Prior to our Caribbean adventure, we were clueless as to what we should do or where we should go as hurricane season approached. Early in our research, we found we had to make a choice dictated by time constraints, preference, and finances.
Most hurricanes evolve in Africa (although not all) and track across the Atlantic Ocean. Once you are in the Bahamas or the Caribbean, you have a choice of options as to where to go during hurricane season (97% of hurricanes happened between June 15th – November 15th). One is to sail south beyond the hurricane zone, the second is to stay within the hurricane belt and prepare should a storm come your way.
If you choose to go south, you should plan to reach or be close to Grenada before hurricane season starts. The hurricane tracking map shows that Grenada and Trinidad & Tobago are outside of the hurricane zone, although Grenada was severely damaged by hurricane Ivan in 2004.
If your choose to stay at any of the islands, at a marina, choose one with floating docks and avoid docks with low dock pilings, one of the biggest destroyers of boats. You should add oversized lines with plenty of anti-chafing, and acquire extra, oversized fenders. If a hurricane threatens, retie in preparation for shifting winds and surge. Also, check that the marina will actually let you remain at the dock, some might insist you leave. If hauling ashore at a boatyard, choose one that has good reviews, is reliable, and safe. Whether you choose a marina or a boatyard, make a reservation, some yards are booked up months in advance.
If you anchor or moor, make sure you have plenty of anchors available, two is simply not enough. Inspect all lines for signs of wear and confirm that ground tackle is in top condition. The consensus is to try to avoid anchoring or mooring, there are too many unknown factors.
If you go to a hurricane hole, keep in mind that you will probably be taking your boat into the mangroves (some islands no longer allow this – Ed) in an estuary, canal or inlet, and those areas are often shallow. Get there as soon as you can, be aware that other boats will arrive last minute, anchor and tie very close to you, compromising everyone’s safety. Be prepared with extra drinking water and food.
We chose to sail our boat Journey south to Grenada.
We read and heard great things about this beautiful island and had booked a slip at Le Phare Bleu Marina for a month.
Le Phare Bleu Marina was a pleasant surprise. A little paradise carefully planned, with a great restaurant, a relaxing pool to which we became daily visitors after our long days of boat work, and the best live music ever.
After sailing for a season, there were several things we wanted to change or fix, and the finger pier at Le Phare Blue worked out perfectly.
After a month of polishing, fixing, and cleaning, Journey motored towards Spice Island Marine. The haul out process started as scheduled, Journey was carefully lifted, placed on the various equipment and transported to her storage place where she was secured as follows: Pieces of wood were placed under the keel. Metal stands were secured and welded together and pieces of wood placed against the hull and on the ground at the foot of the metal stands. Finally, wide straps ran from the deck down to stainless steel cables fastened to cement blocks buried deep underground.
Once Journey was secured, we flushed the engine with fresh water, covered windows and hatches with aluminum foil to keep the boat cool, flushed the salt water from all hoses (we used baking soda to clean and flush the hoses), and emptied both freshwater tanks. We placed all loose items from deck and cockpit in the aft cabin and salon; and we covered the cockpit table, helm and equipment. We frapped all halyards or removed and replaced them with messenger lines. We placed open bottles of bleach in the sinks and shower to help prevent mold, and finally, in an attempt to add some protection from the Caribbean blistering summer sun, covered Journey from bow to stern with several blue tarps although we were not sure how long they would last.