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Hurricane Irma Update: Marathon Takes the Brunt


We could not sleep Saturday evening as the hurricane started to impact Marathon. Our remote security camera (a Zmodo Pivot) we left behind running on our AT&T Unite Explore hotspot was sending us chilling images and sounds.

Wind whooshing, creeping, knocking, banging.

We hoped with all hope we had done all we could to secure Y-Not.

Did we set enough lines? Did we set enough chafe guards? Did we secure everything? Did we leave enough slack in the lines to handle the surge? Did we distribute the load between the limited cleats and pilings in our slip? Did we make the right choice to deflate the dinghy a bit and secure it on the caddy (letting it be essentially a huge rear fender – especially since we had no other real options for getting it secure on land).

As boating newbies only trained in basic line handling, we knew trying to secure Y-Not on our own for a major hurricane was an advanced skillset. We relied on all the research we could find, and did our best.

We left our hand held VHF radio on, and could hear the Coast Guard side of distress calls from those who  stayed behind.

“Captain… You need to find something that floats… and make it to land.. Over”.

All night long. It was haunting.

Here’s a quick clip we recorded before day break:

She was still calling out when our camera went offline around 8:30a, which seems to be when the cell towers went down island wide.

Our last image recorded from Y-Not:

Y-Not was still in her slip taking 80+ mph gusts. She was pushing up against that starboard piling all night long.  The top of the piling was now mid-window height and the water up to dock level, meaning at least 6′ of water had already risen.

But the worst of the storm was yet to come.

We watched anxiously as radar showed the edge of the eye wall passing over the 7-mile bridge – a spot we had regularly walked to from our slip. Marathon was on the “bad side” of the hurricane.

We don’t have any official readings yet as to what the winds where at our location, but definitely well over 100 when she passed as she still had the strength of a Cat 4 storm at this time.

And then after the storm passed, there would be waves of surge to deal with. But how much?  Our best calculation we had left our lines set to handle at least 10-15′ of surge, but did we really – we’re newbies after all.

While daybreak, we were now in the dark.

Which is probably a good thing, I don’t think I could have continued to watch.

So instead, we finally slept. There was nothing we could do but let go – what will be, will be.

Communications from the area remained out all day long – we know there were a lot of anxious folks awaiting any word whatsoever from loved ones and word on their homes.

Official word from Monroe County sherifs reported Marathon took the brunt of the storm.

We distracted ourselves last evening by hanging out with Escapee’s friends here in our park in Summerdale. Laughter was good. And went to bed early.

When I logged into the ‘What’s Happening in Marathon’ Facebook group this morning, I was beyond belief to find this low res arial shot taken last evening by Carol Taute:

Photo credit: Carol Taute

Y-Not, still in her slip at Burdines. Still floating.

We’re not out of the woods yet… we are concerned she’s pretty much in the position where the center piling was. And we don’t know exactly what time this pic was taken, and if there might have been further surge to contend with.

This means the piling either got knocked over during the storm (we know she was pushing directly against it when the camera went off), which would be good … or she set down on top of it during the surge, which could be bad.

Now, to find higher res photos or someone on the ground who can get a closer look (after people are safely rescued, of course) and get our generator on to keep bilge pumps running. (If you can help, please do let us know!)

But for now, we at least know we set our lines decently enough…  and there is hope for Y-Not. We have no idea what damage may have been done.

There is still much to come – getting back to the Keys ourselves, assessing the damage and helping with clean up & relief efforts across the state.

We’re also relieved to be hearing multiple reports from friends up and down the coast that are ok, but we know many are still anxiously awaiting word from loved ones who stayed behind.

Here’s a quick video update we hosted last evening if you want to check in our state of mind then:

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  1. During my 40 years of demolishing things, we have often pulled over and broke off poles like the one at your dock. They usually break off at the ground level but will sometimes splinter up the pole about 4 feet.

    I think your boat may be hitting those splinters but unlikely to be sitting on a solid pole. My experience tells me you are 99% probably good to go.

    Hope this gives you some comfort while you wait.

    We are about to leave for full time travel in our Newmar Ventana.
    Like Jason often said. “see you on the road”.


  2. Hi all,

    I’d followed your adventures a year or so back, but hadn’t checked in until recently, when I found you both in full flight from Irma. I also was following Irma closely, as a past Floridian with many ties still to the state. Anyway, I caught up with your last several month– congrats on the marriage!

