Elsa Says Hello

It was July 2 and Maureen’s birthday. People of a certain age don’t usually make a great deal of birthdays and so ours are low keyed. Nonetheless we do note, as a recent scientific study revealed, that people who have many birthdays live longer than those who don’t have as many. Having said that I hope that the Admiral of our Fleet has many more we can celebrate together wherever we are.

Happy Birthday Maureen!

One of the ways we could have celebrated was for me to make breakfast, bring fresh flowers for the table, have a grand lunch at a restaurant with some friends and maybe a few old fashion rum punches as sundowners. Unfortunately, the only thing I could accomplish was breakfast. Elsa, a blustery visitor to our shores, arrived in the morning and hung around for most of the day.

Elsa, as you may know, was crowned Hurricane Elsa just as we were finishing our breakfast. She started to make her presence known when we woke at 5:30 AM as the winds started to pick up. The dense clouds obscured any sunrise although no rain fell for a few hours. Checking the local weather radar, the massive rain echoes were approaching Barbados. From the location and movement, it looked like the center of Elsa would pass over Barbados and head for St. Vincent. Barbados is 98 miles south-east of us, and St Vincent is 50 miles south of where we are, Rodney Bay Marina.

This storm was not a surprise visitor. For the last five days all eyes were on the mid-Tropical Atlantic. Weather forecasters and weather models were all in agreement that a significant tropical wave that came off Africa would face favorable conditions to form a strong wave or tropical storm and head west. That was exactly what happened. It sped quickly west, over 25 knots, and arrive on our doorstep as a tropical storm Elsa. It grew into Hurricane Elsa as it passed over Barbados.

By 8 AM squalls came in waves. Winds over 25 knots pushed Kalunamoo against the dock. This was expected. I removed our ramp the day before, added and adjusted dock lines to keep her farther from the dock (the south side of Kalunamoo). As the wind increased and heeled the boat the fenders protected the boat. I knew the winds would be clocking, going from North-East to East then to South East during the day so there would be less pressure against the dock as the day progressed. By 10:30 the barometer recorded its lowest pressure before starting to rise. This meant the center of Elsa was due south and would start to pull away. Sustained wind gusts to the mid 40’s (knots) made a racket as rain went horizontal. Instantaneous gusts were probably higher. The below table shows our observations during the day.

Since we were about 75 miles north of the center of the storm the strongest wind were south of here. Everything held as no damage was sustained. Heavy rains occurred here, in St. Vincent and Grenada. Landslides here killed one person in St. Lucia. We had hired a worker and his wife to varnish our teak toe rail and today he said that there was plenty of damage inland including lowsing part of his roof. The usual leaks when heavy rain occurs were noted on board but nothing like the old “leaky teaky” of yesteryear.

This was our first encounter of a named hurricane in the Caribbean. This was an early season storm, especially for this area. In the last 31 years only one other named storm crossed any East Caribbean Island earlier than Elsa. However, our close encounters with strong tropical waves and storms, here and on the East Coast, over the last 40 years were not unusual. Hurricanes were the prime reason we would go to Trinidad in the summer as it is below the “hurricane belt”. Trinidad has been closed since last year and who knows when it will open up. Nationals will be permitted in the middle of July but no word of non-nationals. In any case we chose to stay in St. Lucia as we flew to NY for 7 weeks, knowing that the marina is a relatively safe harbor during storms.

And it was. Many boats that were anchored in the bay, including commercial boats for the resorts, came into the marina the day before the storm. There was plenty of space and all were well protected. Granted that this was not a major hurricane and the winds were not at hurricane strength here, it still provided good protection. Electricity on the dock was shut off by 11:30AM until this morning.

The video is what the marina looked like during the day.

As written before hurricanes can be very destructive to these islands but there are steps that can be taken to lesson the danger. Heavy rain is sometimes more of a factor than the wind. The season has just started and no one knows where or when the next storms will form. Historically only 2 or 3 storms affect the East Caribbean during the summer season. Last year’s number of storms, 30, was a record. Only 2 were in the Eastern Caribbean. There was also a recent explanation from the National Hurricane Center that although it was a record number, modern technologies help identity more storms than ever before. It was an active season but not as active as the number of storms would suggest.

Well by late afternoon, the winds calmed down to the typical summer trades of 15 and less. Clouds and showers were still around but it was all quiet after a stormy day. Maybe Elsa came to celebrate Maureen’s birthday in a very unconventional way. What a way to say Happy Birthday Maureen!

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