Sunday, September 24, 2017

Tropical Cyclones from Carla to Maria

2011 Celebrated Hurricane Carla's 50th Anniversary.


"Although fifty years have passed, no other hurricane has made landfall in Texas with the intensity of Hurricane Carla since. Carla was the most intense hurricane to make landfall on the Texas coast in the 20th century and second in recorded history only to the Indianola hurricane of 1886. Carla was the last of 6 hurricanes to make landfall on the Texas coast as a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale, with sustained winds stronger than 130 mph, in the 20th century. Carla ranks as the 9th most intense hurricane to affect the United States since 1851."

Well Harvey will take the cake as far as Texas goes, not sure if Harvey had 130 mile an hour sustained winds at land fall but the amount of destruction certainly went in the record books as far as rainfall and the ensuing flooding.

We moved to Galveston Texas in 1961, I was starting the 5th grade at Robert E. Lee Elementary school. The school was just a six block walk from our home which was a large two story wooden home built right across the street from the beach on Seawall Blvd. It was an awesome spot to live for a 10 year old boy.  My grandfather bought me lots of fishing gear when he learned we would be living in Galveston. There was a rock pier just a block down the Boulevard and I spent a lot of time there fishing and crabbing. I ran all over the island in just my bathing suit, no shoes, no sunscreen. After breakfast I hit the door and did not return till dinner time. 
One afternoon my dad came to the rock pier and told me I had to stay near the house since there was a storm coming in. We walked back together. I really had not even noticed anything unusual till then. Lots of cars were on the Boulevard and I began to notice the clouds moving in. I put my fishing gear up and walked across the street to watch the increasing waves in the Gulf of Mexico. I sat on the seawall with legs dangling over the edge. The seawall was concave in shape, eventually the waves began to lap at the foot of the wall and then the water began to rise up the concave concrete wall and the water would rush down again to form a wave heading out. The next wave coming in would crash into the one heading out. It was just a short time before the waves were coming half way up the wall and more. When the two waves crashed it would send some spray over my head, it felt good. I was having a great time just experiencing this. Just after about 6pm my mom came over and told me we were going to leave. They had heard Dan Rather on the 6pm news say that if anyone was going to get out then they had to leave now. 
We had already experienced just some regular windy storms in this house. You could kind of feel the upper floor of the house sort of sway on windy nights. By the time we got gas and were on our way toward Houston it was raining and already dark. There was a lot of traffic and the mood was somber in the car, not the usual. We made it to Waco,Texas around midnight and we went to a shelter. Some police helped us and somehow we got connected to a family taking in complete strangers to house. They were extremely nice and we all were fortunate to sleep and wake up to a great breakfast the next morning. We drove the next day about 35 miles to my grandparents house near Grandview, Texas where they had just moved to a 100 acre farm they bought for their retirement years. We stayed there several weeks until they began allowing residents of Galveston to return to the Island. 
Incredibly that old wooden house that swayed in high winds was still there right across the street from the mighty Gulf Of Mexico. Everything inside was wet and we spent the first few days tearing out the carpet and moving the wet stuff out to the curb. I guess my mom made some type of place for us to sleep on the floor in till things eventually returned to normal. A ten year old boy was not concerned with all that anyway. I did walk throughout the island to see all the destruction. Six tornadoes passed through the island ripping neighborhoods up. One house just a few blocks from us was lifted up and a taxi cab was slid underneath the house. Another had a exterior wall ripped off the two story home so it looked like a doll house. Later there was talk of a sailor and his girlfriend stayed in that house getting drunk and when the wall ripped off they were seen laughing and pointing at the events going on around them. To many crazy things to tell about here. I drove down to the South end of the beach with my dad where he had rented a building on the beach where he planned to open up a beach beer & hamburger joint. It was gone. He thought it might still be there since it had survived a strong 1940's hurricane. Soon he rented a building on Seawall Blvd. that survived and I helped him clean it out where he later opened the Purple Cow Restaurant.
Life returned to normal pretty quick. The beaches however did not, islands of seaweed floated in and covered the beach. My neighborhood friends and I would build forts out of the seaweed. Also you could just get a handful of seaweed and shake it and several small colorful fish would drop out onto the sand. These made bait fish for me. I would just go down on the way to the rock pier and shake out a small box full of bait fish and I would be good to go. We only lived in Galveston for a year as we soon moved to Dallas/ Ft. Worth TX. area All my memories of Galveston are fond with just the minor interruption of a Hurricane that prevented a ten yr old boy from fishing every day.

