HURRICANES: Don's stories, experience and advice
There is no other yachtsman or yachting author that can match Don Street’s experience with hurricanes ashore and afloat, gained over the last 78 years, or his knowledge of Hurricane tracks as they approach the Caribbean gained since 1984 when he obtained from NOAA Tropical Cyclones in the North Atlantic 1871 to 1980. From 84 on he regularly obtained loose page up dates until 2017 when he obtained the new NOAA book 1851 to 2008 with up dates thru 2017.
All this is backed up with 58 years cruising , chartering ,exploring, charting , racing and writing about the Eastern Caribbean. Obviously his advise should be seriously considered and followed if possible.
Don Street’s first experience with hurricanes was the 1938 hurricane that was the most disasterous in history. It killed 588 people in the New London New Port area, caused in modern dollars 1.4BILLION $, and put 400 yachts ashore in Manhasset bay, the bay where Don Street learned to sail. It is still one of the most destructive and expensive hurricane of all times. Then the 44 hurricane , which NOAA refers to as “the great storm” hurricane force winds in a 600 mile circle sinking a US navy destroyer, a light ship and two coast guard cutters causing the death of over 300 seamen. It severely damaged but did not clean out the Manhasst Bay yachting fleet. Snipe number 3 owned by Don Street and his three older sisters survived, but damaged. Street at age 14 filed his firm marine insurance claim as a result of hurricane damage .
In the light of the above, the contention that hurricanes are becoming more destructive is dubious.
Then while skippering the 53’ Abeking and Rassmussen yawl Ondine, he went thru two hurricanes, one in City island, the other in Duck Harbor Llyods neck. In 60 , while delivering Abenaki, a 55’ alden schooner south, he took refuge in the ICWC secured along side a timber barge. All night the hurricane blew logs off the barge that landed on Abenaki deck. In 61 Iolaire survived hurricane Gerda on two heavy moorings, off City Island YC. In 66, delivering Caryl, a fife 8 meter from Charleston to St Thomas they were caught by the edge of early June hurricane Alma . Caryl spent four days beating to windward under double reefed main and small headsail.
From 66 to 84, Street and Iolaire were lucky, not involved in any hurricanes . but in 84 Iolaire was caught on the north side of St Martin’s by the late season wrong way hurricane Klaus. Iolaire survived, using six of her seven anchors, how he did it is a story in itself. As a result of being caught by a late wrong way hurricane Street obtained the NOAA hurricane book that shows the track of all hurricanes 1871 to 1980 with up dates that Street regularly obtains and regularly studies almost every year. He has developed a tremendous knowledge of track of hurricanes as they approach the Caribbean and what they do once they hit the islands.
As a result of Hugo, he wrote in all four of his guides Reflections on Hugo 1989. This was followed thru the next five years by fifteen articles in Caribbean Compass, and various yachting magazines on wind forces, pressure per sq ft goes up with the SQUARE of the velocity, hurricane tracks south of 19 n are easily plotted, go south get out of the path of the hurricane, advise on correct storage ashore, plenty of stands, well tied together , boats tied down to dead men. Street has continually pointing out that there are NO hurricane holes in the eastern Caribbean
However the present generation of sailors were not in the Caribbean in the early 90’s nor were the managers of the yacht storage facilities. The result in 2017 massive destruction of yachts stored ashore, two exceptions, Marina Puerto del rey and Bobby’s yacht storage St Martin. In both cases boats were properly stored with mast out. Result minimal damage.
In marinas the only one that came out well was Marina Puerto Del Rey, 552 boats only 2% sunk, 4% major damage, other marinas varied from major damage to disasters.
Roughly 200 boats fled to the so called hurricane holes of Coral Bay St John, Inner Benner Bay St Thomas and Ensenada Honda Culebra Almost all sank or were very badly damaged.
ON STREET AND HURRICANES
COULD YOUR BOAT WITHSTAND A HURRICANE?
2017's hurricanes devastated boats both in and out of the water. If your boat is in the Caribbean, Don Street advises on how you can keep it safe and continue to sail during the hurricane season
An area from west of St Barts to the east coast of Puerto Rico is often called Hurricane Alley, because the islands in the area have over the last 35 years frequently suffered either a direct hit or major damage by a hurricane that has passed close by.
With two exceptions, none of the yard managers have laid up boats during hurricane season in such a fashion that they would stand a very good chance of surviving a hurricane.
The yard attached to Marina Puerto Del Rey had 237 boats properly laid up: tied down, well supported by screw jacks, masts out, no total losses: just three per cent suffered major damage during 2017.
In St Martin, Sir Bobby Velasco says: “I lay up my boats the way my daddy taught me: wooden cradles, everything tied to together with cross spalls, well nailed together and masts out”. Boats in Bobby's marina survived undamaged except for sand blast damage from hurricane-blown sand. Elsewhere in St Martin, where boats were hauled ashore there was massive destruction.
