Date: 30 September 2017. Hurricane Irma
Getting ready for a major hurricane is never easy.
Knowing when to trust the broadcasters is problematic at best.
Sometimes newsmen get it right and other times predictions are way off
the mark. Listening to television live on YouTube was a new
experience for me. Additionally there was one website that struck a
home run as far as hurricane information was concerned.
Mike's Weather Page:
Spaghetti Models has an aggregate of storm
information. Each link opens in a new tab. The page continually
refreshes itself. All in all, when I wanted to see where Irma was,
how the storm surge was for my area, winds, tracks, the cone of
doom, all of that and more could be found from one link. I'd
recommend adding Mike's Weather Page aka
Spaghetti Models to the bookmarks on your computer.
My friend Tom on S/V Gone
Tropic had another method of verifying news reports. It was
far smarter than I my own media-based information. Tom's way of
confirming what was being broadcast was to look at webcams in
the areas that were effected.
When the newsmen were
saying how awful it was in Key West, Tom was watching people
walking down Duval Street (downtown Key West) drinking beer.
This is Tom:
I did a quickie Google search
for webcams in Key West. Here are a few for your convenience:
are a skeptical bunch. I rather like that!
In the future I will look for webcams. Though they won't work
when the power goes out, until then I'll be able to contrast
what is shown on television versus on-the-scene from locals.
During Hurricane Irma I was able to
watch television broadcasts via YouTube
on a tablet. That was a whole new experience for me, and
rather nice at that!
Back in 1993 the children were arguing about a
television program I did not want to watch. To solve the
problem I unplugged the TV. Then I carried it next door. Lo
and behold, those folks could use an extra television. Problem
My feeling is if I
would not invite you into my home, I am surely not going to
allow you to come aboard Seaweed via a television screen. I
guard my happiness. Joy is precious and I do all I can to
maintain a high level of contentment.
Back to storm preparations:
If flood waters are expected the lines on your boat cannot be too
short, nor can they be too long. They must be long enough to account
for the rising tides. The lines should not be so lengthy that you'll
bang into anything near you when the lines are slack.
I know I was physically exhausted
by the time I had Seaweed ready. Fortunately I have a good supply of
food aboard. I also topped off my water tank. I was going to be
a-okay aboard my boat.
Then I left. We all know hindsight
is 20/20. Now that it has been a few days I realize more of my
errors in judgment. Besides reading NOAA's Surge report [Update #46 for Hurricane Irma P-Surge 2.6]
and trusting its veracity, I also failed in another manner. I did
not follow what old mariners in coastal regions have learned over
There were no
seabirds flying inland. None.
I am well aware this system
cannot be considered scientific. It is based on lore handed down
through generations of mariners and decades of personal observation.
That said, from the time I was a little girl we
judged storms by the seabirds. Seeing frigatebirds flying inland was
a sure-fire sign that a big storm was incoming. Getting to safe
harbor was Very Important. Frigatebirds spend much of their lives at
sea. When they decide the weather is too foul, it is going to be
bad. Very, very bad.
I saw no frigatebirds flying inland this time in my
location. I saw them for Hurricanes Andrew, Ivan and Katrina. Here
in St. Pete there were no frigatebirds seen by me prior to Hurricane
Irma's arrival. From that I should have realized that either the
trajectory or intensity were not what the news stations were saying,
at least for my area.
↓ tucked in close to the
I pulled Seaweed even closer into the mangroves the
day before Irma arrived.
Of late I have been fortunate enough to be rafted
behind a reader's house on the treasure coast. Honest to goodness,
it is right spiffy here. Even though the area is snazzy I have the
most fun exploring nearby coves and anchorages. I prefer remote
places with lots of wildlife.
When I get back underway in a week
or so (I am waiting on a some eBay and Amazon indulgences) I will
miss the nice friends I've made here. The Gulf coast really is a
wonderful cruising area. I like the green waters too.
Gus is one of the new friends I
made here. He lives in the mangroves.
The birds Gus, Buddy, Ella and Isis made it through the
hurricane. All have been back for their hotdog treats.
In coastal areas folks who live in houses had work to
do too. Older beach houses often have solid wood furniture. One
friend removed the bottom drawers and placed them atop her dressers.
This is a lot of work. Muscles that folks didn't know existed,
ached! Had there been flooding this idea is one with merit.
Storm preparations for those of us in coastal areas
a variety of things. Some folks raise their stuff off the floor.
After the work was done, a walk on the beach was in
order for Cheryl and her husband Fred.
This is the virtually deserted beach at John's Pass
just prior to Hurricane Irma's arrival.