Tropical Storm Fay September 7, 2002
Gulf coast tropical storms were hardly a thought for the next 40 years. After we got married we moved to Austin, became school teachers and raised two fine kids. Work, kids, and soccer dominated our lives. There was no such thing as a weather channel and if a serious storm hits somewhere you just took any extra money in that months budget and donate to the Red Cross. The next time a Tropical system touched our lives was when tropical storm Fay hit somewhere in the Corpus Christi area and moved through Central Texas causing wide spread flooding. We had actually been in Belize waters for our second Charter Boat sailing adventure where that tropical wave formed and headed for Texas. It was just a two day rain event for us and did not hamper our adventure at all. But our first sailboat was on Canyon Lake Tx and the lake flooded July 5th 2002. See: The water spilled over the spillway causing extreme damage along the Guadalupe river neighborhoods below the spillway. We belonged to the Hill Country Yacht Club where some member homes were flooded out. I volunteered a couple of days to go help them. It is a depressing sight with long streets of homes where everything that was inside was being carried out to the curbside including ripping out drywall up to the water line. On the street where I was working on the homes only one side of the street was flooded. From that moment on I became aware of the 100 year flood zone maps in Texas. The problem was that the homes where I was working were all above that line. The flooding was so serious that it actually changed the course of the Guadalupe River flooding homes that were a mile from the original river. From this moment on our awareness of Atlantic Tropical Cyclones became to develop, especially since sailing was becoming a major pastime for us. 

Hurricane Dolly July 23,2008
We were having so much fun in the Pacific Northwest buying our cruising vessel and preparing her for the trip back to Texas, Dolly was barely on our screen. The storm made landfall in South Padre, Texas and was a Cat 1 so it did not concern our destination of Kemah, TX. We were aware of Dolly but Wand'rin Star took most of our attention. The trucker reported heavy rains along the route to Kemah, now I know what caused the cover we had on the deck mast hole to blow off and allow rain water in.

Hurricane Gustav August 25, 2008
Even though Gustav threatened the Texas Coast the hurricane moved East and made Landfall in Louisiana. It did provide a hurricane drill for us though. Our boat was still in the yard and Big John called me and told me they would be putting her back in the water immediately. I was hoping she would be able to ride out the storm on the hard but the big money boats had all the spots reserved. They put the boat in the water and had a crew work nonstop until all my work orders were finished. I had to immediately move the boat to South Shore Harbor by myself. Nothing like learning how to single hand a 42' vessel on the fly.

Hurricane Ike September 2008
A couple of days before we sailed our just purchased Endeavour 42 "Wand'rin Star" to Port Townsend some guy on the docks at Liberty Bay Marina in Poulsbo, WA said "Do Not take that boat to Texas!. There are Hurricanes down there! We just smiled and sailed away to Port Townsend where the boat would be de-commissioned for the trip by truck to Kemah, TX. The boat arrived at South Texas boat Yard in Kemah in late August 2008 for re-commissioning and about $10K of restoration and upgrade work. Given that Hurricane season had already begun I found the one marina known to be a Hurricane hole on Clear Lake, South Shore Harbor. It was surrounded by four story condos, resort, and business buildings.That soothsayer in Liberty Bay had it right. The eye of Hurricane Ike passed right over the mast of Wand'rin Star. Ike was forcasted early to head toward Corpus Christi, TX We co-owned a Mustang Island condo with our sons family. I drove down to the condo from Austin, stopped at Home Depot in Corpus to load up plywood and spent a day boarding up the windows and doors of the condo. I then drove up the coast to Kemah and stripped the deck of Wand'rin Star. I put lots of lines on the vessel and then headed back to Austin the day before the storm hit. That next night we sat up and watched the weather channel. We saw Mike Seidel get blown into the bushes of the Holiday Inn where he was reporting from. That hotel was directly across Clear Lake from South Shore Harbor. 
The very next day I jumped into the little truck that can and drove through The craziest scene I have witnessed as an adult. Thousands were still evacuating the Houston area headed the other way. Every gas station coming out of Houston was slammed. I managed to get into the rest room of one but decided I had enough gas to make Houston so I drove on. I found a shell station open and was able to drive right up to the pump. I filled up and bought some water and snacks. The roads were clear enough for me to make my way all the way to South Shore Harbor, it was a sunny day, cooler than normal.South Shore Harbor lived up to its reputation, Every boat in that marina made it through. I checked on Wand'rin Star and everything seemed fine. Lots of debris in the water everywhere though. It was a curious thing that some owners had left their entire cockpit enclosure up, but those who just had a dodger or bimini had them blown out. 
I drove straight over to Jim's boat, a 36'  Erickson. I had to walk through lots of mud and debris with nails and other sharp hardware to avoid. Death and destruction of the marina and most of the boats were in every direction. Jim's boat was sitting there in his slip as if nothing had happened. He even left his head sail on the furler and it was OK??? I immediately called Jim up and told him to not change one thing about how he was living his life. To the Starboard side and just aft of "Apotheker" was sunk boats, to the Port was a boat that had the hull and deck separated from the constant beating against the dock and another boat. Two days after Ike, Home Depot opened their doors. The entire Coastal community went straight to work with quite determination to get life back to normal as soon as possible. That Texas spirit is undeniable.
We waited until December to move the boat down the inter-coastal waterway to her home slip in Corpus Christi Marina, a three day trip that took 11 days due to fog. There was still significant debris in Galveston Bay and the inter-coastal that we had to be constantly on the look out for.

