HURRICANE IAN CAME CRASHING IN
Note what is in the center (eye) of the storm.
It is now about four weeks since hurricane Ian swept through southwestern Florida. Since then, life has been a bit of a roller coaster.
We watched as the hurricane approached, confident that we had done everything we could to prepare Her Diamond for what ever lay ahead. Each of the past four years, we had taken the boat out of the water and stored her on jack stands with hurricane tie downs at Safe Cove. Safe Cove is located north of Charlotte Harbor with access from a brackish water cannel. This year, because we were paying for a 12- month contract at Burnt Store, we decided to leave the boat in the water. A dock on the new floating dock had become available, and Bob felt more confident in leaving the boat on a floating dock.
A floating dock allows the boat and the dock lines to move up and down with the rising and lowering tide. It would require much less maintenance by our friends who had agreed to keep an eye on the boat while we were in Cleveland. In theory this was a good plan.
Before we left, we stripped the boat of both its sails and all the canvas (bimini and dodger). We secured the pedestal cover and winch covers with added ties, partially deflated the dinghy and secured it to the cabin top. We doubled up our lines which meant 10 lines from the boat to the dock and pilings. Everything inside the boat that could mold was either in plastic bins or plastic garbage bags. Three dehumidifiers were left working full time taking the moisture out of the air and draining into the galley and head sinks. All the batteries were taken out of flashlights, clocks, tap lights and the shore power was left connected to keep the main batteries at full power. The solar panel was left on but it wasn’t powering the batteries. We had checked every item off our decommissioning list. The rest was up to nature and if she failed us to our insurance policy.
As Ian approached, we kept in touch with friends who live at the marina full time. As it became clear that Burnt Store was directly in Ian’s path, our friends did the right thing and evacuated. Early reports had the water being pulled out of the marina and the boats sitting on mud.
These boats appear to be on their sides because they are sitting on the mud bottom. Note sails that were not removed are already torn.
At this point we were still securely tied to the dock, just resting in the mud. We went to bed thinking that all was well. However, the next morning it became clear that the floating dock we were on did not stand up to the rush of water that ultimately came back and filled the marina, the 175 MPH hurricane winds, and a probable tornado that was reportedly clocked at 210 MPH. It probably didn’t help that the marina had placed a 67’ long three-story high motor yacht at the very end of our dock. We were sent a picture of the area where the dock used to be and a pile up of boats that had come to rest along the bulkhead in the southern basin of the marina.
The pictures made it clear that our boat was still floating and had come to rest on the outer edge of the pile. We very quickly made the decision to drive down to Florida on Friday along with Bob’s brother David, who has a house at Burnt Store, so that we could see for ourselves the full extent of the damage. The plan was to drive straight through since we would have three drivers.
We packed the car with water and enough food for four days. Reports were that there was no electricity or water in the area and grocery stores were closed. We picked David up at 8:00 am and began the long drive to Florida. The hurricane was heading north up the east coast, so we had to take a more westerly route that added another two hours to the drive, but we didn’t want to encounter Ian on the way down.
The ride was mostly uneventful, although there was a lot of stop and go. A few hours north of Burnt Store, we were detoured off the main highway and had to take route 41 due to standing water closing the interstate. We were starting to see the impact of the storm, with trees down, shop signs blown out and roofs missing tiles. It was very early in the am and still dark as we encountered standing water on the road. David had to drive very slowly for the next three miles as the water was up to the bottom of Bob’s car.
One of two pieces of Bob's car that came down as we drove through the standing water.
We were staring out the windows trying to see the landscape around us. We got back on the freeway and then exited at the Punta Gorda Airport. As we turned the corner, we saw the line of automobiles waiting for a gas station to open. The line went for miles and did not appear to be moving at all. We later learned that very few gas stations were open and the ones that were open were selling out. People were buying gas for their generators as well as their cars.
The temporary Gorilla Tape repair to David and Rhonda's soffit.
We arrived at David’s house and were please so see that the house had sustained very little damage. The soffits were missing their aluminum panels in various points, some of the newly planted landscaping was bent and some of the mature trees were missing branches. Pre-storm, Burnt Store had absolutely beautiful landscaping throughout the complex. Now, most of the palm trees looked more like toothpicks and mature tress had been totally uprooted.
The road to the marina.
The original plan was to arrive early in the am on Saturday and sleep for a few hours before going to the marina. Because of the traffic delays, standing water and once we unpacked the car, it was close to 9:00 am and we couldn’t wait to get to the marina, so sleep would have to wait. It was a sobering ride. It was eerily quiet with only a soft hum of generators and very few cars on the road. Seeing pictures of the pileup and seeing it in person were two different things. Other boats owners were just standing there, speechless.
Boats on the dry storage racks fell into the yard.
