Hurricane Irene - Hope Town Bahamas
August 25, 2011
was a lot of fun for me. I traveled to a new island destination and
was right smack dab in the middle of a real howler.
Most folks probably would think I'm crazy for trying to get in a hurricane
but look it's my job - and a fun one at that. If you live in an area
where they are then you should be prepared for them right? The folks
in Hope Town are more prepared than us back here in the US. The
structures are stronger, they have generators, solid telecommunications
network, and they all stay in touch during a hurricane with marine vhf
radios. Yeah, they have their act together in the Bahamas as opposed
to us over here where we scramble to get food, water, batteries, fuel,
etc. right before a hurricane hits.
Why Hope Town? Well, I was shooting for the easternmost part of the Bahamas because the track of Irene was (in my experienced view) going to bend more to the right than forecast and I wanted the eye in the middle of the day. The lowest pressure of 954mb and the eye occurred at 12:44pm in Hope Town so I pretty much nailed it right on the money. However, there is a lot of luck involved - the storm could speed up, slow down, whobble left or right - things you have no control over. But if you don't go then you won't get lucky - see how that works now? And don't always believe the forecast track either - it will shift around a little.
I drove from Pensacola to West Palm Beach to catch a flight out the next day. Continental wanted to route me from Pensacola to Tampa to Houston to West Palm for $1,200. Well that makes a lot of sense! Ug, Pensacola you need better connections! So heck, driving isn't so bad now after all. The next day I took a flight over to Marsh Harbor - it was the last flight there according to a special Continental rep walking around. Geez, they cancel these flights so early now. I remember I flew to Bermuda the day before Hurricane Fabian (120 mph) hit with no problem in 2003. What gives? Must be all the hurricane panic setting in early nowadays. So if you don't go early you don't make it - but the flip side to that is if you go there you are stuck and the hurricane might miss too. Welcome to filming hurricanes is all I can say! How much money you want to blow!
So as I sat there in West Palm Beach waiting for my flight out, I was asking other folks on the flight about the logistics in the Bahamas - was there cell phone coverage and where could I get a sim card. Do they even have data, internet? Internet access is key in this business. I was my usual pumped up hurricane self and could barely sit still. I took this iphone shot of me waiting to board the plane - I'm pretty psyched to say the least!
The flight over was uneventful - no turbulence since
Irene was still two days out. I remember taking a few pics as we
came closer to Marsh Harbor on Great Abaco. Lots of small shallow
islands out there - a fly fisherman's dream. We landed and boy, was
the airport ever small - just the way I like em! Easier to hit the
ground running. On the flight over I sat next to a British lawyer
named Rhonda. She was sharp as a tack and new as much as I did about
hurricanes and what Irene was up to. Rhonda was from Hope Town.
Hum, don't remember seeing hope town on a map last time I checked.
Turns out that Hope Town is about a 30 min. ferry ride east of Marsh
Harbor. Well now, anything to get me a few more miles further east
is a good thing. But what if Irene whobbled more west? - I'd need
that extra terrain that Abaco offered to adjust my position. I
discussed this with Rhonda and she advised maybe stay in Marsh Harbor for
the night and see what Irene is up to the next morning. Smart thing
to do I though. One seat up from Rhonda was Andrew, owner of the
in Hope Town. He has been listening and said hey, you're welcomed to
stay with me during the Hurricane. I knew from looking on google
maps there was an island east of Abaco but hell it looked like a sand bar.
Irene hits there and you are going swimming for sure I thought.
Well, I thought about this for a minute - it's risky to commit so early
but then again, it might be too late tomorrow if the ferry shut down.
OK, I'm all in - it's Hope Town or bust!!!
The next day Andrew and I went over to fill up yellow jugs with diesel at the marina next to the lighthouse. What amazed me about this place is everything is so close. You don't need a car here - you can just walk to everything. Well, we did need to motor to the fuel pump at the marina but boats are everywhere - just jump in one and go! LOL After topping off the generator - which are abundant in Hope Town unlike the USA - I had some time to explore Hope Town and surrounding area. The brightly colored houses are beautiful here and sum up the overall attitude mood here - happiness and true R &R.
The rest of the day Andrew and I went
to the Southern end of the Island to check out the surf. It was
definitely bigger than yesterday and offshore looking east the beautiful
emerald green outside breakers were probably 8-9 feet. We stopped by
Inn which had a great view of the ocean. This is where I wanted
to stay but it was closed for the hurricane - it didn't have the
protective dune line like most of Hope Town so it was closed as a
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