HURRICANE WILMA & Knotty Dog
It was nearing the “end of the season” as they call it in New England and we decided to have a captain take Knotty Dog down the East Coast to Florida. We hadn’t been home for 5 months and just needed a break from boating. So, we left Bangor, Maine and Knotty Dog in the good hands of Capt. Kelly and his mate who were going to take Knotty Dog to Fort Lauderdale for us. We’ll have more of their trip later. It was still hurricane season but Kelly would be careful, having plenty of experience, in these matters. He had a good hurricane hole for her in Fort Lauderdale, way up the New River. They arrived late one night and left before the crack of dawn the next morning. It took them approximately 16 days with one hold over in Connecticut and Norfolk area for the left overs of Tropical Storm Orphelia as it headed up the east coast and various other tropical storm situations.
We took our time driving across Canada and the US heading home to Santa Barbara. We arrived home about the same time Kelly got the boat to Fort Lauderdale and Larry followed up by flying to Fort Lauderdale to check out the location, and get Knotty Dog cleaned and serviced so she could rest for a couple months until we return again in December. Having done all that and feeling pretty good about the boat, as he had the carpets cleaned, bedspreads and upholstery dry cleaned and really everything, detailed and serviced. So, completing all that, Larry flew home to Santa Barbara to begin planning our next adventure.
Meanwhile, the beginnings of a storm were brewing in the Atlantic Ocean. It was heading towards Jamaica and Yucatan with a projected turn towards the SW coast of Florida. It kept building in strength so we kept our eye on her for several days. She was given the name of Wilma. Everyone was surprised as she kept building strength. No one could believe another disaster could happen after the devastation of Katrina. We watched Wilma’s slow path and suddenly it became evident she was going to be a force to be reckoned with.
We watched as she lingered over the Yucatan Penninsula devastating the area and we were hoping she would peter out but, no, she just gained strength and now was headed on a true course towards the SW coast of Florida.
Larry and Captain Kelly were on the phone or email frequently discussing the possible scenarios. Kelly said he would stay on the boat, if necessary, if the hurricane headed Knotty Dog’s way. In the meantime he made several trips to the boat to check lines and fenders and do all that you do to prepare for something like this.
We watched with increased anxiety as it became evident there was a real possibility that she was most likely headed Knotty Dog’s way. By now she had landed on the west coast of Florida, and was doing some severe damage there and still increasing velocity and speed. By now, Captain Kelly was on Knotty Dog to ride it out. He was securing so many safety lines on the boat that he said she looked like she was encased in a spider web. He tied lines across the canal too to try to keep her off the fixed docks as much as possible to save damage from rubbing against it. Having done everything he could, he was on the boat and would just wait for it to hit. Knotty Dog was way up New River in Fort Lauderdale and the possible water serge from a hurricane would not be as great in other more exposed locations. We were tied to a fixed dock which will be more secure than floating docks for situations like these. Larry and Kelly are on the phone frequently checking with each other trying to make sure they haven’t forgotten to do something.
Wilma hit at night ( Santa
Barbara time) and so we
were up most of the night watching her path on the weather and news channel.
Larry would check the NOAA hurricane tracking site on the internet and I clicked
through the news and weather channels on TV. Most of our friends had no idea
what we were going through.
By dawn, Larry made another call and Kelly said it was over. There was minor damage to Knotty Dog. The hatch covering the power outlets blew off as the stainless steel hinges just broke and the bimini was gone. Besides a few scratches and wear and tear on the side of the boat, she was in good shape. Amazing. We could relax now. Kelly said the place was a mess, trees gone and lots of damage. A large trailer right near the boat blown completely over and a large boat in front of us had its salon window blown completely in. Trees that lined the park where Knotty Dog is we just gone, disappeared. The dock which was straight before now had a serpentine path to it. Power was out everywhere and of course there was no water. It was really a surprise to everyone how powerful Wilma had become and the damage she did. I don’t think anyone really thought it was going to come their direction or be that powerful.