As for me, that beach looks just
about perfect. Back when dinosaurs walked the earth and I was just a
young boat brat, beachcombing was a favorite hobby. I collected
seashells. Lots of them! I keep my collection on beaches of the
world. Perhaps you've seen some of them?!?
Other folks who own property on
the peninsula decided to sandbag their houses. Trust me when I say sandbagging is
not for the old. I cannot even suggest it for the young unless
in far better physical condition than me! I did it once decades ago and that was
plenty. Filling the bags is backbreaking. Hoisting them when
filled is not easy. All in all, this is one of those things worth
I put sandbagging right in there
with sanding the bottom of my boat. There are some jobs that belong
to the young. I am not young anymore.
Post storm I was surprised by how
long it took me to feel like myself again. I'm just now getting back
to normal. I have been sleeping much longer than usual. My get up
and go, got up and went.
Going to my bunk so early, sometimes even in daylight
has been a real change for me.
This worn-out feeling has been shared with phone friends. The most
comforting part is that it seems rather universal in those of us
over fifty. I won't name names, however almost every gal and guy I have
spoken at length with has mentioned the same exhaustion.
One fellow went so far as to say
he never wanted to be in a hurricane's path again. Years ago I
viewed storms as a common occurrence with just a bit of extra work
thrown in. Now hurricanes are major life events.
I know that getting older is not
for sissies. When the realization that you're no longer young knocks
you on your transom, it's a bit of a shock. At least it was for me!
I'm not invincible. I get tired. I've had plenty. Etc.
The barometer continued to fall as Hurricane Irma
Cheryl has a weather glass and the fluid level fell.
A low level indicates foul weather is impending.
During the night I was in contact with friends near
and far via Text Messaging.
Side note: T-Mobile service failed. Verizon had good coverage and zero outages.
YouTube and the news channels broadcasting live were
helpful. If only they had been accurate... Staying informed help me
keep what little sanity I had remaining.
It is interesting to note
how low the water went as far away as Apalachicola and
are located on the panhandle of Florida.
The Carrabelle River →
Marina view, extreme low tide.
Taken at 0400, 11 September during Irma.
← Apalachicola Bay, just before Hurricane Irma
The Apalachicola Bay after Irma
passed through ↓
In the morning I like others drove
to the bridge by my McDonald's to go home. I was filled with hope and a renewed sense of "there's work
to do, and I want to get at it" ... also in there was the desire to
have coffee. In the "safe house" there was no power. Argh.
Trust me when I say I am far more
pleasant and easy to get along
with when well caffeinated. Others will attest to this fact too.
Unfortunately residents were not
allowed back home, regardless of the Emergency Access Permit we all
had. Outrage followed. Men who have served in wars are generally
cantankerous when lied to. As we had been promised an early return
the later in the day it became, the more surly those waiting became.
This is the Emergency Access Permit.
mainland where I was stuck there was no electricity. Even if grid was not functioning for the
houses on the beach, I have power aboard Seaweed. Only I could not
get to her. That broke my spirit. I have food, water,
Skipper toys, my stuff, and my life aboard the boat. I was beyond
livid, especially when we were PROMISED and immediate return.
and more lies. The whole process was to get people off the island.
It worked. I would not put a lot of money on the cooperation of
residents in future Mandatory Evacuation Orders though...
Seaweed nearing McDonald's last summer.
local McDonald's that I usually visit by boat there was quite a
crowd of geezers. There were shouts questioning the parenthood of
the patrolmen prohibiting us from returning home. Apparently old
people are scary to armed officers because soon there were seven
cruisers present, up from four.
Incidentally, I do consider myself
a geezer. I've lived a good life. My grey hair nets me Senior
Discounts and I like a bargains. When I'm being Prim and Proper, I
call myself Vintage.
who fought in wars that it is too unsafe for them to return home is
not conducive to a happy group. I heard many say they would NEVER
LEAVE again. I understand that totally. We were promised an
immediate return. That was a lie.
This is the life I love:
You see, years ago after going through
weeks without power ashore (post Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina) I
swore that my life afloat would be totally self-sufficient. I wanted
my dreamboat to be comfortable 100% off-the-grid. Additionally I
for a life that is decadent. Believe me, I don't suffer aboard
Seaweed. She's home, she's perfect and I love this boat.
Well-meaning friends simply don't get it when they say to evacuate.
They speak of "a boat can be replaced" not understanding that
Seaweed is not just a boat. She's home, she's my life, she's freedom
and independence. She is more than a hull with my stuff aboard her.
my joy. Pressuring me to leave achieved the result desired. The cost
though is one I won't soon forget. I hate that I chose to
leave Seaweed. That was a HUGE mistake on my part. I won't make it
generates her own power with solar panels. I have all the comforts of home aboard her.
