Category Archives: Hurricane Tips

Apocalypse Wow–Riding Windsurfer Bill’s Honda 90 in a Caribbean Hurricane

Life in America is way too constrained.  There’s too much pressure to conform in oh so many ways, despite our unsupported belief that here in the USA we are wild, free and nonconformist.

So I happened to be thinking wistfully about the time Windsurfer Bill rode up to my place in the Caribbean, on his Honda 90, in the middle of a hurricane.  He burst in and said excitedly; “All the boats are draggin’ anchor in Chocolate Hole.  Wanna go get some champagne and watch expensive boats crash?”

It sounded like fun so I said sure.  Now, at the time, I was living up in Bethany on a dirt road which was steep, full of rocks, and would wash out during the infrequent rains. It was no simple thing for Bill to have gotten his underpowered little vehicle up that road in a damn hurricane either!  That boy had some onions.

Who wouldn’t jump at a chance for an adventure like that?  So I hopped on the back of Bill’s tiny motorbike, sans helmet of course, and we rode into town (Cruz Bay) and went to the deli/restaurant at Mongoose Junction to get some Dom Perignon.  (What else would you drink to watch an apocalypse?)

Tom, the owner, had just closed up.  After we explained why we needed a bottle of Dom he allowed as how he just happened to have one on ice in the back of his jeep that he’d be willing to part with in support of such a good cause.  “I always carry one” he said “in case I get lucky”.  Tom must have been a boy scout at some time to take preparedness to that level.

So we got the champagne and had a fairly harrowing ride up to Bill’s place, which was up a much steeper and rockier road than mine.  Since he lived right at the top of a big hill on the south side shoreline, it was blowin’ like snot up there.  Huge things were flying through the air and, in fact, millions of dollars worth of sailboats were already being pounded against the beach like cockroaches that accidentally wandered into a flamenco fiesta.

It was grand!  We hauled out a couple of chairs, plunked down on the deck and sipped the Dom until it ran out.  Then we switched to a more plebian Cold Duck, or something along those lines, and got fairly tipsy from the alcohol and the wildly dynamic scene playing out for our fun and amusement.  It was soooo fun!  It was like the end of the world but without pain–the wind was screaming, roofs were coming apart, the sea was smashing everything that was in its way, and the noise was deafening.   It was chaos incarnate, if a hurricane can be said to be an incarnation.

People don’t do stuff like that here.  Here they prepare seriously and take precautions. But that was the glory of St. John back in the day.  People did things with panache and free spirited attitudes.  (Once  a St. Johnian sank his new–and very expensive–boat, but stayed on board since part of it was still out of the water.  A friend of his had a case of champagne delivered to the stranded sailor via helicopter.  (No word on whether he thought to report the sunken boat–we’d all heard about it from another boatie.)

Recently I re-connected with an old friend/colleague from the St. John days. He wrote a novel about St. John at that time, in order to memorialize a golden moment when, as Sarah Palin wistfully noted once, people were free.  I asked if he remembered when I tried to shoot his dog, and he laughed that, yes, as a matter of fact, he did.  The name of the book is Back Time in Love City & it definitely, even definitively, captures the zeitgeist of that time and place.  I would recommend it to anyone who has ever dreamed of jumping their traces and taking off into an unknown place for adventure.

One time I rode my big race horse into that iconic Cruz Bay pub, the Back Yard.  She was huge, very high strung and prone to going into wild frenzies of hysteria where she would buck and kick and race around trying to chase any human who crossed her path.  So I rode her up to the packed bar and Dougie Sica didn’t blink an eye, just said, “What’ll ya have?”  Kamikazes seemed appropriate for that particular moment.  So I sat on my big horse and drank kamikazes at the bar, then rode her on out and went home.  Neither of us wore shoes.

Ya can’t do stuff like that in America anymore, except maybe out west or in Texas.  Nope, now and here, decorum is required and one must comport oneself in a manner that couldn’t possibly offend anyone.  Yeah, God forbid that anyone might have their delicate sensibilities offended.  I’m pretty sure there must be a clause in the Constitution about that.

