Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricane Irene, Part 3

In Which our Weary Waterlogged Witnesses Wander
Witlessly Whilst Winnowing Wreckage.
Dooley the Discombobulated Maintains His Low Profile.

We Take a Ride Around the Island.

We have one more post about our experience with this annoying hurricane, and then we'll leave it to our fellow Irene-ians up in the USA to deal with from here on out. We were lucky on this one and we know it.

We have now gone though the videos and photos we took during the storm, and found this one on the GoPro camera. It was taken mid-morning after the storm had mostly passed us by. We were still seeing winds of 60-70 mph with the errant gust that would get your attention, but were able to set the camera up in the lee of the house out of the wind. The camera is inside a plastic case, so the noise was doubly muted. Once by being on the quiet side of the house, and again by the camera being enclosed. We were not tempted to take a boat out today.

As soon as we had the house more or less back in useful order and drying out we had to take a trip around town. The storm surge receded even faster than it rose this time. This is unlike Hurricane Hanna's storm surge, which lasted for days. We know the usual spots in the road that flood now. This corner by the private (and mostly unused) marina is always one of the first places to wash out. The ocean has a direct path across our little isthmus here. And it takes it.

This is usually the fastest current when the road is flooded. Too fast to stand up in. Certainly too fast for a floating vehicle without propellers. We have learned not to drive the trucks in sea water if we can avoid it. It does them absolutely no good at all. So we wait for the seas to totally subside before venturing out. Parts are just too hard to come by to rust them out for no good reason.

Parking one of the Defenders up against the house worked out fairly well. When I first tried to start it the battery was completely dead. I think perhaps being blasted by rain water shorted something out and drained it. After drying it out and recharging it we had no further troubles. One of the things we like about the Defenders. They are pretty rugged and straightforward. No traumatized computers that we can see.

The storm did peel some more of the paint up off the top. I guess paint doesn't stick to aluminum very well in the first place.

The force of the driving mix of wind and water in a hurricane is very impressive. In the video we posted earlier you can see the water blasting by just on the other side of the Defender.

Inside the house we had a constant battle trying to staunch leaks. And they changed as the wind changed. And the wind direction changed as the storm swept just a few miles to the south of us with its circular winds. We started out fighting leaks in the north end of the house. I was in the attic with rolled up blankets and duct tape. I am not kidding. I couldn't stop the water from coming in, but could only diminish it by some amount. But that wasn't the end of it. Oh no. two hours later the water was blowing from the east, right over the open ocean. This is when we lost a lot of the paint from the house.

At one point the gusts of wind were pounding directly against the aluminum storm shutters that were closed over the closed sliding glass windows. The air pressure of the gusts was forcing its way up through the water in the door tracks. We had hurricane percolation.

Music is 'Neph' by Trombone Shorty

By daylight we were stuffing clothing and small dogs (anything that was left) against the windows on the south side of the house. We could trace the storms progress by looking at the caulking materials location around the inside of the house. The north side had fresh duct tape and towels. The eastern facing side had the remaining towels tapering into the t-shirt supply. And finally, the south side of the house had the better quality and favorite clothing and blankets. The duct tape supply gave out somewhere around northeast by east.

But that's the end of the storm images we'll post. By the time this gets uploaded the news media will be full of fresh images of hurricane damage. So we'll concentrate the rest of this in the sunny weather that always comes with the high pressure just after one of the storms passes through. The day after a hurricane always seems beautiful. But then perhaps I could say that about the next day after any kind of survival experience.

Leaving our neighborhood we could easily see how high the storm surge had gotten up the sides of the lower spots. There is a line of smashed up vegetation and formerly floating debris at the high water mark.

Our friend Preacher had called us to see how we weathered the storm. He told us that the floating docks at the Leeward Marina had let go, again. So we thought we'd start our trip by heading in that direction. Leeward Highway was flooded in all of the usual low spots. These guys were in pretty good spirits, considering the mess the water must make of the apartments here.

We were driving through fairly slowly, but some people are obviously not boaters and are apparently unaware of the "No Wake In Residential Zone" regulations.