Hurricane Ida November 10, 2009
Ida made landfall in Alabama. Even though this storm was miles away, we had already become members of the Gulf Coast boaters community. Our first intro to this community was in Kemah, TX when we were shopping for our cruising vessel. Hurricane season was full on that September afternoon in 2007 when we met with Captain Bill at the Sundance Grill during happy hour to pick his brain about boats and cruising the Texas coast. We sat at the only spots left at the bar. The weather channel was on the big screen TV and every person in the bar was intensely watching the progress of then Tropical Storm Humberto which later developed into a weak Hurricane making landfall at High Island, Texas East of Galveston Bay. We had our own agenda with Captain Bill but I will never forget the feeling in that room as the third largest private boating community in the US was contemplating the next Tropical Cyclone to affect their piece of paradise. That was now our community of Gulf Coast Sailors and thanks to the weather channel, anytime a depression formed anywhere in the Caribbean and South Atlantic we were fully engaged.

Tropical Storm Hermine September 2010
Hermine was on the radar for sure but did not develop into a hurricane but we were amazed that even though it entered Texas near Brownsville it still affected the tides in Corpus Christi Bay. This was the first time for us to see seawater on the roads out to the T-heads in the marina. 

Tropical Storm Don July 2011
Even though this one made landfall around South Padre we were all watching. This system ran smack dab into a persistent High over Texas that was causing record droughts in the state. As soon as this system touched the Texas coast all the moisture was immediately sucked out and the storm almost immediately dissipated. Jim Cantore was posted up in South Padre and we all witnessed the storm literally whisping away into nothing but dry heat in a matter of a few moments. Jim Cantore was dumbfounded, he did not know what to say. We began our Cruise First of Nov. The lasting effects of the August 2005 Hurricane Katrina began to show up as soon as we entered Louisiana's inter-coastal waterways. The damage was prevalent almost all the way to Florida along the coast. 

Tropical Storm Debbie June 2012
Debbie was the earliest formed stormed ever. We were in Tampa at West Shore Yacht Club Marina. It was a gated community on the far East end of Tampa Bay with excellent docks and a huge concrete bulkhead around the entire marina. We had a full grasp of Gulf coast living and even though there were so many beautiful marinas all around Tampa Bay we had no problem sailing right past those marinas that had the best view of paradise. We just wanted a fortress to hide out in until hurricane season was over. It wasn't that bad, this marina had all the amenities one could ask for. We had already stayed aboard during an unnamed storm here and so this time we decided to just take a trip to visit Orlando during Debbie. We had fun in the rain at SeaWorld and other attractions in Orlando. We returned to Wand'rin Star a fw days later and all was good.You can see the details of this time by clicking on 2012 in the right hand sidebar and you can read the blog post about the storms that had our attention. We have known more than a few cruisers who continued to cruise through paradise during Hurricane season. This risk was to great for us. We would rather find safe harbor and stay put till the storms are over. I felt it is a crap shoot to continue on. Many just make sure they are aware of any nearby Hurricane holes and hope they are able to duck in if one comes their way. There are so many variables that are completely out of your control so we had no problem just enjoying where we were. We did experience a few Florida thunderstorms at anchor and those are more than enough to handle, believe me. 

