Croc Hunting in Great Harbour

November 9, 2019 – Great Harbour Cay, Bahamas:

[Spoken in a thick Aussie accent] There I was … standing on the precipice, knowing it was going to be a gnarly journey across treacherous waters and an even more unforgiving landscape once I reached the other side. But, he was out there, baiting me, challenging me … one wild and unpredictable Croc!

Okay, I know, it’s not an actual scary crocodile, but do you know what IS scarier than a crocodile? Whatever the heck is crawling around on this floor that I have nightmares will crawl under my toenails grow roots out if I don’t wear shower shoes. 

And, it just so happens my shower shoes were Crocs. These cute little flamingo-themed croc flops that aren’t nearly as bad as the original Croc, which I both refuse to (and cannot) wear.  Seriously, the first few times I tried to wear the iconic platypus style when they were a wild hot rage 15 years ago, that bulbous toe would always stub the ground causing me to stumble, trip, even fall.  Apologies in advance if any of you are Croc-lovers out there, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say many of these “Croc truths” are not wholly UN-true … 

Jesus, those are funny. And, yes, they make them in heels.

Yes, they make them in the form of a cake.

They even make everyone wear them to weddings on the lake. 

I’m not sure about this one, though? Truth or a Croc?

While I cannot do the platypus version, I did love my flamingo shower flops and they taught me a very important lesson.  Maybe this should be Cruising Rule #78: When boarding a boat, never leave your flops on the dock. Why? 

They’ll blow the heck away! Flops mostly, but boat shoes too, particularly if they are Crocs, which mine are!  Don’t hate, mine are cute!

But, you know those things are made out of super-light NASA foam stuff that can never sink (and likely never biodegrade, unfortunately). While they are not recyclable either, I was at least pleased to find the company Crocs has partnered with a program, Soles 4 Souls, where you can donate your used Croc shoes back so Crocs can then distribute them to poverty-stricken countries for kids and adults who cannot afford shoes. At least there’s that. 

Sadly I had broken Rule #78 that November day post-shower and one of my poor Croc-tastic shower flops blew off the dock and across the bay at Great Harbour Cay.  I came back up after dropping my shower goodies down below and making a cocktail (because that’s the first thing you do post-shower!) to find only one lone flamingo flop left on the dock!  But, Phillip and I did not fear, because those things float forever, right?  We’d lost Crocs to the same plight before only to find them happily floating on the other side of the harbor the next day.  As the sun was setting that evening, he and I both swore we saw a tiny little white spec across the harbor from our boat, so we eased merrily into the evening (and into round two of our ‘tails) assuring ourselves a quick Croc hunt in the morning would surely uncover my missing reptile.

Do you see a little white spec? We did! (Might have been the cocktails … )

So, the next morning, we lit up early and pumped up our awesome inflatable YOLO paddleboard on deck so I could paddle over to find that darned shoe!  Phillip got me this paddleboard as a birthday gift (he’s kind of awesome that way) back in … gosh … 2014 I believe, and it’s been a real asset on the boat.

It’s a secondary vehicle to/from shore when we need it, a nice getaway from one another when we need a solitary “check-out” paddle, and even fun trying to surf it in light waves!  We even patched it with G-Flex 3-4 years ago when it blew out a seam and that crazy fix has held ever since!  

[Back to the Aussie accent] Pumped and prepared, off she went, rigid paddle in hand, eyes laser-focused on her target. As she muscled her way across the tumultuous, enemy-laden waters, her knuckles whitened and her muscles flexed. Hunter Annie was on a mission to wrangle a killer Croc on the uncharted eastern shore.

Yes, it was that dramatic. That was quite the paddle.  I almost … broke a sweat!  *gasp*  I’m kidding. You sweat all the time in the Bahamas. From the minute you wake, until the sun goes down and you shower.  It’s just part of it.  Sadly, though I did make it safely across, I found no white flamingo-themed Croc on the lee shore.  Whatever white spec Phillip and I had seen the night before was just that … a crock! I checked and overturned every white piece of anything I could find – pieces of Styrofoam, white tennis shoes, white take-out containers, you name it.  But, no flamingo Croc.  I did, however, find a spongy gem!  Laid bare, all on its own, as if calling to me, was one lonely black Teva flop.  It looked fairly new, sun-baked so I assumed it was clean, and just my size!  Likely a men’s shoe from the look of it, but still just my size!  Only problem was, I couldn’t recall which Croc flop I had lost … the right or the left?  Hoping for the best, I tucked the black Teva under the bungee on my board and paddled my way back to the boat.

