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Old 28-06-2011, 16:47   #1
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Sailing During Hurricane Season in Caribbean - Need Advice

I'm going to be taking a two week sailing trip from St. Martin to the BVI's and USVI's a couple weeks from now. It's about 100 miles from Oyster Pond, St. Martin to Virgin Gorda, but we could be as far away as 140 miles. Palarran can make about 8 mph at 2800 rpm's, 9 mph full out. We will be able to check NOAA at least twice per day.

If a tropical depression starts to form, we and everyone else around us will be watching and tracking it. From what I've observed on NOAA, they don't start to create a path until it forms into a tropical storm. Before that, they tell the direction and speed and a percent chance of formation.

My question is at what point to I pull the trigger on a full steam return to Oyster Pond. Many of the depressions that form of course peter out and many are far away. I'm currently thinking that if any depression starts to forms, I'll head to VG North Sound. Then, depending on the percent and location, make a decision from there. My observation is that there is in general a good 48 hours to prepare.

Any advice would be appreciated.
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Old 28-06-2011, 18:09   #2
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Re: Sailing during Hurricane Season in Caribbean - Need Advice

Have you ever been through a Cat 3 Hurricane? It is impossible to stand up straight in that kind of wind and rain. I've been through the eyes of 6 Cat 3 + in my life (lucky all were on land) and several Cat 1s. If you are still down there by late July, you are asking for trouble. The peak of the season is Aug and Sept. You will never out run one at 9kts, they typically travel 10 to 15 kts and up to 25 kts or higher. They can be up to 800 miles wide and the swells they generate are significant for several 1000s of miles.
There is no good advice other than get out of the area, you will never out run it and even with all the predictions, they are known to make 360 deg loops and come right back and hit you 1 week after you think you are clear.
Lookup Hurricanes Betsy, Camile and Audrey if you want to see erratic behavior and fast formation.
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Old 28-06-2011, 18:44   #3
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Re: Sailing during Hurricane Season in Caribbean - Need Advice

If you sail in the southern Carribean (St. Lucia to Grenada) your chances of encountering hurricanes are siginficantly reduced (but there is still a risk). If I were going to the Carribean in hurricane season I would charter out of St. Lucia or St. Vincent or preposition my boat there.
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Old 28-06-2011, 18:49   #4
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Re: Sailing during Hurricane Season in Caribbean - Need Advice

Thanks Ardoin.
I just got back from my first visit to Annapolis. We didn't have much time to get around as we where at a LAX tournament but really enjoyed the few hours we did have.

No, I've been fortunate to avoid a hurricane. Mostly because I live in Michigan.

We are returning to St. Martin July 24th where the boat will stay for the remainder of the season. I realize there is some element of risk which is why I'm working on actions and options.
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Old 28-06-2011, 18:49   #5
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Re: Sailing during Hurricane Season in Caribbean - Need Advice

I would take St Vincent and sail south to the Grenadines or start in Grenada. You have a much better chance there than in the BVI's to avoid Hurricanes. Anyone know the link to the historic plots from NOAA? They will show you the number of different storms over time for any geographic location at any month or day of the year.
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Old 28-06-2011, 18:52   #6
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Re: Sailing during Hurricane Season in Caribbean - Need Advice

Curmudgion,
Thanks for the advice but it doesn't apply in this situation.
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Old 28-06-2011, 18:55   #7
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Re: Sailing during Hurricane Season in Caribbean - Need Advice

Maybe I didn't clearly state the question. I'll add that I own the boat, it is docked in St. Martin year around, and we are going to the BVI's for two weeks and returning to my dock at the end of the trip (hopefully).
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Old 28-06-2011, 18:55   #8
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Re: Sailing during Hurricane Season in Caribbean - Need Advice

Doesn't sound like Palarran is chartering, but moving his own boat. Looking at NOAA, the odds are in Palarran's favor until mid-July. Most Eastern hurricanes form east of St. Martin, so if one hasn't formed the day you leave St Martin, you probably won't have a problem, but if one does form, I wouldn't turn back, as it probably would be headed right for you.

Good Luck.
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Old 28-06-2011, 18:58   #9
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Re: Sailing during Hurricane Season in Caribbean - Need Advice

Here is the link. Gulf is most dangerous until July then the season shifts to the Atlantic.
Tropical Cyclone Climatology
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Old 28-06-2011, 19:20   #10
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Re: Sailing during Hurricane Season in Caribbean - Need Advice

I don't think there is much good advice that can be given. Usually the south side of the storm is better, but if you talk to local you will find that many of them lost friends in Hurricane Mitch in 1998 when it didn't follow the projected path. Those that stayed south vanished as the storm changed direction from north to west and then south. Some of those boats were much larger than yours. Most storms follow the predicted path, but not all. Good luck.
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Old 28-06-2011, 19:31   #11
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Re: Sailing during Hurricane Season in Caribbean - Need Advice

Thanks for the links and attachments. I hadn't seen those before. Khagen, that's the problem, I'll be heading East at 8 mph as a depression will be heading typically west at typically the same speed. I've only followed NOAA through last years season but they really do track depression potential pretty well. And though they can form fast, as you say, odds, time, and distance are in my favor.

I am just struggling on when NOAA starts to track formation, where and when do I make my own tracks back.
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Old 28-06-2011, 19:36   #12
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Re: Sailing during Hurricane Season in Caribbean - Need Advice

Been sailing in the BVI and the Leewards since 1969.

Just watch the weather closely. NOAA begins to track hurricanes when they form...and before. Usually, they form way out in the Atlantic and you've got plenty of time to get to safety. Sometimes, though, they form closer to the Windwards or the Leewards and there's less time.

