Surviving Hurricane Matthew

October 10, 2016

So happy to report that we’re back on the boat and all is well. We’re on day three without power, but doing fine. We have enough water and food to last for a while and are feeling incredibly fortunate.

When we moved here, everyone told us how this area hadn’t been hit by a serious storm in 30 years. The barrier islands offer some protection and the curved shape of the coastline here means storms tend to miss Savannah. Well, I guess we were due.

Strangely, it seems we are becoming hurricane veterans. (My sister-in-law Kirsten asked Lydia why hurricanes seem to follow Ricky. Good question!) The last one was Sandy in October 2012, just after we bought the boat and moved aboard. So we’re 2 for 2. Let’s hope there’s not another one for a long, long time.


We were only gone overnight, but this was a sight for sore eyes when we got back.


Rich coming down the dock post-Matthew. As you can see, his pink pants were unharmed.

Getting the Boat Ready
We were lucky enough to have a lot of advance warning to prepare. We took all the sails down, removed the boom, and packed up everything we thought we might need. That last part was hard. Would we have a home to come back to? Should we bring our life jackets and foul weather gear? Would we be able to use them if the boat was lost? Kind of a horrible thought process to go through. Though it did make me realize we need to work on our “ditch bag” of essential items to have ready to go just in case.


The boat all stripped down and ready for Hurricane Matthew.

Thankfully, by the time Matthew got here it was downgraded to a Category 2, and we were at a motel about 120 miles due west with Lydia and Don. When we left, we figured the boats could survive about five feet of surge before the docks came off the pilings. Our neighbor Scott has cameras on his boat that captured the moment during the surge when the pilings had about 2.5 feet left. Pretty crazy.

Life Post-Matthew
They’re now letting people back in, but for the first few days after the storm, all highways leading back to Savannah from the west were blocked. The emergency management folks here were keeping everyone out while they worked on cleaning everything up. It’s kind of a mixed bag. I get that they don’t want to make more work for the first responders if something goes awry, but they said to evacuate, so a lot of people did what they were told and left. But when those people wanted back in to see how their homes were doing and to help clean up this mess, they had to wait. I have a feeling a lot of people won’t leave next time.

We were lucky. We waited in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the outskirts of the city on Saturday and were so relieved when the officer waved us through to drive in on back roads. Our route was blocked at one point by water covering the road. We looked at each other like “What now?” And Rich said, “How deep can it be?” before charging ahead. As it turns out, fairly deep, but we made it across.

We made slow progress. The devastation in downtown Savannah was pretty surreal. Stately old trees had been ripped up by the roots and were lying on top of some beautiful homes and blocking many of the streets. We had to back up and reroute numerous times to get home.

We had heard from the few brave souls who stayed on board at our marina in Isle of Hope that all the boats had come through fine. But the real moment of relief came when we saw with our own eyes that Mata Hari was floating here safe and sound like nothing ever happened.

Yesterday we checked on Lydia’s house out on Skidaway. Aside from a lot of branches blocking her driveway, the house was fine. A neighbor stopped by while we were there to make sure we weren’t casing the joint. I guess you never know.


Rich passed this sign on his way back from work today.

Now we’re busy putting everything back together. My office is closed, possibly until next Monday. Emergency crews are working around the clock to restore power and clear roads. A mandatory 10 p.m. curfew is in effect until further notice. I have a feeling it could be a while before life returns to normal around here.

But we were lucky. Many others weren’t. A marina over in Hilton Head lost some docks and at least 10 boats were washed ashore. It’s still not over in North Carolina and Haiti has been especially hard hit. This has been a bad one.