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Date: 30 September 2017. Hurricane Irma (part 4)


This became a multi-part series about Hurricane Irma and the impact it had on me. The individual articles can be found here:

For those that prefer their reading all on one page (and it's a biggie)
the entire tale can be found on the
Hurricane Irma Saga page.

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: http://spagettimodels.com

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 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:


Old-timers are a skeptical bunch. I rather like that!

In the future I will look for webcams. Though they will not work when the power goes out, until then I will be able to contrast what is shown on broadcast 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 solved.

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 will 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 the years.

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.


Aboard Seaweed, I have one book that I use for identifying birds. It is a smaller Golden Guide, called Birds of North America. This is my only bird reference book. It is worth retail prices.

Birds of North America: A Guide to Field Identification (Golden Field Guide Series)

affiliate link


Note the forked tail feathers.


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.

Note Seaweed tucked in close to the mangroves.

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 gulf 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 have 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 means
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 have 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 hiring out.

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 am 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 will not 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 approached.

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 Carrabelle.


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 arrived.

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.


On the 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.

Lies. Lies 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.

At the 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 have lived a good life. My grey hair nets me Senior Discounts and I like a bargains. When I am being Prim and Proper, I call myself Vintage.

Telling men 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 continually strive for a life that is decadent. Believe me, I do not suffer aboard Seaweed. She is home, she is perfect and I love this boat.

Well-meaning friends simply do not 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 is home, she is my life, she is freedom and independence. She is more than a hull with my stuff aboard her.

Seaweed is my joy. Pressuring me to leave achieved the result desired. The cost though is one I will not soon forget. I hate that I chose to leave Seaweed. That was a HUGE mistake on my part. I will not make it again.

My Seaweed 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 had survived.

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.

Cheryl and Fred ↓ stayed. They are smarter than I was.


Text messages became my connection with the world.

To fully understand the state of my mind, with permission I have 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 this fiasco.

If you would 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.


Throughout the 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


12:54 from Cheryl to Me: Water is beginning to come in again, boats starting to float off bottom. Wind direction changing but still very strong gusts.

Me: Glad 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.

1:01 from 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 was not 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 shopping center.




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.

Hearing how 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
Imaginary Friends IRL (in real life) article.



Larry: *Bucky 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' Manatee.

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:

8:39 Larry: Janice: You still here? Don't know about Bucky yet.  Can't get on Key.
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.

8:43 Larry: Where 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 was wrong.

8:55 Larry: Well, 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.
Me: Ditto 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.

Just heard 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.

Thank goodness my Seaweed survived intact. I was blessed.

I told Larry about the good news regarding Seaweed

9:10 from Larry: What a relief!
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.

Not knowing 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


This is Buddy.

I worried about him during Hurricane Irma.

I ached to be home. I had seen a photograph so I knew my boat was okay. That was a huge relief.

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 out.


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 imagine
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.


10:08 to 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

Me: Thank 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: Cops are letting some in over the bridge but not us. Only three vehicles so far
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.
Larry: Nothing yet. Just sitting here suffering! Even worse would be that my Bucky is suffering!
11:30 Me: 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.

11:54: from Lynn on In Ainneoin: Hey wait. Are you not on Seaweed? What did I miss?
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!!!


12:53 Me 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.
Me: Not knowing is impossible. Someone with a boat could make a Fortune. There are a lot of angry volatile geezers here.

1:27 Larry:  Bucky appears to still be tethered and level according to a neighbor.
Me: 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.

Having a 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.

I did not want to leave my Seaweed. I had 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.

All the 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 my home.


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 Aphorisms 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.

by Bob 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?

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2017, 20202, 2023

Categories: Boats, Books, Characters, Locations, Security, Wild Things,

Hurricane Irma (part 3)  ~ Previous Post ...    ... Next Post ~ Manatee Bumps Algae

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The Archive holds a running list with synopsis of published articles, and links to same.

A favorite aphorism:  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.

by Bob Green, regarding Tom Pastorius, member of 101st Airborne Division from Canton, OH who parachuted behind enemy lines on Utah Beach.

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