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HURRICANES: Don's stories, experience and advice

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

  • Eastern Puerto Rico 6
  • US and BVI 10
  • St Martin 9
  • Antigua 6 hurricanes, 3 tropical storms
  • Martinique 7 tropical storms, but no hurricanes though the north end of the island has been brushed in 1979 and 2017 by hurricanes that demolished Dominica
  • St Lucia 7 tropical storms no hurricanes
  • Carriacou 2 hurricanes but 9 tropical storms

Grenada is said to be out of the hurricane area, but it is not! It has been hit by 2 disastrous hurricanes, 1955 and 2004, a few tropical storms, and in 2005 the southern edge of two hurricane gave the north end of the island a good wack. It has also been hit buy numerous tropical depressions, massive rainfall turning all unpaved surfaces into quagmires. Also in 1963 a hurricane passed south of Grenada.

Trinidad no hurricanes have hit or affected the north end of the island

I have left out Guadeloupe and Martinique because their marinas will come apart if a hurricane hits. In Pointe a Pitre the marinas consist of floats secured by anchor lines to either anchors or sand screws. There are probably 100 floats, one or two breaking loose will cause mayham so forget about Guadalopue

Martinique, Marin the situation there is the same as Guadeloupe except even worse as there are also probably 100 or more boats moored in the harbour. I well remember talking to the Moorings manager in the early 90’s when the situation was not as bad as it is today. Since the early 90s every foot of shore line is lined with finger piers of floats most secured by lines to anchors or sand screws rather than pilings. I asked the Moorings manager what preparations he would make if a hurricane was approaching the south end of Martinique. His reply” I would make very sure to be on an outgoing flight before the hurricane hit!”

In Fort de France there is a new marina, well constructed with only a small entrance but it is at the eastern end of the bay of Fort de France which is wide open to the west. If a hurricane passes north of Martinique a big sea will drive into Fort de France bay and cause will probably cause a surge in the harbour that will be disastrous to any yachts in the marina.

There are many marinas on the east coast of Puerto Rico in Fajardo, and Marina Puerto Del Rey 3 1/2 miles to the south of Fajardo. Visit all the marinas and ask the managers how boats faired in their marina in the two, 2017 hurricanes. Ask the manager how many boats in the marina, how many were total losses, how many major damage. Ask what has been done since 2017 to minimize damage to boats in the marina the next time a hurricane hits.

Marina Puerto del Rey 3 ½ miles south of Fajardo, has berths for 1,000. In 2017 there were 552 boats in the marina, 4 % total losses, 2 % major damage.

If the boats that fled to the so called Hurricane Holes had headed to Marina Puerto Del Rey, the survival rate would have been completely different.

In St Thomas, four marinas, Crown Bay, French town, Marina Grande, and Compass point. If a southerly or southwes swell build up outside of St Thomas harbour it builds up surge that makes it impossible to leave a boat alongside or stern to at Marina Grande or French town marina. A swell builds up inside the harbour causing boats to surge back and forth, breaking dock lines, and /of pulling cleats off the dock or off the boat. Thus laying up for hurricane season in Marina Grande or French Town Marina is not practical unless there is a crew on board, or there is some one that is capable of moving the boat off the pier and anchor out until the swell outside the harbour dies down.

The southerly or southwestern swell would not bother boats in either Crown Bay or Compass Point Marinas. Regarding surviving a hurricane in the marina, ask the marina manager how many boats were in the marina during the two 2017 hurricanes, and how many were total losses, how many major damage and what has been done to minimize damage to boats next time a hurricane hits.

Tortola has numerous marinas. West End is completely open to the west so forget marinas in West end. Nanny Cay, the original marina, on the west side of Nanny Cay was a disaster area as some of th floats came adrift and caused massive damage. Unless ALL the floats and piles have been up graded, and no floats are secured by lines to anchors or sand screws forget about the western marina in Nanny cay. Boats survived much better in Nanny Cays new eastern marina than in the old western marina. Ask the standard questions I have previously recommended.