And, wouldn’t you know it … 

The perfect pair! Ebony and ivory! These are, I kid you not, my shower shoes to this day. I get some funny looks sometimes on my way to/from the showers. But, if folks think me mismatching my shoes is the worst I did that day, then I believe I’m ahead of the game! And, I love a shoe with a story. I love anything that has a story. 

The funny thing was, though, this tongue-in-cheek “croc hunt”—while not in actuality dangerous at all—did almost end in actual danger on the way back. So … I mentioned the inflatable paddleboard, right? And, the “enemy-laden waters.” I wasn’t kidding about that. Do you want to know what swims around in the Great Harbour Cay Marina? 

Sharks. Plenty of them. 

We were disheartened to find, about an hour after my paddle, our paddleboard wilting and sinking into the water behind the boat. Poor thing. She’d blown another seam But, she’d definitely done her job first. It gives me chills looking back thinking that paddleboard could have started deflating and sinking when I was still many yards from the boat and I would have been flailing around in those shark-ridden waters. *gulp*  I know they say that sharks in the wild will likely ignore you if you’re not failing about, injured, or bleeding. But, I’m two out of three of those things on any given day, so I don’t want to test the theory. In all, I called the croc hunt a success as it restored my shower show pair, and we set to patching up the YOLO hoping she wouldn’t be any worse for the wear!

And, if I didn’t mention this I would be sorely amiss! That night on the boat Phillip whipped up pure bliss! Homemade meatloaf with spinach and mushrooms.

I love wining and dining with that man – Cheers!

Next up, we head to Devil’s-Hoffman. Any of you ever been there? It was the Blue Hole or Bust!

Hurricane Dorian: A Close-Call for Plaintiff’s Rest in the Bahamas

Sep. 1, 2019, a Cat 5 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 185 mph and a minimum central pressure of 910 mb hit the Bahamas. It was the strongest hurricane to hit the northern Bahamas since modern records.  Phillip and I watched this monster breed, grow, and feast on the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean as it approached.  While we had done all we could—our boat was as prepared as possible—nothing can ease the fear of a hurricane claiming her, the one you’ve toiled so painstakingly over.  The boat you love. As Dorian began to rip into the Abacos, all we could do was watch and hold our breath as Plaintiff’s Rest sat tied to the dock at Great Harbour Cay in the northern Berry Islands, Bahamas.  

Dorian’s Path

August 28, 2019, Dorian is officially declared a hurricane. After rapid intensification, on August 31, 2019, she is declared a Cat 4 with a path pointed right toward Great Harbour Cay.  My stomach lurches as NOAA loads and shows us our potential fate.

“I’m actually glad it’s pointed right at us,” Phillip says.  “That usually means it’s going to go another direction.” 

While that may sound crazy (everyone has a few odd storm superstitions), that one actually holds rather true, as Hurricane Michael was pointed straight toward us in Pensacola in October, 2018, initially.  

But, because of our superstition, that meant the storm was going to veer off and just miss us. Thankfully, that’s exactly what Hurricane Michael did, heading just over 100 miles to the east, sadly, walloping Panama City. While it is always tough to “wish” a hurricane on anyone else, all you can think when it’s coming for you is “please turn, please turn, please turn.”  

Although it was unclear whether the damage from Dorian would be confined mostly to the Abacos alone, or the Abacos and the Berries, was yet to be determined, Plaintiff’s Rest did have several things going for her:

  1. The incredible staff at Great Harbour Cay (“GCH”) Marina;
  2. The marina’s 360-degree protection and impressive hurricane track record;
  3. Our extensive hurricane preparation; and
  4. Our final magic touch: Steve and Ros!