There is instant coffee, both flavored and regular.
Enjoying a cup is a wonderful break in time.
It allows me to remember past joys and contemplate further
adventures. I like this stuff!
In the meantime I knew that there was power on the beach. Though I
was stuck on the mainland my friend Cheryl had all the comforts of
home. Indeed, she was home because she was smart enough to stay
there. She perked a fresh pot of coffee and had the welcome mat out.
On the "safe" side, no electric, no open McDonalds's, a
closed Village Inn diner, no
convenience stores opened, no restaurants serving, and NO COFFEE.
Texting friends and checking on
folks became an outlet. I did not know if my girl was okay at this
point so I was beyond frantic to return. I did not know if Seaweed
I knew Alchemy had experienced low water and wondered
if Seaweed was floating properly.
Note the Great Blue Heron near the forward windows.
She's staying out of the winds.
What was worst
of all was not knowing how my Seaweed had fared. I was frantic with
worry. I was beyond angry at myself for caving to people banging on
me to leave, be safe, etc. I went from comfort to a place with no
electricity, no caffeine and Armed officers who refused to honor the
promises made just 24 hours earlier.
Heck, we were originally told we could return at eleven, then one,
and finally at 4 p.m. Ridiculous. Totally 100% fertilizer. Now that
is not to say that all of the beach is fine and has power. Some does
not. There are trees down and locals getting things taken care of --
at least those that were smart enough not to leave.
Fred ↓ stayed. They are smarter than I was.
Text messages became my connection with the
understand the state of my mind, with permission I've copied
below some of the text messages that were sent and received for the duration
of Hurricane Irma. If by the end of this you still believe "We're
from the government and we are here to help you" I cannot help but
wonder about your sanity. Mine is intact, barely after the fiasco.
If you'd like
to skip this part, simply know this: I am never at my best without
caffeine. Not being allowed to promptly return to my Seaweed is
another sure-fire way to earn my wrath.
night I exchanged texts and received phone calls. The folks I was
staying with had no idea I knew so many people. Ding. Ding. Ring. It
was wonderful. At least I thought so.
12:40 a.m. 11 September 2017 to Kidlet from Me: All is well. No power in this
place but power is on on the island. My friend Cheryl stayed.
Everything is okay. Windy but fine and no flooding. Tide is still
way down. RE: Check in
Cheryl to Me: Water is
beginning to come in again, boats starting to float off bottom. Wind
direction changing but still very strong gusts.
you're getting water under the keels again. With the winds the boats
will be better afloat. Thank you for keeping me in the loop. No
electric here. Bah humbug.
Cheryl to Me: Really
you should be asleep!
Me: Not a
chance. I am worried sick about my home and won't rest until I am
back where I belong.
4:15 a.m. to Kidlet from Me: Okay. Now no power. Reading my kindle.
Going home in morning. So surge did not happen. Surprise
surprise. I love my Kidlet. RE: Check in
6:15 a.m. From Me: Good
morning. We are relaxing and going to McDonald's for coffee soon.
All is well except no power here. How are you. RE Check in.
6:15 a.m. From Kidlet: Is McDonald's open? I doubt it
(it wasn't open)
This is the road in front of Publix
(grocery store) and McDonald's. Both businesses were closed.
There was no electricity at the McDonald's and Publix
As the hurricane approached
Florida I heard from a lot of boaters. It was quite heartening to
receive notes from so many old friends. We checked on each other.
Plans on how to protect our vessels were discussed. Boats were moved
to safer locations.
another person manages their storm preparations is useful. No one
person can know it all so we learn from each other. I like that.
Larry was one of the folks who sent a text message to me.
You met Larry and his bride
Eva in the
Friends IRL (in real life) article.
is behind her residence, probably the most protected place on
Longboat Key, but when you're on an island, protection is vulnerable
too. We've got two places here on the island, Eva is in Germany, and
I've got two cats to worry about. I guess by Thursday we all know
how much trouble we're in.
*Bucky is Larry and Eva's 36'
Me: I have found fetch to be
the most worrisome aspect. Here the *McMansions have blocked
wind. There is one large mangrove behind Seaweed so pulling her into
it will be on the agenda at the last minute. Oh, and getting a new
battery for Algae for her automatic bilge pump. I have been bailing
and that has already gotten old. I am spoiled Larry. I hope Eva is
having a nice time and missing you too. Take care and keep safe.
Like you I will be watching the storm track.
*McMansions are the new oversized
homes that are replacing the more modest family home of yesteryear.
