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September, 2004:

What can I say, I must like hurricanes.

So on my way to LA, I stop in Fort Lauderdale from Cancun. Because I’m flying on standby pass provided by a pilot friend of ours (thanks Hank!), I am unable to get on the flight from Lauderdale to LA because it’s fully booked. So, I decide to rent a car and drive down to Miami to visit the folks at Dinner Key. I wasn’t about to drive north to Daytona, because it looked like I-95 will be a mess the next day because of all the evacuations from that area.

So now they decided to close Fort Lauderdale airport today at noon, thus scrubbing my flight. This means that I’m now fortunate enough to enjoy yet another hurricane! Woo-hoo.

I’m helping out around the dock, helping everyone get their boats ready, and I guess there will be some hurricane parties tonight. The storm’s moving fast, so hopefully it will not take long before things return to normal. I just hope they reopen the airport tomorrow.

More to come, I’m sure.

Some pics of our trip to Isla Mujeres

Here´s a few shots taken during our crossing over to Isla Mujeres from Key West. The weather was pretty benign, so you can pretty much tell the level of energy onboard during the trip with these pics.

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Some pics of our hurricane Ivan activities…

I managed to get a few shots in of the weather and Andiamo as we got her ready for the big blow.

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Some more pics from Key West…

I finally got a chance to upload some more pics, so here are a few from our Key West days. I probably have a few other decent ones that I´ll add to this post later…

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The Ivan Diaries…

 Saturday 9/11/04

It started out as a typical day on Isla Mujeres, a little breezier than usual, but sunny. We had our next scuba lesson at 1, but it was cancelled due to low visibility in the water because of all the wind. I went online to do my usual check on weather, and Ivan’s presence got a little more disturbing. Seems that Ivan was not turning northward like all the pundits said he would bringing him further north towards Cuba and frighteningly, Florida. Nope, Ivan was now starting to look like he was going to keep heading west-northwest towards the Yucatan Channel. This was not good news for us. Everyone on the marina is being more cautious and curious, watching the weather channel at the marina office and so on. The data I’m seeing is telling me (and everyone else here) that we are going to be dealing with Ivan one way or another.

It’s too bad that we had to have this happen on today of all days, being that this was the anniversary of that other Sept. 11th.

Sunday 9/12/04

It’s not looking good for us. Ivan continues to track on a west-northwesterly course, sending him pretty much straight at us. People on the marina are starting to get nervous, and everyone is getting prepared for the inevitable. Andiamo is at the end of one of the marina’s three docks, and it doesn’t take me long to see that she is heavily exposed to the northwest, where the brunt of the storm’s winds and surges will come from whenever it gets here. We decide it’s better to take her into the lagoon deeper into the island, run her aground onto the soft muddy bottom and tie Andiamo off to the mangroves at the bow and drop a few anchors from the stern. So off we go from the dock into the lagoon and commence the storm-defense operations. It was brutal. I had to dinghy four lines from the bow of the boat, about 150-200 feet off the lagoon into the mangroves. Then I had to get out of the dinghy and crawl, wade and claw my way into the thick of the mangrove to find a nice thick mangrove trunk to tie off each of the lines. This was some of the nastiest muck I’ve ever encountered, and it was all over me. It took me about 3 hours to get all the lines in place, but it might as well had been all day. This was exhausting work. Then I had to deal with the anchors off the stern, but compared to what I had just done, that was easy.

So as day turned to night, we felt the winds kick up, some serious hard rains pound around us, giving us an idea of what was to come on Monday. I am glad that I moved the boat into the lagoon though, because it was already getting pretty rough out in the harbor, and the storm hadn’t even gotten here yet.

After dinner, we decided to call it a night. It was a long exhausting day, and tomorrow promised to be more of the same.

Monday 9/13/04

This whole thing has been one big nail-biter. For most of the day today (Monday) and yesterday, we were sure that we were going to get one serious Ivan ass-kicking. This thing is a CATEGORY 5 hurricane with winds gusting to as much as 200 MPH. I checked his position today on the internet and satellite, and it continued to look like the center of the storm was going to get as close as 50 MPH from us, which would have been bad.

Then this evening things started to go our way a bit. Ivan shifted course to a more northwesterly one, which actually steered him further away from us. Since I couldn’t get to the net for the latest updates today, I called my sister on my cel phone and asked her to check on them for me. The news was good. So right now, we’re experiencing winds of 40-50 MPH, not much rain, and for now it looks like it can get a bit worse. But from the looks of things, we won’t be seeing any major hurricane winds, which is a TREMENDOUS relief. We ended up getting a room ashore because several ferries docked themselves not far from Andiamo on a tiny little wood pier. We figured that if any of those ferries broke free from the dock, it would probably come at Andiamo and that would not be a good thing. So we decided to spend 400 pesos on a nice little efficiency room at a nearby inn. So at least we’ll have comfortable beds and some home comforts for the night. Aretha, Cosmo and Lucy bravely volunteered to stay on Andiamo and ensure her safety (actually they didn’t, they were drafted), and to avoid what would have been a rather terrifying and very wet dinghy ride ashore. We salute their uncommon valor in the face of these dangerous times. Onward, oh brave cats of distinction, and godspeed. =)

So for now, we’re safe at our little villa, with power blinking on and off every 20 or so minutes, waiting to see what happens next. My only hope is that Andiamo and our brave cats fare out ok, and that all will be well in the morning.

Tuesday 9/14/04

The storm passed overnight, and boy are we GLAD that we didn’t stay at the marina. Those guys had a hell of a time keeping things together. I stopped by there this morning to check the situation out, and every single person there was frazzled from staying up all night. There was some structural damage, to the piers, and some of the boats got beat up, but all in all everyone made out ok. We were glad about that. The seas are still pretty rough, and it’s still too choppy for us to even think of leaving the relative calm of the lagoon, so it looks like we’ll hold off til tomorrow. We had a quiet night for a change. The only problem is that we ran out of water, and I don’t want to run the watermaker in these murky waters, so we’re sort of roughing it in the personal hygiene department.

Wednesday 9/15/04

What a difference a day makes. It’s as if the storm never even hit. The seas are calm again, and the marina is actually expecting to get their water and power going today, so I guess it’s a good time to head back to the marina. We untied the lines that held us to the mangroves, turned the boat around and scooped our anchors and we were back at the marina within 30 minutes.

The only part that sucked was that I had to dinghy back to the mangrove and go untie all the lines from the trees, coil them back up and bring them back to the boat. Ugghhhh, it was nasty. I felt like I went swimming in a sewer. When I got back to the marina, I took a 30-40 minute shower. I still feel dirty.

So all is pretty much back to normal. Let’s hope we don’t get any other, er, “visitors” anytime soon.

We’re ok!

All is well, Ivan passed within 90 or so miles of us, so we got just the inside of the hurricane zone. Andiamo fared out fine too, much to our relief. I’ll post more details and some photos of the ordeal soon.

No worries…

The calm before the storm.

Last night was fairly relaxed. Winds hit 40+, but the boat didn’t move an inch. Which is encouraging, considering that we may see 100-150+ MPH winds as Ivan draws closer. This morning’s forecasts show Ivan passing close to Cuba’s tip, which is good news, because it means that we will probably be outside of the hurricane zone of the storm. Still a bit early to tell where it’s going to pass us, however, since the storm is only going 8 MPH.

Thanks for all the comments, emails and other good wishes, we appreciate them all!

I’ll update as much as possible. Once the storm gets here, however, there’s a good chance that power will go out on the island, so communications will be tough. If necessary, we’ll try to post an update via our sat phone after the storm passes to let everyone know what’s up.

All the best!