September 30, 2012
Saying Good Bye


September 15, 2012
Reflections on Our 27 Year Circumnavigation


September 01, 2012
Sea of Cortez Sailing


August 15, 2012
Back to the Sea of Cortez


August 01, 2012
After Circumnavigation: What to Take, What to Leave Behind


July 15, 2012
Mexican Booby Trap


July 01, 2012
Tackling the Tehuantepec


June 14, 2012
Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico


June 01, 2012
Sailing northern Costa Rica and Nicargua


May 15, 2012
Costa Rican Cruising


May 01, 2012
New Found Friends in Golfito, Costa Rica


April 15, 2012
It’s a Jungle Out There


April 01, 2012
Hunting and Gathering in Panama


March 15, 2012
Money.... Money.... Money


March 01, 2012
Feel Free Transits the Panama Canal


February 15, 2012
Transiting the Panama Canal


February 01, 2012
Feel Free is Back in the Pacific


January 15, 2012
Charter Skipper for a Week


January 01, 2012
Confessions of a Charter Cat Chef


December 15, 2011
Away to the Andamans Part 2


December 01, 2011
AWAY to the ANDAMANs


November 15, 2011
Sailing in a Freshwater Paradise


November 01, 2011
To Barf or not to Barf, that is the question


October 14, 2011
Remarkable Cruisers


October 03, 2011
The Sea of Cortez, Another World


September 15, 2011
Panama Canal Here We Come


September 01, 2011
Sailing for Humanity


August 15, 2011
A Hard Lesson on the Hard and Reflections on Boat Work


August 01, 2011
Here Come the Lion Fish


July 15, 2011
The Joy of Books


July 01, 2011
The Sailors of San Blas


June 15, 2011
The Good Life in Kuna Yala


June 01, 2011
The Dirt Dweller in Paradise


May 15, 2011
People of the San Blas, Then and Now


May 01, 2011
Cruising in Kuna Yala


April 15, 2011
Near Disaster in the San Blas


April 01, 2011
At Last in the San Blas


March 15, 2011
Chilling Out in Cholon


March 01, 2011
Ah, Cartagena!


February 15, 2011
Cruising the Cape Horn of the Caribbean Part 2


February 01, 2011
Cruising the Cape Horn of the Caribbean Part 1


January 14, 2011
Aruban Interlude


December 30, 2010
Hunkering Down for a Hurricane


December 15, 2010
A Day in the Life - Our Passage to Aruba


December 01, 2010
Stuck in Curacao


November 15, 2010
Stormy Night Sailing


November 01, 2010
Sailing In The Sticks


October 15, 2010
Safety, Security and Circumnavigating with some tips on how to stay safe


October 04, 2010
Feel Free Transits The Suez Canal


September 15, 2010
Red Sea Sailing


September 01, 2010
FEEL FREEs Voyage Into the Red Sea


August 15, 2010
And just a little further, to Curacao


August 01, 2010
Bonaire Diving


July 15, 2010
Then To Bonaire


July 01, 2010
Cruising Remote Venezuelan Isles


June 15, 2010
Cruising St. Vincent


June 01, 2010
Right Place, Right Time


May 15, 2010
The Spice Isle


May 01, 2010
To the Grenadines


April 15, 2010
We Be In Barbados Mon


April 01, 2010
Atlantic Passage Part II


March 15, 2010
Atlantic Passage Part 1


March 01, 2010
Provisioning for the Atlantic Crossing


February 15, 2010
Atlantic Crossing Preparations


February 01, 2010
Cruising the Canary Islands


January 15, 2010
Out Of Africa


January 01, 2010
Come With Me To The High Atlas Mountains.............


