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HURRICANES: Don's stories, experience and advice

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 nostalgia, 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.

The trades are well settled in. Generally, May thru July and sometimes into early August, it blows 12/15 knots, seldom more seldom less. If you check the British and American pilot books covering the eastern Caribbean you will discover the highest AVERAGE wind velocity of the year is July! This is because in July as previously mentioned, it blows 12/15 knots seldom less seldom more. In the winter months, it can blow hard 25 sometimes 30 knots for a week or ten days only to be followed by a period of light airs or calm.

The first thing to do when planning to cruise during hurricane season, is to check your insurance policy. Almost all policies will exclude damage caused by named storms within the hurricane box usually 12 to 32 degrees north during hurricane season. In years gone by hurricane season was said to be June 1 to Oct 30. Now most underwriters say end of hurricane season is November 30.

Some underwriters southern limit is 12 30 north so boat in the south coast of Carriacou and all Grenada do not need named storm coverage as they are outside the hurricane box.

Properly worded policies will exclude all damage due to named storms in the hurricane box, unless named storm damage coverage is obtained and paid for. Boats without named storm coverage are still covered for damage incurred in the hurricane box if it is not due to a named storm. In other words if you run aground, have a fire or lose a rig, if the damage is not as a result of a named storm, you are covered despite the fact you are in the hurricane box.

As long as you are cruising in the area from Martinique south, if you listen to www.noaa/hurricanes reports twice a day and plot on your Imray Iolaire Atlantic passage chart 100 the position of hurricane the minute they are reported, you can then plan to make sure you are well clear of the hurricane when it hits the islands of the eastern Caribbean.

This is possible as until a hurricane hits the islands of the eastern Caribbean they never change direction more than 5 degrees in24 hours. As soon as the hurricane is reported draw a 5 degree cone north from its course and position. Needless to say if the hurricane is off the African coast the cone will cover a wide area but as the cone approaches the islands of the eastern Caribbean it will get smaller and smaller.

Check your location and make plans to be at least 120 miles south of the south edge of the cone you have plotted. Do not even think of finding a hurricane hole and trying to secure in the so called hurricane holes. Read my section in this web site Hurricane Holes

In all my guides you will see a section “Reflections on Hugo” were I state that the islands have become so crowded that there is no such thing as a hurricane hole as they are all too crowded. That statement was written 28 years ago. The Caribbean has become much more crowded as each year passes.

You must plan to be south of the hurricane as although a hurricane approaching the Caribbean never changes direction more than 5 degrees in 24 hours, once they hit the islands they can do anything.

There have been a few hurricanes that have hit the Grenadines, then made a right angle turn, headed north passing over all the islands north to Barbuda before heading off across the Atlantic If you r plotting show that the south coast of Grenada will be 120 miles south of the southern edge of the danger cone, do not head for Grenada. In Grenada the harbors will be so crowded with boats that even if it only blows 40 kts boats will be dragging, fouling and damaging other boats.

Head south, by pass Grenada, head for Trinidad, but by pass Chagaramus. The anchorage in Chagaramus is overcrowded, holding is poor, and there is a strong reversing tide which creates a problem for anchored boats

Continue south to the south end of Trinidad to Point a Pierre, 10 north, plenty of room and you are well south of any danger from a hurricane.

If you follow the above directions you can have an enjoyable time CRUISING thru the hurricane season rather than sitting at anchor in one harbor continually checking the weather reports and going rock happy sitting in one place being aground in your own coffee grounds.

In actuality you can cruise north of Martinique during hurricane season but if cruising north of Martinique your chances of having to flee south are greater than if you limit your cruising to Martinique and south of Martinique.

Read the section in this web site advise to owners of boats that are in commission during hurricane season

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