Offshore Sailor

Blow by blow blog

Chele and I are back in the UK enjoying some sunshine. Shindig is ashore at Spice Island Marina, Grenada, doing much the same – or so we hope. Hovering in everyone's mind in the Caribbean at this time of the year is that July sees the start of the hurricane season which lasts until the end of November. A central requirement of our boat insurance is that Shindig remains land-bound over this period. 

Our floating home is now nestling in a stoutly constructed steel cradle; and is tethered to the ground by four webbing straps led down from the deck cleats to earth anchors buried deep in the ground. The heading photo below (not of Shindig, you'll observe) shows the general arrangement. Totally accident proof it is not but it certainly lessens the risk. Fortunately, the extra cost of choosing this belt-and-braces option is mostly offset by savings in the premium.

And boat owners are obliged to do their part. Local marinas require that owners strip their boats of unnecessary windage. This means stowing below items such as roller headsails, awnings and cockpit dodgers -- an altogether sensible requirement since if one boat is blown over the domino effect will almost certainly ensure there will be collateral damage to others. Not all owners comply completely which is both stupid and selfish.

Actually by Eastern Caribbean standards it's not as though the risks are extremely high in Grenada. Having a latitude of 11° 59.3'N Spice Island Marina is technically just outside the southernmost fringe of what is charmingly known as the 'hurricane box' – the lowest boundary of which starts at 12°N. But we shouldn't draw too much comfort from that fact for there have been dark days. In 1974 Hurricane Ivan scored a bulls-eye. What was to be the 10th most powerful Atlantic storm ever recorded swept through along with winds of around 135mph. About 190 boats in the marina were toppled --among them Alacazam -- Shindig's close cousin. Fortunately she was repaired and is still cruising the Caribbean.

Statistically, Grenada can expect to be brushed or hit by a hurricane every 5.7 years whereas Antigua can expect the same every 2.6 years – over twice as frequently. This is because the hurricane risk is greater further north. Again statistically, both islands are now 2 years overdue. And so far as damage is concerned, it varies according to which part of the hurricane hits you. All tropical storms revolve counter-clockwise in the northern hemisphere and it's the north-eastern sector of those storms where the greatest dangers lie. Where some might face disaster, others will escape relatively lightly. And the most serious damage can be extraordinarily localised. Carriacou, part of the Grenada Nation State, is only about 27 nautical miles north of Grenada itself yet saw little serious damage from Ivan.

For our part, we've done all we can for Shindig and must just keep our fingers crossed. And, let's face it, a few months as landlubbers in the UK is really no hardship. Not in high summer anyway. Not sure we'll feel the same when winter draws in!


Andrew Simpson

Andrew is a writer, illustrator and editor - mainly in the field of recreational boating. In addition to several books he has been a monthly contributor to Britain's most popular boating magazine for over twenty years. Andrew and his wife Chele spend about six months of every year sailing. After some years in the Mediterranean, they are now in the Caribbean. If you enjoy his blogs please share them with your friends. Comments or questions are also welcomed.

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