Marinas in Roadtown were pretty much wiped out. All except Village Cay are basically marinas for bare boat fleets so not available for long term layup. Village Cay, ask the standard questions, but also remember that on the other side of Wyckhams Cay Basin are the Moorings Marina. If the wind is in the north and boats or floats break loose in the Moorings Marina, they will end up on top of boats sheltering in Village Cay Marina. The Moorings Marina is loaded with multi hulls whose high deck structures cause so much windage that it is extremely difficult to secure them either afloat or ashore to survive a hurricane.

Virgin Gorda Marina, is completely enclosed. It has a very small entrance, docks are high enough so that a 3’ tidal surge will not lift the boats above the piers. It looks good for long term layup. But before making a decision make sure you ask the how boats in the marina survived the two 2017 hurricanes?.

That concludes the Puerto Rico, US and BVI marinas

St Martin, the only marinas in Simpson Lagoon that are really solidly built are Isle de Sol, and Port Plasiance. These marinas were built for mega and mini mega yachts, the type of boat that always has crew on board. Since they will all do 15 kts or over there is no reason why they should stay in a marina when a hurricane approaches. They can leave 24 hours before the hurricane is due to hit and be safely south of the hurricane at the end of ten hours!!!!! Looking at the other marinas, knowing the frequency that hurricanes hit St Martins, I do not think they are suitable for laying up afloat.

Antigua, English Harbor, read section on Hurricane Holes. Once read, a boat should not be laid up afloat in English harbour unless there is someone hired who is competent enough to move the boat bow on into the mangroves, with stern anchors out well before the hurricane approaches.

Falmouth, read the section on Hurricane Holes.

Jolly Harbor is well sheltered, a very small entrance very little chance of surge building up inside the harbour but slips are floating piers. Give them a very carefully check, are they secured with lines to anchors or sand screw, or to piles? If secured with lines when was last time lines changed, anchors or sand screws checked by diver? If secured to piles, how good are the piles, the hoops that secure the floats to the piles, the cleats to the piles? After you have check all this then ask the manager how boats fared last time a hurricane came thru?

St Lucia, Rodney Bay Marina as a hurricane season lay up in the water, has a lot going for it. The docks are solid, the floating pier top grade walcon, well secured to big piles well driven in. The entrance channel is so narrow there is little possibility of bad surge building up inside the harbour. St Lucia has been very lucky. 9 tropical storm but no hurricanes have hit the island in the last 45 years. Many hurricanes have brushed the islands, but none have really given St Lucia a direct hit.

Grenada, only hit by hurricanes in 1955 and 2004, but in 1963 one hurricane passed south of Grenada, and in 2006 two hit Carriacou and the north end of Grenada. Plus Grenada has been hit by numerous tropical storms. 40/50 kts of wind can cause havoc in marinas. There are no marinas suitable in which to lay a boat up in Hurricane season. Since they dredged out the reef at the mouth of St Georges lagoon, a hurricane passing to the north of Grenada, would put a swell into the lagoon. This would probably require all boats to leave Port St Louis and GrenadaYC marinas.

On the south coast Waterside marina and Le Par Blue always have a slight surge. At times, if the wind goes in the South both marinas become untenable and boats have to move off the docks. If there is a big ground swell from the north some of it sweeps around Pt Saline and builds up a surge that pops dock lines, sometimes removing cleats from docks and boats.

Clarks Court Marina is based on floating pontoons. There was in the past a small marina in that location whose floats came adrift in Ivan causing havoc to boats moored in Clarks Court Bay.

In Trinidad, in Chagaramus, Crews Inn has an excellent marina very suitable for leaving a boat during hurricane season.

If you want to leave your boat afloat during hurricane season in Grenada, it is a case of riding to your anchors or to a hurricane mooring. Read section Laying up on Hurricane mooring

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