Hurricane Iris

Hurricane Iris headed for Belize

                                                           Update Oct. 8, 2001

Sailing vessel Ariel is 22 miles up the Rio Dulce River of Guatemala latitude 15.7 north longitude 89 west. Departure date has been set back due to Hurricane Iris.
12:00 PM Oct. 8, 2001 Hurricane Iris is at 16.9 north 85.9 west 140mph going west at 21mph, 165 miles ESE of Belize City.
Predicted to hit Livingston Guatemala at the mouth of the Rio Dulce between 3AM & 6AM Oct. 9, latitude 15.9 north, longitude 90.9 west with winds at 60 -75MPH
Hurricane Iris has been noted to have three eyes

Ariel is now preparing for Hurricane Iris while tied to Tortugal Marina dock. All lines are being secured, all items on deck stowed below, extra anchors in place.  We are prepared and will be in radio contact with the Rio Dulce Net standing by on 68VHF with the security and safety net. Approximately 100 boats are being secured in the area.

                                                               Update Oct. 9,2001

Hurricane Iris went inland between Stan Creek and Monkey River Belize approximately 50 miles north of the Rio Dulce 8:10 PM Oct. 8, 2001.
Radio reported seas at 15 to 20 foot with a 12 foot surge, Placencia Belize under water, damages to be assessed. Damage was less than expected due to only a 25 mile radius from the eye.
Rio Dulce experienced only small amount of rain. Ariel felt only rolling motion from the river current but very little wind and small amount of rain.

Fellow cruiser s/v Dreamer left the Rio Dulce several days ago and was anchored in New Haven, 30 miles north of Livingston and the mouth of the Rio Dulce. Both captains, Allison Barton and Michael Barton were in radio contact during the ordeal and are reported ok. In 15 minutes wind went from 10mph to 80mph. Dreamer broke loose from four anchors even while motoring into the wind and was lifted aground by the surge. No water leaking was reported. Rescue operations were organized in the Rio to tow them back into deep water while locals helped dig a trench in front of the bow back to the sea. Dreamer is a 42 foot steel ketch.

Hurricane Iris diminished to a tropical storm once inland and by 8:00AM was into the Bay of Campeche.
Ariel's estimated time of departure is before the weekend heading out of the Rio Dulce toward the Bay Islands of Honduras weather permitting.

Oct. 10, 2001

Log: Ariel prepares to leave the Rio Dulce River of Guatemala

Oct. 11, 2001

Log: Tortugal Marina Rio Dulce to Livingston Guatemala 22 nautical miles
Hot and humid, partly cloudy
Motoring down river 6-8kts with 2kt current

Now we are four. Ariel has taken on new crew/partners for the long haul. Georgianna and Everett Shuldt are friends from SSCA (Seven Seas Cruising Association) who have their own boat s/v Verna a 63ft. steel Jungart. We have decided to join forces and sail one ship, so Verna was closed down and left in Ft. Lauderdale.

Georgianna and Everett Shuldt join Ariel

 7:00AM we untie from Tortugal marina, motor over to the fuel dock to fill up with 326 gallons of diesel, Ariel burning 2 gallons an hour at 2200 rpms. Ev is at helm, the girls scrubbing the lines and swabbing the decks, captain programming the computers for navigation.  We set off back down the Rio.
 From the aftermath of Hurricane Iris one of our fellow cruisers is in trouble outside the Rio. With info coming in on the Rio Dulce net we hear s/v Dreamer with captains Allison and Mike Barton were swept off 4 anchors in New Haven bay in the 140 mph winds and are now aground in the mangroves 30 miles north of Livingston.
 2:00PM we anchor off La Marina in Livingston at the mouth of the Rio. High tide is 3AM so we clear out of customs and immigration. S/v Big Foot is right behind us loaded with supplies and food for the people of Placencia, 20 miles further north of s/v Dreamer.

Placencia and New Haven were right in its path. Reports are coming in on damages as we have a meal ashore and retire for an early morning departure.

                                                            Update Oct. 11, 2001

Hurricane Iris hit at 7:10PM Oct. 8th between Stan Creek and Monkey River Belize.

“100 percent of the homes in Placencia were damaged”
“One home was lifted off it’s stilts in one piece and deposited across the street”
“Placencia went under water with a 15 foot surge”
“Most of the town was evacuated so reports on deaths not available”

Oct. 12, 2001

Log: Livingston Guatemala to New Haven bay Belize 28 nautical miles
Winds N 7kts
Motoring NNE 6 knots
Seas 1-2 feet
      Partly cloudy

4:05AM Ariel heads for the mouth of the Rio Dulce in the dark of night to clear the sand bar of the Rio Dulce on a slack high tide. Inside the Rio Lat:15 24.26’ Long: 088 44.78’ Ariel’s GPS is 1/100 of a mile which is 3/8 of an inch on the chart using GPS electronic navigation. 4:23AM Programmed for outside the bar Lat: 15 49.97’ Long: 088 43.95’ we clear the bar with one foot of water under Ariel’s 6’5” keel. Back in the salty sea we head NNE at 13 degrees for s/v Dreamer. 8:00AM Five miles out of New Haven s/v Chance Along hails us on VHF. “My name is Kirby and I have a house in New Haven bay, or did have. We have not been back however should you find a 2 story stone structure, there will be a shed nearby with a large 2 inch hauser that could be of use”. S/v Tongaroga breaks in for us to relay to Dreamer. Dreamer’s radio is down since they are unable to run their engine and charge up batteries so we call s/v Obsession who is already in the bay relaying for Dreamer. Tongaroga is clearing customs in at Punta Gorda Belize and are right behind us asking what supplies Dreamer may need in the way of food. We do not clear into customs as our clearance from Guatemala is for Honduras and the Bay Islands. We have word that the Belize authorities are not checking papers of those coming to help in this emergency as in New Haven Bay there is no town or check in port and it is ok to anchor off shore. 8:20AM the NE Caribbean Net is finishing up with a report on the damage in Placencia Belize 20 miles further north as we motor into New Haven bay.