So I sigh and plod on, bereft of any scintilla of spontaneity or free-spiritedness.  We don’t approve of such things in America anymore.  More’s the pity.  But at least I know what it means to have been free, wild and stupid enough to have adventures, to do stuff people wouldn’t approve of.  Sad to say I don’t think all that many Americans get to have that luxury anymore.

What would Jesus say?  “Did ya like my storm?”

Sigh.  I miss being free.



Hurricane Tips from a Storm Survivor

Hurricanes are kinda fun if you’re a kid, a pain in the butt if you’re not.  My first was before I was two years old.  I’ve been through more than a dozen, including going through a cat 4 one, alone,  in a tin roofed cottage on the beach on a tiny island in the Caribbean.  The airport blew away and help didn’t arrive for days, so everyone was on their own.  Jeez, in that one much of my neighborhood was gone–and I mean GONE— in a few hours.  My next door neighbor’s home was crushed by a tidal wave–which, fortunately, I did not see because the storm was so intense that visibility was only a few feet when it happened.  That storm was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever experienced, and I’ve had plenty of scary moments.

So here are a few tips (that I learned the hard way) for those of you in the path of big storms.

If you have to leave in a storm, or if you stay and lose a roof or windows blow in, you’re going to get wet.  Pack a bag ahead of time, ’cause you might wind up having to leave during or after the storm.  Two gallon ziploc baggies are a perfect size to hold one set of clothes, a set of sheets, some shoes, or a towel.  Where I live in Florida you can get them at Publix (but not Winn Dixie).  Don’t get the kind with the zipper-they break.  The ones with the double-locking seal will hold.  Just buy a couple boxes of them ahead of time so you’ll have them if you need them.  Before the storm gets to you,  just put whatever you’re going to need/want in them & squeeze all the air out like a mini-storage bag, so they don’t take up much space.  They’ll fit easily into a suitcase. (Actually this is a useful packing tip for any trip.)  It saves you from having to root around among everything in a luggage bag & will keep stuff dry until the rain stops or you get someplace where it’s dry.  You just pull out a baggie with a set of clothes & nothing else gets messed up.  Don’t throw the empty baggie away–when the clothes are dirty, you can put them back into it so your luggage won’t smell like dirty clothes.

If the power goes out, no telling when it will come on again.  You can do without food but you gotta have water.  And it’ll be hot so you’re gonna want something cold.  Freeze a bunch of half-liter bottles of water.  (A larger size will split open so don’t try that.)  This way you have cold water for a few days after the storm, depending on how often you open your freezer when power is out.  It’s a godsend when there’s nothing cold available for sale.  It takes about a half hour for the bottled ice to melt, so you can sip it as it melts, and you can put it against your  skin to help stay cool.

If you have to leave there’s no telling when you’ll be back. Before the storm or before you leave, take everything except the frozen water bottles out of your refrigerator and wipe down the interior surfaces with a bleach solution (so mold won’t grow in the heat).    This will prevent you from having a hideous stinking mess when you come home.  Duct tape the freezer door(s) closed so the bottles can’t fall out in the wind.

Close the lids of your toilets.  If the ceiling caves in this will prevent you from having to dig out a bunch of plaster, etc. from inside the toilet bowl. (Ick!)

Sprinkle Clorox 2 on your carpets.  If they get wet this will help prevent mold growing.  If the carpets don’t get wet you can just vacuum it up after the storm is gone.  If they do get wet, you may be able to just let them dry and then vacuum the dried powder up.

Gas up your cars, and fill up some five gallon containers (don’t leave them in the house though).  Even though there may be plenty of gas available after the storm, there probably won’t be any power to pump it.  (Fla. governor Jeb Bush once famously sneered at everyone getting gas before a hurricane.  He said there’d be plenty of gas after the storm.  There was.  It just couldn’t be pumped.)

The most important thing to have?  Water, water, water!  Being hungry is uncomfortable but not life threatening for quite awhile.  You’re not gonna starve.  But you can only go two or three days without water.

Hope you find these tips interesting but don’t have to use them.  But if you do they could save you some effort afterwards, and keep you more comfortable (dry clothes, sheets shoes and towels) during and after, once you get to someplace dry.