Hit by the largest hurricane in Atlantic history
"Tropical Storm Irma expected to become a hurricane," the headline read on Wednesday morning. By Friday, Hurricane Irma was projected to become a Category 4, and by Monday they were saying it could be not just Cat-5, but the largest hurricane in Atlantic history. And it was headed straight for the northern Lesser Antilles - Antigua, where our boat was sitting.
The boat yard had prepared by strapping all the boats in the yard down, and ours was resting on chocks that were welded together, increasing stability. Sitka had been stripped of sails and covers, and the bimini and dodger had been taken down so there shouldn't be much windage. We were worried that the two solar panels and two wind generators might become a problem, but our biggest worry was that a boat would tip onto ours, or worse, our boat would tip into someone else's and we could be liable. We were, as they say in the insurance industry, "self-insured", which in laymans terms means "not insured", so if our boat was a write-off, so would be our dream of sailing next year.
Our marina contact had been slow to respond to our emails, but they were undoubtably preparing what they could for their own homes, families, and property. At around 7PM our time, the whole country of Antigua shut off their power in advance of the storm's landfall, which meant no communication until they came back online. There was nothing we could do but wait.
Irma smashed into Antigua all through the night of Tuesday, October 5th. Winds were reported to be an insane 295km/h. By late morning though, power had been restored and reports were trickling in that the island survived without too much damage, and thankfully zero casualties.
We have now received two emails from Jolly Harbour Marina stating that they have walked around the yard and did not notice any significant damage to any boats. That relieved some of our stress, which was ultimately put to rest when our local boat manager emailed saying that he had inspected Sitka inside and out, and noted no damage! We took an almost direct hit from the largest Atlantic hurricane ever, and our boat made it out without even a scratch.
The real tragedy of Irma was that Barbuda, the more remote cousin of Antigua 50km to the north, is reporting that 90% of their buildings have been flattened, with countless injuries and at least one death. It will be a tough recovery for them, so when we get down there next month, I hope we can do something to help.