Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Preparing for hurricane season in the Sea of Cortez

Our decision to stay in Mexico and visit the much touted Sea of Cortez means that we will have to endure a hurricane season here, which runs from 15th May to the 15th November, and be prepared for the consequences. NOAA have predicted that there will be 19 tropical storms in the Eastern Pacific basin, 11 of which will form into hurricanes and 3 of which will be classified as major hurricanes. Now, the Eastern pacific is a pretty big area but looking at the historical tracks of the tropical storms there is a good chance one could touch down whilst we are still in the Sea, and almost a certainty that we will have to endure a tropical storm.

Preparation for a tropical storm involves several elements:

Firstly we made sure we have good insurance cover. We had to change our policy provider to allow us to be in the Sea and to provide cover for named storms with a reasonable deductable. Naturally there is an increase in premium.

Secondly, decide on our strategy for tracking potential storms and where we will go if we are likely to be in the path of one. There appear to be only two “hurricane holes” on the western side of the Sea of Cortez: Puerto Escondido and Puerto Don Juan which are about 250 miles apart. Some people say that La Paz is a good hurricane hole but seeing some of the damage from the last storm that went through I would not fancy my chances of having a damage free boat at the end of it.

Third is the plan to secure you boat at anchor during the storm: Making sure to clear the decks of everything that might fly off or cause any unnecessary wind resistance such as sails, canvas shading, solar panels, kayaks etc. Make sure we have a good anchoring strategy with as much chain rode out as possible, multiple anchors, chafe resistance gear of any rode, which seems like a common problem and making sure that no other boats are likely to swing into you or you into them, again which seems like quite a common problem. We hear that some of the hurricane holes can get pretty busy so working out some sort of common strategy with other boats sounds like a must.

The more I think about it the less I like the idea of being in a hurricane. I experienced first hand what it is like to be in a storm when I lived in Hong-Kong. 5 days after first arriving there in 1983 to start a job Typhoon Ellen hit the territory with 125mph+ winds. I was in an apartment on the 7th floor and the whole block was swaying. Every single window in the apartment blew out and torrential rain flooded the place. I spent most of the storm cowering in a very wet and windy bathroom which had the smallest window. It was quite frightening and that was in a building. Being on a boat would be a very different experience I could do without.  

Historical storm tracks
So as we head off to the sea tomorrow our minds will be on not if a tropical storm comes but when and where we will go to ride it out. This seems to be the price for cruising her in the summer months.

On a positive note we are taking the boat out of the water and storing it for 2 ½ months whilst we come back to the UK to visit family but we will be back for the busiest hurricane month which is October.

Fingers crossed. It’s going to be HOT HOT HOT and windy……..


  1. That graphic is terrifying, and our mind will be on you and other friends who are calling the Sea home for hurricane season. May the boats and, most importantly, their crews experience a calm summer and autumn. As for your Hong Kong story...sounds horrific and similar to tales told among friends who weathered Hurricane Andrew in the 1980s. It will be interesting to hear what plan you prepare as the season creeps closer at an ever-increasing rate. ~Jessie

  2. I agree with all of this too. A good hurricane hole can be an invaluable resource when a large storm is pressing. However, do not be misguided. If a Category 4 or 5 storm hits directly, no marina will be safe.