We stuck around inside Puerto Escondido for a few days after the storm to allow our nerves to settle a bit and help out other cruisers if we could. The weather had cleared despite a few remaining random gusts from the South. More importantly, the water inside the bay was flat again. There was no power, Internet or phone service so that made getting in touch with our families and friends difficult. We didn’t know what, if anything, our families knew about Odile. We had a pretty good idea that they were either paralyzed with worry, or they had absolutely no idea of the experience we just had. Ham Radio operators were able to pass communication back and forth between other hams in Cabo and La Paz. Other boats who could send emails via ships modem offered to assist in sending messages for those that couldn’t.
Surveying the damage started with us. Dinghy was fine. Maluhia was fine. We were fine. All in all, we were missing a sponge that fell out of our dinghy bailer. A sponge! Plus some really nice dock lines we had chafed through during the storm. When looking at the damage around us, we had to keep reminding ourselves, a sponge, and some dock lines. That was it. We were fine, but suffering from deer-in-headlight syndrome.
Heading straight towards the mangroves, we decided to treat our syndrome by coming face to face with the unattended boats that frightened us during the storm. Rapscallian, Libertad and Cloud Nine, were comfortably huddled together in the mangroves. Having a close up look at the two boats that almost rammed us (Rapscallian and Libertad) made us realize how blessed we were to have received the majority of the high winds from the hurricane during the daylight. We did our best not to think about what would have happened to us or Maluhia if things would have been different. Instead we try to focus on forgiveness, making new friends, listening to their stories, and helping others. Because even after a storm, life must go on. And ready or not, it does. Nature is a good reminder of this. Birds come out of hiding. Fish, they barely knew there was a storm. And of course, the resilient cockroach survives.
Twenty-One boats (that we know of) inside puerto escondido experienced damage.
- 6 Submerged – Elusive, Sea Toy, Roxo, Cloud VIV, Unidentified Boat, Large Powerboat Dingy
- 3 Dismasted – Neka, Equity, Luna Sea II
- 2 Grounded On Shore – Angel, Red Dolphin
- 3 Damaged Still Floating – Merilon, Yankee Dreamer, Alley Cat
- 5 Grounded In Mangroves – Manta, Drei, Libertad, Cloud Nine, Rapscallian
- 2 Damaged (unclear if still floating) – Minx, Klanoki
Owners of a sailing trimaran, Manta, were onboard when they broke free from their mooring. Waves pushed their boat sideways, lifting them with little effort over underwater rocks to their final destination nestled in the mangroves. Positioned in the very far end of the bay near one of the open windows, (map of Puerto Escondido) the crews safest option was to ride out the remainder of the storm onboard. A call for help with refloating their boat was put out on the morning net. We decided to join the efforts.
We quickly met new friends aboard Luna Azul, Island Princess, and Azul, who were already helping the owners dive down to move heavy rocks and position underwater lift bags to help refloat the boat. In an effort to lift the port side alma over the last bit of rocks we became rail meat, extra bodies to help add weight to the starboard side alma that was already afloat. Towing lines were tied to the sailing vessel Brandy Wine who tried at 1700 RPMS to pull the boat out from the mangroves. Sailboats aren’t well known for their towing abilities. The bow moved slightly forward. A small but acceptable victory.
Motor Vessel Bad Company showed up to replace Brandy Wine and add a little more umph to the effort. The force snapped tow lines in half like twigs on three separate attempts. The result, Manta was still stuck in the mangroves, but now they had a broken rudder and a newly holed port alma. It would be a few weeks before Manta floated up and out of the mangroves unassisted from the newly large tides.
During the clean up we continued to meet new people and listen to their experiences during the storm. There was a huge difference between compared winds speeds recorded among boats inside the anchorage based on their position. In fact some boats were using handheld anemometers. Our position did not give us much protection from the full gusts as they slammed across the water from the NE.
Perhaps the only unattended boat that didn’t try to hit us inside the harbor was Tequila Mockingbird. It was very wise of them to position their anchors away from the line they connected to the mooring pennant and also run the line directly over the bow roller. The head sails were secured with a ton of zip lines at various locations. We got to meet them as well, and gave them kudos for their prep work!
Sailing vessel Ariel observed one of the medium sized power yachts break free of its mooring during the storm. As the pennant line snapped, the mooring ball floated right off the top of the chain. At this point the boat tried to anchor but it was too difficult. Instead they joined a few of the mega yachts that decided to use their twin engines in reverse to motor their stern into the wind throughout the duration of the storm!
We even met the man who fell overboard. He survived rescued by his wife at the helm after they dropped their mooring lines. After some struggle to get back onboard, a gust of wind heeled the boat just enough to give him the chance to grab the side of the cap rail, catapulting him back on deck.
Despite the disheveled appearance the four girls and one captain, we noticed the boat that called MAYDAY just 12 hours earlier (Magic Reel) was now safely tied up to the dock. The girls were on vacation and vowed they would never step foot on a boat again.
Many of the locals confirmed Odile was worse than Marty because of the destruction and the force of the winds coming from multiple directions as the storm passed parallel to our position in Puerto Escondido. But just how close were we to the storms path? What path did the storm take exactly? As a hurricane moves it changes in intensity, so what category storm was it as it passed? None of us really knew. That’s what promoted me to create this graphic.
As you look at this graphic and read back through our account in the previous blog post you start to see the scope of how big a storm like this is. As winds in La Paz heightened around 1-2 AM, winds in Puerto Escondido started picking up around 3AM.
We’ve retraced our steps, and have decided if we were to go back in time during our preparations for the storm, there are a few things we would do differently.
- Dinghy – Deflate Dinghy completely and store below or fill it with a ton of water to partially sink it before the storm.
- Sails – Completely remove the main sail cover and sail to avoid additional windage.
- Canvas – Remove all of our side spray canvas for the same reason as above.
- Side Solar Panels – Remove and store below.
- Mooring – Dive or inspect the mooring. Position the anchor to the side and use our bow roller to prevent chafe to our mooring lines instead of running our bow lines through the side cleats of the boat. There was way to much friction and heat built up on the lines and the chafe gear.
- Chafe Gear – Use firehose or some thick plastic tubing instead of the traditional store bought chafe gear.
- Storm Food – Cook quick food ahead of time.
- Hurricanes – We won’t be dancing with anymore hurricanes, but for those cruising Baja during the summer it becomes a risk. Yes, you can stay at the dock the entire season. But, you can also watch the weather and plan to be within ear shot of a safe harbor. Being at the dock doesn’t necessarily guarantee anything either, cleats can be ripped off the dock and docks can fall apart from all of the stress. Boats crash into each other.
When you think about it, nobody assumes the same amount of risk during a hurricane unless everyone does the same thing. That means everyone has the same boat, prepares their boat the same way, is tied to the dock, connected to a mooring, anchored with the same gear, moves their boat onto the hard, stays with their boat, leaves their boat unattended etc. There’s no way you will ever get a bunch of boaters to agree to do the exact same thing. There are just too many variables and salty old men. As a boat owner no matter what experience level, you make decisions for how to best prepare YOUR boat, and you take responsibility for the decisions you make.
Nobody knew exactly what direction Odile would take or how destructive she would be. We worked hard to keep Maluhia safe, and in return she kept us safe. Seeing the amount of strain put on our boat during the hurricane makes us appreciate Pacific Seacraft and their craftsmanship even more!