Hurricane Odile

Odile’s predicted winds on the left, predicted wave heights on the right.

The major milestone of this cruising year has been Category 4 Hurricane Odile, which reached La Paz in the wee hours of Monday September 15. It’s very conservative to say that winds were in excess of 100 MPH and Wikipedia reported 130 MPH. It was a big, nasty storm.

Satellite photo as Odile approached Cabo San Lucas. Predicted path (ultimately went more to the east).

Many areas within Baja California Sur lost electricity (92% according to Wikipedia) and had typical damage: windows broken, torn roofing, trees and vegetation destroyed, power and traffic lights and poles down. In the first week after the storm there was some flooding, fuel shortages, businesses closed, etc. Many of the most modest dwellings in the area, including some of the fishing villages along the Sea of Cortez, were severely damaged or destroyed by wind or flooding and there have been several campaigns to provide assistance to the most needful. We and others in the cruising community have donated cash, groceries, clothes and school supplies and household items.

Collapsed gas pump canopy. Drifter (center boat) at Atalana boat yard. (Dana/Bill photos)

The residents and cities of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo seemed to suffer the greatest damage including the international airport (and the Costco, ay caramba!) was offline for a few weeks. We have yet to be down there to see for ourselves, we may get a Costco “fix” next month.

“Inventory” of boats stranded or wrecked in La Paz. (some images may be multiples of one boat) (Dana/Bill photo)

Voyager was securely docked at Marina Palmira and had no damage. Two of our “sister ships” on the same dock experienced a little cosmetic scuffing while their boats tilted to rub the dock in the strong winds. We were in the Bay Area at the time and of course monitored the situation closely via the internet. The wonderful folks (Susan and Dennis Ross/Ross Marine) who watch our boat while we are away were able to send us a “so far so good” email on Monday morning. Then, telecommunications were offline for a few days until we heard further that all was well in fact for Voyager. Of course it was a little unnerving to not be there to observe for ourselves. It was also good for us to instead be in California “out of the way” of recovery/repair efforts and folks dealing with shortages (temporarily) at stores and gas stations.

The local “Mickey D’s” was shut down for awhile, but not our favorite taco stand!

Other sailors were not as fortunate. The majority of our personal friends were also docked in marinas and had none to minor damage. About 20 boats in the La Paz anchorage (not tied to a dock but instead at anchor or on a mooring), were grounded or sunk and three sailors were killed. Some of the sailors had the opportunity to shelter at a marina dock to avoid the worst of the storm and instead chose to stay “out;” that is the most unfortunate aspect in our opinion. Due to normal tidal currents, anchoring off La Paz can be tenuous in even good conditions. Furthermore, many boats fell upon one another (not secured properly?) at a dry storage yard next door to Marina Palmira, including our friend Ken on Drifter (hoping his damage was minimal; we still haven’t heard the diagnosis).

The La Paz boating community mobilized to help with both fundraising and physical labor. (Dana/Bill photo, thanks!)

In the weeks after the storm, a devoted contingent of the year-round boaters in La Paz helped to rescue many of the boats that were stranded on beaches and shoals. A few boat photos shared here were taken by our friends Dana and Bill a few days after the storm.

Several friends who were “on scene” have excellent reports. Jeanne and Tom on Eagle from La Paz and our San Francisco friends Brenda and Ted on Firefly from Puerto Escondido (Loreto area) . Both Eagle (in Marina Palmira) and Firefly (on a mooring in Puerto Escondido – a reputed “Hurricane Hole” that was not as protected as presumed) both were fine in the storm. Latitude38 magazine also provided reporting

Odile wreckage at Puerto Escondido, November 2014

We drove back to La Paz about 3 weeks after the storm had passed; the city was bouncing back quickly. Highway 1 (the only route from Tijuana to Cabo) was impassable in a few sections for a few days after the storm but the road was back to pretty normal quickly. We had one very short section with 6” or less of water to drive through. The entire peninsula is even greener than before, flowers blooming along the roadsides, and some dry lakes are no longer dry! All the rains have helped spur a Dengue (mosquito-borne illness) epidemic on the Baja, so we have been extra vigilant with the bug repellent lately.

Very green Highway 1 down the Baja. The one puddle we had to transit through.

We have been visiting the Loreto area for a few weeks, and there are still three wrecked boats to see that demonstrate the power of the storm. Several others are hauled out in the local boatyard with various degrees of damage.