Photo Essay: Tropical Storm Karl

Well, it’s that time of year again.  Time for plywood boards, drills, screws, flashlights, batteries, candles, and rum; it’s Atlantic Hurricane Season.  This time-frame somewhat coincides with the height of tourist and wedding season. Hurricane season typically starts June 1st and ends November 30th.  Bermuda lucked out back in August when she (yes, the island is female) dodged two bullets with Tropical Storm Fiona and Hurricane Gaston, which had been the strongest hurricane of the year thus far (knock on wood).  For a twenty-one square mile island – that sits 650 miles off the coast of North Carolina – it’s odd to think that most of the storms that make it to our side of the Atlantic usually form off the coast of Africa.

We first heard of Tropical Storm Karl on Jim’s birthday, September 15th; a lovely present from the universe - well, technically: a gift from Cape Verde, where Karl formed.  We have two houses and two boats to take care of before a storm hits.  The time before a storm is precious: it's a perfect opportunity for the island to get last minute chores done - like pruning trees that may snap or become uprooted during a storm.  Preparation work for our family involves boarding up my in-laws' house, which sits right on the water facing northwest and our house, which sits up on top of a high hill, facing north.  Along with our properties, Jim usually assists his Uncle Stephen with boarding up his house too.

Depending on the direction of the wind, my husband and father-in-law will either leave their fishing boat, Troubadour, in Bailey’s Bay, where she's normally moored or put her in Mills Creek (yes, the boat is also female), where she's more protected from the wind.  The downside of putting the fishing boat in Mills Creek is that there are a lot of surrounding vessels that could potentially come loose in a storm, hit our boat and/or catch on our moorings.  After much debate, they decided that Troubadour should be moved.  My father-in-law, Blake and I went up to Troubadour to prepare her for the journey to Mills Creek.  From there, Jim and I hopped aboard and brought her up to the Creek with our punt in tow. Let me tell you; it was a bit rough!  We saw one of the cruise ships heading out to sea just as we departed; a standard rule for all large ships when a big storm comes through. We made our way down the North Shore, passed Shelly Bay, Flatts, the Incinerator, Deep Bay, and we now needed to cross the channel to head into Spanish Point to get to Mills Creek.

Coming from the opposite side of the channel was a massive cable ship, the Wave Sentinel.  I didn’t think much of the ship until Jim said, “So… we need to cut in front of that cable ship”.  I paused for a moment and thought, “Huh.  We’re chugging alo­ng, and that ship is not that far away”.  So I said to Jim in a very mildly panicked tone, “Is this as fast as our boat goes?” Jim chuckled and said, “No” so I said, “Well, let’s… put a move on it, eh?” - with my hands waving in the direction of the Point.  For a brief moment, I thought about what we would do if we happened to collide with the cable ship: diving overboard with my Nikon around my neck became a semi viable option.  Jim, being the fisherman that he is, knew we would make it across the channel with time to spare – so - instead of tossing myself, my husband, and camera into salt water, dodging sharks, lionfish, eels, and mermaids as we would swim to safety – I took more photos, waved to the ship, and the crew on deck waved back.  It was all – very exciting.

We made our way into Mills Creek and the severity of the wind changed entirely.  It was as though we had arrived on another planet; a calm, windless, and an overall safe zone.  The area where Jim keeps Troubadour in Mills Creek is called "Dead Mans"; charming, eh?  The surrounding area had a few boats that had already met their maker, and I was praying ours did not do the same! Jim secured Troubadour to the storm moorings, and suddenly, it began to pour down with rain! We knew Karl was just around the corner and Jim yelled out with a chuckle, "He's here now!".  I, on the other hand, did not laugh.  We both jumped into the punt, and slowly Jim slowly rowed us to the boat yard at the mouth of the Creek.

If you've ever been in Mills Creek - particularly in a little punt - then you know the fears of tipping over.  There are creatures in those waters!  Through the torrential downpour, Jim rowed the boat as I noted: "turn a little to the right; boat up ahead on the port side."  After carefully climbing out of the punt - with my Nikon around my neck wrapped tightly in a rain jacket - we left Mills Creek Boat Yard and went back down North Shore to our next destination: West Point.

We pulled into the driveway and found Blake, our dear friend Stuart, and his Uncle Mike around the kitchen table - ready and willing to work to help us put up some boards!  Bandit, one of the cats at West Point, had made herself a comfortable spot in the kitchen; ears up and alert.  After the cars had been put away, we made our way back home to our house up on the hill.  We're somewhat exposed to North / Northeast wind and as they say in Bermuda, "We take licks."  Before we left, Jenny sent us home with a lovely home cooked meal.

One of the things that stood out to me that day was that Works and Engineering were collecting the trash.  It was “trash day”; just another typical day in Bermuda.  When you see a little “normalcy” during a storm, it offers a sense of calm.  As the day turned to night, house lights started to appear; another sense of normalcy. 

Twilight peeked through one of the windows and in the distance; we could still see the house lights - glowing in the distance. The wind was blowing a bit in the morning, but nothing too drastic. We started our day: Jim made breakfast; I put the cat outside and folded the laundry.