The Anegada Passage is just an overnite. Plenty of time to seek shelter. Don't sweat it....just watch the weather.

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Old 28-06-2011, 19:46   #13
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Re: Sailing during Hurricane Season in Caribbean - Need Advice

You won't get accurate track information until a TD is formed. Before then NOAA only give regions of interests and they cover a large area. A TD could form anywhere within the region. Once the TD forms you should get typical winds from a LOW (anti-clockwise). Once a TD forms, NOAA starts putting out projected paths and the center of circulation. There is also the 1-2-3 rule that you should pay close attention to. This is a marine rule designed to tell you where winds and waves are expected to be in the danger zone. See Tropical Storm ARLENE
for the current storm in the Bay of Campichi (sp?).
Prior to that, i don't know that you will have nay information to use for "plotting" a track. You may look at the wind and wave predictions put out by NOAA. They usually project a few days in advance. But I bet they have a big caveat that they are not to be used the way you would like to use them.
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Old 28-06-2011, 20:03   #14
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Re: Sailing during Hurricane Season in Caribbean - Need Advice

Permanently in St Maarten? It means you will be in trouble every 2.84 years and fully hit every 6.32 years. Next hit is before the end of the 2013 season according to statistics. They towed hundreds of wrecks out of the lagoon to sink in the ocean before and will do so again.

We've been hit twice in 9 years of trying to stay clear of hurricanes (Grenada and Aruba) and can only advice to move way south during the summer, regardless anything else.

see below for more info

Quote:
Years within 60 miles
1871,1872ts,1876,1878ts,1881ts,1889,1889ts,1891tsb r,1893br,1898,1898ts,
1899br,1899,1900tsbr,1901ts,1906,1908,1908tsbr,191 0br,1916,1922,1924,1928br,1931,1932,1933-2ts,1938ts,
1943ts,1947ts,1949tsbr,1950tsbr,1950,1953ts,1960,1 966,1979-2ts,1989br,1990tsbr,1995br,1995,1996,
1998,1999-2,2000,2008br,2010
49 times in 139yrs end of 2010

Names from list above
Baker,Dog,Edna,Faith,Donna,Faith,Claudette,Frederi c,Hugo,Klaus,Luis,Marilyn,Bertha,Georges,Jose,Lenn y ,Debby,Omar,Earl,

Longest gap between storms
12 years 1966-1979

How often this area gets affected?
brushed or hit every 2.84 years

Average years between direct hurricane hits.
once every 6.32 years (22h)

Average MPH of hurricane hits. (based on advisories sustained winds, not gusts)
105 mph

Statistically when this area should be affected next
Before the end of the 2013 season
This is just a statistical average & does not mean the area will be affected by that year

Last affected by2010 Hurricane earl hits just north with 110mph winds Aug 30th.


This areas hurricane past
1871 August 21st a Hurricane hits with 115mph winds while moving WNW
1876 Sept 12th, 110mph from the east
1889 sept 3rd 95mph from the ESE just south.
1898 sept 12, 110mph winds from the south.
1899 Sept 8th, 115mph from the ESE just north
1906 Sept 2nd, 105mph from the S.E
March 7th, 1908 95mph from the NNE passes just east
1916 Aug 21st, 85mph from the ESE
1922 sept 16th 105mph< from the S.E
1924 aug 28th 80mph from the ESE
1931 Sept 10th,80mph from the east
1932 sept 26th 115mph from the east
1950 Hurricane Dog Sept 1st,125mph from the S.E
1960 hurricane Donna sept 5th winds 150mph from the ESE, 7 killed very heavy damage on the island.
1966 aug 26th hurricane Faith hits with 90mph winds from the ESE
1995 hurricane Luis sept 5th ,125mph winds badly hit the area leaving 1,000 homeless 14 killed gusts to 140mph winds press 27.61
1996 hurricane Bertha hits with 80mph winds July 8th from the ESE causing some roof damage press 29.08 city of Grand case lost most buildings on NE corner of island
1998 Sept 21st Hurricane Georges to the south with 110mph winds from the ESE
1999 oct 21st hurricane Jose hits with 95mph winds from the S.E press 29.23 minor damage reported due to the fact that jose was in a weakening mode many trees down minor roof damage.
1999 Nov 18th Hurricane Lenny pounds the island with 130mph winds from the WSW as Lenny sat over the island in a weakening mode for 24 hrs before moving on.South facing beaches took a beating.13 killed here & now insurers on the island are either cancelling policies & drastically raising rates due to 5 hurricanes in 7 years.Tourism is pretty much shut down for the winter on the island as a result of hurricane Lenny.
2000 Aug 22nd Hurricane Debby hits with 75mph winds from the ESE causing minor damage here .
2010 Hurricane earl hits just north with 110mph winds Aug 30th from the ESE.While heavy seas and seaweed were blamed as major factors in the disruption of electricity generation as a result of the passing of the storm, tons of seaweed washed ashore by the storm were also in evidence on the Great Bay beach promenade and at Captain Hodge Wharf. Several trucks were used Thursday to cart away the seaweed and other debris.
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Old 28-06-2011, 20:16   #15
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Re: Sailing during Hurricane Season in Caribbean - Need Advice

Well, it's a small distinction but I'm actually in St. Martin Where did you get that data? It's good info.

I feel pretty good about my location and I'm fully covered with insurance so that isn't a real worry. Last year Earl came 20 miles north of SXM as a cat 1 and left as a cat 3 without any boats in Oyster Pond being damaged. Who knows, I only have one more season until Palarran heads to the Med.

btrayfors, thanks for the advice.
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