Life Aboard LULU

November 16, 1999 (Hurricane Lenny)
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November 16, 1999

I thought we were retired! Aside from the hard partying we had the final awards dinner last night we now seem to be in full gear -- preparing for our first hurricane. This is no t what we had in mind, not one bit. Lenny, which started out as a tropical depression, then yeste rday moved through classification as a hurricane of first Category 1, then 2 and 3 status, has now dropped back down to Category 2, seems headed our way, though it will probably not, we a re told, hit us directly.

Still, you never know, and regardless of whether it's a direct hit, we will be a ffected powerfullly by the storm, with high winds, torrential rains and who knows what else. Yesterday the winds were over 100 miles an hour as Lenny made his way up from off the north coast of Jama ica. This morning the storm is south of the Dominican Republic, headed directly for Puerto Rico (Julio, your poor father!) via the Virgin Islands. It's supposed to reach Virgin Gorda later today. All the marinas in St Thomas have been evacuated.

We are luckier. We are in dock and in as safe a place as we could be, given that we're in the Virgin Islands at all. We spent yesterday adding lines to the boat to anchor her better to the docks and covering the dock lines with towels and rubber scraps, attempting to guard against what could be massive chafing when the wind buffets the boat, straining and releasing the lines to the tune its own strength plus that of a 50,000-pound vessel. Later we took down t he headsails, (which are big, cumbersome and heavy) flaked them and stored in sail bags and then we pulled down the sheets and coiled them. This morning we'll be taking down the bimini an d dodger, plus anything else that swings, fills with air, offers wind resistance or could other wise get the wind to pay special attention to us.

There's a decision to be made about whether to stay on the boat or go to some lo cal hotel when the storm comes. We're waiting to see what path the storm takes, what the wind s peed is and to get some local guidance from the experts around here.

Think positive thoughts about us

I'll try to keep you all posted as soon as I can

November 16, 1999 (Continued)

It is now 5:27 (1727 in marine lingo, 4:45 in New York and the 3 B's -- Blue Bel l and Baltimore and Bethlehem -- and it's 1:45 in LA) and the storm has begun. I am hoping our k ids aren't too worried, though I can't imagine how they could not be. Lenny is now predicted to be a direct hit on the American Virgin Islands, and, by extension, on us. We have spent the day add ing lines, doubling up on them wherever we could; weighting our fenders with one-gallon wat er jugs to keep them from jumping out of the water; and I made one last grocery run. All I could come up with that I didn't already have was a pineapple, a melon and some vino: vino I sense is go ing to become increasingly important.

We have decided to stay on the boat: there really aren't too many places to go. Little Dix Bay the hotel was evacuated today. Other hotels are already booked. And it's hard t o think of abandoning ship, though that might turn out to be the prudent thing. You just do n't know. There is a Catholic Community Center up the road, but we suspect the locals will pretty m uch fill that and we wouldn't be so welcome. We could hunker down in the marina bathrooms, which a re all tiled, air conditioned (though I think they turn the power off) and have no windows, so are safe.

The thing is it's hard to leave the boat when the storm hasn't hit and once it h its, it's virtually impossible to make your way up the dock in 75-to 100-knot winds. We're pretty mu ch committed.

Odd things you think about I just put my sunglasses away and wondered when or w here I'd need them next.

There was the traditional calm before the storm. We sat on Legend, Cathy and Pau l's '62-foot Ocean Ketch. They are at the end of the dock, with an unobstructed view of Beef Island in the distance. The view was crystal clear and still, and the island encased in bands of turquoise and powder blue. Gary and I were seeking advice about whether to tie down the boom a nd take down the dodger he, of course, rock solid in his position that both measures were un necessary. I polled the people on the dock who were pretty unanimous that these were steps th at had to be taken. Eventually he caved in, but just about the time the first big drops of ra in hit. We ran back to the boat and accomplished removing the canvas, tying down the metal frame, secur ing the boom, unplugging the power cord and stashing it in the lazarette. We are now tucked in side and the winds are already up to 30 knots, the rain is strong, there is constant ferociou s thunder and bright lightening -- the lightening coming fast and so quick it's like a strobe light. When I last looked out, before the dark took over, the palm trees were beginning to sway in a spastic dance. And this is just the precursor. The real storm is not expected to hit until 10 A M tomorrow.

