On Saturday February 20 we made final preparations for what was to be our first ‘on board’ experience dealing with the full effects of an almost direct hit by a cyclone. TC Winston had been circling Fiji for almost two weeks. Tracking east to Tonga, returning SW then about face NE back to Tonga. Then two days ago it turned again...heading directly west to Fiji.
This was to be for us a MAJOR weather and personal event.
We are not unfamiliar with Hurricanes/Cyclones. In 2004 are cruising life started in Trinidad with Hurricane Ivan. The next year in North Carolina we met Hurricanes Ophelia, Tammy and Wilma, three very ornery women (just saying). We were fortunate to have not suffered any damage from these storms but did witness the awesome destructive power of these weather systems. It was not until Mar 2015 that we had our first South Pacific Cyclone scare…
Cyclone Pam turned out to be the 2nd largest Cyclone EVER!
And despite aiming directly for us in Fiji turned away and pummeled the neighboring island chain of Vanuatu destroying life and property. Ever so thankful that we had been spared, it was excellent training for the uninitiated dealing with heavy weather. We were sitting in a Cyclone Pit in Vuda Marina, appropriated named as the boat is literally sitting in a hole to diminish its profile and exposure to high winds. We stripped the boat of all canvas and anything else that could and would fly loose and strapped the boat down with heavy lines and spikes into the surrounding coral ground. It was a very labor intense time but time well spent.
This year however, we were sitting in an anchorage along with 51 other vessels...many of which were unattended and two or three that were nothing more than derilict boats...already in a state of complete disrepair...nothing more than hazards to navigation and certainly suspect of being able to withstand the forces that mother nature was about to unleash. It was these last two groups that caused me the most anxiety. It is one thing to be on board to deal with whatever is going to chaff or break...it is quite another to have to deal with other vessels in the water coming at you like a freight train with noone at the controls.
Winston was on her way...We were as ready as we could be...nothing left to do but wait and pray!