Saturday, September 20, 2014

Hurricane Odile

Hurricane Odile has come and gone and our little fleet of thirteen boats in Puerto Don Juan experienced no damage. We are saddened to hear the daily updates on the Amigo and Sonrisa radio networks about the devastation to the eastern Baja, especially in La Paz, our home base in Mexico. Our thoughts and prayers are with our fellow cruisers who are left dealing with the storm's aftermath.

This is our third straight year making the 350 mile pilgrimage up the Sea of Cortez from La Paz to Bahia de los Angeles (BLA) for "hurricane season." The probability of a storm reaching this far north, especially at hurricane strength, is quite low. In the event a storm does head our direction, we take cover in Puerto Don Juan, the local "hurricane hole." With its narrow dog-legged entrance, Puerto Don Juan offers nearly 360 degrees of protection from waves for thirty or so boats. In a hurricane, the winds can be very uncomfortable but the real danger comes from the big waves.

With Hurricane Odile as with all hurricanes in the eastern Pacific, we began monitoring the storms progress from time of its formation hundreds of miles southeast of Cabo San Lucas. We knew that Odile had made a direct hit on the Cabo area as a category three hurricane. The worst storm ever to hit the Cape region of Baja. After Cabo, La Paz was slammed bringing devastation to the cruisers at anchor. There was at least one death and three people still missing. Thirty boats were either driven up on shore or sunk. Next on the path was Puerto Escondido where several boats got loose and ended up on the beach or in the mangroves, several with significant damage. Two hundred and thirty miles to the northwest of Puerto Escondido, we took refuge in Puerto Don Juan on Sunday, September 14. By the time the storm arrived, there were a total of 13 boats:

Dream Catcher
Dream Ketcher
Del Viento
Jade Purl
Sea Note
Take Five

who came to Don Juan. On the morning of Tuesday September 16, Odile had been losing strength and it traveled over land and had been downgraded to a tropical storm. At 5:00 am, the storm arrived and the wind began to blow and the rain began to fall. We felt fortunate that we would see Odile during daylight hours, others along the way experienced the storm in the dark. The first couple hours the wind was not too bad, only about 25 knots (a knot is a little longer a mile, for instance, 40 knots of wind = 46 mph) but the rain started coming harder and harder. We've never seen such rain. Torrents of water were cascading down the surrounding hills. The winds built over the next few hours and went to the 30's and then the 40's with gusts to 50 knots. The rain and wind were so hard that we could barely stick our head out of the hatch to look around without getting completely drenched. Derrick had to go up top to fix things a few times - the dinghy on the foredeck tried to take flight, check the anchor and snubber, etc. Each time he came back completely soaked. Overall, we came through fine. We only had the wind for about 6 hours and then it died. We were very fortunate.

In the village of Bahia de los Angeles, the electricity has been out since the storm and roads into and out of the area are not passable. There is no word yet about when power will be restored or the roads repaired. Those of us on boats will be without internet, gas and diesel, and perishable groceries until power is restored and the roads repaired. Most boats have stores of food and plenty of fuel on board. Many have water makers and solar powered battery banks so we will not suffer but merely be inconvenienced. We are very fortunate.

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