Riding out Hurricane Igor on the beautiful Spirit of Bermuda
While most people were tucked up in their homes when Hurricane Igor approached in 2010, former Mayor of St Georges, E Michael Jones, was on the sail training vessel Spirit of Bermuda along with other experienced sailors to make sure the beautiful boat made it through the storm safely.
Mr Jones said: I imagine we had about a dozen to 15 people on board so we would have four for each full shift. I love the Spirit and I understand something about the seas. I knew that she would be able to handle it (the hurricane) and I thought that if there was some way that I could be involved in her safety I would do so.
Mr Jones, who during Hurricane Fabian watched as his 48-foot Cal sailboat break free from its moorings in St Georges Harbour and landed up on the rocks next to his house, said he knew that the crew and captain of the Spirit, which measures 112 feet (including bowsprit), were very capable and qualified to ride out the hurricane.
Spirit was moored north of Blucks Island in Hamilton Harbour. Mr Jones said: We were west of Hamilton Princess and to the south and east of Two Rock. They have a huge storm anchor for her there with lots of scope and we bridled her up safely. There was, as Bermudians say, a big girt mooring which she was securely fastened to. It was everything that would be required for a vessel of her type to survive in a hurricane.
In the end however, Igor was not nearly as bad as many thought she would be. Igor could have been a lot worse.
In fact, Mr Jones said that he felt more comfortable on the Spirit than he perhaps would have been on land.
It was probably a lot more comfortable where we were than some houses on shore. We had power, we had air conditioning, videos (DVDs), and CDs we could listen to when we were off shift. We had lots of food and cooks we were fine. Igor was not nearly as bad as Fabian. In fact if there is another hurricane I am ready to go back on Spirit!
While Mr Jones said Spirit was manned by a number of young people, he explained that they had a lot of experience.
They were not the (inexperienced) students but they were young people. We didnt want any novices on board for that. One young man who was on board was Adam Goodwin who died later that year in a road accident. I had the pleasure of working with him he was a lovely guy. I can remember him going down to take off the buoy from the mooring as it wouldnt affect the flow of water around the bow. He was the one who stuck his head underwater to cut away the lines. Normally you would leave the buoy there but with Igor you didnt want the drag and resistance that the buoy could cause.
Mr Goodwin, 22, was an officer of the watch on the Spirit of Bermuda, and was killed when his bike hit a wall on South Road in Smiths in 2010. He was a shining star in the sailing world and well on his way to becoming a sea captain.
Mr Jones said he and the crew went aboard the Spirit late in the morning on the day that Igor was to hit. It wasnt supposed to come through until later so we went on and were ready for the storm. The Spirit had been prepared for the hurricane the day before. All the rigging and sails had been taken off everything was stripped. All that causes a lot of wind resistance. Everything was removed.
During the height of the storm the engines were started occasionally to take some of the strain off.
Mr Jones said depending on how bad Igor became they had options. If she had broken her moorings we could have taken her around the other side of the island by Paradise Lake we could have done that if we did need to run.
But he had faith in the Spirit. She is built for that stuff, he said of the Spirit which is a purpose-built sail training vessel based on civilian Bermudian-type schooners built on the Island by blacks and whites between 1810 and 1840. The original hull shape was adapted from the Bermuda-built Royal Navy Shamrock class: fast dispatch / patrol vessels that ran from the Royal Naval Dockyard northwest to Halifax and southwest to Jamaica to contain the rebel colonies.
One thing those on watch had to be aware of was other boats which had broken free. You have to look out for those boats which had broken free which may hit you. That is one of the things in a hurricane to watch out for. Your boat may be doing fine but you can get a lot of damage if another boat which has broken away hits you. Something like that can do an enormous amount of damage. During Fabian my Cal 48 (Ayexhsa) broke from her moorings and landed right by my house. I was fortunate in that two days later they pulled her off the rocks and put her right back on the moorings. There was some damage but it could have been a lot worse.