December 15, 2009
Two Years Of Mediterranean Sailing


December 01, 2009
Moving On To Morocco


November 18, 2009
Leaving The Med


November 13, 2009
Reaching The Rock Of Gibraltar Milestone


October 15, 2009
Sailing Spains Costa del Sol


October 01, 2009
Sailing Spains Costa del High-rise


September 15, 2009
Sailing The Spanish Isles


September 01, 2009
At Sea Or On The Hook, These Recipes Travel Well


August 15, 2009
An Interlude At Menorca


August 01, 2009
A Pleasant Passage To Menorca


July 15, 2009
The Agony And Ecstasy Of The Tunisian Coast


July 01, 2009
Tripping Around Tunisia


June 15, 2009
Tales From North Africa


June 01, 2009
Dont Freak If Your Fridge Fails


May 15, 2009
Into Africa


May 01, 2009
Meandering Around Malta, Then Off To Tunisia


April 15, 2009
Low-Tech DIY Ideas For The New Economy


April 01, 2009
The Med Set A Few Cruiser Profiles


March 15, 2009
That Sinking Feeling


March 01, 2009
Thailand to Oman: Three Passages, Three Ports


February 15, 2009
Doing Hard Time in Malta


February 01, 2009
Pirate Alley Part 2


January 15, 2009
Pirate Alley Part 1


January 02, 2009
So Many Islands, So Little Time


December 15, 2008
Cruising With The Bear


December 01, 2008
Versatile Vinegar, The Boaters Friend


November 15, 2008
What I Did In This Summer -- Dock Masters In paradise


November 01, 2008
Over The Top Of Oz


October 16, 2008
The Tumultuous Tasman


October 01, 2008
Sweet Memories Of The Splendid Surins


September 15, 2008
And Then We Were In Malta


September 01, 2008
Feel Frees Siracusan Story


August 15, 2008
The Best of Times, The Worst of Times


August 01, 2008
All Tied Up In The Ionians


July 15, 2008
A Greek Odyssey Our Journey to Ithaca


July 01, 2008
Anatomy of a Near Catastrophe


June 15, 2008
Good-bye Turkey, Hello Greece


June 01, 2008
More Winter Cruising in Turkey


May 15, 2008
Winter Cruising in Turkey


April 15, 2008
Talking Turkey: Marmaris Marina Living


April 15, 2008
The Joy Of The Side Trip


April 01, 2008
Return to Marmaris, And The Budget


March 15, 2008
Passing Time And Dodging The Meltemi


March 01, 2008
Home Sweet Home


February 15, 2008
A Little Working, A Little Cruising


February 01, 2008
Working Our Way Around The World


January 15, 2008
Welcome Aboard Feel Free


January 01, 2008
Liz Tosonis and Tom Morkins Feel Free


January 01, 2008
About Tom Morkin and Liz Tosoni


January 01, 2008
About Feel Free


January 01, 2008
Voyage Itinerary


December 30, 2010
Hunkering Down for a Hurricane

 

By Tom Morkin

Lat 12 30 N, Long 69 48 W
Aruba, Netherland Antilles Caribbean Sea

There’s nothing like the unexpected approach of a hurricane to make you re-prioritize your short term plans. We had only been one night in Aruba, anchored off the town of Oranjestad. We were looking forward to a week or so of playing tourists before heading to Cartagena Colombia when we learned about Tomas. He was a newly developed tropical storm passing through the Grenadine Islands of the southeastern Caribbean.

 
No big deal as he was far away and his projected path would take him at least a couple hundred miles north of Aruba. Within hours of hearing about Tomas, we learned that the ‘bad boy’ had changed course, increased in intensity and was heading west and maybe even south of west. One of the weather forecasting models showed Tomas skirting the Venezuelan coast. That would put us directly in its path!

Our lovely anchorage off the town was definitely not going to serve any south to west quadrant and would have us not only exposed to the winds but to the storm surge as well. Ugly visions of Feel Free unceremoniously parked in an Oranjestad downtown parking lot came to mind. We quickly went to the local fishing charter fleet and asked about the uncharted channel inside a long, narrow mangrove/coral island that parallels Aruba’s southwest coast. We knew shallow draft boats could get into this sanctuary, but could Feel Free with her eight foot draft? In fact, with a little careful manoeuvring, we could indeed; contentedly we lay there while monitoring Hurricane Tomas as he did his nasty little march through the southern Caribbean.


This scenario couldn’t help but bring to mind some other similar scenarios from our sailing past. Example: a long time ago, Liz and I sailed from Guam to Japan. Our departure date from Guam was postponed a week because Super Typhoon Andy developed in our neighbourhood and he wanted to go to Japan as well. We figured he’d be a lousy travel companion so we let him go ahead of us and hung out in a typhoon shelter tied to four blocks of concrete, each nine feet by nine feet by nine feet.


It was here where I learned that when a typhoon is big enough and the barometric pressure is low enough, women in their 8th month of pregnancy are put in hospitals out of concern that they may deliver prematurely. Apparently, a large pressure difference between the inside and outside of the uterus can induce labour. Super Typhoon Andy could deliver such a pressure differential and in the newspapers, women in late pregnancy were being advised to enter hospital.

 
As it turned out, Guam was spared a direct hit (the eye passed north of the island by 55 miles) and Hoki Mai, our boat at the time, was unscathed.

As it turned out, Guam was spared a direct hit (the eye passed north of the island by 55 miles) and Hoki Mai, our boat at the time, was unscathed.

At the time, we had no idea that Andy was to be only the first of about 12 typhoons that would visit us over the next 4 ½ years that we lived aboard Hoki Mai in southern Japan.
You might ask why a pair of nearly broke cruisers in their mid thirties on a rusty steel boat ended up in Japan. Well, because they had a rusty old steel boat and were nearly broke and they heard rumours they could use their marginal English skills to teach English for real money. Amazing!

Our one year working gig turned into a 4 ½ year stay. We fell in love with the country- great cruising in the southwestern islands off Kyushu Island, lovely, courteous people with a fascinating culture. What we didn’t know when we arrived was that it was a great place to learn about typhoons and managing heavy weather on your yacht.

