Hurricane Odile

As Maluhia and crew rode out the hurricane in Puerto Escondido tied to a mooring ball, we kept a log of what was happening around us. It helped to pass the time and allowed us to keep record of our account. Ever been through a hurricane? We invite you to join us on Maluhia.

First, you will want to familiarize yourself with the area. This will help you get the lay of the land inside the safe hurricane harbor at Puerto Escondido.

Inside Puerto Escondido

Second, throughout the storm we watch both the clock and the barometer, hoping to give us some indication for how close the eye of the storm would be in relationship to our location. As the eye of the storm nears, the barometer mBar drops and the winds intensify.

Third, we set the mode on our VHF radio to scan so we can monitor all channels. It was helpful to hear that there were other people out there and we weren’t alone in experiencing the chaos that surrounded us.

Lastly, there are videos in this post. The sounds alone are enough to make us cringe. The first video was taken standing partially inside and outside, gives a very good indication of the types of gusts felt early during the storm. Two additional videos, taken from inside the boat, should give you an idea of the noise level as the storm passed.

3 AM Monday, September 15 – mBar 1012

We awake to winds ramping up from the North, being sucked into a very angry vacuum cleaner coming towards us from the South. As the hurricane passed our winds shifted in relationship to the storm.

Looking South

8 AM Monday, September 15 – mBar 1010

Winds continue to build from the North and it begins raining. We listen to the morning net which is mainly a focus on the weather and consists of a survey amongst the amateur weather forecasters in the group discussing what they’ve been able to pull up online, what they’ve received via SSB transmission and wind speeds they’ve recorded using their own equipment onboard.  The highest sustained wind speed (for one minute or more) inside Puerto Escondido is 45 knots. However, s/v Starlite anchored 7 miles to the South in Bahia Candeleros, clocks 70 knots from the North. Meanwhile s/v Sonrisa on Isla Carmen reports 52 knots. Maluhia doesn’t have a working wind instrument. We can only rely on what others are reporting for wind speeds. There are many discrepancies.

As the wind races around us, the rigging screeches and the mast vibrates to a new tune we’ve never heard before. We go to the bow, check our mooring line, and add a second line to the mooring pennant.

The wind and waves make this almost impossible. It takes both of our strength at the bow to bring Maluhia close enough to the pennant eye to add another line.  With our chafe guard in place, everything looks good.

We look around and observe complete whiteouts on the water. The gusts that are normally indicated by ripples in darker patches of water have completely turned white. The wind blows the tops off of every wave in the harbor. Mini vortices (water tornadoes) occur all around us. While out on deck we stayed low, remained cautious, and wore our life jackets. As a gust came we’d duck down as low as we could go, hang on and brace ourselves for the blow. It became clear; the water was no place for anyone to be during the storm.

Our new inflatable West Marine dinghy (Dinghy) flips back and forth like a rag doll. We left it out the back of the boat on a longer painter line. We thought it would rain and quickly become heavy enough to remain flooded. But, the wind and waves were over powering. At one point Dinghy landed in our cockpit but was quickly blown back to the water. The painter connecting Dinghy to our boat turned and twisted around the back of our Monitor Wind Vane. It was only a matter of time before Dinghy would break free. The wind was too high to do anything else but continue to untangle the painter throughout the entire storm.

White Water Gusts

Noon Monday, September 15 – mBar 1006 

Boats within the bay agree to stay in constant contact with each other via VHF radio, and alert each other of problems as they arose. The Internet is no longer working. Information is shared with us about Cabo by the Hams (Ham radio operators). Cabo San Lucas may have been destroyed by 140 knot winds from Odile. We don’t know any other details except that the hurricane was now on land and moving North up the peninsula. Would Odile come over top of us? That was a concern.

Winds inside Puerto Escondido slowly shift from the North to the North East. The hurricane is on the move. As the wind direction shifts to the North East, a major gust comes blasting from the North and tries to push Maluhia over by 10 and even 20 degrees. Other boats experience full knock downs where their mast touches the water.

A boat alerts the fleet that they’ve just lost 2 lower stays and are now securing their mast with halyards. Another had their jib unfurl. They are now on deck trying to save their boat from being ripped off their mooring, and their sail from being shredded.

In the photo below, take note of the boat on the far left called Libertad.

