When you live on a boat, there are milestones that you know are inevitable.
You will have pleasant things, like your first long-term cruise, your first time breaking hull speed, your first time partying with total strangers who are now your best friends, your first time seeing the stars without the light pollution of the city, and so on.
There are also unfortunate milestones, that come with the boating lifestyle. Your first time running aground. Your first time making port for repairs while taking on water. Your first distress call. Your first small craft advisory. And, if you are living on the ocean, your first hurricane.
Rob and I frequently discussed that last inevitability. We decided that it would be ideal if we could experience our first hurricane at our current marina, which is very sheltered. We are on a very sheltered bayou on a lake that feeds into a bay that is part of the Gulf. This would help us to be much more prepared if we encountered one while cruising somewhere else. After talking about it, we decided, as a rule of thumb, that we would definitely stay if the projected wind speed was in the double-digits. If it were in the triple-digits, we would play it by ear.
Since we moved to Legend Point, there have been a lot of false alarms. We got all excited about Tropical Storm Bill, which dissapated and was nothing more than some rain and wind.
While our friends were visiting from Michigan, everyone was getting panicked about “potential tropical storm Cindy.” People were hunkering down after fighting for the last case of bottled water (yes, there were actual fist fights in stores!). I checked the forecast and assured my friends that this was nothing. Sure enough, it didn’t even rain for an entire day.
I was feeling a little cynical as I made my way out to my car for 6 am yoga on August 24 last year, during the suckiest first week of the suckiest school year ever. One of our neighbors asked me if I was worried about the storm. I laughed and said, “There is another one?” He said, “Well….it’s heading for Mexico.” Then he slowed his speech for dramatic effect, “But it might turn.” I laughed and continued on my way.
After yoga, I made my commute down the freeway. The signs all read, “Disturbance in the Gulf. Fill your gas tank.” This was unusual, but I was still skeptical.
At work, my department chair immediately asked all of us if we were planning on comiMy ng into work the next day. I said I would, as long as I could make it through any flooding. She said she was not planning on coming in. We received an email from district stating that if we stayed home, it would cost us a sick day.
At lunch time, the department chair said that it was now a hurricane and they were talking about evacuation. I was still skeptical, because she had alarmist tendencies. Then Rob emailed me and said we needed to prepare that evening.
S*** was getting serious. I was walking home on August 23 last year, after another sucky day of the suckiest first week of school ever. As I made my way to my pier, bottle of wine in hand, one of our neighbors asked
My day ended horribly, with me considering resignation for the first time of many. I got home late, but as I pulled into the marina, I saw a rainbow in the sky. Then my phone gave its notification beep, and I saw that school was cancelled for both Iliana and me. I ran to the boat, excitedly proclaiming that something good had happened in my life!
We went to Walmart, with my prepping list that I had written at work. I was thinking bagels, sandwiches, and Mac and Cheese. After everyone had picked through everything, we got gluten-free bagels and bread, fancy organic meat, and Annie’s Mac and Cheese. Fortunately, we had a water tank, so we did not have to fight over bottled water. We waited in line at Spec’s, Texas’s favorite discount liquor store (which was already boarded up, but open and busy!), and we thought we had enough “hydration” to get us through the storm!
The morning of August 25, 2017, Rob and I walked out to the aft deck as soon as we woke up. A very dark, low-lying cloud blew over, and then the sky opened up. It rained the rest of the day.
Rob went into work, and I was at home with Iliana. We decided to keep her with us, since my parents were not evacuating. They live in a mobile home on stilts, so we felt better having her on the boat with us, should there be high winds.
She chilled and enjoyed her day…
Yes, we were recently moved onto Loco Lobo, so we had not carpet or wallpaper. Iliana’s room was finished, but the main salon and aft cabin were not. We slept on a Futon. And Popcorn, our cat, was quaranteened to the boat.
The power stayed on all day, as the water rose from the storm surge. I knew it would likely be cut at 5, so I washed a load of laundry and cooked a vegan lasagna.
By 5:00, I was unable to get off of the boat.
After the power was cut, Rob helped me get off the boat for a walk, and then he set up our alcohol stove.
I watched the water level throughout the day.
Then, by 11:00, this…
The docks went underwater overnight, then the next morning, we got what I called “intermission.” The rain stopped for an entire day.My parents came to pick up Iliana, and Rob and I decided that we really needed to make Harvey Wallbangers. Unfortunately, Spec’s was closed and boarded up, as was every other business in town. We returned to the boat, sure that the worst was over.
Before bed, Legend Point lost its first two boats, both unmanned. Obsession was the first, and another followed shortly after.
The lake began receding before we went to bed.
Then it woke us up at 4 am…
It was hard to take a picture in the dark, but the docks and most of the power pedestals were completely submerged, as was our dinghy. I posted on Facebook, writing, “Helllllooooo, Harvey!”