More text messages from 11 September:
Janice: You still here? Don't know about Bucky yet. Can't get
Me: Lying government tells us the same. I never should have left.
The line of fertilizer is they are assessing because of downed power
lines. Larry the lines over on the beach are buried. The neighbor
has power and a fresh pot of coffee.
is Seaweed parked?
Me: Same place, pulled back to the mangroves. She is tied off well and spider webbed
in. I am so beyond angry. We were assured we could come back with
via fancy pass. They lied just like in the 90's for the hurricanes
in the Florida Keys. Folks left the first storm and then never
again. We were assured we could get back by a local politician. He
the thing that tortures me is that IF Bucky is damaged and I can't
get there in time to save it, I'm gonna be angry. I never have had
such tension and stress over a storm.
twofold. And I knew better Larry. This same thing as those hurricanes
so many years ago. And we were assured a different scenario. Never
will I leave.
from my smart neighbor who stayed. Seaweed is fine. Cheryl sent a
picture of my girl.
Cheryl's text: She's
waiting for you but said don't worry she's fine...
When I got the picture from Cheryl of my home I cried. The
emotional strain had been HUGE. Not knowing Seaweed's fate
was terrible. Then not being allowed to return... It was all
too much. There was such relief seeing my Seaweed I cannot
even begin to describe it.
Leaving home was a huge
mistake. The stress and worry took a large toll on me. I
feel like I aged a dozen years in a single day. The whole
Irma fiasco truly was awful.
goodness my Seaweed survived intact. I was blessed.
I told Larry about the good
news regarding Seaweed
Larry: What a
Me: I will
continue to pray for your Bucky. She's got so much of you in her...
truly a beautiful gal. And that transom door is a thing of beauty.
9:15 from Larry: Thanks
Janice. There was no real surge, but the storm blew all the water
out of Sarasota Bay, leaving my canal almost empty. I'm hoping that
there was no damage to the bottom, preventing it from refloating.
Boat owners invest a great
deal of ourselves into our vessels. We personalize and tweak
them. Even factory fresh models soon thereafter are changed,
added to and enhanced. These things make each boat unique.
The care, time and money we
put into our boats drive up their intrinsic value. Most of my
net worth is in this boat. It is the same for many live-aboard
boaters. We don't have anything else to fall back on so when our
boats are in peril, it's Serious.
the fate of my Seaweed was DREADFUL!!!
9:15 To Kidlet from Me: The electric here is flickering. On Seaweed there is
power. In case you wondered. RE: You're where you need to be
9:15 from Kidlet: You're the most stubborn woman
9:16 from Me: Thank you and the acorn doesn't fall far from the
tree young lady. RE: You're the most stubborn woman
I worried about
him during Hurricane Irma.
I ached to be home. I'd
seen a photograph so I knew my boat was okay. That was a
And too, I wanted to be
sure my birds all made it through the storm okay. Buddy is a
little guy. He's still a teenager.
The night herons have a
hierarchy and Buddy is definitely low bird. I make sure he
gets his ration of hotdogs every day.
He was the first to eat
hotdogs and Buddy is a bit too brave. The older larger males
took a while to trust me.
They are going to miss me when I head
9:30 to Irene on Katja from Me: Lying government won't let us
return because they are assessing downed power lines. All power
lines are buried. I am stuck on the mainland and so mad you cannot
9:35 Irene: Shoot!
9:37 Me: Amen. RE: Shoot!
9:38 Irene: First word that came to mind after an actual visceral
reaction. Your worst fear
9:39 Me: It is. I am holding on by a thread and it is frayed.
10:05 To Kidlet from Me: The government still won't let us cross the
bridge because of
downed power lines. All the power lines are down. They are buried.
Lies lies lies. So mad. Never leaving my girl again. And they have
coffee over there. Power went out at safe place we stayed at last
night at quarter past twelve. There is power on the beach. My girl
friend took a picture of Seaweed. She needs a bath. Lots of little
branches on her solar panels. RE: Check in
10:11 from Kidlet: So you know she's okay. Good.
Cheryl from Me:
Thank you very much. Come get us. We are stranded at McDonalds's and
McDonald's is closed. We have had no coffee and are getting cranky.
I am so relieved my girl is okay. I have been terrified. Thank you
more than you can know
Cheryl: Wish we
could come get you but we'd all be stranded. This is the Citgo
by Conch Republic
you again for the picture of Seaweed. A load was taken off my mind. I
still want to be home and learned my lesson. Never leave. That Citgo
sign is great. There will be an article. Photos by Cheryl. ;)
10:50 Me to
Cheryl: Cops are letting some in over the bridge but not us. Only three
10:51 Cheryl: Bay
News 9 says they will be opening the beaches within a couple hours
Side Note: T-Mobile is down. Only Verizon has coverage.