1. The Staff at GHC

While I discussed this extensively in the previous blog, it bears noting once more as this was one of the primary thoughts Phillip and I had running through our heads back in Pensacola as we continued to refresh NOAA and watch the news: Our boat was in the best hands possible with Steven and his staff at GHC.  I kept envisioning Steven with his 14’ “gang plank” he called it, having placed and scaled it out to our boat in the middle of two slips working feverishly to “spider-web” her out, as I call it.  

As I mentioned, we had an additional six (6) 50’ dock lines shipped to Steven at his request for a situation just like this, and I was confident he was using every one of them to expertly position our boat for the storm.  While the docks at GHC unfortunately do not float, Steven used a rock-solid strategy in tying the first set of six lines at a length that would allow her to float safely in a normal rise and fall of tide.  He then tied the secondary round of six lines at a length that would allow her to continue floating safely in the middle of the slips if the tide/surge rose another 3-4’ and/or any of the initial round of lines failed.  

Phillip and I were incredibly grateful for a team willing to take such great efforts in our leave to ensure our boat was safe.  We also heard from a follower on Facebook after posting about our hurricane hole who rode out Hurricane Matthew in GHC. She told us what impressive lengths Steven and his staff went to to help prepare and protect all of the boats in the marina. Thank you, Cynthia, for sharing this!

Thankfully, due to Steven and his team’s efforts, not a single boat was lost when Hurricane Matthew went over on almost a virtual track to Dorian. So, for Dorian, we had the best deckhands possible looking out for our boat: Steven’s Angels.

2. GHC’s Hurricane Track Record

One of the first things we learned about GHC when Phillip and I began to research it was its impressive track record. As I mentioned in the previous post, Phillip and I were comforted by an article we found written by a cruising couple who (like Cynthia) spent Hurricane Matthew in GHC and highly recommended it: Hurri-CAN or Hurri-CAN’T.

Hurricane Matthew’s path in 2004.

In addition to Matthew, knowing GHC also survived Hurricane Andrew, another Cat 4 direct hit, back in 1992, again with no damage to boats or homes, help put our minds at ease.

GHC is either a very protected place, or darn lucky. Either way, Phillip and I wanted both luck and geography on our side for hurricane season.

3. Our Hurricane Boat Prep

The sad reality of hurricanes is that no matter how much you prepare, how many anchors you drop or lines you tie, how buttoned up and stripped she is, whether on jacks or in the water, if a Cat 5 rolls over your boat, all bets are off.  Nothing is guaranteed.  No place is 100% safe, especially when there is always the factor of other boats around her that may not be secured off as securely, either in the shipyard or out.  All you can do is make the best decisions possible, do as much prep work as possible, then pray and plead to the hurricane gods that this time won’t be your time.  That’s what we did.  I’ve posted an article before outlining all of the hurricane prep work we do on our boat anytime we think she might face a significant storm or hurricane for your benefit here.  This comprehensive prep-work was a very comforting thought as Phillip and I watched Dorian rumble closer and closer from our laptops back in Pensacola, knowing we had done all we could.

4. Our Eyes and Ears on the Ground: Steve and Ros

This was an unexpected gift. Phillip and I had been lucky enough to meet this wonderful couple both when we cruised through Bimini on our way into the Bahamas this past spring, and again when we both ended up stopping in GHC to park our boats for hurricane season.  Steve and Ros are a very interesting and entertaining liveaboard cruising-couple who are just getting their first taste of the Bahamas this year.  We had fun dining and hanging out (literally!) with them when Phillip and I were in GHC before we left in May of last year.  

And the catch of the day is … ANNIE! Ros also does silks on her boat! She has a hammock that she rigs up to do yoga on the bow and inversions to help her back. Boat yoga keeps people young – I’m telling ya!

While Steve and Ros chose, themselves, to stay in GHC once it appeared Dorian was traveling significantly and safely to the north, they thankfully had a condo where they were able to stay so they remained high, dry, and safe.  But, this also let them be our eyes and ears on the ground as the storm rolled over Plaintiff’s Rest in Slip 6, which they could see from the safety of their condo. This was the view from their condo (Plaintiff’s Rest is the sailboat on the far right):

We spoke on the phone many times to Steve and Ros as the storm approached making sure they were safe, offering the food and water we knew was on our boat in the aftermath of the storm (as everyone expected the power, water, and food supplies to be diminished for days, possibly weeks post-Dorian), and talking about the conditions they were seeing in the marina.  Steve and Ros were able to send us some pictures and video during the height of the storm. 