Obviously the upper floor has more to recommend it than just the view. Although the fishing is probably better downstairs.

We made our way to Leeward without much trouble. There are a lot of branches blown down and flood debris on the road but nothing to really hinder navigation. When we got to Walkin Marina in Leeward we could see that the floating plastic docks that caused us so much grief in 2008 had let go again. There were a few sections still attached to the mooring anchors. But not many.

And obviously the fencing around the Conch Farm has taken a beating in the storm. We'll have to keep our eyes peeled for any mass conch jailbreaks while the walls are breached.

We drove out onto the Heaving Down Rock area to see if we could spot any serious damage. It was eerily quiet, without many people around and not much boat activity. Judging by the angle of the outboard and anchor line, I suspect this one got dragged here from someplace else.

Looking around this familiar launching area I was again struck by how empty and quiet it appeared. Almost everyone had hauled their boats out of the water for the storm. And those who could not get their boats pulled out drove them up into the protected networks of canals where they could be securely tied and sheltered somewhat from the direct force of the winds.

The first few boats to be re-launched were showing up while we were there. Looking at this scene, we realized that the large landing craft that is always sitting here on the sand bank was no longer here.

Then we noticed it had gotten loose and been blown ashore over by the former Nikki Beach resort.

While we were looking around our friend Harry from the staff at Pine Cay showed up in his conch boat. It's been a long time since my feet were tough enough to wade from that boat to the beach here, but Harry had no problem with it. I think he's done it before.

Preacher drove up in his Jeep while we were there. He had come to give Harry a ride into town. We were talking to him while Harry was putting his pants and shoes on. Preacher told us that there had been a fire at the Big Blue dive and eco-tour operation.

We drove over to Big Blue to see how bad the damage was. Their main office building was untouched, but the storage and work shed that was next door was completely destroyed. Nice tropical disaster scene. We went to the Tiki Hut on Turtle Cove for lunch and heard that an electrical short caused by the storm was the cause of the fire. It won't put Big Blue out of business. They probably needed a new workshop area, anyway.

We walked around the area a bit to see if there was any obvious disaster footage to be had. And thankfully we didn't find much. Oh, the shrubbery here suffered from the wind and erosion. In fact we saw dozens of small bushes and trees that had the soil blown completely away from their root systems. I don't know what these plants are, but would be interested to see if they can survive this kind of abuse. We could use a few tough plants ourselves..

We found plenty of one of the local varieties of vine that is very familiar to us. The latin name for this stuff is Ipomoea pes-caprae but we've only heard it called Railroad Vine. We've got it planted at the house now, and it basically takes care of itself. It grows phenomenally fast, and seems to put out a fresh batch of blossoms every morning. Even after a hurricane:

I like the Railroad vine better than most of the other plants we've experimented with. It's good ground cover, and erosion protection. But still, I also have to admire the tenacity of some of these other guys. I bet this one was pretty glad when the wind let up and the water receded. I think he was on his last root.

I can't tell if it's trying to crawl home or just keeping in touch with his old neighborhood.

I also cannot tell you if the J&B Tours building was damaged before the hurricane, as we haven't been here in well over a year. Whatever shape it was in before the storm, it's worse now.

Looking out at the now peaceful water of Leeward Going Through, I have to think what a shame it is that the best built marina facility in the entire country is also one of the most useless. Years after their construction, these floating docks sit idle. They jut out into the Leeward waterway and impede the passage of people who have used this water for generations. As I understand it, building these docks on top of a National Park was illegal. What I don't understand is why the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands cannot seize it by imminent domain and turn it into a government run marina. There must be a few million reasons I don't know about. But most of the boats in the country would fit inside these protective arms if we could but use them.

At this point in our travels we decided to stop by the Provo Golf club to see if we might filch some internet WiFi signal. We saw a lot of palm tree damage, and debris blown down onto the greens, but in general it all looked to be in good shape. The big trees lining the entrance were all blown down. Again.

Leaving the area along Grace Bay road we saw that the usual spots are doing their usual flooding routine. There is really nothing new about this, either. This will all be gone in a day or so.

