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Apres Dean on Martinique

The ‘good news’ of life post Hurricane Dean is that the docks at Marin Marina are still operational and are ready to receive cruisers who want to sail in Martinique. The same ‘bagai’ (‘thing’ in Creole) for the yard at Carenage, Carentantilles, where it is possible to haul out, careen, clean, repair and refit one’s boat.

For these two major facilities in Martinique, at Marin with 640 slips in the marina and 162 places on the hard at Carenantilles, the scars of the hurricane are healing—light as they were in the first place, thankfully. Coming on a ravaging course and with great speed, Hurricane Dean hit Martinique on the 17th August with enormous force, with gusts from 160 to 180kms/hr, lasting from four to five hours.

For the Martiniquais, the consequences were all too clear on Friday morning: 95% of the population without electricity, phones out, roofs torn off, and 90% of bananas and 70% of sugar cane devastated, the trees uprooted. In the marinas and on the anchorages, the majority of boats were well secured, but others collided or were swept away. Immediately, mainland France rushed into action with aid, and agents from EDF arrived from France quickly.

Mr. Eric Jean-Joseph from the Capitainerie du Marin said, “We’re happily surprised to see that the docks of the marina stood up well to such wind.” In fact, since the creation of the marina in 1991, there have been two Tropical Storms in Martinique, Marilyn and Lenny. Admittedly, five boats were dismasted and around 30 boats suffered minor damage, but this was out of 420 occupied slips.
The mooring buoy chains had been restored at the beginning of the season in June/July, but the warning of an oncoming hurricane was short: a day and a half to prepare. It was necessary to help cruisers prepare their boats, double up the anchorages, remove sails, and look after boats with absent owners.

There are lessons to be learnt for the next hurricane, because too many owners leave their sails on, with roller furling and lines down, which causes terrific windage and leads boats to detach from their mooring. At the yard, the installation of the boats upon arrival on the hard was well calculated: boats arranged by length, category, near enough to each other in order to limit windage. Each owner was also able to request extra securing of his boat, with the end of the lines attached to concrete blocks. There were only six boats down in the yard during the hurricane out of a total of 162.

We sometimes forget that in the hurricane season, there are cyclones! Let’s prepare our boats in June.

In Martinique, one month on, the vegetation has reappeared with a vengeance; the banana trees are already putting out their tender green leaves, the sugar cane is rising, and the fallen trees are covered once again with leaves.

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