You’ll notice in the photo above, the water has not risen enough yet to reach the docks. Thankfully the actual storm itself was fairly benign in GHC, with reports of winds only up to 90-100 mph in the marina. However, immediately after the storm, as the surge began to flow in (even with the incredibly narrow cut I documented previously that leads into the marina), new fears began to grow as the water quickly consumed the docks and continued to rise.  

Here you can see the water has risen over the finger pier next to our boat.
This is Steve and Ros’s view of their boat – the furthest mast down in this photo – and they, too, could see the water had risen over the dock.

One of the most frightening images I think we received from Ros was of all the boats in the marina with no docks visible—just lines stretched taut into the dark water below.  If that trend continued, Phillip and I knew our baby girl would be in trouble struggling with dock lines stretched to their max and continually-rising waters. Unfortunately, this was the last video we received from Steve and Ros around 4:00 p.m. on September 2, 2019 before their cell service went down for approximately 20 hours.  

I’ll admit that was a bit of a frightening moment, not knowing what was happening to the boat, what the water was doing, what lines, if any, were currently failing.  All kinds of graphic images wandered through our minds during that time, imagining her breaking free of all lines, being lifted up above the docks and laid back down on concrete, damaged, impaled, or worse.  But, Phillip and I had put our faith in that marina, its location and layout, and its exceptional staff.  And, finally, around 2:00 p.m. on the afternoon of September 3, 2019, Phillip and I received a photo from Steve and Ros that (I’ll be honest) made me tear up:

Best selfie ever, Ros! Thank you! Thank you!

A wet, post-hurricane selfie with our baby!  Our floating baby!  I was elated, thrilled, laughing silly with the realization that she had made it!  Plaintiff’s Rest had survived Dorian!

That was the probably the most frightened Phillip and I have felt as a storm passed over our boat.  I remember Nate was very scary when we decided to haul out and strap her up as best as possible, but Nate then took a turn more toward Orange Beach and the reports from Pensacola told us they had only sustained 40 knot winds, so we were almost immediately relieved. Now, in 2019, watching our boat rise with a surge that was unpredictable without updates for an extended period of time was … well, gut-wrenching.  But, we know many others lost their boats, homes, and livelihoods in the Abacos when Dorian went over, so we can only consider ourselves lucky, and extremely grateful.

While there is no way to say what is the “right” or “best” decision to make when a hurricane is coming, because there as so many variables and unpredictable outcomes, I guess I’ll apply the same rule that we use for docking: If no one was hurt and nothing was broken, it’s a success. Thankfully, we can say that this year—with that monster Dorian roaring a mere 60 miles north of our boat—and neither Phillip nor I were hurt and nothing was broken, which means our hurricane plan this year was a success. Thankfully.  

But, my lawyer (Phillip : ) wisely reminded me to include this important disclaimer: Deciding where or how to secure your boat for hurricane season can be an incredibly difficult decision, with no “right” answer in sight. But it is a decision you have to make on your own after conducting your own research, knowing no place, including Great Harbour Cay, can ever be a 100% guarantee.

Many thanks to Steven and his incredible staff at GHC for watching over our baby girl, to fellow cruisers who have posted and shared their experience at GHC, and a resounding, almighty thank-you to Steve and Ros for keeping an eye on our baby girl during the storm and venturing out when it was safe to make sure she was, too. Plaintiff’s Rest will be forever grateful!!

That’s her smiling. Trust me. I can tell. : )

Our Hurricane Hole for 2019: Great Harbour Cay, Berry Islands, Bahamas

Where to go for hurricane season is always a very tough call.  I’ve written here before about hurricanes, the sometimes horrible reality of cruising, and some of our more difficult winters spent here in Pensacola when Phillip and I often had to make the very hard decision of whether to haul: a tough call.  I am now grateful I can write here again—with after another hurricane season behind us and, thankfully, our baby girl still floating safe—about our experience this year and what we decided to do with our boat this past hurricane season, 2019.  This was another tough call on our part for two reasons: 1) it would leave her still very much in “the box” (although no place is guaranteed); and 2) it would mean we would have to leave the boat unattended for an extended period of time. But, we decided to do it and it turned out to be the right call.  Hindsight 20/20.  Dodging hurricanes has to be the absolute worst part of cruising.

