Friday, December 3, 2010

Hurricane Hugo, 1989

Aboard the Casey J II in Tortola, BVI
1988, the year before Hugo 
Like most, I'm loosely familiar with the devastation wrought by the biggest hurricanes to hit North America in my lifetime: 2005's Katrina and 1992's Andrew.

What's harder to come by is information about the impact of these events on the cruising community. Sure, I read the Katrina-related articles by cruisers in the sailing magazines. Years ago, I watched an intimate yacht club presentation by a cruiser who buckled down in Hawaii and survived Hurricane Iniki as it passed over. I read Toast's harrowing posts about weathering 2009's Hurricane Jimena in Santa Rosalia, Mexico. I've read the Pardey's account of December 1982's rare winter storm that put 29 cruising boats on the beach.

For all of that, I've never seen anything like the compelling video below. I've never seen anything that better describes the impact of a major hurricane on the cruising community.  It is an hour-long collage of interviews of a small number of sailors who survived 1989's Hurricane Hugo in the Virgin Islands. The video was made shortly after the storm hit and it ain't the cleanest, but the grainy, unpolished quality--and the fact that the impressions were recorded so soon after the fact--brings the thing to life.

Winds of Hugo were recorded at 200 miles per hour; 190 boats were wrecked ashore.

I found the link to the video on Fatty Goodlander's site, and he and his family are featured prominently. Fatty tells of trees blowing into his rigging and of stanchions pushed down vertically, straight through his deck and into the cabin--all the while with his wife and child taking cover on the cabin sole.

More amazing than the superlatives used by everyone in this video to try and describe their experiences (with a goat aboard!?!), are the descriptions of camaraderie, of cruisers helping cruisers before, during, and after this astounding meteorological event. Camaraderie is an ironic attribute of a community comprised of determined individualists, a community to which we will soon return.

Video by Virgin Islands Search and Rescue (VISAR)
and hosted by, a site providing video
hosting for the people of the British Virgin Islands.


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