The news is shocking but seeing our friends Mike and Allison and their s/v Dreamer dead ahead,      was heartbreaking, a cruisers nightmare.


“Dive boat Wave Dancer tied to the Shell fuel dock in Placencia flipped over in the surge. 20 of the 28 aboard from Richmond Virginia are presumed dead or missing.”
“A derelict barge up Big Creek broke loose and damaged several boats”
“A fleet of tourist catamarans from Belize are up the river from New Haven. One has flipped over and another reported actually being lifted off the water and hovered there in the 140MPH winds. They experienced the ‘eye’ of Hurricane Iris inland up the river before dissipating and veering off into the Bay of Campeche

Oct. 12, 2001 cont.
Log: Anchored in New Haven Bay, Belize
Dead ahead s/v Dreamer is on her starboard side 45 degrees lying like a derelict hull out of the water up in the mangroves and downed palm trees. It is heart stopping to see a boat out of it’s element. Part of the rudder and propeller out of the water, bow pointing inland, keel all but 4 or 5 inches out of the water. We motor the dinghy up to her side. Mike is on his dingy resting, a shovel in his hand, covered in mud but smiling. We are happy to see he and Allison are ok. They have been living in a tent next to their home off in the mangroves. It is stifling hot, yet they smile. They are good sailors, both captains, they could just not get back to the Rio in time. They tried. Could only go 3 knots and knew they would never reach the shallow bar into the Rio for high tide. They turned around and anchored back in New Haven, supposedly a good hurricane hole.
Steve still believes there are no ‘hurricane holes” Ariel would have gone to sea. It is a frightening thought but seeing Dreamer was a nightmare. We all learn from others. We are all in the same boat!! A trench is being dug under the keel but the job is hot and tedious.
S/v Obsession is the only other boat here. The captain is helping dig. He has had his own crisis recently in the Rio when held up by bandits. They understand the need for ‘being there’. A plan is formulated. We motored right up to Dreamer until Ariel went aground about 50 feet off her port beam. 85 pounds of Danforth anchor was lowered off Ariel’s stern. The 2 inch houser went under Dreamers bow in front of the keel, through a snatch block and connected to Ariel's double reduction Ideal windless on her bow used for hauling up an anchor. The windless was cranked in electrically….the Danforth let go. Ariel was pulled forward then drifted sideways. A second try….the windless ground to a halt. A third attempt…the houser broke. Dreamers 17,000 tons are too much for Ariel's 37,000 tons . We could not get them off.
Meantime the girls are busy doing 15 loads of laundry on Ariel, stomping on towels full of sand, mud diesel and cat vomit. Their cats are upset and refuse to leave Dreamer. We have a big Mexican meal aboard Ariel and invite Mike and Allison for a much appreciated shower. It has been days since they have been able to even wash their hair.
They relate the horror of being aboard during 140mph winds. Mike was tethered to the helm until the winds reached about 100mph. There is no way of recording just how high the winds go as the wind indicators do not go that high or are blown off. They did see it go from 15mph to 80mph in 15 minutes. He did not use the snorkel and mask to breath or see as some do while at the helm. But he did run the engine, steering the boat into the wind trying to hold it steady to take strain off the anchors. The anchors, all four of them held, the lines tied to the chain on the anchors parted. As they were blown over Allison was then pinned under heavy sail bags below. She found extra adrenaline to move when Mike informed her to put on a life jacket as they were blown out of control onto the shore carried by the 140mph wind. The winds continued for over 2 hours before relief.
S/v Tongaroga arrives from Punta Gorda Belize with food supplies for Dreamer and Obsession and stores them aboard Ariel over night.
 Allison and Mike move from the tent to sleep aboard the 37 ft. Obsession
Oct 13, 2001
Log: New Haven to Puerto Escondido, Honduras 62 nautical miles
Wind 5.6kts. NE
Heading S 155
Seas calm 1-2 feet
Food, drinks and clean laundry are delivered to Obsession from Ariel along with a NOAA satellite photo of Hurricane Iris 6 hours before it hit New Haven. A call is put out on the NW Caribbean Net for a relay to Big Foot now in Placencia. There is a tug there, Miss Gail, that we hear may have the power to pull them off. Ariel prepares to move on. 8:20AM anchor up we motor out of New Haven certain that a tug will be their best advantage. A major amount of debris is floating on the waters surface, huge tanks, wooden structures, tree limbs, half sunken logs and a multitude of flotsam and jetsam. Wind picks up, sails raised but motoring is still necessary. Steve builds wooden steps for the new stern swim ladder while under way. 6:30 Ev at helm, Steve practices motoring into Puerto Escondido under radar and GPS alone from the navigation station. We precariously make it through the narrow opening with rocky outcrops when darkness falls. We are alone in a quiet calm bay of the Honduran mainland totally uninhabited but for the call of the howler monkeys in the jungle like vegetation and desolation surrounding us.

PREVIOUS                              NEXT