Bristol Channel Cutter "Angelsea" (Shanti)

Hurricane Earl

Well we made it through Hurricane Earl. No problems to speak of except for a torture test of the synthetic rigging. Others were not so lucky. So far I have heard (from a local tow/salvage company) that 40 boats were put on the beach or sunk. Two boats anchored in the harbor of Charlotte Amalie were dis-masted from the severe pitching, although their anchors or moorings held. No deaths or injuries that I am aware of. Most if not all of the boats were in anchorages exposed to the WEST

Now for the uninitiated, if a hurricane is going to be passing to the North of your position the wind will blow out of the North, West, then south directions. There was one large (~120ft) mega yacht that was anchored in Brewers Bay here on St. Thomas. Totally open to the west with fetch all the way from Puerto Rico, about 45 miles away. I commented to my fiancé I couldn’t believe someone had anchored there for the storm. The day after, seen in a bar looking a bit hangared and drinking copious amounts of rum, the crew was overheard to say the wind came out of a very strange direction. This was after a hell of a night re-anchoring 5 times and motoring into the storm while on the hook. Their nice 26ft runabout was unceremoniously deposited on to the beach after the 3/4″ tow line snapped in the storm. The only thing I can think of was the Capitan thought (or didn’t) since the storm is North of him the wind would be from the north. NOT! The wind will back through 3 quadrants of the compass as a hurricane passes your location. The problem comes from deciding where it will pass you. So if it will pass close you have to take a gamble in deciding on a hurricane hole and where you place your anchors. Or you can prepare for all quadrants of the compass. 

Here is what happened for boats anchored with WEST exposure during Hurricane EARL.  

click on photo for larger view. 

fig.1 Anchorage for 120ft Mega yacht

Hurricane Earl

fig.2 Poor anchorage for Hurricane Earl on St. Thomas

fig.3 St. John anchorages open to West

 

This video above was just the start. The most severe weather occured during the night.

Summary 

40 yachts on the beach or sunk from a near miss by Hurricane Earl. Closest point of approach approximately 80-90 miles of St. Thomas. Official winds at St. Thomas airport 50kts with gusts to 68kts. Wind backed from NE to SW before going back to trade wind pattern from the East. 100% of boats that were beached or sunk were in anchorages open to the WEST. 

Next: Part II Hurricane Holes 

Cheers, Gary