4th December 1999
We have had an eventful time since I last wrote. Imagine, we went
south to avoid the hurricanes and then were only back ten days before
the hurricane warnings started.
Hurricane Lenny was totally unpredictable, building up off the
coast of Cuba and then, instead of tracking north as they usually do
from that area, came straight for Saba and St. Martin.
It started as a tropical storm, Peter watched it carefully and we
started to prepare on Saturday 13th November, filling 'Mahe' with fuel
Sunday 14th we took all sails down and stowed them below.
Monday 15th we bought extra provisions and motored to an area in the
lagoon about two miles south of our mooring buoy.
Tuesday 16th we took the boat into a little creek in the mangroves and
secured two anchor, front and back, and four ropes each side to the
shore. We took down the spray dodger and 'Bimini' and stowed them in the
saloon, plus anything on deck that could become airborne. We dropped the
boom and lashed it to the deck. Water containers were placed, full of
water, in the cockpit.
So - we were prepared and now just had to wait. The radio was never off
and we listened to every weather broadcast as we plotted the hurricanes'
approach on a map. The waiting was the worst!
Wednesday 17th the rain and winds started and built up all day.
The seas built up on the ocean side, not far from where we were, so we
waited for a break in the weather and walked to a point to look at the
huge seas. It was an awesome sight and all I could think of was the
might of God. I'm sure that He sends us these natural phenomena to
remind us of His might.
So - back to 'Mahe' to wait. It was so cosy down below. The eye of the
hurricane was predicted to pass over St. Martin late that evening so
Peter took the 9 - 12 watch and I slept. The winds and incessant rain
increased, the water in our creek rose to the height of the road beside
us and 'Mahe' was heeling so much to port that our toe-rail went under a
Because we have large windows, we were able to monitor the situation
from below and Peter only had to go on deck to check the ropes
intermittently. He managed to get a little sleep but awoke to water
dripping on him as we had sprung a leak from a window. I manned the
radio for the remainder of the night and was tucked in at the chart
table, taking notes of the weather reports from the local radio station,
FM 101, who did a wonderful job, talking to other yachties to reassure
them as the dramas unfolded.
Thursday 18th - 5 am - Lenny stalled 35 miles West South West of
St. Martin, so that we still had the incessant rain and winds of
3 pm - Lenny now 12 miles from St. Martin, same conditions.
About 6 pm - the winds and rain abated, there was a yellow glow and a
quietness descended on St. Martin - the eye was directly over us.
We went out on deck to assess any damage (none) and to secure more ropes
as the wind was predicted to come in from the north after the eye
passed. We congratulated ourselves that we had escaped, unharmed, from
the hurricane. LITTLE DID WE KNOW!!
Fifteen minutes later, the sky darkened, the winds became even stronger
and we were in the worst weather conditions that we have ever
experienced! There was a mighty gust which dragged the boat in front of
us over our front anchor, which gave way, snapped all but two of our
ropes and one furled round our propeller (Editor's Note: Peter and
Maureen had been using the engine to reduce the strain on their boat,
shorelines and anchors by motoring gently, a sensible practice - the
rope round the propeller stopped them being able to use the engine to
help themselves). We slid sideways and backwards towards another boat
and how Peter ever managed to save the situation we shall never know. He
was imbued with superior strength and pulled ropes and fended off and
even he does not know how he did it.
We damaged our rudder as we slid to the other side of the creek and were
only held there by our back anchor and two ropes to the mangrove trees.
There were seven boats behind us in the creek and, if our anchor and
ropes had let go, we would have damaged them, and ourselves. We decided
to fight for our dear 'Mahe', who has looked after us so well for over
30,000 miles, and to save the other boats.
We donned our life-jackets, the first time ever, packed a
waterproof bag with passports, boat papers, money, credit cards and the
family jewels and went up on deck.
The wind was so strong that we had to crawl if we ventured out of the
cockpit, otherwise we might have been blown over. We huddled together
for warmth and could only communicate by putting our mouths to each
others' ears. The wind shrieked and we were stung by the spray that it
whipped up. Most of the time our toe-rail was in the water and several
times we almost went over.
In the early hours of the morning, Peter started to shake and I think he
was in the early stages of hypothermia so I called out "God Help Us!" and He did!
We went below, changed our wet clothes, had hot sweet tea (I always
keep a thermos of hot water ready) and Disprins and had a break.
There was nothing more that we could do.
By about six am the winds abated and the worst was over. We had,
indeed, survived a force 4 hurricane ( 5 is the maximum) and were elated
but so tired.
'Mahe's batteries and her rudder were damaged but we were O.K. and the
other boats in our path undamaged. We were the lucky ones! There was so
much devastation in the lagoon and on land. About 150 boats sank or were
washed onto rocks. Three huge catamarans were blown onto the golf course
nearby. Some boats were insured and some not and we witnessed the end to
many people's dreams.
Peter did a marvellous job manning the High Frequency radio and passing
messages on re missing or sunk boats. We helped in any capacity that we
could. The down side to the disaster was the looting of boats and houses
that took place. Some people are despicable.
Eighteen people and several boats were lost at sea, some as they tried
to outrun the hurricane. Three people died on land, struck by flying
debris. Many homes and hotels have been damaged and the roads are a
There was a curfew for a few days after the hurricane ended so that
essential services could be restored. The island is a hive of activity
to repair the damage as it relies heavily on the tourist industry. The
first cruise ships are due in next week.
We haul 'Mahe' out tomorrow, to enable Peter to fix the rudder and he
has already installed new batteries. It took a week to clean her up.
Our only reaction from the hurricane is tiredness and sadness to see so
much devastation. The once green vegetation is burnt brown and many
trees have been blown over.
However, nature and people are resilient and it, and they, will bounce
I'm tired after writing this and re-living the hurricane but the
experience has given us the opportunity, once again, to prove what a
good team we are. Peter has the physical strength and I have endurance.