then reef it to the second strip and do the same.

When reefing to the second stripe it is essential to not only move the sheet lead forward but also inboard as if the lead is left out on the rail cap once the lead is moved forward enough to make the sail efficient when reefed to the second stripe, making it into a G3 the sheet lead to the rail cap is too wide much wider than the normal 10 degree sheeting angle .

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Double Opening Hatches

Back in the old days, from the late 70 back to the earliest days of ocean racing cruising boats often raced and ocean racers also extensively cruised. The best dual purpose cruiser racers were designed and built between the early 50’s thru to the late 70’. It is notable that In that period all hatches were almost all double opening (photo) sketch) that enabled them while in port to be opened facing forward gathering plenty of air. At sea they were opened facing aft, still gathering air. When the spray started flying, canvas dodgers were put over the hatches drawing OSY 1 pg 282.To prevent water from driving up under the dodger, it was secured to a breakwater that extended across the forward side of the hatch, and down both sides, by any one of three attachments OSY 1pg 245. The aluminium extrusion that will take a luff rope sewn to the dodger and turnbuttons can both be bought from Sailrite, www.sailrite2.com. Read More 

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Bricking Her

Putting the bricks to a boat, to really push her hard in heavy weather, was an expression used by ocean racers in the 50’ and 60’s when describing pushing a boat to its ultimate. The expression comes from geologist who were exploring for oil in the Mideast desert areas. The geologist did not go out into the desert with land rovers and trucks they assembled camel caravans and rode camels. They always wanted nine day camels not the standard six day camel.

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LAYING UP AFLOAT IN A MARINA OR STAYING IN A MARINA IN A HURRICANE

First of all look at the frequency that hurricane have hit the various yachting centers where there are marinas of any size that make leaving a boat there is a possibility. The below figures based on NOAA hurricane tracks since 1975 when yachting in the eastern Caribbean started taking off  Read More 

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HURRICANES: PROPERLY LAYING UP ASHORE

Load on a  60' 1/4 inch halyard secures to a pad eye.

To properly lay up a boat for hurricane season is a job that must be done by owner, his captain, a very trusted friend or be done under the supervision by local surveyor.

Screw jacks or fabricated cradle? Fabricated cradles are seldom designed and built for a specific boat so the arms seldom match  Read More 

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HURRICANES: DON STREET’S ADVISE FOLLOW IT!

pressure plotted against windspeed
If leaving a boat on a hurricane mooring read Street's advise very carefully. Remember wind pressure goes up with the SQUARE of the velocity.

As noted in the introduction, Don Street because of his age 89, and experience with hurricanes on the east coast of the states and Caribbean, he knows more about hurricane tracks as they approach the Caribbean, and their effect on the yachting industry, than any other sailor or yachting author in the world. Read what  Read More 

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HURRICANES: BOATS IN THE WATER IN COMMISSION

A survey of the tracks of all the------- hurricanes since 1851, that have started as lows in the region of the Cape Verdes, as long as they stay below 19N they track westwards seldom altering course more than 5 degrees in 24 hours. The alterations of course is almost universally to the north. If the hurricane, tropical  Read More 

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CRUISING DURING HURRICANE SEASON

In my first hard covered Guide (first guide Yachtsman’s Guide to the Virgin islands 1964 was privately printed on a hand powered ereneo to the English mimeograph to Americans 1963) Cruising Guide to the Lesser Antilles l966 (reprinted facsimile editions now available thru iUniverse .com, Amazon and Imray,a wonderful bit of nostalga, the Caribbean in the late 50’s early 60’s) I stated that the best sailing months of the year were may June and July and sometime into August. This is still true today.

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HURRICANE HOLES

Ever since 1975 when yachting in the Caribbean really took off, for 45 years I have been reading about, and personally being told about the disasters that happened in the so called hurricane holes. Every time a hurricane come thru the islands of the eastern Caribbean boats flock to the so called hurricane holes and disaster  Read More 

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