Thursday, September 21, 2017

Irma & Maria

Virgin Gorda in Irma's eye
I've been trying to write this post for days. If there are words to describe what I'm feeling, I don't seem to be able to find them and string them together without sounding a little crazy. So I'll stick with the facts, which you surely know already.

Two weeks ago Hurricane Irma made landfall on Barbuda as a Category 5 storm and went on to decimate parts of the northeast Caribbean and southwest Florida. Earlier this week Hurricane Maria made landfall on Dominica as a Category 5 storm, just two years after Tropical Storm Erika devastated the island. The first reports are of terrible destruction as would be expected. Likewise the destruction on Puerto Rico. Not much news yet from the islands in between.

Most of the northeast Caribbean, many islands and many countries, were affected by the storms. 'Affected' isn't quite the right word, but again I'm at a loss for words. The damage has been catastrophic. Photos coming from the islands show apocalyptic scenes. Friends on Tortola say the island is unrecognizable. The sheer scope of destruction across the islands is hard to comprehend and it's difficult not to feel a sense of despair seeing the photos and hearing about the enormous losses people have experienced. But there is plenty of optimism and a healthy dose of dark humor on the islands and in the sailing community and I will keep my focus on that.

Firstly, our island friends are accounted for. We don't know what their situations on each island are but we know they are OK. There is precious little communication from the islands which is frustrating beyond belief. We are starved for information and getting only the smallest bits. There was a bit of contact after Irma, but Maria seems to have knocked out the fragile recovery of communications at least for now. This is very much the case for Virgin Gorda, which is especially difficult for us, because that's where we left Saralane.

I find I want to focus on each island that's been devastated by the storm - Barbuda, of course, which we love so much. And Dominica, which we love equally for her breathtaking beauty. St Martin where we spent so much time in the company of friends. The whole of the BVI and also St John in the USVI where we spent our last month before hauling out in Virgin Gorda. But for now, I mean only to update you on Saralane. The long and short of it is that we don't know anything other than she's been knocked onto her starboard side and her mast has snapped.

This comes from the few photos we've been able to find online after Hurricane Irma, as there's been no communication from anyone at the yard in Virgin Gorda. They haven't been allowing anyone onto the island except for relief purposes and we don't know if Hurricane Maria caused additional damage. There are plenty of rumors and plenty of speculation about what's happening on the ground there, but none of it bears repeating.

Here's the last shot we have of Saralane in her spot in the yard pre-Irma. We hadn't yet taken off her canvas but otherwise we were almost finished prepping her for a few months on land. Skip took this shot because we were amused by the size difference between Saralane's narrow stern and the super wide stern on Baxter to our right. The Beneteau being moved in to our left had an equally wide stern and watching the yard guys back her in next to Saralane was impressive.

The small but mighty Saralane between two big boats.
After Irma I spent days scouring the internet for information or images and this was the first photo we saw of her. She's barely visible beneath the fender hanging off a boat behind her that is miraculously still upright, and you can see Baxter just to her right. Plus, having climbed on and off that stern a million times, it's easy for us to recognize.

Boats in a bad way
This next photo is an aerial shot taken by Caribbean Buzz Helicopters, who've been working overtime doing evacuations, delivering aid and supplying images to assess the aftermath of the storm. For years we've seen their bright yellow helicopter flying overhead looking like a happy little piece of the sun that went off on it's own. Without their efforts we would all know much less than we do. We don't know you guys, but thank you! 

 John H, covered with a blue tarp, is still (partly) on deck. Beneteau with the wide stern is on SL's port side
Also Dive BVI, based in Virgin Gorda has been front and center getting relief supplies moving to the BVI and getting information in and out of the islands. If you are inclined to participate in relief efforts, and there are countless ways to do so, definitely check them out. They are getting things done

Kudos too to the affectionately named "Puerto Rican Navy", the many sportfishing boats that blast over from PR to the Virgins on long weekends with no fewer than three generations of family per boat, great pool toys and lots of laughter. In the early days after Irma, when no aid was getting to Virgin Gorda, they loaded up their boats with supplies and once more blasted over to the island to help. Don't know whose photo this is, so I can't give credit, but I love it.

Puerto Rican Navy to the rescue in Virgin Gorda

One side note: all of our log books from the past seven years and most of the boat cards we've collected from those we've met along the way are on the boat, so if you don't hear from us or want to be in touch, please send us an email at the EMAIL US link on the right side of the page. 

Best case scenario is that Saralane is salvageable and we can float her and stay on board when the time is right to go there and help in the recovery effort. Worst case scenario is that she's sailed her last sail. Until we know more there's nothing we can do except think of our island friends and hope that each day gets better for them. That's all I have for now. Thanks so much to everyone checking in with us - it's been good to hear from you all. 


sv Silk Pajamas said...

There's just no way to read your blog with dry eyes and an intact heart. If there is ANYTHING we can do to help, please let us know. - Any and ALL, I am sure, of your cruising friends

Linda said...

My heart is aching for you guys. But I am happy your island friends are safe.

CHILLing said...

Thanks for writing so expressively about the scope of the disaster and sharing what little news of Saralane you have been able to glean. So sorry. Aa a sister to Jubilee, she was the reason we met. We are on course to sail south with the Salty Dawgs and would be happy to share CHILL as a resource for anything you need to do. Love,,,Dan&Jackie

Bob & Janice said...

You and Skip have been on our mind as well as all of our other friends that are cruising in the islands. I can't imagine how difficult this was to write as it was difficult enough to read - you expressed your feelings as well as those of us that have come to know and love the people in the Caribbean - thank you for that.

I can't imagine how frustrating it must be to only have tidbits of information - just fortunate that you have been able to find out about the safety of all of your friends. Just hard to imagine the time when you will see the islands first hand with knowledge that all will be different.

We thank you so much for the post with the information that you do know as you have been on our mind so much. We will all hope for the best for Saralane - it seems amazing that she seems to still be upright on her stands from what we can see. Our thoughts are with you and all of those that have been personally affected. Love to you both - Janice & Bob

s/v Skylark said...

Oh my. It's hard to know what to say in response to your beautifully written, poignant post. It is heartbreaking, every bit of it. And yet, as you so eloquently highlight and is true in every disaster, catastrophe and crisis, there are gifts to be appreciated (the PR navy for example), and silver linings to provide hope in even the smallest slivers. Thank goodness for the dark humor which we all need more than we know. It's encouraging that Saralane appears upright and perhaps salvageable. We certainly hope so. It's amazing you have photos of her. There is so much more to say but maybe "Well done!" will suffice for now. Thank you for writing this post which seems important on many fronts.

Dana Greyson said...

Oh Mad & Skip -
This year's hurricane are truly heartbreaking, not only because these incredible places in the world will never be the same, but because of all of the lives it's touched.

Thank you for your courage and hard work in sharing your story, and crediting the amazing efforts among locals and Puerto Rico, which, sadly, has since been devastated by hurricane Maria. It is shocking how slow our country's rescue efforts have been toward Puerto Rico.

Know that we grieve along with you and that our heart goes out to you and the many impacted by this tragedy.

I will go through my cruising cards in the next few weeks, cc you, and send an email to them a link to your post.

Scattered as we are, currently cruising or not, we are a community. We all know that what happened could happen to any of us; we are all on the crazy blue marble of a planet together.