It was during our first typhoon that I learned that when one needs to deploy an anchor during a storm, it may be easier and safer to swim the anchor and line out rather than carry it out in a dinghy. In our situation, our boat was Med-moored in the Meinohama fishing harbour. Hoki Mai was lying bow to a concrete wall with four mooring lines secured to bollards. Two anchors off the stern kept her from hitting the wall. Although our first typhoon was a small one, it brought an east wind which threatened to push Hoki Mai up against the wall should our anchors drag; and they did. We needed to deploy a 3rd anchor to windward, fast! Swimming it out was the only way.


I found it to be remarkably easy. We simply secured the head of the anchor to an 18 inch diameter spherical fender with ¼ inch line and lowered it into the water. I donned mask, snorkel and fins and easily swam the anchor and line 250 feet to windward and cut the ¼ inch line. Although it was blowing 40-45 knots, once I was in the water it felt as if the wind had died. This little trick saved our bowsprit from turning into kindling against that concrete wall.

 
Over the years I’ve used that same technique to deploy a second anchor when a blow is expected. Here I am wondering if I’ll have to do it again here in our Aruba anchorage after unearthing a second anchor along with chain from the bilge.

 

 
After the first couple of typhoons we learned the importance of dressing appropriately for the occasion. Since it was necessary to be on deck to make sure everything was properly secured, lines were properly tensioned and not chafing, we discovered that proper attire consisted of a wet suit complete with booties (provide good traction on deck), mask and snorkel.This ensemble was superior to even the expensive foul weather gear which flaps and flails when winds top 50 knots, whereas the skin tight wet suit keeps one warm with minimal wind resistance. The mask protects one’s face and eyes and secured to your face, won’t get ripped off your face.

As strange as it sounds and I must have appeared, I look back with almost fond memories of sitting in the cockpit decked out in my diving regalia, the wind blowing over 60 knots, in awe of nature’s magnificent violence while sipping coffees and hot chocolates that Liz would pass up to me from the companionway.


Twice during our 4 ½ years in Japan we were lucky (or unlucky) enough to have the eyes of hurricanes pass directly overhead. On the first occasion, we were so ill informed about hurricanes that when the center approached and the wind almost completely died, we thought the typhoon was finished. We even had scotch and water to celebrate. We weren’t long into our drinks when we noticed that although the cloud ceiling above us appeared to have lifted, there was a wall of very dark clouds that encircled us. It was as if we were looking up from the bottom of a deep well. Inevitably as the typhoon advanced, we were slammed by the approaching dark wall, the winds shifted about 140 degrees and went from 10 knots to over 60 knots in no more than four seconds and all hell broke loose. And of course, it was just coming on dark.


Since we thought the storm was over, I had removed my wet suit and since the wind shifted and intensified, I needed to be on deck to adjust lines and secure gear. While on the foredeck I foolishly turned away from the driving wind and rain. Immediately my glasses were ripped off. Half blind and feeling more than half stupid, I screamed to Liz to suit up and help me outside. I needed her to bring me a line from the cockpit. Groping around in the cockpit in the dark, she nearly stepped on my glasses, miraculously not breaking them. Above the din I could barely make out the expletives she levelled at me for “leaving your glasses in the cockpit for me to step on!” I was never so happy to see her so angry.


For the next 30 minutes Liz was called upon to sit on an unsecured, unfinished forehatch using her 115 pounds to ensure it didn’t blow away while I created a cat’s cradle with lines to hold it down. I still have a vivid image of this koala like figure sitting on the hatch with both arms embracing the main mast for dear life while 60 to 70 knots of wind and a torrent of horizontally driven rain mercilessly pummelled her until the job got done.


Despite the ferocity and intensity of these Japanese typhoons, there was never a question of leaving the boat. Although we worried about security we never feared for our own safety. Our fishing harbour in Meinohama, like virtually all Japanese fishing harbours, has experienced typhoons for countless generations and was built accordingly. During the typhoons, the fishermen took shifts and patrolled the boat basin. They even had a typhoon tower from which they could monitor the entire harbour and its 60 boats.


Although my advice to anyone contemplating leaving their boat in a hurricane prone area during the storm season is- Don’t do it!, if you must, Japan is as good a place to do it as you can get.

Meanwhile, back to Aruba, Tomas did approach within 100 miles of Aruba- that’s the bad news. The good news is he lost his hurricane status and became a lowly tropical storm.

Tomas was a conflicted character. He sprung up as a tropical low, then quickly morphed into a hurricane, passing through Barbados and then St. Lucia. He didn’t have the energy to maintain his hurricane status as he rolled past the ABC islands but as he headed north to Haiti he regained his hurricane status to inflict more pain and suffering on those folks before losing his status yet again as he pushed through the Bahamas and then on to Bermuda. Aruba was again spared. There’s no doubt about it- there’s a lot to be said for spending hurricane season within 12 degrees of the equator.