Posts Tagged ‘Hurricane Odile’

Hurricane Odile and Dengue
November 11, 2014
Mid August, after getting the dinghy back in water after cleaning the bottom, and finally getting the dinghy engine started with some help from Sea Otter Jimmy(the carburetor was full of water) we were mobile again from the mooring out in the bay of the Bay of La Paz. Wasn’t many days until the only way I could get the engine started was to start it by pulling the rope. Then figuring out pretty quick that the battery was shot, the only way was with a new one, $1300 later I had push button starting again, the joys of boating eh!
Before I had left for the States, I had a friend ask me if I would fill in for him for a week at the house where he was sitting as he needed to go back to Canada for some medical tests. I said I would love to but as it turned he wasn’t sure that I would be back from the US so got someone else. However when he heard that someone was looking for a full time house sitter he asked me if I was interested, but of course was my response, Caesar and I went for the interview, me worrying whether they would allow dogs, but thought it best to be upfront. When we arrived it turns out they were dog friendly and when Caesar jumped up on her lap and gave her one of his looks it was pretty much settled, we were to start early October, so were excited, we could get the boat cleaned and delayed maintenance done and then sell it in order to purchase the sailboat we had been wanting.
Then the Harley wouldn’t start, you guessed it $1300 will put you in a new battery, the trickle charger had now died. Heat and salt air are sometimes less than friendly to electronics. Then we start getting reports of another hurricane heading our direction, there had been several before but some had turned out to sea, the rest had headed to mainland Mexico. This one was taking dead aim at us, but before arriving it turned westerly just catching the west coast of the Baja. These things are getting bigger and closer, not a comfortable feeling, but most in the last seven years or so have been pretty much uneventful. People were saying they hit every seventh year and of course this is year seven. Nothing to be alarmed about, we’ve had 50 knot winds in the bay and outside of some rockin and rollin, things getting a bit blown around, all has been good. Have even dinghied to boat in 35 knots so nothing to be alarmed about. Then we started to get reports of Odile, she was promising higher winds and moving unpredictably(we get daily updates on the morning cruisers radio nets). As days went by some models of the hurricanes direction were starting to head at us, some west, some east. Time to start getting ready for a blow, clear the decks of loose articles, check mooring lines, debate whether to take a slip, or will we be safer here? After much soul searching it seemed we would be just fine, even if we did get hit and the winds were up to 80 knots it seemed like all would be well. As it started getting closer it looked like it was going to head westerly and we would be fine. But no then it is heading straight for Cabo San Lucas and expected to give them a direct hit, we were next in line, we had about 5 hours. Now lash the dinghy safe make sure we have food and water on board, all shipshape and in order, she is five hours away and Cabo starts to get pounded, it’s now about five in the evening, some boats have moved to marina’s some have left marina’s to come out and anchor, some even leaving one marina to go to another, all very confusing for this sailor and Caesar. We hang in waiting it’s now around 5 and in an hour the sun will be going down, we monitor the radio for updates continuously check the computer models for her latest position, but still headed our way. Now the winds start noticeably picking up, over the course of the next few hours this would continue until around 10, now the wind is blowing in earnest. By 11 one of the huge channel markers breaks loose and takes off down the channel, then I see a boat similar to mine, unattended, loose from her mooring go by broadside at a high rate of speed, down the bay, then I hear reports of more loose. Then my friend anchored near me gets hit by a loose boat, but he sustains little damage from that one, the wind is now howling outside, exceeding the 80 knots. We stay on the computer and monitor the radio, winds still picking up, then about 1 am I hear what sounds like two near simultaneous gunshots from the bow! We have broken both new bowlines, I immediately fire up the engine(120 horse power diesel)and start to power into the waves and wind, we are instantly turned broadside like somebody was only rowing, and then we go aground broadside, we are thrown over, the computer and Caesar are both thrown to the opposite wall, I realize we are in great danger of being rolled, we settle for a moment, Caesar has stopped squealing from the pain, I grab my mask and snorkel and manage to get the door open and crawl on hands and knees to the bow. The anchor is chained tight so I must return to the cabin to get a wrench to free it, I get back and forward again and manage to free the anchor, the rain is hitting my body like someone shooting a machine gun full of bb’s at me, but I get the anchor loose. It takes 200 feet of chain before coming to the end, I am unable to get the windlass to slow it, then it snaps off the bowsprit like a toothpick, but we are level into the swells and wind again. I get a rope as the only thing holding us now is the power cables to the windlass, I manage to get the rope around both sides of the windlass and lash it back to the Sampson post which is undamaged, now we are stable again for the time being. When I try to