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DON'S LOG: stories, experience and advice


The western part of Hurricane Hurricane Alley Anegada west to Eastern Puerto Rico is well named as since the area really started booming with yachts about 1975 , the area has been hit 8 times, with hurricanes 75, two in 79, 84 Klaus, 89 Hugo, 95 and four times in 2017 by Harvey,Irma, Jose and Maria, in 2019 Dorina which luckily passed thru fast and  did  no major damage.  Plus there  were   another half dozen  tropical storms

Thus ten  hurricanes  in 45 years hence  the name  hurricane  alley..

One would think that everyone would have worked out plans to minimize the damage caused by hurricane, but unfortunately they have not. This is the reason it is difficult to obtain insurance in the eastern Caribbean and especially for boats based in Hurricane Alley.

Every time a hurricane has hit, boats ashore have been badly damaged. Looking at the frequency of hurricanes hitting the area, 10 times in 45 years works out to once every five years, obviously thought should be made about storing ashore on one of the southern islands that are less frequently hit by hurricanes.

If you decide to haul in Hurricane Alley check with the various yard managers. Ask them how boats in their marina fared in the previous hurricanes? Then ask them what they have done to minimize the damage the next time a hurricane comes thru. From reports I received in 2019,and what  I saw in my tour thru  the  islands February  2020 yards had done little to improve the ability of boats stored in their yard to weather the next hurricane. Some  yards were setting aside one area for boats that would pay extra to be properly stored in an attempt to make them survive a hurricane. The remainder of the yard was just stored in the normal fashion almost guaranteed to blow out of the cradles next time a hurricane hits.

However Marina Puerto del Rey’s shore side boat storage proved to be fantastically good. Boats were stored ashore, masts out and properly tied down. They suffered 2 % damage

Further east in Hurricane Alley, US and BVI in 2017 were complete disaster areas. The Virgin Gords yard, Nanny Cay and Independent Boat Yard, all or almost all boats were blown out  of their stands. Getting the  boats upright  and repaired was  a slow  and expensive  process.

Indepent Boat  yard seems to have learned little  and is storing boats as before.

Nanny Cay seems  to  have learned from the 1917 disasters. They are  now  secruing their  boats with tie down straps 12,ooo lbs breaking strain to  sand  screws driven 7' into the  sand.

What Virgin Gorda yard has done to  minimize hurricane damage to yachts stored in their yard  I do not know.

ST Martin has been hit 8 times by hurricanes, three times disastrously hit. With the exception of boat store in Bobby Velasco’s yard, each hurricane has been a disaster to boats stored ashore. In Bobby’s yard boats have survived hurricanes with little or no damage. Bobby stores them with masts out and in wooden cradle built as Bobby says “I build my cradles like my daddy did”, heavy timbers well spiked together with plenty of diagonal cross spalls. Crude but it seems to work.

In St Kitts Fortress marina now stores boats in various fashions, many with keels in pits and resting on tires. St Kitts has not been hit with a hurricane since yachting really got going. In about 2005 Fortress Marine opened its haul facility, and Christopher Harbor strictly for mega yachts opened in 2015.

Antigua has been in the yachting business since the early 1950 when the late Cdr Vernon Nicholson RN ret arrived in English Harbor on their schooner Mollihawk and discovered people would pay him to do what he loved going sailing.

Since 1975 when yachting really started taking off Antigua has been hit with three hurricanes and six tropical storm.

However is was not until Nanny Cay started hauling boats in the late 80s that any significant number of boats were stored ashore. Hugo came thru and Jolly Harbor discovered the hard way that storing a boat on tyres with keel in a hole is not a good idea if the area is in a flood plain. Some boats floated out of their holes and suffered serious damage.

Now 2019 in Antigua, you have many choices, Jolly Harbor, Cat Club, Sammy’a, Antigua Slipway, and North Sound Marina. Check them all out ask them how the boats in their yard did in the last hurricane to hit Antigua. Read the section in this web site on proper laying up ashore. Then compare the recommendations with the methods used in the various yards, then make your decision.

Martinique has not been hit dead on since yachting has developed in Marin. The area has been brushed 7 times by tropical storms. Poorly anchored boats have come adrift damaging or sinking other boats. In 2017 the yard did a major expansion in clearing, filling and packing land to make an area they hope will provide hurricane storage space for 200 boats. Needless to say it will be interesting to see how they set up their storage system. Before making a decision on laying your boat up for hurricane season in the yard in Marin, print out the section of this web site Proper laying up a boat ashore. Show the print out to the manager and ask if the yard can lay up your boat in the manner described.

St Lucia, yacht yard is part of Rodney Bay Marina has been operating since 1986. During that time they have not had a hurricane so they have no track record. They have plenty of jack stands, the facilities equipment and skills to make cradles designed to specifically to fit the boat. They have good strong tie down points, but as of 2019 no facility for removing and storing masts. If laying up in Rodney bay yard, print out the section on proper laying up procedure, show them to the yard manager and proceed from there.

