HomeTravelWatch: Maltese Travelling Couple Ride Out Powerful Caribbean Hurricane On Their Yacht

Watch: Maltese Travelling Couple Ride Out Powerful Caribbean Hurricane On Their Yacht

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Hurricane Beryl is wreaking havoc on the Caribbean and a Maltese couple had a close experience with it.

Juan Borg Manduca and Jackie Beerman sailed out of Malta on their Dufour 520 on 1st September for a long trip that has so far taken them through the Mediterranean, down to the Canary Islands and Cape Verde and across the Atlantic to the Caribbean Sea.

Juan told Lovin Malta that they were well aware that hurricane season in the Caribbean usually lasts from June to November and they monitor the weather on a daily basis.

They were in Grenada when they heard talk that a storm was brewing and when weather models started aggravated their predictions, they sailed down to the south of the island and sought refuge in Egmont Bay.

“It’s the best bay for hundreds of miles because it has 360° protection, which means you get the wind but not the waves and the swells. We monitored a number of different weather models carefully because if we were going to take a direct hit, we would have sailed south to Trinidad and Tobago. However, weren’t forecast to be in the eye of the hurricane, but rather at the fringes of it.”

They arrived in Egmont last Thursday, a few days before the hurricane was forecast to hit, so as to give themselves enough time to find a decent location in the bay where they could properly anchor their yacht.

On Sunday, there was an exodus of boats to Trinidad but the Maltese couple remained where they were, comforted by the protection offered by the bay and the weather models, although aware that they were taking a risk.

They also opted against dropping a second anchor out of concern that the hurricane could drift the boat and tangle the chains together.

However, they did strip the boat and cockpit table down, removing items such as the Genoa sail, solar panels and dinghy from the dock to prevent them from getting blown away by the hurricane.

The couple, along with Juan’s 18-year-old daughter Emma, who visited them on holiday, bunkered down in their yacht and saw out the calm before the storm.

Earlier this week, the hurricane passed to the north of Egmont Bay, but while the Maltese travellers avoided the worst of it, they still had to face 50-55 knots of wind, as estimated by the weather models.

“As the boat turned 180°, it ripped the anchor out and, with the force of the wind, we started dragging.”

“There was tremendous rain. Jackie and I were in our heavy weather gear and my daughter was inside. We had life jackets prepared so that, if the worst came to the worst, we could jump off and get pushed to shore by the waves.”

Beryl at 11am earlier this week. The white dot at the bottom left is where Juan and Jackie were

Beryl at 11am earlier this week. The white dot at the bottom left is where Juan and Jackie were

“I also had a grab bag set up – an emergency bag with our passports, money, credit cards, torches, food, and other essentials.”

Manoeuvring through heavy winds was a struggle and Juan was grateful that his  yacht had a strong engine. They found a location to drop their anchor, all while swinging wildly, but it took two attempts before it held.

An Oyster Yacht nearby couldn’t re-drop its anchor and its owner had no other choice but to spend the next three hours speeding through the bay until the hurricane passed. Other boats which were left unattended ended up beached on the bay.

In hindsight, Juan is pleased with their decision not to follow the other boats south to Trinidad.

“It’s 80 miles south and we’d have had to leave in a hurry, which would have meant we couldn’t have checked out of Customs or checked in there,” he explained.

Hurricane Beryl is the earliest category five Atlantic hurricane in record going back some 100 years, and is being cited as an example of the real-world impact of climate change.

“Hurricanes form as a result of hot sea temperatures, and the sea is as hot as it usually gets in September, when the bulk of hurricanes arrive,” Juan said.

Juan and Jackie now plan to stock up on flour, rice, pasta, baby food and other supplies and help deliver aid to the small Grenadian island of Carriacou, which suffered severe infrastructural damage and lost its only hospital.

Juan and Jackie representing Malta at the start of the ARC+ race

Juan and Jackie representing Malta at the start of the ARC+ race

Afterwards, they plan to sail west to the ‘ABC’ islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao and north to the Bahamas.

It will be the latest leg of an epic adventure that saw them sail out of Malta through the Mediterranean, with stops at Menorca, Mallorca, Ibiza, Cartagena, Gibraltar, through the Strait of Gibraltar, and down south to the Canary Islands.

From there, they joined the ARC+ race, which takes sailors from the Canary Islands to Cape Verde, and across the Atlantic to Grenada. The only Maltese boat, they were placed in the hardest category (Class A) and finished fourth in their class, an achievement Juan is proud of.

Have you ever visited the Caribbean?

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Tim is interested in the rapid evolution of human society and is passionate about justice, human rights and cutting-edge political debates. You can follow him on Instagram or Twitter/X at @timdiacono or reach out to him at [email protected]

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