Learning From Ike
Maarten van Hasselt relates storm-preparation lessons hammered home by Hurricane Ike. "Special Report" from our October 2, 2008, CW Reckonings.
Although I have been sailing all my life-- growing up in the Netherlands, I can remember using my brother's diapers and a bamboo spar to construct a rig for the family dinghy-- it wasn't until my wife, Joan, and I moved to Houston last year that I lived in an area prone to hurricanes.
After we purchased our Bristol 40 Joan II, joined the venerable Houston Yacht Club, and settled into our slip, I began learning all I could about hurricane preparedness. I read up on how to prepare the boat, consulting the club's hurricane plan and gleaning heavy-weather mooring tips from books and web sites. To get sufficient warning, I bookmarked www.nhc.noaa.gov, which tracks tropical storms in the Atlantic, and www.tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov, which models expected wind and tides in Galveston Bay.
With the 2008 hurricane season approaching, I began my preparations by determining where to keep the boat in the event of a hurricane. Houston Yacht Club was destroyed by Hurricane Alicia in 1983 and is located right on Galveston Bay. I consulted other club members and surveyed a number of other marinas, concluding that my current slip was as safe as anything available.
We serviced the engine, filled the fuel tank, emptied most of the water tank, and readied sails and equipment for quick removal. After replacing all worn lines, we fortified the existing mooring arrangement with extra spring lines and extra lines at the bow. Using heavy chain around the pilings, we secured the lines, covering them with plastic hose at possible friction points. We outfitted cleats, windlass, and primary winches with backing plates, checked seacock connections, and replaced the bilge pump and switch.
By Thursday, September 11, it was obvious that only luck would shield us from a direct hit, as forecasts were predicting the eye of Hurricane Ike to pass within a few miles of the club.