We traversed the pile, crawling from boat to boat to get a better look at Her Diamond. Bob went inside and confirmed that we were still watertight. The mast seemed unaffected, the port side was badly scratched due to constant contact with the metal rub rail of our neighbor’s boat, the stern was a mangle of stainless tubing. The lifelines were draping rather than taught, stanchions were obviously bent, and the pedestal cover was shredded. All in all, we didn’t see anything that couldn’t be fixed, and we were slightly relived. More importantly, our stern seemed to be unobstructed and although we were still tied to broken dock sections that remained around us, we did not appear to be blocked in by any other boats or debris. We were floating clear, other than our neighbor to our port, which was still hitting us occasionally as we shifted within the space.
Red tape points to Her Diamond.
Our first thought was we had to mitigate our damages and extricate ourselves from the pack. Sean and Julia and Edwina and Paul were at the marina and offered to help. So, the next morning Paul put his dinghy in the water and SLOWLY hip towed us over to an available dock on F – the transient dock.
The dock master was not happy with us for moving our boat. He felt the entire mess was like a giant janga puzzle that might shift if a piece were removed. Bob felt confident that none of the other boats were pressed up against us and that we weren’t keeping the entire mess in place. So, despite the dock master’s reluctance, we moved. I have yet to hear that any one was further damaged because of our moving out of the pack and feel confident that I would have heard if that was the case. We definitely averted further damage by removing Her Diamond from the pile-up.
Port side of the boat that will need fiberglass repair. The entire hull will need a paint job.
The stainless steel on the stern got mangled. The solar panel is twisted, and the davits (which hold the dinghy) are no longer connected to the stern hardware. The stern rail is pushed in making the lifelines slack.
Once safely tied up in a slip, we began to stabilize things so that we could leave the boat and be confident that if another storm came through, we would be no worse off. I can’t say enough good about Gorilla tape. Much stronger than duct tape, it was our go to for many of the temporary fixes that were necessary. We patched the pedestal cover, crafted new instrument covers, repaired the fender covers and retied the fenders on a fender board that was now resting against the piling since we were no longer on a floating dock. We set up the dehumidifiers, using one with our limping solar panels to operate the dehumidifier until the electrical power came back on.
Gorilla Tape to the rescue.
At this point I was having survivor guilt. We knew our boat was safe, we had access and could leave with a modicum of surety about its safety. Others were not so lucky. The boats that had been taken out of the water and tied down with hurricane ties at Safe Cove and Charlotte Harbor Boat Storage (which is what we had done in prior years) had dominoed one on top of the other. Masts were broken and some boats and holes poked through their hulls from the jackstands or other boats. Additionally, the boat yards were not allowing people access to their boats because the boats in the yard were so unstable, being over on their sides. The mix of boats that remained in the pile-up were like that for almost three weeks with owners denied access. In the meantime, the rain that is customary this time of the year in Florida, had taken a break for about 10 days and then began again, bringing water into compromised boats and doing additional damage.
North basin damage
Boats aren't supposed to be up on the dock!
Once the boat and David’s house were secure, we headed back to Cleveland just in time for the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, another LONG car ride.
Once home, we have kept in touch with our friends and their various situations. We had our diver look at the bottom/keel and unfortunately found out that there are a few chunks of the lead missing – we must have hit something below water with a lot of force. Bob has been on the phone countless hours trying to line up the suppliers, and trades people to make the necessary repairs. We are one of thousands so as you can imagine, return calls are not generally forthcoming. Everything is fixable, from the fiberglass gouge in the hull to the new stern rail that will need to be fabricated. All told our estimate is that the repairs will cost about $35,000 most of which will be covered by insurance. We need to file a claim with FEMA to see if our deductible will be covered, but after three hours on hold and then being hung up on, this is still in process.
We are very lucky that things are no worse than they are. Those living on Sanibel, Matlacha and Fort Myers Beach certainly have far worse stories to tell. We are blessed to have good friends who helped us and we will be there for them when we return after Thanksgiving. I am confident that Bob will be able to bring Her Diamond back to the condition she was in before the storm. Will this winter look the way we thought it might? No way. They are cautioning boats to stay clear of Charlotte Harbor at this point, so we don’t know how long it will be before day sailing will again be the norm. But, we will have the warm breezes, lots of pickleball, yoga and good friends to have sundowners with while the repairs are in process.
n the meantime, we are finishing up house projects that we wanted done before we leave for the winter. I got my motorcycle license this summer and purchased a Buddy Scooter which I am loving.
Bob and I did a few boat deliveries, one to Buffalo and one just north of Detroit.
The Hebrew Garden face lift was completed, with the refurbished fountain now back in place and shrink wrapped for the winter.
We joined Lifetime fitness, thanks to the free membership through United Health Care and have been playing pickleball there and with our friends in Beachwood. I restarted yoga classes and am loving how it makes me feel. My home garden gave us lots of fresh veggies and I got pretty good at making dill pickles and rhubarb, some of which I froze for the winter. All in all a busy, fun summer. Now starts the count down for the drive to Florida.
More to come………..