Therein lie the deepest wounds inflicted by Irma, the damage not measurable in millibars of atmospheric pressure, or in layers stripped from your home, but rather, in layers stripped from your heart. – Diandra Jones, Irma Was Here
I’m addicted to hurricane coverage. Can’t help it. Ever since we spent the hurricane season in Grenada. We, like every other cruiser sat mostly anchored in Grenada’s bays, watching storms develop on the other side of the Atlantic. They’d track westwards, across the Atlantic, towards the Caribbean or further northwards. It was like a hurricane watch party. Thousands of cruisers, sitting at windless Caribbean anchorages, watching their screens, updating their pages.
I had no climate-based knowledge until this point. Over the summer, I began to learn. I learnt about wind shear, well-developed eyes versus collapsing ones, steering routes. The one time a storm did come close, most people were outta there. It was like an elaborate nautical game of hide and seek. Everyone picked up their anchors and either headed south, to hurricane holes or hauled themselves at boat yards.
The approach of Hurricane Matthew persuaded us to sail for the first time to Trinidad. In a way it changed our lives. We had no plans to go to Trinidad, having heard of a couple of recent piracy attacks en route. Everybody in Grenada was pretty much like, ‘Don’t go to Trinidad. You’ll get robbed at knifepoint and have a gun pointed at your head before you even get there. Then you’ll get there and it’ll happen again – this time on land.’ Our sailing passage in the end was fine. I spent two weeks looking suspiciously at everyone who went past the marina. Then, after Matthew turned north and headed up the Caribbean Sea to destroy poor Haiti, we left Trinidad and realised Trinidad was actually a really super place. If you don’t get robbed that is. Still, Trini’s a bit like that. High stakes but high rewards. We’ve never looked back since.
Two Septembers ago, I sat in the bungalow in Borth and watched Hurricane Irma barrel through the British Virgin Islands. It was obsessive watching. Eventually Jack had to tell me to pull myself together. ‘Get out of bed,’ he pleaded, ‘and please please take a shower.’
I relented but still watched the footage when everyone went to sleep. For days, I examined the aerial footage of wreckage. I scanned each image, looking for our friend’s boat, MickBeth. They had left it there it the ‘hurricane-certified’ boat yard in Tortola. However, 200 mph winds and a storm surge in the tens of feet challenged anything that tying a boat down to the ground could do. Eventually I spotted MickBeth. She was lying on her side with her mast snapped in two. Game over for our friends, Mike, Beth, Gwen and Robyn.
Only a few months before, we’d spent the season sailing together through the BVI’s clear waters. We had had plans to meet MickBeth again the following year. We loved the BVIs so much that we might not have come back if we’d gone. Now, we were no longer going to the BVI. We went to Barbados instead – cutting our season on Quest short. Of course that’s small potatoes. Mike and Beth no longer have a boat. And British Virgin Islanders are still re-building.