2013 and later

We sailed our boat back across the Gulf of Mexico in May of 2013 from St.Petersburg, FL. We had an incredible 7 day voyage that could not have been better, excellent winds and seas. We thought we would be in Seattle for 6 months but now it has been over 4 years and have moved on past the Gulf coast by selling our beloved Wand'rin Star and buying our Puget Sound Vessel SNOWBALL. We continued to monitor Atlantic Tropical Systems since it took us a while to get to the point of actually selling Wand'rin Star. Naturally our life in the Pacific Northwest has taken over our daily lives and the thought of Tropical Cyclones has been a diminishing concern. Until Harvey.
Watching Harvey, then Irma, Then Maria. Watching all this from long distance has been gut wrenching to say the least. We have so many friends all along the Gulf Coast communities and the Caribbean islands almost all the way to Trinidad. Harvey made us sick, and Irma more than doubled the anguish for these communities. I think it is better to be in the communities during these times than not. When your in the community you can share the pain, you can go help, you have mutual support systems. There is no one that we know up here that can fully identify with these events. The only relief is when the storm ends and the recovery and rebuilding process can begin. We know how resilient these communities are and they will do everything in short order to get their lives back to normal. They are tough and they are strong. They come together and help goes in every direction. 

God Save the Queen!


I am currently batting 900 for friends who have had their vessels in the path of Harvey, Irma, and/or Maria. Including the Corpus Christi/Port Aransas area, Houston/Galveston Bay area, St Petersburg/Tampa Area, Punta Gorda area, Marathon and Key West Area, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, St. Lucia. One friend in Port Aransas lost their sailboat.

I was most concerned about "Lucky Lady" who rode out Irma in Key West. Here is the video I just received as their owners show up to survey the boat:

Awhile back I was talking to my son about some friends going through a particular hard time. He told me to tell them to "Keep Breathing" 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Rest of August 2017

The Rest of August 2017

I got a call from Kristen who supervises the volunteer instructors at the Center for Wooden Boats. She asked if I would like to participate as an ambassador to an event for a sponsor who had just purchased all new mainsails for the fleet of 20' Blanchard Jr. Knockabouts

I was so honored by the call I said Yes! Just a small contingent from the company that owns several restaurants in Seattle were able to attend the event so only couple of instructors were needed to skipper a vessel for a tour of Lake Union sporting the new sails. The rest of us tagged along behind just enjoying another beautiful Seattle day on Lake Union. Then we enjoyed a very nice reception catered by one of the restaurants. The wine went great with the oysters!

Sadly the West coast fires that first dominated in Canada and California soon covered Oregon and Washington State. smokey days outnumbered the clear days when the winds were blowing onshore to send the smoke back from whence it came.

Each weekend begins with a ferry ride to Eagle Harbor, This Saturday Morning a few hundred bikers had there own event scheduled.

Lucky for a clear day at the marina.

Friday evenings we avoided the crowds at The Mural at Seattle Center for free concerts and opted for a smaller event at Bell Street, the music is always good

We enjoyed the Solar Eclipse at the marina. fuzzy shadows and other interesting observations filled the morning.

This 9 month old is the center of attention these days as she challenges the very earth that her brother inhabits.

Terry and Richard Butler met me at the Center for Wooden Boats. The best way demonstrate the beauth of Seattle is to take them for a sail on Lake Union in Blanchard Jr. Knockabout. 

They loved the constant float planes taking off and landing.

Terry and Richard are in Seattle preparing to board the Uncruise to Alaska. I'm excited to know someone taking the cruise since we have learned a bit about the advantages of taking this particular cruise by small ship rather than the big mega boats. : Terry's  Facebook page reflects the Uncruise website

Always good to have accomplished sailors on board, I can just turn over the tiller and enjoy the sail!

Fun to see the kids sailing camp.

We have learned to Trail Bathe when you can, here at Discovery Park

Not unusual to see an unusual military ship in Puget Sound.

Noticed this guy in the shallows near Shillshole, not sure if he ran aground or some other problem. Being on or near the waters of Puget Sound now I have seen several vessels run aground in areas that are well marked and are common knowledge. It is not like the Gulf coast up here. On the Gulf coast you have shifting sands that can overnight become an unmarked shoal. These shallows have been in the same location for possibly hundreds of years and are marked on all the charts. It is more rocks than sand here. No wonder we in our hunt for our Puget Sound vessel we saw so many vessels with significant structural damage.

We are now #17 on the wait list to get a slip at Shillshole marina. They say maybe by next spring sometime.

A cool little trail at Discovery Park.