Sailor weathers the storm for security reasons

POSTED: 10/27/14 4:53 PM

St. Maarten / By Milton G Pieters – After losing a boat back in 2004 when hurricane Ivan passed over Grenada, a second boat struck a container while travelling between Guadeloupe and Monteserrat and sleeping in a boat that was left on its side for 24 hours, most would agree that Philip Wessels has a wealth of experience.

Wessels, the owner of the ocean going vessel ‘Voyager’ is originally from Capetown South Africa and he has spent the past 14 years living on his boat. But what he went through during and after the passing of Gonzalo would even make the ‘Survivor Man’ shudder with fear, because his experiences were real.

Even in the midst of the travel advisory, dozens of boats in all shapes and sizes were still in open waters and as the storm surge approached, the gusting winds did not make it easy for boat owners to secure their boats.

Just like many others, Wessels was also caught off guard and what was predicted earlier to be a tropical storm turned out to be a strong hurricane whose awesome strength is still debatable. His nightmare began at the back of Explorer Island.

“I was waiting for the storm to start and about 6’ o clock another boat which was torn from its anchor dragged passed me and affected my moorings and I started drifting in the height of the strong winds. To show how strong the wind was, my boat was tied up to a 45 gallon drum filled with concrete and my motor was running at full speed and that is not normal,” Wessels said.

Because of the total darkness, Wessels was unaware of the carnage in the nearby marina which was already churning with debris at that point. “I was fighting to get my boat into the safety of sand split because there were no rocks and that was where I spent the night with the boat on it’s side.”

Wet, scared and exhausted, Wessels decided that the best plan of action under the prevailing conditions was to stay within the confines of his boat which was taking a battering. “The debris was washing around furiously and it cracked the hull above the waterline. I was in that spot for 24 hours and it was John Gifford who picked me up, but I was very lucky to be alive and my boat did not break up and sink,” he said.

According to Wessels, the water that entered the boat did a lot of damage, he lost his computer, all his electronics equipment and clothing. But long after the winds had subsided and the rain had ceased, Wessels was faced with yet another challenge, this time in human form.

“I am a cruiser and my decision to remain on my boat was to protect my belongings and the next morning when the looters arrived, I was there to chase them. But they still managed to take things from other boats, I think that the Coast Guards should have done a better job by keeping an eye on the damaged boats,” he stated.

However, Wessels firmly believes that Gonzalo was stronger than was predicted. “I think it was a category two because some wind measurements clocked 92 knots. But that was not my worst experience because Ivan was a category five,” he pointed out. In his damage assessment, Wessels said that he estimates his losses between seven to eight thousand dollars, but his boat will be sea worthy once again after he has done some major repairs.



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