Kissing our baby goodbye when we decided to leave her on the hard for Hurricane Nate, 2017.

So, how did we hear about Great Harbour Cay?

You might have guessed Pam Wall as she has given us such a wealth of information about “her beloved Bahamas” as she calls them.  Love that lady …  

But, a dock neighbor in Pensacola actually first told us about it as it was a spot he had kept his exquisite motor yacht during hurricane season several times.  And, if someone with that many more zeroes on his boat value than ours felt comfortable leaving it there, that definitely gave me some peace of mind.  We honestly had no idea there was any hurricane hole in the Bahamas until he mentioned it.   

Phillip and I had already decided not to bring Plaintiff’s Rest back to Pensacola this year for hurricane season because the odds of getting hit hard in Pensacola are fairly high (Pensacola was hit by Hurricane Opal in 1995, Ivan in 2004, Dennis in 2005, and Hurricane Michael only missed us by 100 miles, demolishing hundreds of boats, in 2018).  And, the huge bay, which is fantastic for sailing, can be devastating if a hurricane hits us there in the corner pocket of Florida.  Phillip and I spent the last several hurricane seasons in Pensacola playing the “haul or not to haul?” game, sometimes back-to-back each season (for Hurricane Nate in 2017 and Hurricane Michael in 2018).  That can be an exhausting and expensive process, one that we wanted to avoid this year if possible.  

So, our plan for hurricane season 2019 had initially been to dot through the Bahamas rather quickly and get the boat from Pensacola down to Grenada over April-May.  But, you know me and Phillip.  When it comes to cruising, we don’t like to do anything quickly. It always seems like we could spend weeks (months even!) at some of the places we only stop at for days and, even then, we would still feel like we hadn’t fully explored the place.  And, the Bahamas have really resonated with us. Phillip always says it is a place he had heard so many people rushed through in their excitement to get to what most people call “the Caribbean” (the BVIs, Antilles, and such) but once down there, they realize they zipped through the stunning Bahamian islands too quickly.  We didn’t want to suffer the same fate! 

These two LOVE the Bahamas!

So, when we started to research Great Harbour Cay and gain some confidence in it, the thought of having an entire second year to explore the Bahamas without having to make the arduous journey (not to mention sometimes dangerous, sometimes lengthy if the weather doesn’t cooperate) bringing the boat to and from Pensacola to the Bahamas two more times, Phillip and I really started to see the appeal of Great Harbour Cay for hurricane season 2019.  Leave her in a protected hurricane hole, in the middle of paradise, and just fly in and out whenever we want to hop on board and go cruising? Umm … yes, please!

What we had heard from our dock neighbor friend about Great Harbour Cay sounded ideal.  He said the place had natural 360-degree protection, with tall limestone accumulation creating a protected nook for the marina in the center with a single, narrow inlet cut through the limestone that was a big deterrent to surge and swell. That was our initial report.  

Then Phillip found this fantastic article, Hurri-CAN or Hurri-CAN’T, about a live-aboard cruising couple that had ridden out Hurricane Matthew (a Cat 4 that went directly over the Berry Islands in October, 2016) at Great Harbour Cay Marina. If you’re interested in the place, it’s an enlightening read. 

The one negative was that the marina does not have floating docks.  They are fixed concrete docks.  

But, with the significant protection from swell, we considered this a risk worth considering.  (Especially considering Pensacola, which has floating docks where we kept her, but with one of the biggest deep-water bays in the southeast that would allow massive swell to accumulate if a hurricane hit there and demolish anything within a mile of shore, floating docks or not.  Hurricane Ivan in 2004 was a perfect example of this).  

Images like this make me nauseous but it’s just a sad reality of cruising. This is possible. Which is why we spend so much time and effort researching, planning, and preparing for hurricane season.

