Monday, September 4, 2017


Notwithstanding that I said I would post my next update here "once we have more firm plans," current events dictate I post again now, even though, if anything, our plans have become even less firm. And by current events, I mean Hurricane Irma.

I resisted the temptation to post here a day or two ago, when many models, including ensemble runs of the GFS and Euro, showed a high likelihood of a direct strike on Charleston, at Category 4 or more. Those projections induced some nervousness here, even though we have been doing this a long, long time and really should know better.

Yet another Ashley River sunset from the dock.

A word or two about that is in order. There is a very good reason that National Hurricane Center (NHC) forecast tracks only go out five days, and, honestly, we remember when it was three and the NHC was debating whether or not it would be in the public interest to release the following two days, which they had been running experimentally. And that reason is simply that forecasting is just no good beyond that. The probability circle -- that thing which makes the track forecast a cone instead of a line -- is just too large beyond five days to be of any practical use.

The NHC, of course, uses sophisticated computer models to help it forecast, and those computer models do, in fact, go out beyond three or five days, depending on the specific model. Professional forecasters use the models as tools to inform their own judgment; they don't view them as any kind of accurate representation of what will actually happen.

A decade ago, few outside of meteorology had ever heard of these models, and fewer had access to them. The Internet has changed that, and now there are a dozen or more sites publishing model runs, and any number of forecasters making prognostications, some more well-informed than others. And anything beyond a few days is guesswork, and possibly a disservice.

The NHC is the relevant brain trust on this subject. These are not folks who studied meteorology as undergraduates and then got jobs at Channel 4 spouting the weather. Every Senior Hurricane Specialist has a PhD in relevant science, and every one of them has been doing tropical storm forecasting for years. No one is better at it than the NHC, period. So it's a bit distracting to hear people making unequivocated statements about what will or will not happen a week or more out. If only the weather cooperated like that.

All of that said, even a full week is not enough time to avoid a hurricane in a boat that goes seven knots. And so we have no choice but to project that probability circle, even as large as it is, out beyond what the NHC publishes, and use that to decide what level of preparation we should be making and what evacuation options are possible.

To that end, I've been buttoning up projects and getting the boat ready for sea. We splashed the tender and ran it around for the first time in three months, which necessitated taking apart the steering system and cleaning it out. We ran the generator for the first time since arriving here. We've loaded up on two full weeks of provisions. We pumped out the waste tank. And in the next day or so we will top up the scooter fuel tanks and turn the boat back around in case we need to load them in a hurry.

As of this writing, all of the guidance has been shifted farther south. A Charleston landfall as a major hurricane is now less likely. But still not entirely out of the question, and we need to remain vigilant. And plans... we have a few.

Complicating all of this is the fact that I'd previously scheduled a medical procedure for this Thursday, and Louise is planning to be in California for a few days starting on the 13th. She's deferred making any nonrefundable travel plans until at least tomorrow, and I can probably take until the end of the day tomorrow to wave off my Thursday appointment if need be.

The plans are too numerous and diverse to go into all of them here. But the three main options at this writing are

  • Stay right where we are. Secure everything on deck, execute a storm tie-up, and move the scooters to high ground. Prepare go-bags and the cat carrier for a last-minute bug-out by land to a safer place. That would preferably be a hotel, but it could end up being a shelter depending on conditions.
  • Shove off and cruise about 40 miles up the Cooper River to Lake Moultrie. Not a lot of wind protection, but further inland, and out of the reach of storm surge. At the moment this option is not available because the CSX railroad bridge is stuck in the closed position, but at least the lock is operating, so if they fix the bridge this is an option.
  • Cruise two days south to Savannah. The Savannah river is navigable for 150 miles and we could conceivably go as far upriver as needed to be safe.

We're hoping to have enough information to make decisions before either I go to the doctor or Louise gets on a plane. Even if we do not take a direct hit, the storm is likely to have some kind of impact here in Charleston, and if that impact has me moving the boat while Louise is away, I'll need to find some help. Most of the folks I already know will likely be busy with problems of their own, so bringing in help from inland might be necessary; fortunately we made some connections when we spent three months in Chattanooga this time last year.

In the meantime I am plugging along on what projects I can still do, and we're obsessively checking the weather pages. We're also staying in touch with friends who are in other areas that are possible targets, and continuing to monitor the relief efforts in Texas and Louisiana.

If we do end up executing any of our plans, I will likely be too busy to post here on the blog, but I will try to keep everyone apprised over on our Twitter page.


  1. I vote for up a river, whichever one is most available. We survived comfortably 20 miles up from Mobile during a nearly direct hit there. Wind and rain, and some surge, but nothing to worry about. Tied to a railroad trestle.

  2. Sean, I know you and Louise will make the right bug out plan, and we hope you will be safe in doing it. I do think staying away from the storm surge is a good way to go, but I'm in a motor-home in Oklahoma and tornado season is over, so what do I know. Lots of luck to you guys. Steve & Carol -

  3. If you do end up needing help moving the boat, or need a local bug out place, feel free to contact me. We're only inland about 15 miles from you in Goose Creek, but on relatively high ground. Our plans are also developing as the storm tracks do, whether staying or heading inland further. Best of luck either way, and please feel free to reach out if you need anything. Happy to assist.




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