Looking To The South Other Boats In Safe Harbor Wind Shifts West

1:30 PM Monday, September 15 – mBar 1000

Wind speeds increase to 55+ knots from the North East. Maluhia bucks violently up and down, but continues to hang on for dear life. We can’t go forward to check the mooring lines because the wind is too strong and the waves and motion are too dangerous. We peer over the dodger to see our lines still connected to our bow cleats. Maluhia’s bow cleats are solid bronze, we feel confident in them but wonder about the lines we connected to our mooring, and the quality of our mooring?

Manta breaks free from its mooring and is now on the rocks surrounded by mangroves. Everyone is ok and will remain onboard.

Rumor has it, the storm should die down by 3 PM but at this point the barometer mysteriously kept dropping. We stare at the clock. Grant promises me a spa day after the hurricane is over. I accept!

Winds from the NE

2:15 PM Monday, September 15 – mbar 998

Wind speeds increase to 85 Knots from the NE. Radio chatter: “The catamaran Rapscallian is drifting freely throughout the bay.” I peer out the port-hole. It’s at our 2 o’clock and heading straight for us! We run frantically topside and start the engine, but the boat is way too close to our bow to do any type of maneuvering. There is nothing we can do.

“Dear God! Please don’t let this boat hit us!” Fearing the worst our minds jump to what our next steps will be after the collision. Will we be ping ponged off our mooring? In the next breath, our minds stopped wondering.

A gust catches wind inside Rapscallian’s already shredded head sail. It rounds up into the wind slightly and sails sharply around our bow missing us by 10 feet.  Our hearts are racing and we are shaking. That was way too close for comfort!

We leave the engine running and that is part of the noise you hear during this video:

Close Call Cat

DSC_0206 (1)

3 PM Monday, September 15 – mbar 997

Wind directions continue to change from North East to East. We leave the engine running. I stare at the clock. It’s 3 PM but the wind does not abate. A quick glance out the port-hole and I notice another boat moving freely around the anchorage. It’s already close enough for me to read the name! Libertad (freedom in Spanish). I shout to Grant. We both ran to the cockpit but I stop first to grab the radio to alert the fleet of the situation.

“Attention the fleet this is Maluhia. Libertad has broken free and is headed straight for us. We will try to avoid collision by using our engine.” I threw the mic and ran up the ladder. Meanwhile Grant takes the wheel and jams the engine into forward at some ridiculously high amount of RPMS (5,000). So high, I smell diesel fumes as I make my way into the cockpit.

Moving fast, Libertad is set to t-bone us at our 3 o’clock. Its huge 55lb Rocna anchor is right in front of our face! If we reach out far enough we could probably touch it. Maluhia uses the momentum and swings forward to port and around her mooring. Libertad’s bow slowly drifts towards our stern. Waving my arms dramatically at the boat I shout, “Come on wind! Push Libertad!” We hold our breath. At best Libertad will hit our monitor wind vane and destroy our dinghy. But, at the very last second another gust comes and pushes Libertad’s bow past our stern!

I make another radio announcement, “Attention the fleet, Maluhia has successfully avoided Libertad.”

Our nerves run wild. How many more boats will try to play ping-pong with us? “It’s obvious that a boat named Libertad would want to break free from its mooring during a hurricane,” Grant says with sarcasm.

Avoiding Libertad

Libertad Drifting In Hurricane Odile

3:35 PM Monday, September 15 – mBar 996 and steady

Wind continues to be strong 70 knot gusts or higher from the East South East and breaking waves build from the same direction to 3-4 feet. Here is another video out our port-hole. There is a conversation on the VHF radio in the background between two other boats in the bay.

In the waiting room a boat is dismasted, Pacific Puffin has a man over board situation and Yankee Dreamer breaks free of its mooring drifting into 4-5 other boats on the way.

5:45 PM Monday, September 15 – mBar 996 and steady

The wind shifts more to the South East and the barometer is holding steady. Wind speeds have lulled to 25 – 35 knots.  We think the eye could be parallel to our position.

DSC_0220 (1)

We take advantage and do another deck and gear check on Maluhia. The line we used to hold up our Monitor Wind Vane Rudder had chafed through and became tangled with the dingy painter. The Monitor Wind Vane rudder was bobbing freely in the water. We untangle Dinghy and use another line to secure the Monitor’s rudder.

