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BVI Swell Time

A winter storm throws monster waves at the north shore

Warnings were given—swells to 25 feet or more, anchorages closed out, beaches eroding, humans and animals likely swept out to sea—and sailors responded.  During the recent weather event of March 18-22, the most notable aspect was the lack of drama.  While there was a dramatic rescue off Sandy Cay and some hairy moments around anchorages, the net result was that the rescue services were barely called upon.  The Baths were shut and anchorages such as Gorda Sound, Marina Cay, Trellis Bay and Peter Island were crammed with yachts from the mega to the minuscule.
An indication of the seriousness of the situation was the NOAA ocean analysis charts showing the classic scary storm scenario: a pair of lows sandwiched between a pair of highs, each spinning themselves into a frenzy.  The words “hurricane-force winds” appeared next to a low circulating off Cape Hatteras.

Sometime about Thursday, March 20, the following could be heard on the NWS WX broadcast from Puerto Rico: This is an extremely dangerous marine situation.  In fact, the last event of this magnitude was the Perfect Storm of 1991.  Make the safety of yourself and your loved ones your top priority this holiday week.
We heard those words as we were drinking our morning coffee at anchor in North Sound, tucked in behind Mosquito Island at Drake’s Anchorage.  We made a quick decision to stay put and enjoy the facilities of Leverick Bay while Nature sorted herself out.
When we finally poked our bow out into open water on Friday morning, nothing seemed out of the ordinary apart from the occasional swell lifting us up and dropping us gently down as we headed back to Road Town.  Thanks to the efficiency of the warning systems from the US National Weather Service to the BVI’s Department of Disaster Management, which issued bulletins updating the situation as it applied to the country’s coastal infrastructure, many potential problems were averted.

Judging by the number of videos and photos available online, not everyone saw the week’s marine events as a negative.  Surfers had a great time at Cane Garden Bay and elsewhere; for many it was the ride of a lifetime.  Since it was Easter week, a number of holidayers from Puerto Rico and elsewhere made the journey to the BVI, resulting in some unusual sights, such as the four sports-fishing boats rafted up next to the beach by the highway at Brandywine Bay and the usual anchorages—White Bay on Jost, Cane Garden Bay and others—being off limits due to the swells.  Shakespeare, as usual, had this scenario in mind when he wrote: “All’s well that ends…..” well, you know the rest. 

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