We were not able to get to the internet at the Golf Club so we tried at the internet cafe over at Turtle Cove. It's a relatively newer restaurant called "Greenbeans" and they serve Starbucks coffee. Alas, their internet connection was as non-functional as the rest of the island.

I did notice an interesting sight across the parking lot from Greensleeves at a local furniture store. I just took this photo to show Dooley the Distraught that he's not the only dog that gets scared stiff during severe weather.

It might be too late for medication, here. I meant me. Not the dogs.

If you have read back into the blog to September of 2008 you might be familiar with one of the things we tried to do during the last hurricane. We drove down to the Caicos Marina and Boatyard and took photos of the damaged boats there. We did that in response to a lot of emails that we were getting from worried boat owners. We were staying in a place with one of the few internet connections and electrical power still functioning on the island at that time. The boatyard phones and power lines were out. We were able to show people which boats were damaged and which ones were not.

We didn't do that this year. Oh, we went to the boatyard, all right. We have our Contender parked there and wanted to make sure it came through the storm okay. Just getting to the boatyard at the end of Long Bay Road itself is a bit of an ordeal at the moment. This was too deep even for the Land Rover. We had to drive around using other roads

The roads are fairly open. We did have to dodge some debris from time to time. We learned the hard way to avoid roofing shingles on the roads, because they very often hide roofing nails. Sometimes it's hard to see them. It's NOT hard to see the nails when entire sections of roof have blown into the road. We were not too happy to see that this is a standing-rib metal roof design similar to our own. Ah oh.

The staff at the boatyard had hauled every boat that they could lift out of the water. They were relaunching some of them as we were there, and I suspect some of these came from private homes up the nearest canal. The floating docks here were also in some disarray, but these will quickly be put back together.

We didn't feel the need to take photos of damaged boats and publish them time around. We had already been contacted by several boat owners privately and asked if we could check on their boats for them, and this we were happy to do. This time around we only saw a very few instances of damage. Two monohull sailboats got blown over, and we saw several instances of shredded jib sails. And the boatyard sent out emails this year telling their customers the status of their boats. So we don't have to get involved this time, and that is fine by us. Looking at damaged boats is not really much fun, and telling people bad news is even worse.

It's no secret that we are multihull enthusiasts when it comes to sailboats for the Turks and Caicos and Bahamian waters. The dangerous reefs, thousands of uncharted coral heads, and shifting sand bars around all these little islands just seems to point us toward shallow draft boats. We had been thinking of a specific catamaran design, until we spoke at some length with the owner of one of the boats we were favoring. We think we are in the process of changing our minds. The Hobie Adventure Island has taken us up over 10 knots of water speed several times now, and we like the speed. We find ourselves starting to adopt a saying one of our correspondents used in an email... "life is too short to sail slow". So lately we've been thinking more along the lines of a trimaran. They're fast. They are kind of spartan for living quarters, it's more like camping in a Volkswagen microbus than living the condo-maran life of a big cat. Some of them (like this nice little F-28R below) are trailerable. And we just discovered another aspect of the trimarans that we like.

They don't fall over in hurricanes.

So, once again we find ourselves on the output side of another hurricane. Hurricanes are massive experiences, even at their mildest. (If they weren't serious storms they would never make the classification.) They change things. Some of them are big changes, some are small, but make no mistake, things are never exactly the same after a storm like this than they were before.

Island people learn to pick up the pieces, make the adjustments, and hope to be ready for the next curve that life throws their way. As long as nobody gets hurt, the rest of it is just stuff. Boats can be replaced. Roofs are fixable. So are satellite dishes, by the way. This time.

This is hopefully the end of our experience with Hurricane Irene, although we do have family still in its path. But here, the seas have calmed, the sun has come out, people are fixing damage and making plans, as always. The flamingos have extended their vacation to sort through the stirred up goodies in Juba Salina.

And after all was said and done we were lucky. We got through this one with nothing much worse than the human equivalent of some ruffled feathers.

And now we can get back to the fun parts again. We hope.


Anonymous said...

