Sunday, September 03, 2017

Hurry Up and Wait: The Agony of Watching a Hurricane Barrel Down on Your Island

"What's the most stressful part of living on an island/running an island business/living on a boat?" We get this question a lot. And there are a host of answers to each but one answer crosses all divides is: being right smack dab in the middle of hurricane alley between the months of June and November every year. Our stress is compounded by the fact that both >>>our business<<< and our home are water based, and as such Scott and I currently own four boats in Tortola. There are more than a few people who would look at us and think to themselves (and possibly out loud) what a preposterous position to put ourselves in. And at this particular moment, we might agree.


There is currently a major hurricane barreling down on our little island. Her name is Irma and she is apparently a beast, slated to be a Cat 3 or 4 when she hits our area (for perspective, Katrina was a Cat 5). After a few days of nail-biting monitoring it seems, more than ever, that she will - at best - pass very close to our island, and - at worst - pass directly over us. My days have been a blur of checking weather sites for updates and new storm models with the hopes of positive news, and each day it becomes more and more clear that this storm poses a real threat to our island and island neighbors. People are flying out, stores are selling out of non-perishables and the departments of disaster management are urging people to PREPARE NOW. It's a big deal. And this waiting, this constant refreshing of the news feed to see if a new model shows promise of a turn away from is agonizing. But like watching a train wreck, it is so hard turn away. "Stop watching!" they tell me but it's hard when we have so much at stake; our livelihood, our friends and our home are all there. And so I keep scanning my feed, hoping for positive news while channeling my inner meteorologist and every morning brings news that makes the sickening feeling in my belly deepen: this hurricane is not turning, her path is becoming more defined and our island is very likely in it.

Another agonizing element to this story is the fact that we are not there. Of course this is a blessing, as our most precious cargo is safe from Irma's wrath. However, if we were there, we could at least be doing something proactive to prepare and know we did our best to do what we could...instead we watch with a feeling of helplessness. We monitor the weather sites, we communicate and commiserate with other locals and we hope. Thankfully, we have some amazing friends, neighbors and employees working for us on the home front. Peter from >>>Where the Coconuts Grow<<< has been a lifesaver and is currently prepping our home, >>>s/v Legato<<<, and two of our >>>Aristocat Charters<<< catamarans as well as his own boat (read his wife and my good friend Jody's Hurricane Plan). With the help of our amazing employees Jorn and Brian, I am confident they are doing right by us. But they also have to prepare themselves, their homes and boats as well, and I feel very guilty adding to an already stressful workload for all of them. I cannot adequately express my gratitude for their efforts on our behalf...

Another element of this excruciating waiting game is the simple fact that hurricanes make a rather slow progression forward - about 15 mph to be exact - and that means we watch them for days and days and days before we know with good probability exactly where they will go... The silver lining to this is of course the ability to see them coming (most of the time) and give people ample time to prepare, the hard part is watching a hurricane march ominously toward your island at the pace of a healthy jogging human which, for the record, feels painfully slow. And then there is the fact that we have so much to lose there. The potential loss makes me sick to consider but it's hard not to; our home, our business - all are literal sitting ducks in the water. Yes, we are insured. Yes, these things can be replaced. But the thought of utter devastation - and losing most everything we own - breaks my heart, and even though it feels selfish to be so worried when we are our of harms way and other's will have it way worse than us, tears well up in my eyes at the thought of what could happen and what it means for us.

So we wait.


It is Sunday and it is looking like Irma will pass by or over our rock sometime Tuesday or Wednesday night. The next 48 hours will be crucial and determine with more precision where she will go but hurricanes - like all of mother nature's incredible forces - are wild and unpredictable. We will not have real answers until after she has left us in her wake. Hopefully, with as little damage as possible.

In the words of our Isla, who just a few hours ago looked into my worried eyes and said, "Don't worry mommy. If our stuff tips over it's okay, it's just stuff. The most important things are people." And she is right. Our wise, wonderful child.

Our thoughts are with all our island friends, neighbors, fellow boaters and everyone in Irma's path.

"The most important things are people." Stay safe, everyone. And a heartfelt "thank you" to our amazing >>>Windtraveler Community<<< for all the thoughts, vibes, and prayers. We appreciate your support more than you know.


JC3 said...

I pray that the LORD JESUS CHRIST guards your heart and your mind and that the peace of GOD that passes all understanding is upon you and your family. I will continue to pray that your beautiful boat and business are spared! It is times like this that HIS hand upon us gives peace in the middle of the storm. GOD bless you and yours. We will be thinking about you guys. JC

Michael Robertson said...

Hi Brittany, thinking of you guys and wishing you the best outcome, especially for your friends and employees on-island. We've got our fingers crossed in Fiji. Michael

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