In marinas in hurricane alley in 2017, outcomes varied from massive destruction, to many boats sunk, to no sinking but major damage, except Marina Puerto Del Rey. Puerto del Rey with its 12ft-high 1,000ft-long breakwater was specifically built so that boats would survive a direct hurricane hit to the marina. The marina has a total capacity of 950 boats, of which 552 were in the water. Just 4% suffered major damage, 2% were total losses.
In the islands to the south of Hurricane Alley – Antigua, St Lucia and Grenada, where large numbers of boats lay up ashore for the hurricane season – the marina managers claim they have learned their lessons by observing the disasters: Antigua as a result of Hugo, Grenada as a result of Ivan in 2004. They lay up boats properly so that they will survive a hurricane.
Fin-keeled, deep-draft boats have their keels in a pit, boats are in specially built steel cradles or are very well chocked by numerous screw jacks, and boats are tied down with straps to either dead men buried in the sand or sand screws.
But the vast majority of the boats are stored with their masts in. Wind pressures go up with the square of the velocity. When the wind gusts to 180mph the wind pressure is astronomical: 83lb per sq ft. That means that on a 60ft mast with the wind gusting 180 mph, the load exerted 30ft above the deck is 5,450lb. When the wind is fore and aft, or near to it, this load really does not matter. But with that load on the beam, will the boat stay in the cradle?
Every time a hurricane passes through hurricane alley, boats pour into supposed safe havens, such as Ensenada Honda on Culebra, Hurricane Hole St Johns, or inner Benner Bay on St Thomas. In every major hurricane they are disaster areas with a total of well over 100 boats sunk, and a similar number suffering major damage.
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 and the northeastern coast of the US.
In Manhasset Bay, Long Island, where Street learned to sail, the 1938 hurricane sank or put ashore 400 boats. In the New London Newport area it killed 486 people and caused the modern equivalent of $1.4 billion of losses.
The 1944 Great Atlantic hurricane had hurricane force winds over a 600-mile circle. It sank a US Navy destroyer, a light ship and two USCG coast guard cutters.
On Iolaire and other boats Don has survived seven hurricanes. In 1984 Iolaire was caught on the north side of St Martin, by the late season (mid-November) hurricane Klaus. Iolaire survived using six of her seven anchors. Subsequently he obtained the NOAA book Tropical Cyclones of the North Atlantic Ocean that records the track of hurricanes from 1851 onwards, and has studied and recorded many recent hurricanes.
After Hurricane Hugo in 1989 Don published detailed guidance in all four of his guides, Caribbean Compass and various yachting magazines. If his advice had been followed hundreds of boats would not have sunk, and hundreds of millions of dollars of insurance claims would not have been made.
How to lay up safely ashore in a hurricane zone:
1.Use a robust cradle.
2.Tie the boat down – to dead men or sand screws in the sand.
3.Dig a pit for a fin keel.
4. Take out the mast!
If a hurricane is forecast...
Hurricanes are tracked by satellite from their earliest stages by NOAA Hurricane center. They head west, never altering course more than 5 degrees in 24 hours. Any zig to the south never lasts more than 24 hours. If a hurricane springs up, each day plot a 10-degree cone from the position of the hurricane. The area of the cone gets smaller as the hurricane approaches.
If you are in the cone 48 hours before the hurricane is to hit your area, pick up the anchor and head south on beam reach or close reach. That will give you enough time to be well south of the hurricane. You will experience manageable winds and big seas. Once the hurricane passes, turn around, head back to your anchorage and examine the destruction you avoided by heading south.
From hurricane alley:
Just head south or southwest, do not try to fight your way east to an island or harbour in the islands of the eastern Caribbean.
From Antigua or islands to the south:
It is just a case of heading south. In years gone by you could head southwest to Venezuela, but with the present disastrous political situation this should be avoided.
The anchorages in Grenada will look attractive, but they will be so overcrowded there will be the danger of boats dragging and damaging others
Head south to Trinidad, but do not stop in Chaguaramas. The anchorage is overcrowded, the bottom is poor holding, and there is a strong reversing tide that makes anchoring difficult. Continue south to Point-à-Pierre. Anchor at 10°N well below any danger from a hurricane.
DON STREET'S ADVISE...FOLLOW IT
TO BOATS IN THE WATER IN COMMISSION IN HURRICANE SEASON
Boats in the water in commission
HURRICANE HOLES, THERE ARE NONE AS PROVED BY STORIES BELOW
CRUISING DURING HURRICANE SEASON
Cruising during hurricane season
LAYING UP ASHORE, PICK THE YARD CAREFULLY
Laying up ashore
PROPERLY LAYING A BOAT UP ASHORE
Properly laying a boat up ashore
LAYING UP AFLOAT, PICKING A MARINA
LAYING UP AFLOAT IN A MARINA OR STAYING IN A MARINA IN A HURRICANE
LAYING UP ON A HURRICANE MOORING
Laying up on a hurricane mooring