Preparing for Hurricane Jimena
31 August 2009 | Puerto Escondido, Baja California Sur, Mexico
I just finished an eyesplice in some 5/8" nylon line; our new mooring pendant to supplement the barnacle-covered rope provided by the marina. I think the line will be strong enough, but I can only hope the chain it will shackle to, and the concrete block sitting on the bottom, can hold us. But I'm not as worried as I might be: It feels good to prepare for a hurricane because it wards off the fear.
Jimena is a Category 4 hurricane, the tenth tropical storm in the Eastern Pacific this year, and it's headed our way at about seven miles an hour. It is very intense, and it's the first one to come anywhere near us. The barometric pressure in the eye is estimated to be 945 millibars; sustained winds are 145 miles per hour and gusts are tens of knots harder. Fuelled by unusually warm seawater (1.5 degrees C above normal) and directed in a curve from northwest toward northeast by some low pressure over Baja, it has leapt in intensity over the past two days and pointed itself at the southern half of the Baja peninsula. All of the weather forecast models except one show it hitting the west coast of Baja sometime on Tuesday.
When the hurricane hits land its force will diminish rapidly, and as things stand now, the worst will be over by Wednesday. Because we are somewhat north, and on the other side of the peninsula from wherever Jimena makes landfall, at present it appears we will not bear the brunt of it. We'll probably begin to see some bad weather on Monday night or Tuesday morning, and if the hurricane in fact heads our way, Tuesday night will be a very long night indeed. In that case my eyesplice will be holding us against greater than 70-knot winds; thousands of pounds of pressure tugging at our mooring. Other boats, or our boat, will drag or simply break their mooring lines and make their way to their demise on the rocks that edge the bay. Loose objects will fly through the air, the boat will pitch and toss, the wind shrieking in the rigging, driving rain and spray leaving bruises on exposed skin.
It is against our fear of this very severe natural event that making our preparations feels good. It gives us some control, and gives us some activity beyond worrying. In another age we would spend the time praying or reading Scripture. I made a to-do list of the things we must do before the hurricane.
Create and install mooring line with thimble
Put chafe protection on bridles
Remove headsails and stow
Remove mainsail and stow
Remove storm trysail and stow
Remove boom and stow
Remove dodger and frame
Take down radar reflector and courtesy flag
Fill diesel tank
Remove and stow windvane paddle
Rig stern anchor
Strike whisker pole on deck
Strike boathook on deck
Remove liferaft and stow
Reeve messenger lines and remove halyards; stow
Clean and stow outboard motor
Deflate and stow dinghy
Prepare foul weather gear
Put masks and snorkels somewhere we can find them (if we have to go outside, it's the only way we'll be able to see)
Prepare life vests and tethers
Get food ready
Get settees ready and put up lee cloths (we normally sleep in the bow, but it will be full of the above items on the list)
Probably all the other boaters in Puerto Escondido--and there are more arriving all the time--have a litany of tasks like these. This afternoon people were sitting on the shore having a potluck and passing around the tequila bottle. Alcohol won't help get the list done, though it might help with the anxiety.
On Monday we will spend the day checking things off this list, and once or twice we will get online to see what we have to look forward to. We also listen to amateur weather forecasters on the SSB radio. If you'd like to follow the progress of the hurricane, all of us here are looking at the following two sites to get our information:
http://www.eebmike.com -- all-in-one-place weather imagery for Baja California
http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/refresh/graphics_ep3+shtml/204214.shtml?5-daynl#contents -- the US National Hurricane Center's page about this hurricane, with lots of very detailed information about wind speeds, rationales for the forecasts, how the prediction models work, etc.
If you want to see where we are for comparison, get yourself to Google Maps and ask it to show you 25.82283N, 111.30592W (in more nautical terms, we're at 25 49.371N, 111 18.571W). If you can get to the right zoom level, you'll see we're in Puerto Escondido, a traditional "hurricane hole" that offers all-around, all-weather protection. In the abstract, safe as houses. In reality, we couldn't be in a better place except somewhere where there aren't hurricanes.
Wish us luck, please don't worry about us, and we'll update you when we can.
Eric & Sarka