11:17 to Larry from Me:
Any word on your Bucky? I have seen a picture of Seaweed with a lot
of small branches. She is afloat and missing me! No damage visible.
I wish the same for you.
yet. Just sitting here suffering! Even worse would be that my Bucky
Exactly. And next storm the evacuation order will not be as
appealing. I have relearned a lesson. We are still locked out. BAY 9 News said beaches would be opened in one hour.
This is Edwin:
11:31 from Edwin: Give me good news
11:34 Me: Seaweed is fine and I am stuck on mainland because
government won't let us across the bridge onto the beach. Some
people are special. They get to go but our fancy passes are totally
worthless at this point. And there is power over there, including
coffee. I am suffering without my tea or coffee. Caffeine is necessary
for my personality improvement.
My friend Lynn on In Ainneoin gave
a report in the morning as to her boat. It is in the St. Marys Boat
Services boatyard. She said: Dave
and the cat are good but I woke him up and he hasn't looked out yet.
Two tornado warnings overnight but they didn't touch down. No power
of course but that could just be the yard power. Waiting to hear
from you as soon as you can.
I told her my tale of woe regarding broken promises and being
stuck on the mainland.
Lynn on In Ainneoin: Hey wait. Are you not on Seaweed? What did I
Me: I was an idiot and believed the surge reports for the peninsula.
Never ever again.
12:08 p.m. to Kidlet from Me: My friend on Longboat Key still can't get on his
island. He doesn't know if his boat survived. Yet.
12:15 Kidlet: I'll pray :( where is Longboat Key?
12:16 Me: South of here by about one hour.
12:36 Kidlet: Wow. It was bad there too.
The natives were getting ugly. We
wanted to go home!!!
to Larry: The
geezers on Madeira Beach are near revolting. It is getting ugly.
People want to go home.
Larry: Still no
info on Bucky. This is absolute torture.
knowing is impossible. Someone with a boat could make a Fortune.
There are a lot of angry volatile geezers here.
appears to still be tethered and level according to a neighbor.
Wonderful. I know that must be such a relief. Congratulations.
Between 1:30 and 4 o'clock I basically sat in a truck reading my
Kindle and stewing. By then the phone calls and texts were tapering
off. I lost myself in a book while waiting.
At 4 p.m. the beaches were finally
opened to all. The lines were tremendous. Eventually I made it
back to my girl. Gosh it was good to be home.
picture of Seaweed made the day survivable.
Just being able to see her was a big boost to my moral.
All those hours of not knowing
how my Seaweed was faring were the absolute worst. I left and
should not have done so.
not want to leave my Seaweed. I'd experienced a bunch of
bureaucratic liars previously. In 1998 the authorities promised if we left
the Florida Keys for Hurricane Georges as the mandatory evacuation ordered, we would be
let back in ASAP. That was a damned lie.
previous not withstanding, I am most angry with myself. I knew
better. The rage expressed toward Emergency Management more
accurately ought to be pointed directly at me. I was wrong to leave
The boys (my
birds) were glad I returned safe and sound.
This is Grumpy Gus.
He is not nice to Buddy.
This is Ella ↓
waiting for her hotdogs.
Ella is a Great Blue Heron.
I named her after Ella Fitzgerald who sang the blues... She's a
blue heron singing the blues. There are three blue herons though
they come individually for the most part.
Though I have
been on a rant in this article, this is real life. Boating is not
all sunsets and iced beverages at anchor in remote coves.
Yes, I moaned and groaned... and
then I went looking for an appropriate Aphorism. Each article, after
the Comments and Categories section (scroll down) has an Aphorism.
I've collected those posted thus far onto the
page. Today's though, well, I needed to read it again. This one
really puts into perspective Life.
I need to be more like Tom.
It was little wonder that Tom seemed all but
immune to being bothered by small vexations.
A tedious assignment at work? A football game to cover in a
blizzard? A late-night shift
followed by an early-morning wakeup call? Please. He had seen worse.
He could always
know: No one could throw anything at him as tough as what he, and
the soldiers of D-Day
with whom he had served, had seen when they were young. They were
constantly among us,
once upon a time. They moved among us, and they elected to keep
their pasts invisible.
They were, in every sense of the phrase, men among men. Forever.
Green, regarding Tom
Pastorius, member of 101st Airborne Division from Canton, OH who
parachuted behind enemy
lines on Utah Beach.
Did Hurricane Irma impact you?
How and what did you do to prepare for the hurricane?
Hurricane Irma (part 3) ~
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