The bottom line is: the decision will always be tough.  No place, in or even just outside the “hurricane box,” is 100% safe.  And, nothing is guaranteed.  Phillip and I have spoken at length about this and we believe there is a portion of it that falls to the boat owner to make the most calculated risk-averse call that can be made and prepare the boat as much as possible, then the other portion is just pure luck.  There is only so much you can do, and no one can predict in advance of the season where a hurricane is going to hit.  After much consideration, Phillip and I decided, before we left Pensacola to cruise the Bahamas last spring, to call the marina at Great Harbour Cay and make a reservation through hurricane season. Thankfully, once we started cruising the Bahamas last year and finally arrived in Great Harbour Cay in May, 2019 and were able to see the place for ourselves, we were only bolstered in our decision.  

The day we were making our way around the northern Berries (and witnessing that crazy monstrosity that is Coco Cay for the first time!) toward the cut for Great Harbour Cay marina, I was Captain of the ship that day.  It is a tight channel coming out of the Atlantic and into the harbor on the west side of the island, but it is well marked and clearly shown on the Explorer Charts, so no trouble getting in at high or moderate tide (for us, with a 6 ft draft).  But, as I was nearing what the Explorer Charts were telling mewas the entrance into the interior of the island to get to the marina, I saw nothing in front of me but a big limestone wall.  It was a little daunting continuing to motor, in a tight channel, toward what appeared to be just a big land mass.  (You know how much I enjoy the thought of turning around in a tight channel.)  Phillip and I kept looking at the charts and looking ahead for an entry, looking back at the charts, then back ahead for an entry, but for a while none appeared. 

Finally—it wasn’t until we were about 50 yards from shore and started to turn to port—the entrance revealed itself as a very narrow cut (our dock neighbor was right!) into the limestone. 

While I’ve guessed the width of this many times in telling friends and fellow cruisers where we kept our boat this year, having now driven it a sixth and final time leaving the Berries just a couple of weeks ago, I can safely say it’s only about 50 feet across. Very narrow.  Comfortingly narrow.  Blissfully narrow, when you’re planning to keep your boat there for hurricane season!

We were also surprised to see the distance (finally in person, rather than just on a map) from the entrance, dog-legged around to the actual marina.  Great Harbour Cay is a phenomenal, well-protected hurricane hole. That much was clear just from our motor-in to our slip.  (Which Annie docked in like a dream, I must add!  : ) When we say “You’re Captain for the day” on our boat it means for whatever the day brings.  Sharing all roles possible on the boat is a game-changer.) 

However, what was not yet clear, was the added element we were unaware of when we made the decision to stay at Great Harbour Cay for hurricane season and booked our slip.

That was the people. Isn’t it always the people?

The staff and dockmaster at Great Harbour Cay were the je ne sais quoi that really sealed the deal for Phillip and me.  While Kingsley, whom I spoke with on the phone was very reassuring and professional, and Tramenco who helped us dock up was super friendly and welcoming, when I first spoke with the dockmaster, Steven, to let him know we were planning to keep the boat there during hurricane season, he said the magic words to me that let me know our baby was going to be in good hands.  The first thing Steven said:

“I’m going to need twelve dock lines.”  

Twelve?!, I thought at first.  Then, instantly my brain snapped.  “Absolutely, Steven.” Whatever you need to keep our baby girl safe, you will damn sure get it.  Twelve dock lines it shall be.  And, if that seems overkill, anything that keeps Plaintiff’s Restsafe in a storm is not, and never will be.  Phillip and I ordered up another six (6) brand new, 50-foot dock lines that day from Lightbourne Marina in Nassau to be shipped by boat to Great Harbour Cay the following week.  You want twelve, Steven, you get twelve.  

But, Steven also gave us great comfort talking about the previous hurricanes that had come straight over Great Harbour Cay: Hurricane Matthew which I mentioned in the article above in 2016, which was a Cat 4 with no damage, as well as Hurricane Andrew, which was a Cat 4 in 1992.  During the entirety of those very deadly storms, no boats in Great Harbour Cay suffered any damage.  The marina really has an impressive hurricane track record. But, aside from the marina itself, the people also gave Phillip and I great comfort.  