In the morning…
It was during this time that we committed our first act of piracy on the seas. Our dinghy had sunk, so we had no way to get to shore. Since this was a potentially life-threatening situation, we decided to “borrow” the neighbors’ inflatable boat.
Rob put on an orange “camp snoopy” life jacket, jumped into the water, and boarded the neighbors’ boat. He grabbed a large stockpot that happened to be floating by and used that to bail it. We used that boat to get to shore for the rest of the storm.
Rob made breakfast, then while he was at work, I kept myself occupied with cooking!
After work, Rob and I decided to walk to docks (he helped me get off the boat!).
For the next 3 days, our life was lived on the boat, with a once-daily excursion to shore. We were advised not to walk in the flood water, but the grass was so infested with fire ants, that I always stood in the water while tying up the dinghy. My feet were constantly covered in ant bites, which I lanced with a razor blade in order to stop the incessant itching.
Our pier had the only bath house that was not flooded, although it had no power. Using my phone as a light, I took a shower everyday during our shore excursion. The water was nice and hot the first day, but everyday it got colder, until it was just a cold shower by day 5.
More boats sunk everyday, all of them unmanned. Altogether, the marina lost 6 boats.
We ventured out to our road, which flooded and receded everyday. We didn’t leave the marina, because we didn’t want to be unable to get back to the boat.
By day 4, we were getting burned out, and I did what I could to make our lives less miserable. Rob was no longer going into work. Still, we were constantly wet. I tried having one set of clothing that we would wear outside, so that our other outfits would stay dry, indoors, but that never worked. I tried setting up a drying rack in the office area, but in the humidity, only one article of clothing ever “graduated” from it.
Facebook was jumping with stir-crazy Houstonians, and I had a few friends that I was chatting with constantly on Messenger. The morning of day 5, I jokingly posted, “Today I think I will take a bike ride and maybe go out to eat.”
One thing that wore on everyone was the constant darkness. No matter what time it was, it always looked like dusk. The last time we saw the sun was the morning of day 1, before the clouds rolled in.
On day 5, there was a lot of speculation on Facebook. Rumors were flying, that it was going to stop raining that night. My friends in Michigan were insisting that the storm was predicated to come back through, and that we had a lot more rain coming. I turned off my computer and created my own sunshine in my mandala coloring book.
“Here Comes the Sun”
Before I went to bed on day 5, I looked over the side of the boat and saw this:
And in the morning of day 6, this:
And finally, this!
By noon, we could see the docks again.
But our adventure was far from over. Our power boxes had been submerged, so we were still without electricity. My parents brought us some more batteries and invertors, and our living space looked very post-apocalyptic.
Rob was going back into work, and working extra hours to repair the damage. He would bring a battery or two with him and charge it while he worked.
One of my friends let us borrow her Yeti cooler, which was wonderful!
Stores were beginning to open, with police officers at the doors, allowing a limited number of people to go in at a time. There were long lines waiting to get in. I was glad we were so well-provisioned, so that I could avoid this.
Two days after the storm ended, we had a yoga class. The studio had flooded a little, but there was not a lot of damage. With fans running to help things dry out, Cass led us through a restorative class. It was a wonderful piece of normalcy.
Friends wanted to know how they could help, and I said that meals would be wonderful, since our cooking options were limited. We were also unable to do laundry, since we had no electricity and the marina’s laundry machines had been ruined in the flooding. Various friends helped me with that, and I even enjoyed an actual hot shower while doing my laundry at one friend’s house!
By the weekend, we needed a break. On Priceline, I found a great deal at the local Extended Stay America hotel. It may as well have been the Hilton!
We watched a Harry Potter marathon that weekend, which seemed to be especially fitting.
Back on the boat, the lack of air conditioning was definitely adding to the misery level. It had not been hot during the storm, but afterward it was back to typical Texas August temperatures. One day, I was determined to help someone who had been flooded out. I needed the diversion…and the a/c!
Cass, my yoga teacher, had posted on Facebook that her son’s house had been flooded, and people were asking if they could help. She posted the address, and Iliana and I made a beeline over there! I was rewarded with air conditioning and was more than happy to help clean up sheetrock, while Iliana played with the kids.
School was cancelled the next week, but a martial arts studio held an extended day camp. This gave Iliana some structure and got her out of the heat.
I was glad I had obeyed the highway signs and filled my gas tank, because it was a week before any gasoline was available. The stores, which no longer had police acting as “bouncers,” were very poorly stocked.
Then, finally, on September 11, it was time to go back to school.
Going back to work meant that I could do my laundry before school, in the machines in one of the classrooms. I also kept water bottles in the freezer at work, so that I could bring them home and have cold water to drink. I had to hurry home everyday, because Rob was working long hours, putting the marina back together. After 19 days without power, he finished single-handedly repairing the electrical system.