It is so good to see the minimal damage to the island and your property. Even better to hear how well islanders do as they pick up the pieces. You captured the island spirit well. I hope Mr. Dooley fared well through the storm. Something tells me he had a rough couple of days! Poor baby! Loved the video of the water bubbling up through the window..and the choice of music. You can't go wrong with Shorty. The sunrise photo is lovely. Take care.

(used to be in Texas but now back home in Louisiana!)

Anonymous said...

Hey Guys..thanks again for the images & dialog through this mess.

We go over to Pamlico Sound tomorrow to assess damage of which there is plenty...the eye was within 10 miles of our place there...7' surge & 90 mph++ winds...
You are so right...Hurricanes change things.

Have you all heard how North came thru the storm??
Glad you all are o.k.

Anonymous said...

We're slowly getting life settled into what we call the 'new normal'. This is life after a major storm. There will be some permanent changes. It is always thus.

Dooley was a nervous wreck through it all. He was constantly underfoot. He was most stressed when we were divided up, with one of us in a different room or outside. He wanted all three of us in one spot, and he wanted to pick the spot. And it danged sure wasn't outside.

We haven't heard anything from anybody on North, but since North, Parrot Cay, and Pine Cay were all miles further from the center of the storm I am guessing that the worst they saw was rainwater flooding in all the usual places. We did get photos from Pine Cay and the Meridian Club, and it looks like a bunch of broken vegetation and some flooding for the most part. I don't think this was severe enough to further damage the causeway much. Once the present gasoline shortage here is over, this place should be back to it's overall 'new normal' pretty quickly. We don't have big mobs of people to move around, nor a dozen media outlets all competing to see who can scare the public the most with their 'reporting'. It's much simpler here. Storms come, storms go. Life goes on. Its a much bigger deal for NYC than it is for us.

Anonymous said...

You guys should contribute to Stormcarib

There's only one or two on TCI that do but rather limited infos whenever there is a storm. You guys got your finger on the pulse of weather there like no one else.

Alison from CT said...

I've been reading your blog since our first trip to Provo three years ago. We unfortunately planned our second trip this past week. I was wondering how you all were doing as we were holed up in the hotel. We were far luckier than you guys. I hope the cleanup for you and the others on the Islands goes quickly and things can get back to "normal". I'll be dreaming of another trip to T&C, hopefully a hurricane-free one but in the meantime I'll continue to enjoy the islands through you. Thanks for all the posts and good luck. And a big kiss to Dooley.

Ashworth said...

I am happy to see you pulled through. We on the other hand were flooded. Home, business, and boat. I'm sick with it all. We got power back yesterday, just in time to give the generator a break, but lost it again at 3:00am this morning. The boat almost had the rudder ripped off and is leaking. I need to get down there with a new battery for the bilge pump. The stress is terrible, the back is getting too old for this work, and all that I want to do is run away from it all. I see Beaches is closed until October. I was wondering if you knew how Club Med made out, I have friends working scuba and can not get a response from them. We will keep plugging along until we get through this. Money is going like water. I need a vacation or a good sailing trip.
New Jersey
Lil Provo

Anonymous said...

We have watched some of the flooding videos from up there. What a mess. Imagine if it had been a serious hurricane. And it's early in the season yet. September is upon us. A strange month to be here. Intense.

As for the hotels, resorts, etc. we really don't know much about them. We have never stayed a single night in a rented room on Provo. In fact, I think I personally have only stepped into one hotel room here. We did visit a really nice suite one of our readers had rented here, but that's not the same. Family who come here and stay in hotels usually stay at the Ocean Club because of it's location.

Personally, we would love to try a weekend at Amanyara because it's the top spot on this island, but as for resort info, we don't have it. We are not in that circle. We do get a lot of email asking us about places to stay etc. here on Provo. I would suggest clicking the ad right near the top of the right column in this blog. These guys know every place in this country to stay. They know what the restaurants specialize in, what diving or fishing tours are available, and most especially, which hotels are having special rate packages or deals at any given time. Please email Val or any of the good people at
and ask them any questions you might have about which resorts are open, who has a special going on. I know Alexandra is having a rate special right now, but I only know that because I am on Val's mailing list. They're a good resource, and can probably match you up with a good resort and maybe save you some money.