In May of 2017 we arrived exhausted and exhilarated in Great Bay, Saint Maarten. The leg from St. John, USVI to Saint Maarten was our final push east after five months of constant nose bashing into the trades. It was an imaginary finish line, marking the end of a long battle upwind. Finally, we would take a much needed break from boat life, return to the comforts of land, and haul out our boat baby for storage in Saint Maarten. During June and July, we flew in and out of the island for numerous family visits and special occasions. By the time August arrived, we began to prepare for a two month break back in New York. Talaria was stored on the hard at Bobby’s Marina, their airport location, with her mast off and stands bolted down into the concrete ground. Being that it was our first hurricane season in the Caribbean we had zero expectations for what qualified as sufficient hurricane preparation. We heard good things about Bobby’s and we kind of just went with that. By luck it turned out to be a smart decision for us, and even more so for Talaria.
“There’s not going to be a hurricane. What are the chances of that?” I casually said to Romain as we took down the solar panels. Ha. Hindsight is a beautiful thing, isn’t it? With Talaria’s mast off, all of her lines and sails were stored down below. We took her solar panels off as well, but at the last minute left the solar panel frame intact, mostly thanks to laziness on our part and blind faith. The bimini frame was folded, although still left attached in the cockpit, and our dodger remained upright until two days before the hurricane when our good friend kindly removed and stored the dodger safely. Aside from the outboard engine left in the cockpit and the boom strapped to the deck, Talaria was fairly well cleared if a storm were to strike. To our naïve astonishment, it certainly did.
Back in the city, worlds away from our Caribbean lives, we numbingly watched the weather in utter shock. Irma was making a beeline for Saint Maarten and all we could think about were the people and friends still there. As devastating as it was to know our boat would suffer through Irma, we kept telling ourselves we were lucky not to be there physically. We were safe, and whatever would happen to Talaria, we would deal with it in the aftermath.
The days and weeks after Irma passed Saint Maarten we received very little information. There was no power, no water, it was pure survival mode for most people. Thankfully were able to get in touch with friends to learn they were safe, and eventually we heard Talaria was okay. The boat behind her fell just underneath and the initial damage appeared minimal. It was a breath of relief, but with the amount of looting that was taking place and concerns about water damage to her interior, we remained skeptical and extremely worried to the conditions we would eventually return.
Originally we were booked to come back in early October, but the airport in Saint Maarten took a lot of damage and didn’t reopen until nearly two months after Irma. We postponed our return by one month, and when we got back on the island in early November we were stunned to see the devastation. The airport terminal was boarded up, with several planes turned upside down and crushed on the runway. Walking to the boatyard along the airport road we carefully took count of the boats unnervingly tossed out of the water and onto the streets. As we arrived in the boatyard I held my breath. I could see Talaria’s bow poking out amongst her neighbors, and immediately we looked for a ladder to get onto her deck. The Southerly 49 that was propped up against Talaria was removed, and in its place remained a fair sized hole, just above the waterline. “Well, we definitely will need some work,” stating the obvious as I examined Talaria’s belly and rudder. With the twelve-foot ladder in place, we climbed on board and began to inspect the damage on deck. The teak toe rail took a hit by who knows what, the solar panel frame completely flew off and disappeared without a trace, the bimini frame was bent, the pushpit suffered a blow, the compass cover was gone, and we found some water damage to the floorboard near the companionway below. Miraculously, she didn’t take on any structural damage. Talaria was actually okay. She needed some love and attention, but overall our girl survived beautifully.
Once the initial inspection was completed, we got straight to work. There was a healthy coating of salt, sand, and dust everywhere. We spent hours washing the saloon and galley, consoling Talaria, and ourselves, throughout the cleaning process. It was back to sweaty, humid, boat projects without end type of days. Exhausting work but it was gratifying and tangible. With each day we were one step closer to being back on the water. We located contractors, made insurance claims, and completed projects that had long been on our to-do list. It appeared our three-month hiatus was proving to be worthwhile, we were reinvigorated and eager to get Talaria back in ship shape to sail once again.
In full repair mode we got her bottom completely redone, scraped and sanded off all those layers of chipped paint, with a brand new coat of primer and two coats of ablative (we went with Interlux Pacific Plus in Red). The hole on her transform was refiberglassed, repainted (twice because we made an error thinking we were a midnight blue when actually we’re jet black), and got a new sticker with our name and port (New York at last!). The pushpit was repaired along with most of the teak on the stern toerail. We rebuilt the solar panel frame, did lots of sanding and varnishing, replaced the navigation light, rewired the mast, installed a new faucet in the galley, recaulked the galley sink, and even got a brand new marine toilet – this last one is by far the most luxurious of upgrades. We still need to get her bimini frame fixed and would like to complete the teak work, but overall Talaria is looking fantastic.
We’re extremely lucky to be back on the water and we’re trying to make the most of the few months we have left. So for now we’re heading a little bit further south before we must return west towards Florida. It sure feels good to be sailing once again.