    Your boating adventure brought to mind this song by Camille West. It might bring a rue smile.

    The Nervous Wreck of Edna Fitzgerald (Camille & Co.)

    Things work out. I wish you both the best. If you get up towards Idaho drop me a note.
    Best of luck,

  3. Looks like you lucked out being at the outside edge of the marina. Those towards the land side really look stacked up on each other and the bridge caught many that were probably at the mooring balls. Hope all goes well.

  4. Darn it. I evacuated ( rented a plane) and was in Pensacola over the weekend…should have popped over to say hi – and delivered a bottle of comfort. My RV in Tampa made it thru, house and boat too. We got lucky up here compared to the keys. As my dad says, things are things. People are priceless. ( He did the loop in a grand Banks). Keep us posted, help as you can. I rode out Andrew in the USVI in ’92 on a 55′ ketch. wild night. She looks to be listing a bit to port, but that could be a piling holding her down – or something. Stock that bus with everything you need and more for the effort. Also, realize that while you want to hurry to the boat, this is a YEARS long effort. After you have replaced ( hopefully not) Y-Knot, and finished the loop, this will still be a disaster for the Keys and points North. Mother Nature is a Bitch, and folks got complacent over the last decade about what she can do…. oh ,Chris – might as well start your fiberglass repair skills..that will come in handy. Good Luck – safe travels. I’ll be with others cheering you on from a distance.

  5. What a nightmare for you, up all night, listening to all that. I’m glad you’re safe and you have your “other” home. We hope your boat is in good shape. It’s in better shape than all those photos we saw of boats up on land and boats damaged in storage facilities!

  6. So excited to see Y-not was still there. You would think she was my boat!! You two both handled the situation with a cool level head very impressive and the amazing way you stay positive. Is this from you being Nomadic all these years or is it a skill set you already possessed ?

  7. You are in my prayers. I pray you are safe and Y not is safe as well. Keep us all updated when you know the facts. It’s so awful to see so many suffering. I live in Overland Park KS and the weather here is perfect right now. I don’t know what I would do if I lost everything. God help us.

  8. Try on fb “staying” riding it out upper Keys , they are checking marinas, they might go and check out your boat if you ask

  9. Looking very closely at the aerial picture I think your boat was protected on both sides from Burdines, and Panchos Fuel Dock buildings, that served as wind breakers. Interestingly enough, any slips further in did not have that advantage. I sincerely hope that the damage is only on the surface, and that you will get back soon – right now I understand Police is not letting people drive back into the keys.

  10. Since your boat is still where you left it you and Chris did exactly what you were supposed to do and did it well. Thanks for the updates; you have a lot of friends waiting to hear more news.

  11. Remember when Royal Caribbean was bringing her latest greatest (Allure? Oasis? Not sure) over here and it ran into some huge storm in the Atlantic? After it made it through, I thought, “Now that Captain will know what a seaworthy vessel he has.”
    That’s pretty much how I’m feeling about Y-Not right now.
    Thanks so much for keeping us in the loop.
    Not the José loop!

  12. Geeze, what an ordeal. I’m learning so much from how you have been dealing with all this, from the time Irma first showed as a possibility, on through. Thank you for your generosity in sharing this with us.
    Hoping for the best.

  13. It is floating so obviously the hull is intact. Props struts and rudders were at risk if it went over debris. Hullsides could be rubbed or cracked. Rubbed is cosmetic, cracked above waterline is easily fixed. Floating is good. Best to you as you make your way back to the boat.

  14. That she was still afloat means she probably didn’t set down onto a piling; holing would sink her pretty fast. It looks like you guys did a good job with the lines, and boats can be pretty resilient in a storm, so hoping for the best for Y-Not. Sea story to help you pass the time: I sailed in another lifetime, and rode out the tail end of a hurricane in Maine one night. Three windjammers rafted together, with 6 anchors set at various angles and positions. In the middle of the night, anchor lines got caught by a fishing boat that had dragged its own anchor and so my captain and I (was first mate) got to spend the rest of the night trading places in the yawl boat with engine at full bore, trying to keep the whole mess of us off the shore. The other windjammers were also in yawl boats doing the same. And of course, pouring rain with that fierce wind. Man, that was a night.

  15. Looks like good news so far! The marina doesn’t look too bad so hopefully you can get out to her when you get back. Glad you guys and Kiki and Zephyr are all safe and dry.

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