Around sunset the hurricane started to blow and we drank a tequila and went to bed. But by 4AM I could have been in some high-seas Erol Flynn adventure movie, pulling on a big black rope with both hands, gritting my teeth, hanging over the side of a steeply-angled deck as high-speed rain drilled into the side of my face. But then it all ended in a strange way that was more dangerous than the storm.
Before the storm came, when there were only little sprinkles of rain and gentle breezes, we peeled all the sails off the boat, set all six bumpers to happily bouncing off her flanks, and tied up twelve points of connection with the docks to the sides of the boat. We only used eight lines, but they were tied to the dock (or to the boat), then to the boat (or to the dock), and the whole thing made a brutal, simple, and over-sized spider's web. The spider herself, meanwhile, floated in the center, her sails removed, all sail covers stowed, and anything that could provide wind resistance thrown in the saloon. The surfboards were tightly strapped down and I told myself that anything I'd be willing to put on the roof of a hundred-mile-an-hour-car could be left on the deck of The Goose.
We'd been watching the weather of course. A few days before it arrived Hurricane Rick had managed to build to the second strongest hurricane in the history of the East Pacific and with winds moving nearly 200mph, an eye nearly 20 miles wide, and seas over fifty feet tall, I had started to expect the worst. I don't know if it's because I'm getting older or if it was because my mother and father lost a house in hurricane Camille, but I had expected things to horizontally fall apart in the coming day. The storm had moved towards the tip of Baja and then, as most computer models predicted, turned east. It was building and looking bad.
As these reports intensified we all became more and more excited. It was storm pornography. There was something exciting yet a bit dark about all of this. It was a bit like a laughing and malevolent Santa Claus would be coming, riding his sleigh packed with the very furies themselves and the vengeance of an ancient and wrathful god. Something, we were sure, would hit hard.
Each morning, as I gave the weather report, things got more grim and I progressively joked less. I didn't want to confuse people. But then the night before the storm the hurricane was downgraded to a tropical storm. Then some predictions said it would flare up again. Talk on the dock started to circulate so finally, the night before the hurricane hit, I did my best to confuse everyone without calming any of the fears.
"An airforce reconnaisance aircraft flew an investigation of rick this afternoon and found that winds were between 70 and 55 knots with gusts as high as 80. Rick is currently projected to accelerate as it nears the coast and so the ETA of the storm's center has been moved forward several hours, currently slated for eleven, or noon. The direction of the storm has also been adjusted southward a bit with Mazatlan spot on the center of the railroad tracks. NHC is predicting speeds of 40-70 knots however there is some contention around this. Of the six computer models I can find three are projecting Rick to increase in force and so the system would again be upgraded to a category one hurricane, which means winds of 75-100 miles per hour. It appears as though there has been some strengthening in the last three hours, which is why I'm blabbing at you all."
And with that said I went over to check on the poor couple on Dolphin Dancer who had traded their house for a huge old ketch and couldn't even drive the thing under motor power, much less know what to do if 10-20 foot waves were washing over their gunwales. We spoke for a few minutes and all seemed ok and so with fresh-smelling breezes I walked back to the Goose, made a final check of the dock lines, spring lines, surfboards, and hatches, and climbed aboard.
After a few minutes Zack showed up since he'd been kicked out of Natalia's place (her parents were coming to town, and since her dad was paying for the apartment he couldn't stay that night) so he was headed over to the Yellow Submarine (as he'd begun to call it) for what was sure to be a wet night on an unstable craft. He'd found bugs - weird small twitching worms - in that old boat the day before and I offered that he stay with us in The Goose. He replied by saying he'd be fine as he threw back some tequila. We were drinking a tequila named Cabrito, which means "Little Goat" and that made me suspicious and it didn't seem like very good tequila. But Zack liked it and he left after some good conversation, around eleven, and I guess the aft cabin on the Yellow Submarine isn't that bad, despite the mould.
Throwing down another shot myself, Amelie and I went to bed. The boat bounced and bumped on the lines more than the usual rocking, but The Goose still felt like a large and sturdy sort of hammock that swung in the watery weathers of the storm. The rigging overhead moaned with the wind and the rain spattered the length of the boat making rattling noises as the rigging started to shiver. But as we laid in bed and looked up at the rigging through the skylight we were confident because The Goose was a solid vessel and I was tired, so I fell asleep quickly. And anyway, I was drunk.