I don't mind saying this is scary. I wouldn't want to be on the small boats; on the other hand, a big boat, if launched, can be quite a missile and so can any part of it that breaks loose.

I've spoken to Karen and Dan Neri on Calvin, a very unprotected, small 38-foot r acing boat, and they have their 12 and 13 year-olds on board super, well adjusted kids, but not above getting scared. Meanwhile we have all the comforts of a super-luxurious RV microwave, dishwasher (though currently it's used only as a bread box), air conditioning, showers, extra pillows and so far, no leaks. Not to mention the wine supply. While David Schulman would snort with contempt, we are able to get happily high for the next few days!) Anyway, I invited the Neri family to come on board if they felt uncomfortable. I think they probably will, sooner or later , because Karen was starting to get nervous about the fierceness of what might befall us.

Here we are all, once again tucked into our separate boats, communicating by VHF radio. As if we never got here at all and, most amazing, we're actually 5 feet from some of the boats and no more than 300 feet apart at the most. Most of us, now that crews have departed, are twosomes.

Anyway, the black humor, which I suspect will go on as long as nothing truly ter rifying takes place, has begun:

Boats have begun reporting how they're handling cocktail hour:

Windwalker is having rum and tonics Esprit is getting out the gin. Bravado perhaps a misnomer is eating popcorn. Lulu (that's us) We're into red and white wine and I'm hoping there won't be any unwanted pregnancies from this storm. Another Day not on this boat

Elixir has started the first game of the offical 1500 Hurricane Watch: You have to name the worst song you've ever heard and sing a few bars. Elixir contributes "Feeling"

Lulu (that's us): We all live in a yellow submarine, yellow submarine, yellow su bmarine"

Now boats forget (or refuse) to identify themselves, but we hear, in semi-rapid succession:

Anchors aweigh my boy, anchors aweigh Raindrops keep falling on my head. Oh, Lord won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz, my friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends It's a fine time to leave me, Lucille [Is this yet another person getting my nam e wrong, I wonder] Lulu (that's us) "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas" It's a small world after all. Mareeatoatsandoeseatoatsandlittlelambseativy

And that pretty much shuts everyone up or maybe dinner's ready. Not on this boa t, though, we're still rolling cold cuts and dipping them into the available mustardswhich makes me think of my daughter, Suey the Mustard Queen. And I get homesick.


6:26 PM (1826, marine time; 5:46 in New York and the 3 B's -- Blue Bell and Balt imore and Bethlehem -- and 2:46 in LA)

Suddenly, the rain has stopped and it's absolutely silent both on the Caribbean 1500 RadioNet and in the harbor around us. No winds, no rain, no lightning, no thunder.

On this boat, and I suspect on others, we are all listening to weather forecasts and there are many available. There are several special marine forecasts that go on all day ov er the single sideband radio (SSB), there are regular and emergency local AM stations carrying storm information, advice and the local governor's prayer for the islanders.

No, it's more than just a weather check. It seems the Bards Aboard have been bus y. Someone starts a limerick round.

There once a storm named Lenny Whose winds were more than plenty Gorda Harbor gave shelter, before the rain did pelter Thus giving sailors a shelter

And from Lulu (that's us)

There once was a couple from Nantucket Whod rather be THERE than HERE stuck-it Now eating their dinner potluck-it Out of a very wet bucket Said they with a grin, as Lenny did spin How we wish to Steve Black we'd said, "Fuck it!" [NB: Steve Black is the 1500 Rally organizer]

So far, no reply, at

6:58 PM (1658 marine time, 5:58 in New York and the 3 B's -- Blue Bell and Baltimore and Bethlehem -- and 2:48 in LA): Signing off for now.

i.e., Later, dudes.



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