Hurricane devastates Florida

The first tropical storms of the season started to appear in the Caribbean by mid July, leaving us considering our options. Centennial Harbour Marina in Fort Myers is relatively unprotected, only floating docks, no breakwater and the river is about a mile wide. Not exactly a hurricane hole. Consequently Gabriele took the car and went exploring. She found the perfect spot near LaBelle, several miles behind the first lock of the Okeechobee Waterway, 35 miles east of Fort Myers,50 miles away from the Gulf. Tiny Marina in need of TLC, but in a little bay, perfectly protected. The one slip left would definitely not be fit for a hurricane, but there would be plenty of space to anchor out. By August 1st we moved right into the middle of nowhere, tons of nature, birds, gators and noseeums included. No car, no way.


slip marina LaBelle

our new home, the new shades, made by Gabriele, offer a lot more protection from the intense Florida sun and the daily tropical downpours

marina LaBelle

Port LaBelle Marina, in the middle of nowhere, far off the beaten track, rural authentic Florida


sails down, Charley is coming. Our homemade life saving AC is in the left lower corner

weather forecast

One of our daily routines is weather, by hf fax or internet. So we knew about Charley already when he was born in the Eastern Caribbean. The first warning that something really serious was coming our way we read in the computer tracking models of August 11. different institutions ran different programs and the results were almost equal. Friday 13 would be the day...

The plan was, check again early on Thursday morning and then make a decision. Well, that was easy. Within a few hours we had all the sails, shades and Bimini down, everything producing wind resistance removed from the deck. Groceries for a week, fill up gas, charge the phone cards, get cash. Who knows about the morning after... Early afternoon we moved the boat into the most protected corner of the bay. Bow on shore, keel in the mud, our three heaviest lines to trees, two anchors from the stern. The rest is waiting. We didn't sleep very well that night, not only because the AC was missing...

weather forecast

Carley 9.45am

Friday morning: Charley passed Cuba during the night and now there is a lot of rain in Key West. Still not very organized he now is approaching the shallow and very warm waters of the Florida Bay to gather strength. Category 2 still, windspeeds about 85 mph, but deepening. Mandatory evacuation for almost all of coastal Southwest Florida. We are waiting...

One hour later it's a different picture: organized, 110 mph, preesure in the eye falling steadily. Everybody says he's going to make landfall in Tampa. but Charley has something else on his mind. Shortly before landfall he will make a slight turn to the right and hurt a lot of people by surprise.

The area of influence is huge and you can see what a rain and wind machine this is, drawing all the moisture out of the Gulf and the Atlantic. The amount of energy set free is unbelievable, as well as the consequences.

Charley 11.15am

Charley 3.15pm

3:45 pm EDT: Charley makes landfall over Sanibel/Captiva Island, 15 miles west of Fort Myers, 50 miles west of us. Category 4 (there are only 5), 145 mph close to the eye, flooding rain. Within a few hours tens of thousands of people are homeless, Hundreds of thousands of houses heavily damaged, shops, warehouses, businesses, industrial plants, hotels worthless. Tens of thousands of jobs simply gone. 1.1 million people have no electricity, tens of thousands no water or telephone. A few days later the estimated damage will be 15 billion $US. We are lucky, torrential rain and wind gusts up to 70 mph for 3 hours, that's all. No damage done to ship or crew, only the anchors dig in so deep, I can hardly get them out the next morning. At sunset it's over for us and Charley devastates Orlando.

our safe haven in the mud, aeola stripped bare, the dodger will be removed soon.

Charley announces himself

looks much more harmless than it was. during the worst 2 hours we couldn't even take pictures from the companionway

Charley ploughed a path of devastation all across Florida only to regain strength in the Gulfstream. Next landfall over the Outer Banks of the Carolinas, their 2nd hit this season. By noon on Sunday he visited Long Island, NY, and he's not finished yet. Since the beginning of the weather records there have been only 17 category 4 hurricanes making landfall on continental US soil, Charley is # 18. This was the storm of a lifetime. This was the storm we never wanted to see. We were prepared, we took the right decisions early enough, but we were also very, very lucky.

Interesting link to the DeeLight homepage with a lot of very impressive pictures of the devastations done by Charley.