Kelly said he was going to try to get the boat cleaned as it was covered in debris, leaves and branches. He didn’t want to let them set too long on the boat because it would leave permanent stains. There was no way to really wash the boat as water was not available and you feel kind of wasteful using your water tank to wash the boat when people are waiting in long lines was drinking water. He did the best he could.
Larry began the serious process of trying to get a flight to Florida to assess the damage and just see for himself how things were. He managed to get a flight out in the next couple of days. We were up at 4:45 AM the day of his flight, to go to the airport, and he happened to look at his cell phone. There was a message that came in during the night. The airline called and said his flight was cancelled. He tried to rebook another flight and that’s when we found out the Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach and Miami airports were completely shut down except for emergency flights. How could this be? Wow, the situation is worse that we knew. This is serious. He managed to get another flight but had to book it to Orlando two days from now. He figured he’d rent a car in Orland and drive to Fort Lauderdale. Nope, that didn’t work, as no cars were available. So then he became even more persistent and managed to get booked on another flight, the next day, this time to Miami. We’re wondering how he got it as the airport is supposed to be closed. We got up again at 5:00 AM the next morning and I dropped Larry off at the airport. When I got home, he called and said “come back and pick me up, the flight is cancelled”. This time they booked him several hours later. So he came home and waited and again I dropped him off at the airport.
This time he got on a flight and managed to have reserved a rental car in Miami. Captain Kelly had questioned whether he really should fly down here. He said it was a real mess. He said, “there’s no water, power, and nothing, absolutely, nothing is open.” Larry had to go.
I got a call that night. He just got in to Miami and was heading up the Interstate towards Fort Lauderdale. Larry said no one was out on the roads. He said he was surprised as there was only a little debri here and there. Once near Fort Lauderdale though he said it was pitch black out. No streets lights, nothing. He had a difficult time finding the park where Knotty Dog was because nothing looked the same as trees were gone, signs were gone, cars and trailers were gone and there was damage everywhere. He found Knotty Dog in the dark. She was in good shape. She weathered it well! He was relieved.
The next morning he said it was unbelievable to see the damage every where. He drove around trying to find a place to get something to eat. He drove for miles and nothing was open. He finally saw a Dunkin Donuts with a long line out front. He stopped. It took him an hour and twenty minutes just to get a cup of coffee. The lines at the gas stations were unbelievable.
He surveyed the boat and she was good. The wind, speed and direction indicator was broken, the bimini gone, a few scratches and rubs on the side, the rubber on the scuppers were broken or worn off, and the hatch on the power intake was the only damage he could find. Having left the boat in polished condition, she now needed a whole redo but considering the damage and heartbreak of those surrounding him, it was nothing.
He stayed a few days to work on cleaning her and making lists of things to be done. Repairs couldn’t be made as nobody had power, so nothing was open. He met the owners of a boat docked nearby and they all took a dinghy ride up and down the canals to see the devastation that Wilma left. A 4 million dollar boat sunk, and another 150 foot boat broke away from it’s dock and had been battered around the harbor pretty severely. Several boats sank or were seriously damaged down the way. They were on floating docks and the docks must have been very vulnerable to any serge or winds and they were all over the place.
Each night, there were no lights except for the few that had generators. All the boats generators were running and the people in RVs nearby were running generators. There were NO street lights, no traffic lights, restaurants were closed, and endless lines were there if anything at all miraculously was open. Larry managed to eat canned food left on the boat for several days. By the last night that he was there, he could see progress as the water had been turned back on and power, grid by grid throughout the city was slowly but methodically coming back to life. People were running their gas run power saws and cutting downed trees off their homes and structures and beginning clean up. You think maybe these people are used to this. They live here and it’s a common orrcurance. They jump back quickly and adapt. But no matter what, you never get used to it. There was nothing more Larry could do, so he caught a plane home. This time out of nearby Fort Lauderdale airport as it finally was open. There was no food on the flight back as there was none to get at the airport. No matter what we were lucky and we have Kelly and a fellow nearby to watch the boat now and will turn things back on when power comes to the dock. Knotty Dog weathered it well and she’s ready to go again.
Below a few interesting news reports:
Hurricane Wilma knocks birds off course to Maritimes