Carriacou, a new yard,Tyrell Bay Yacht Yard has been established in the north east corner of Tyrell bay. They claim that the area they have cleared, filled and packed is designed to hold 200 boats.I have not  visited the yard so I will make  no comment

How good is their set up for tying down boats? Do as I have recommended for the yards in Martinique and St. Lucia, and see what the manager says.

Carriacou is at the bottom of the hurricane area, but it has been hit. Since 75 Carriacou has received a good wack from seven of tropical storms and hit by two hurricanes, Dennis and Emily in 2005

It must be noted that the yard is below12 30 N. For many but not all insurance companies, the yard is out of the hurricane box, so named storm coverage is not needed. However read your insurance policy and check with your insurance broker.

Grenada whose south coast is at 12N is considered south of the hurricane zone, but it has been hit by many Tropical storms. In the closing years of the 19th century Grenada was hit dead on by a major  hurricane in 1856. In 1877.1892, and 1954 the north end of  Grenada received a  good wack  by hurricane hitting Carriacou.  Tropical storms hit the  island  in,1878,87,96,98,and1902. Hurricane Janet in 1955 tore the island apart. There were massive insurance claims and the British Government gave substantial disaster funds as the island at that time was still a colony that  had such a good agriculture economy that it had a  favorable balance of trade.

Unfortunately many of the small successful farmers took the  disaster  money and instead  of   rebuilding the agriculture emigrated  to england.The few yachts in Grenada at that time, were low valued so yacht underwriters did not even know Grenada was demolished.

In 1963 Flora, passed south of Grenada giving her a hard wack of 50 kt winds, enough to blow a poorly chock boat out of the cradle. At that time there were no facilities to haul boats in Grenada nor were there any boats on the south coast. The mouth of St Georges lagoon was a shoal with only three feet of water over it and had only a very narrow channel dredged to 9’. This formed a wonderful natural breakwater.

The boats in St Georges Lagoon were either alongside the newly constructed GYS dock or at anchor. Iolaire was lying on a hurricane mooring I had put down. It was a 350 lb anchor salvaged from the Lystria a 98’ steel ketch sunk west of St. Thomas harbour on Flat keys. Immediately after her grounding her crew abandoned her and departed St Thomas on the first flight on which they could on.

Tropical storms hit Grenada in 1974,88 and 90. In 2004 a few weeks before Ivan, tropical storm Earl hit Grenada with tons of rain making the ground soft so that the stands that did not have plywood pads under them started sinking into the ground. Then Ivan hit

In 2004 Ivan tore the island apart.

In 2004 there were two yards on the south coast of Grenada, Spice island that had just opened up in the NW arm of Prickly Bay on newly filled land that had not been packed, and was prone to flooding, and Grenada Marine in St Davids. In Spice Island practically all of the boats, about 175, all were blown out of their chocks and lay on their sides. An aerial shot of the disaster was shown on TV internationally. As a result a large number of underwriters moved the southern end of their hurricane box to 12 N just south of Grenada.

In Grenada Marine many, but not all were blown over.

Clarks  court  boat yard dug out of  the  side  of  the  hill on the  west side  of Clarks  Court  Bay only opened for business  in 2017 but established themselves  as  a major yard  quite rapidly

The yards in Grenada now seem to have learned their lesson. If you pay extra both yards will put the boat in a special cradle, tie the boat down in the cradle, pull the mast and store the mast in a specially created storage rack. If you pay this extra fee it is important to make sure the boats on either side of you are similarly stored. It is no use to have your boat properly chocked and tied down if the boat next to it is not and blows out of her stands and lands on your boat.

The new yard, Clarks Court Marine has capacity to store 200 boats. They claim all boats are properly stored to withstand a hurricane

The three yards in Grenada has up graded their storage procedures to the point that many, but not all underwriters have moved the south end of their hurricane box to 12 30 N. Check your insurance policy as hauled in Grenada you may not need named storm damage

Each of the yards seems to have capacity for 200 boats, thus 600 in total. Looking at those numbers how many masts can be pulled each year and stored in racks?

No matter how good is the yard storage procedure, read the section on laying up ashore during hurricane season and double check that the yard has properly laid up your boat. If you leave the island before your boats lay up is finished, hire a local surveyor to check that everything on your list has been done

Read your insurance policy carefully. If in any doubt contact your broker.

Janet in 1955 tore the island apart, then 49 years later in 2004 Ivan did the same. In 2005 the island was lucky as the south side of two hurricanes Dennis and Emily hit the north end of the island,

In the 2018 hurricane season, the three yards were reportedly so full that it was difficult to find space. If you want to lay up in Grenada, plan well ahead of time and make confirmed reservations April or May. Now with Tyrell Bay Yacht Yard operational with a claimed capacity of 200 boats, and the haul out facility in Marin capable of storing 200 boats, it may relieve some of the pressure on the Grenada yards.

Trinidad is south of the standard hurricane box. I have checked the tracks of every hurricane since 1851 that has crossed the Atlantic south of 19 north. The north coast of Trinidad, where the yacht yards are located has not been hit by a hurricane since 1851. The two biggest yards are are Peakes and Power boats, but there are a number of smaller yards. Space is at a premium, but if Tyrell Bay and Grenada are full , try Trinidad.

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