Double Stranded Dock Line Chafe Hanging On by One Line

Our starboard double strand mooring line has chafed through completely and is floating freely in the water. Maluhia is only hanging on by the second mooring line we had added earlier that morning! Our backup line is also showing signs of chafe.

Do you see our mooring?

Wind and waves make it impossible to grab the free-floating line with our boat hook, or even pull Maluhia close to the mooring pennant. Instead we grab more of Maluhia’s dock lines and tie rolling hitches (type of knot) at various intervals to our first line as a safety. If one part of the line chafes through, the safety lines should re-engage the original line. We also adjust and reposition our chafe gear.

Bronze Bow Cleats

Every time we go outside the boat we come back in soaking wet. We have wet clothes, wet sheets, and wet towels. We even break out our heavy weather gear!

6:30 PM Monday, September 15 – mBar 997 bar finally rises!

Odile is now slightly North of us. Wind continues to be sucked into the storm from the South and have increased. On land wind reports were gusts up to 65 knots. However, some of the larger Mexican motor yachts with their fancy equipment reported wind gusts up to 100 knots.

From the cockpit I see something funny happening on the water. A color change but not white, a river of brown? With so much rain running down the mountains a large brown river had finally made its way to the bay. It crept out onto the water until the entire bay was one giant brown muddy mess.

River of Mud

7:30 PM Monday, September 15 – mBar 999

We still have spray coming over the bow of our boat and hitting our dodger. We realize we didn’t eat anything all day! We drank plenty of liquids but with all of the stress we weren’t very hungry. We forced ourselves to eat a peanut butter sandwich, and some crackers. We know the end should be near but we’re not sure how much longer.

7:50 PM Monday, September 15 – mBar 1000

Wind is still high and it is now getting dark. We check our mooring lines, chafe gear and Dingy. We do some additional adjustments.

8:45 PM Monday, September 15 – mBar 1001

Vessel Magic Reel calls a MAYDAY. They are somewhere west of Isla Monserrate. The Mexican Navy works to help coordinate a rescue. However, they could not agree on coordinates and asked Magic Reel to continue to meet them half way. When asked what type of MAYDAY emergency was being hailed there was confusion. The captain of the boat kept exclaiming, “muchas olas!, muchas olas!” (lots of waves) When asked if they were ready to leave the boat behind for the rescue, there was no clear radio transmission.

10:00 PM Monday, September 15 – mBar 1003 

Winds are 35 – 40 Knots from the SSE. 2-3 foot waves continue throughout the anchorage. We check our mooring lines, chafe gear and Dinghy. All ok. We check the bilge and emptied 1 1/2 gallons of water, the result of running the engine all day, and taking waves over the bow through the chain locker.

11:00 PM Monday, September 15 – mBar 1005

Winds still 40 knots from the South. “Really? How much longer?!” We wonder.

1:00 AM Tuesday, September 16 – mBar 1007

Wind has slowed to 20 knots or less. We killed the engine and adjusted our mooring lines. We grab the starboard mooring line floating in the water. We attach an additional mooring line and save one of our chafe guards.

Our terrifying experience in the clutches of Odile was finally over! We could relax a bit, calm our nerves and try to get some sleep.  Below is my hurricane face taken during the storm.

My hurricane Face

“Now what were you saying about that spa?”

4 comments

  • Oh my gosh!!!! That video from your port light was amazing! scary! loud! You are truly blue water sailors now. Love your updates. M

    • Meta,

      I know! The noise IS crazy. The experience WAS scary! This lifestyle makes one learn a lot about themselves. We made it through. Thanks for reading. More to come!

      Denise & Grant

  • I so very much enjoy following your posts! But am especially grateful to the Lord for keeping you & Maluhia safe!! My love, Bill, always used to say to do what you can then trust Maluhia because she is a great boat. Makes me miss the boat & my dear husband. He is probably smiling at how well you all did! God bless you both!

    • Thanks Pamela! Hugs! That is very good advice from Bill! Thank you for passing that along. We will remember that. We thank the Lord for all of the blessings he has sent our way, and the people that have entered into our life as a result! It is a HUGE treat to meet others, learn about their stories, where they’ve come from, and where they hope to go. People are like onions, they have so many layers, as you peel back the layers you’re always discovering something new.

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