get back into the cabin again, the door has jammed, me outside, Caesar in, fortunately I still had the wrench in my hand and was able to pry open the door. You can bet I was greeted by one happy dog. Now the computer no longer works, I hear on the radio someone looking for help, first to get another anchor down, and then they are sinking. Nothing can be done, not even a naval rescue boat can go out in this. I hear a report that wind gusts to 180 knots have been recorded a few miles ahead of me, we are getting around 125 knots. At least we are afloat, taking water in the bilge now, but the pump is keeping up, it’s coming in the hole where the anchor chain comes out that is now open. I check batteries to make sure we still ok there and realize that is not a problem, should the bilge pump quit we still have another, so no worries. The night is now dragging, less radio traffic, Caesar now rests, I stay on watch, there will be no sleep tonight. It is not hard to stay awake, it doesn’t start to get much light before 0700, because of the heavy cloud cover. I start hearing reports of boats that have gone ashore some with crew aboard, some not. I have started my chart plotter, because I realize we are not where were earlier, it takes awhile to come up because of the heavy overcast, I get out the binoculars but recognize nothing on shore, except for a sailboat aground in front of us and one sinking to our starboard side, nothing I can do. Soon we would realize that before we could get the anchor down we had travelled 6-7 miles, a few more and we would have been ashore. When it becomes safe to go outside, I see our dinghy has broken loose of its 3 lines that were holding it, so it’s gone. I then discover the mast down, and a lost rail off the port side near the stern. At first I don’t find my Honda generator, but then find it has been moved from the bow to mid ship on the port side and knocked over. We have 5 feet of water under the keel, solidly anchored so no more immediate danger. This is now Monday morning September 15 and the radio net will start at 0800, where we will hear many horror stories. The one boat that had been sending out a distress signal had sunk, and he had not been found, many boats were unaccounted for as well as quite a few people. By the end of the day, boats & people were being found, most on shore along with their boats in the mangroves. It would be the next day before the first person was found inside his sailboat on the bottom of the bay, the autopsy revealed he had died of a heart attack. It would be several days later before the second couple would be found, they had been anchored near me in a 50-60’ concrete boat. It was found on the bottom as well, thier bodies were found ashore in the mangroves, a young couple from England, very sad indeed. Rescue efforts are ongoing for some boats that still are aground, hoping and trying to get afloat. Pictures of the rescue effort and the havoc in La Paz are found on websites and most are all posted on Facebook, so I won’t try and duplicate. It had been the worst storm to hit La Paz since the forties and was devastating. We managed to get our dinghy back but the engine had been stolen along with the new battery, so with a borrowed an engine, dragged a grappling hook and were able to find our mooring(the mooring ball gone), and get new larger lines attached, then reattach our boat, now we really needed repairs, we had been scheduled to go to slip October 1, to accomplish that. We would keep that appointment.
Due to there being limited or no electric, telephones, internet access, or gasoline it was days before I was able to return to the house we were supposed to sit. They also had a lot of damage, to their home, outbuildings and grounds, they were to be without electricity or phone for weeks, so communication was limited, but if I still wanted, they wanted us to take over the house and keep an eye on the repair progress, due to airport closures, they were unable to get flights out until mid October, but then did finally get away back to Vancouver Canada.
It was very hectic after the hurricane with services limited, lots of standing water, great breeding grounds for mosquitos, and they did. The city was constantly spraying with a Cessna Agwagon, but it wasn’t enough, there were still many around. We were now getting many reports of dengue fever, and what the symptoms were, it had filled the hospitals with affected people, almost everyone knew someone who had it. Near the end of September, I started feeling poorly, high fever, achy bones etc., but I delivered the boat into a slip the first of October and then slept. I really didn’t think I had been infected, because I didn’t have all the symptoms, but after a week a fellow cruiser drove me to emergency, where my blood count was at 70, it should have been 140-400, but as they had no beds left, I needed to return twice per day for a blood sample, then the results later in the day. At least I had someone to drive me, as I was too weak to drive myself. Since there is no cure, they gave me painkillers, and an electrolyte mix which I needed to drink, (tasted like seawater). Caesar was a trouper, he didn’t leave my side for the 2 weeks I was down, he had been staying close anyhow after the hurricane, but this was above and beyond I think. It would take me several more weeks to get back to normal, and get all my strength back. Our friends on Gael Force took us out to a champagne brunch on my birthday, fortunately I was at least mobile by then, and able to enjoy!
This brings us to mid October, will update more on the next blog. Pop me a note if you have any questions, until next time.


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