Hi Amel family:
I have followed with sadness and horror Alexandre's loss and odessy in St. Martin and his struggle to survive since. My story pales in comparison so I haven't posted about my experiences to our beloved Liahona (Amel SM 2000 #335) until now because I just didn't know, until now.
We have had Liahona at Puerto Del Ray marina (PDR) for the last three hurricane seasons. The first year we hauled out in PR but I found the storage yard a bit lacking and so after finding out that the insurance premium was no different for being laid up ashore vs being laid up in the water, we laid up the boat "in the water" both last year and again this year. I stripped her of sails as well as all rail mounted items, the SSB antenna, bimmini etc. I had multiple lashings on the booms to the jib sheet cars etc. I rigged a web of 14 dock lines, many doubled up and all with fire hose chafe gear to every cleat and pole in an extra wide slip. Liahona was seperated by a 45 ft finger pier from a large power yacht on starboard and there was no boat in the slip to port. I faced the boat east into the presumed wind. Water tight compartments sealed off, thru hulls closed and 15 fenders and 4 fender boards deployed. My boat caretaker checked her just before Irma, charged the batteries one final time (I don't leave the boat plugged in continuously) and we prayed. She was full of diesel and had 800 liters of water on board.
The south eyeball of Irma passed 60 miles north of PDR and two days later when folks could make it to the marina we were pleased to find only some modest damage to the port aft rub-rail from chaffing up against a pole. The fender boards had been blown out of position and that combined with line stretch left them ineffective. Nevertheless, this seemed to be mostly cosmetic based on the single photo that I have available to me. Then came Maria....
The north eyeball of Maria passed 16 miles south of PDR. I feared the worst as I read of Nikimat's fate. My caretaker trimmed some dock lines, and I put my faith in the fact that I was protected by concrete piers and sat right behind a 20 foot very stout sea wall with moles on both sides. The night of landfall I watched from my home in Utah as best I could via the internet. I watched until all the reporting stations stopped sending (last wind I could find for Fajardo area was 98 mph), that was 2.5 hrs before Maria made landfall. I watched as the rain bands struck and then watched as the radar failed. Then there was virtual silence from the island. I feared that my boat caretaker might not have survived. 52 hrs after Maria, Samuel called (he drove to the San Juan Airport to get cell service) and indicated that from afar (he wasn't able to gain access to the marina), there we're many "vertical masts". 5 pictures from a distance showed some boats sunk and other sitting on top of the docks or on top of other boats (report is 26 sunk and many many more are heavily damaged, unknown numbers toppled in the yard). I scanned every news piece for hints and clews of how bad it was. Initially there was not much news as there was no electricity etc. On day 3, I spied a HD video on YouTube from a helicopter crew that did a brief flyover of the marina. I saw a 2 second glimpse of dock14 that I was able to freeze-frame and enhance to see my boat afloat. My hopes soared. Due to the annihilation of the cell phone system and power grid there was no further word. Gas is in short supply and Samuel believes soon the roads will be littered with cars that are out of gas. Electricity isn't likely to be restored for months as miles of concrete power poles are toppled onto roadways etc. More silence. Just now today (23 sept 2017) Samuel Moorefield called and in a brief cell call, before we lost contact, he told me that surge in the marina was 6 feet. My boat floated up over the finger pier and smashed into the power yacht (or vice-versa). All the lifelines and stanchions are smashed and mangled. The masts are upright but rigging integrity could not be confirmed. Mostly dry belowdecks except for some salt spray in the quarter berth floor (perhaps from spray coming thru the gap in the companionway closure). Engine room is dry. More rub-rail damage to the port side, bow and foredeck ok, 6 dock-lines destroyed. One spring-line, chafed thru holding by "a thread". The hull is punctured but it is above the waterline, (unknown if this was from cleats on the finger pier or from flying debris). Every fender is gone, every fender board is gone, some of the ropes remain but the fenders were ripped from their lines. Amazingly the upside down RIB is still lashed securely in place on the aft cabin top. All the winch covers are gone as is the winter cockpit cover. More damage reports will have to wait as I lost cell contact with Samuel about this point. Kind of helpless to prevent further damage except to trim the remaining dock lines. I'll bet there isn't a fender to be bought in Puerto Rico.
The wait resumes for what is next but I know it will be far easier for me here in Utah than for Alexadre or the poor folks in the Leewards that have born the brunt of these two hurricanes. I pray that aid will come soon to those most in need. Alexandre my sincere prayers are for and with you, I can only slightly imagine the pain and suffering.
Lesson learned, surge is the problem for a lay up in the water. If and when there are functional boatyards again, and when the thousands of damaged boats that will fill the cue for repairs are dealt with, Liahona somewhere in that line will be repaired, but I shan't ever lay her up "in the water" again.
Perhaps my experience will be of some value to the membership.
Sincerely, Gary S. Silver s/v Liahona Amel SM 2000 335, Farmington, Utah