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Hurricane Holes

Hiding from hurricanes on a yacht with nowhere to go.

January 8, 2021
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Steve Haefele illustration
‘I’m the only idiot out here. Worse, I’m lashed to a mooring meant for boats less than 50 feet.’ Andrew’s boat measures 55 feet. Steve Haefele

My pal Andrew called from New England to share his misery.

“Coyle, last week, the harbor master said my boat was queen of the mooring field. And now the fleet has abandoned me. I’m the only soul left in the mooring field, for God’s sake!”

Timing is everything. Just a few days earlier, Andrew had called to remind me of just how clever he’d been to escape Florida during hurricane season. He, of course, knew I’d been sweating like a farm animal and shuttering our property for Hurricane Isaias. Andrew is thoughtful that way.

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“Coyle, I told ya to leave town. Too late now,” he’d poked.

That was then. It was my turn.

While attempting his yoga routine on the aft deck, he’d been driven indoors by the same storm. I could hear the moaning of the wind and Andrew’s wheezing as he caught his breath.

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“I’m the only idiot out here. Worse, I’m lashed to a mooring meant for boats less than 50 feet.”

Andrew’s boat measures 55 feet, yet when it comes to dockage and moorings, it shrinks.

“Of course, you do have ground tackle at the ready, just in case?” I poked back. “Why didn’t you ride it out in a slip for a few days?”

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“Are you nuts, Coyle? It’s $375 a night, including a $5 drink coupon for $15 drinks.”

“Is that for a 50- or 55-footer?” I inquired.

Seriously, though, I was concerned for him. I refreshed the National Hurricane Center website and texted the latest graphics to Andrew, suggesting that he study the color key beneath the map.

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“Green is who knows, yellow is maybe, red is watch out. And purple? You’re screwed,” I said.

Andrew’s perfect hideaway was purple.

“Didn’t you realize that the right side of the hurricane is the wrong side?” I asked.

Read More from Jay Coyle: Tell Tales

Fortunately, my hurricane prep had been for naught, as purple in my case became more of a tangerine. Isaias had decided to take a right 50 miles from our place. It fattened up on the warm waters of the Gulf Stream before setting a course for Andrew’s hideout. While the gang at the National Hurricane Center does an incredible job, the “cone of confusion”—as we call the prediction graphics—is not spot-on until, of course, you’re purple.

Isaias was not our first technicolor experience. Having invested in the dream of Florida waterfront, we’ve been chased by hurricanes since we came ashore in 1980. My wife escapes by land aboard the four-wheel drive, and I typically steam west inland by boat. A half-dozen storms have landed on our doorstep, including a Category 3, but we’ve been fortunate to have been spared a Cat 4 or 5, short a frightening near miss last year named Dorian.

Like Andrew, I’ve made poor choices with a blow approaching, once holing up in a crowded boatyard. That decision forced me to spend a night fending off a fleet of vessels left for dead by their owners.

But an exposed mooring field? No thanks. Fortunately for Andrew, the mooring held, and he survived Isaias. I suspect that next time, he’ll opt for the drink coupons.

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