I've been glued to Facebook looking for news of my Caribbean friends since Irma struck the other night. Paul Exner, one of my best friends & Isbjorn's racing skipper, FINALLY checked in on Facebook last night. The photo shows his Cape George 31 cutter 'Solstice' in Nanny Cay, right in the center. He doesn't yet know the state of his boat, as he's on the other side of the island at the time I published this. This is his short story of riding out the eye of Irma from his home on Tortola.
Heart of goodness and darkness. Liz, Eoin, and Ava are in good spirits after Irma. We were in the eye for 52 minutes which means we got a direct hit. Too dangerous to asses wind speed accurately but I believe we had winds over 200 knots.
We were fine until the balcony doors blew in then hell broke loose. We holed up in a spare bedroom which was well suited for pre-eye wind directions. The windows opened and closed by themselves with violent fury and glass was breaking all around and flying around the house at hurricane wind speed for two hours before the eye. I saw my Sunfish and dinghy fly past the window at 100 plus knots.
During the reprieve of the eye we were able to secure the spare bedroom for the 180 degree change in wind direction. 52 minutes was ample time, so much time it seemed the fury be over, but I knew better. I had to lash the window to keep it from opening and closing with extreme violence which would be worse with the change in wind direction after eye. Secured it with old dock line in my war-kit we brought around the house during the maneuvers to keep safe. With an old dock line I rigged the window under pressure of extreme consequences ... it held.
We also had to disassemble, rebuild, and set a suitable locking mechanism for the outside door in the spare bedroom during the calm of the eye. Philips screwdriver and body pressure got the door secure. I could hear the full fury of the wind approaching on the back side of the eye. Breeze ON ... full blast of zero to hundreds of knots of wind after the eye. Holed up in corner of room behind a baby changing table as glass and rock flew into the glass eventually breaking pane by pane.
We sang Christmas songs and ate peanut butter sandwiches with Eoin 3.5 years and Ava 9 months. My wife Liz is an amazing person. Too much great things to say about Liz, but she is the love of my life. I do not know the status of Solstice [Andy's note: see photo at the top of Solstice at Nanny Cay, apparently still standing in the center of the image. I took a screenshot of a drone video from Nanny Cay and spotted Solstice at around 8:45 into the video. See my Facebook profile for more updates].
Tortola is an apocalyptic wasteland. Island totally out of food from looting. British Navy here and troops ready to come ashore if necessary. Prison gates blew un during storm and guarded by M16 until they were let GO. Curfew is 6pm. I'm standing in a parking lot of the hotel Tamarind Club using mobile connectivity box rigged up to a car's 12v system. Very ingenious people living here. Total devastation all around. No infrastructure at all. Island will need food and water soon.
We can live in our house for another two weeks as a family. We are gathering spare plywood and and materials to rebuild. No power to house. Hand tools only. Neighbors from all around the Caribbean have bonded on our hill side in Josiah's Bay valley.
Tomorrow we deal with hurricane Jose 90 miles to our north.
-Paul Exner, Tortola, 8 September 2017. #irma #moderngeographic