11 November 2013 | Koror, Palau
Jim and I were just getting our bearings and settling into seeing other white people and other yachts when an interesting thing shows up on the grib files.
"Oh that blip," Laura on Zen says when we tell her we are headed out to a safe anchorage because of the upcoming weather. She has been here two years and weathered Typhoon Bopha that went through last December. For a split second we question our decision.
Our friends Duncan on Matsu and Brynn at Commander's Weather both send head's up messages to find a safe spot. But Tom on Toucan has already warned us. "That second storm forming looks a lot like Bopha did," he said.
9 miles and almost 2 hours of slow motoring brings us to a stunning, secluded, safe spot in the Rock Islands. We know it only as Anchorage 202. Nobody else is here and there are no houses, roads or tracks ashore.
We drop the anchor and I tie three lines to shore. The anchor is well set because Jim has to put Tenaya into hard reverse several times to give me enough slack to get a line around the windward tree. Our bow is pointing into the SW where the strongest of the forecast winds will come from. We are near the tip of the crooked finger, but far enough out to catch a little breeze.
With all the steep islands around, it is difficult to hold onto a satellite long enough to download new grib files. These are the maps that show wind speed and direction. The windbits (my made-up word) are shaped like arrows with the front pointing the direction the wind is blowing and the feathers showing the speed. One full line is 10 knots. One half line is 5 knots. Add them together to get the wind speed.
Our boat is the green thing near the middle of the circle. The flag on the purple windbit nearest to Tenaya means 50 knots. So that particular windbit shows that 75 knots will be coming over Tenaya shortly. On a scale of one to a shitload, our fear level is about to make our britches bulge.
About 5:00 PM the wind starts to blow from the N. About 7 PM it whistles and starts to rain. By 9 PM it is raining hard and howling, heeling us to port. We're scared. We huddle together on our bed and I make deals with God.
At some point we realize the anchors will hold and we will not crash into the rock wall near the stern. We doze. The wind moves around to the E, SE, S and SW. The boat stops heeling. We are more sheltered now. We sleep.
We wake up because the sun is shining through the hatch. It is plastered with leaves. We unfold ourselves and breathe huge sighs of relief. Haiyan passed in 12 hours instead of 24. It picked up speed and turned N just as it reached Palau so those of us in Koror missed the direct hit. Reports say the eye was over Kayangel about 45 miles north. The typhoon was still forming and would grow to monstrous proportions before it smashed into the Philippines.
Our hearts go out to the throngs of people who lost loved ones, their homes, everything. The devastation is unimaginable, as are the feelings of those who suffered through this horrific event when the wind and water rose to such heights. I know how scared we were in 40+ knots not knowing where it would top out. I can't begin to imagine how they must have felt.