4am. The rigging was screaming and shaking like a furious monkey in a cage. The boat was bouncing enough to bounce me in the bed so Amelie and I got up, and had a look outside. Waves about two feet high were splashing off the docks and the boats, and across the harbor the silhouettes of the masts, thin sticks, angled together in the wind, all moving like trees in some rigid and alien jungle. I checked Zack. His boat was still floating, and I looked up at Andy's boat and there was something weird with the mast. A mast was at a bad angle, maybe something snapped, or a boat had broken loose. Something was wrong over on his dock, so I pulled on a skin-tight lycra shirt, jammed a utility knife in my pocket, and stepped onto the dock. It was a little difficult to walk straight, and the rain stung like sharp pins, but as a large dock box blew past me I realized that the danger was in the air-born and man-made materials, not the winds and water. It's always like that. Up the ramp, across the walk (saying hi to the security guard who was tucked in his rain slicker) and down the ramp to Andy's boat, Fidele.
Jero, the 50 or 55-foot ketch next to his, had snapped free (the cleats, bolted into the dock had been ripped out) and the big boat had been pushed to port by the wind, shoved up onto the dock, the stern angled all the way sideways, the solar panels and dinghy banging dangerously close to the precious varnish job on Fidele. But most of all the mast was at a low angle and only a few feet away from Fidele's. If the boat was left and winds were to rise, this could domino other boats, so I decided it was best to get some help to fix this.
Waking Zack up, and recruiting Bill, on Shadow, I climbed up on Jero's deck, which was at a steep 40 degree angle (or at least it felt like that) attached a line to her aft starboard cleat, and tossed it to Zack, who wrapped it around the top of a piling that held the dock. The winds were a good 50 or 60 knots, so it was hard to see, but as I pulled, and Bill pushed, and Zack winched that thing around the piling, we managed to move the big boat up a few feet before having to take a break to yell at each other over the wind again. Inch by inch and working between gusts, we got her back in place, tied her down with some good one inch braided, and then went back inside The Goose for coffee and sandwiches.
The sun came up and we sat in the boat for a while and watched the wind whip the waves and trees.
Eventually it died down a little, so I went inside to eat breakfast.
Sitting in the saloon of our boat, sandwich sticking out of my face, I heard the wind stop. It was as if someone had thrown a breaker switch. The temperature machine just shut down. I looked at the barometer: 990. Insanely low. I stuck my head out and looked up to see the first blue sky I had seen in days, just a few miles south. The eye of the hurricane was passing over so I took a few photos, but I am disappointed to say that I did not feel a moment that was sacred or holy and that no hand descended through the clouds to lift our little boat into the seas of Elysium. The clouds just blew over and then the wind started whipping us again. This time from a different direction.
And so this time Griffin broke free. Griffin is a 60 or 70 foot ketch. She's made of concrete and she looks like hell.
When the wind shifted, Griffin's starboard spring line snapped the cleat off the dock (again), then the weight snapped another, and out she swung, shoving her heavy weight against the pilings just off of her dock, and slowly grinding her ugly bulk up and down in the moaning wind. We all felt embarrassed and just left her there since she was far too big to be moved in such winds, too far outside to reach, and in far too poor a condition for any of us to care much. She was, after all, built out of steel and concrete and we were convinced she'd be fine so we all walked back to our boats. Amelie and I went to bed and when we woke up at eleven, when the eye was supposed to hit, it had all stopped. Just like that.
It happened very fast and it left very fast and we were a bit sad to see it end so soon. Our excitement had reached a kind of peak and our dark Santa of meterological pornography left few presents for those of us hoping for great chaos. We had prepared The Goose for the unholy wrath of Rick, but the greatly-vaunted hurricane delivered not Poseidon but a nayad, and with that slipped out the door, leaving all the guests of the hurricane party feeling somewhat empty.
We washed the boat and I went back to finish the bottle of Cabrito Tequila, but it tasted so bad that I just gave it to Zack and had cold water with fresh lime juice, those little limes here in Mexico.
But the storm wasn't dangerous. My desire to see this place get wiped clean by the hand of god is what indicates the danger, at least for me. If I'm thinking like that then it must be coming up on time to pull the sail.