Steven—he and I both enjoying the marina’s “grill night” on Friday’s (a choice of delicious barbecue pork or chicken made dock-side) and looking at Plaintiff’s Restin Slip No. 6—told me if a storm were to build and start heading their way that he would move our boat to the middle of Slip Nos. 6 and 7.  He would then spider-web the lines out, attaching six of them to hold the boat secure in a normal rise and fall of the tide, and another six of them at a higher rise and fall if any of the first lines broke during a storm.  Steven said he has a special “gang plank” (he calls it, jokingly) that he uses to get from the dock to a boat in the middle of two slips to secure all of the lines and make sure the boat is floating safely in the middle.  I wasn’t ashamed at all.  I hugged the man.  I didn’t care if he wasn’t a hugger.  I am, and in the moment that’s all that was called for.  (And, I’ve generally found most men don’t mind a hug from a gal in a bikini ; ).  Steven seemed to fall in that category as well.

Steven also asked me, which sounded more like a recommendation, about removing the bimini and dodger.  “Oh, we’ll strip every last thing, don’t worry,” I told him, knowing Phillip and I planned to leave the boat completely hurricane-ready.  Phillip and I had debated this in the days before we reached Great Harbour Cay, i.e., how much hurricane prep we would do before leaving her.  And, I could easily say, after all of this tough decision-making, the last thing I wanted was to find myself back in Pensacola, the boat in the Bahamas with a hurricane bearing down on her, and thinking: I wish we would have removed that stack pack.  Or raised those halyards to the top of the mast.  Or, wrapped those lines around the binnacle.  Or, taped all of the instrument covers on.  Or … I could go on.  That was the feeling we were trying to avoid.  As I’ve mentioned, we believe hurricane survival is part tactical decision and part luck, so in the tactical-decision department, Phillip and I wanted to give our boat the best odds possible. 

Main sail on the cabin floor. It’s a ton of work but the peace of mind is totally worth it!

Thankfully, we have done the hurricane-prep drill many times (and I’ve written out our entire process here if you are interested) and, thankfully, it has only ever been a drill … knock on wood.  But, because we have, we knew what all needed to be done.  When it comes to preparing Plaintiff’s Rest for a hurricane, Phillip and drop everything—the sails, the stack pack, the dodger, the bimini.  We bring as many halyards up the mast as possible (using long dyneema messenger lines) and wrap, or bag up and tape, the remaining lines as much as possible.  We cover and tape the instruments.  We cover and tape the companionway opening.  We ziptie the dodger and bimini frame secure.  Feel free to read the article above for more hurricane prep tips. We’re pretty fanatic about it. And, for good reason.  Have you seen our gorgeous boat!  : )

Photos from our hurricane prep in Great Harbour Cay in May, 2019:

I assured Steven our boat would be completely stripped, 100% hurricane ready, which seemed to give him comfort as well.  I could imagine being a dockmaster and dealing with a boat left behind that is not hurricane ready must cause him a great deal of stress as it would leave him worrying not only about the condition of the non-prepped boat, but also its then-ability to potentially cause damage to nearby fully-prepped boats. I do not envy any dockmaster their job when a storm is coming.  This brief conversation with Steven gave me a fascinating glimpse into the stressors of his position and I was impressed with everything he has to handle in that situation.  

So, Great Harbour Cay. We cannot recommend it highly enough as a secure, reliable hurricane hole in the Bahamas.  It is also a very welcoming little island with plenty to do: a handful of fun little bars and restaurants, plenty of diving and snorkeling, a great shelling beach on the north shore, a spooky “shark river,” and a great little grocery.  Not to mention the marina is very clean with decent wifi, laundry, and shuttle service when available.  GHC has lots to offer for a week stay.  

But, now that you know the decision process and everything Phillip and I went through to try and keep our boat secure during hurricane season this year, you now also know the frightening reality (which we decided not to share publicly) of where she was when Hurricane Dorian hit.  In September, 2019, Phillip and I could only watch and wish the staff at Great Harbour Cay Marina and our baby girl the best as that monstrous, slow-moving, massive Cat 5 was headed straight for the northern Berry Islands, Bahamas.  

Next up on the blog, we will share Plaintiff’s Rest’s experience when Hurricane Dorian hit.  It’s one helluva tale. Hurricanes … uggh. I’m so glad the 2019 season is over!