Surviving Maria

Larry Ketten is the owner of TR40 trimaran Morello and is based in St Croix in the Virgin Islands where he works at Gold Coast Yachts. In September 2017 the Caribbean was battered by two hurricanes, firstly Irma, and then the far more devastating Maria which resulted in the deaths of over 500 people on various islands in the region.

 

Larry sailed Morelllo to Bequia to ride out Irma and then returned to St Croix to be confronted by Maria. In the following article he recounts the preparations they made for the approaching storm. Morello was fortunate to survive with very little damage.

It’s a valuable read for anyone cruising in waters vulnerable to cyclones or hurricanes. 

 

Two TR40's in the Carribbean, Morello and Yana.

by Larry Ketten;

In September we experienced two hurricanes, the first, Irma, we sailed 350 miles south to Bequia and still had a night of 30 knot westerly winds in an exposed anchorage. 

Ten days later with a good weather window and assurances from our weather router that a tropical wave to the east would be a "non event" we sailed back to St. Croix. On arrival after checking the weather our tropical wave was developing into Hurricane Maria. 

We did not feel comfortable about sailing south again as Maria was fast developing. We decided to tie up in our marina and I have sent a couple of photos of our set up.

First we stripped the sails, daggerboard, sprit and boom. We then tied twenty lines ashore to cement pilings and made strops of Dynema with fire hose chafe protection to tie to our beam ends. We also flooded the floats with water from beam to beam, (about half full) to add weight to the boat. 


Larry's set up in preparation for the storm. A spiderweb of 20 lines tied to concrete piles on shore.

We have neighbors (who have experienced many hurricanes) with trimarans and they were great help getting us set up. The wind started to really pick up in the evening so we left Morello and stayed ashore for the first time in two years.

At 10:00 pm you could hardly walk outside and Maria just got stronger from there on. By 1:00 am we were convinced and resigned that we would not have a boat in the morning. Winds on our side of the island were in the 135 to 145 knot range and the western end of the island an anemometer recorded 173 knots before breaking. 

 

 

At dawn the next morning the wind seemed to abate enough to venture down and see what was left, it was still very windy. To our surprise Morello was still there. The only damage that we had was a missing wind speed sensor and vegetation packed in every nook and cranny. We also have an imprint in one float of one side of a bowline knot from a line that I should have left a little more slack in.

 

 

 


Morello after the storm. Not a bad result considering the fate suffered by many yachts in the region.

While we are fortunate to have survived Maria, St. Croix and the surrounding island are devastated, all of the electrical grid has to be reconstructed and many many homes are lost or inhabitable. Currently about 50% of the island has power. At Gold Coast Yachts we expect it to be March or April before we can turn the generators off.