Guadeloupe after Hurricane Maria

Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe, Wednesday, September 20: Twenty-four hours after Hurricane Maria hit Guadeloupe

“I know what it’s like to ride out a hurricane, and I’ve done it every year since I was born. But this time, it’s different. The hurricanes are stronger and more frequent. We’re emotionally drained and we know that hurricane season isn’t over yet. Since September 10, two Category Five hurricanes’ Irma and Maria have hit the Antilles, causing massive destruction on Saint Martin and Dominica. As we stand at the reception desk of the waterfront hotel in Pointe-à-Pitre, the manager describes the situation to us, including the fact that there’s no running water or Wifi. Along with Race for Water’s land-based team, we’ll spend our first night in Guadeloupe in this hotel ; Race for Water is still out at sea, to avoid the worst of the hurricane. We’re all exhausted and we head to bed.

Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe, Thursday, September 21: The calm between storms

We get up at dawn and head toward the city to assess the damage. Although it looks like most buildings were spared, Maria’s wrath is clearly visible: the streets and sidewalks are blocked by downed trees and branches, and boats are washed up on the shore. The sky is the color of lead and the humidity is crushing. But all the same, we feel lucky when we think of the storm’s magnitude.

Before noon, Race for Water appears over the southern horizon. Franck, Luce, and Annabelle have been waiting for her, and they talk to the marina staff about finding a different mooring, since the violent winds caused some damage in the port. Aurélie is here with us to welcome Race for Water into port, and she’s thrilled to be able to get out of the house. “The government had asked us to stay indoors with enough food and water to last until the curfew was lifted.” She tells us about a hair-raising night, with wind gusts up to 200 kilometers an hour. But her house had no serious damage. “We were really lucky. But the western part of the island that we call Basse-Terre was hit much harder. The road to it is cut off,” she tells us.

By early afternoon, Race for Water is moored and we rush to greet the crew. They were able to chart a course around the massive storm, and conditions were relatively good. They’ve barely disembarked from the ship when they’re all asking, “How are conditions on the island? Was there a lot of damage?” To answer that question, we have to go to the hardest-hit area.

 

Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe, Saturday, September 22: Life gets back to normal

In order to understand the damage caused by the hurricane, and to study the plastics pollution that the storm caused, we leave at dawn for Basse-Terre, on the western side of the island. “It should be interesting to look at the mouths of the rivers and the beaches nearby, because trash always piles up there when it rains a lot,” says Peter Charaf, media coordinator for the Race for Water Foundation. We take a road through a dense forest, and the trees around us are completely shredded. It’s as if the wind came through like a buzz-saw, crushing entire swaths of vegetation as it passed. Along the coast, the roads and waterfront neighborhoods are littered with boulders, rocks, and sand. A resident in Trois-Rivières tells us, “Our houses are really well-built, and only ten roofs blew off.” The beaches are covered with driftwood and we see a few pieces of discarded plastic. There’s some pollution, but not much. A young man sits in front of his wooden hut holding a broom. He tells us, “In Bouillante, NGOs and local residents came to clean up the trash. We all want to preserve the oceans and we know that plastics waste is a problem.” This is good news for the Race for Water Foundation, and it shows the impact of regular beach cleanups. It’s only been a few days since a Category Five hurricane came through and the countryside is a mess. But life in Guadeloupe is beginning to get back to normal. It’s fortunate that the people of Guadeloupe are environmentally aware, but some neighboring islands aren’t so lucky.

 

In Guadeloupe !

Today the Race for Water vessel arrived in Pointe-à-Pitre (Guadeloupe) where the Odyssey aims to bring support and solutions to the local population. Dock next to the Memorial ACT, the navigation was intense further to the passage of the cyclone Maria.

Return in images on this last navigation between the Dominican Republic and Guadeloupe.
https://youtu.be/jvoNcQzJNnc
When you’re told there’s an emergency…

 

Second in command in rotation with Anne-Laure, I’m in Paris at the moment. I should be above the Atlantic, heading for Guadeloupe. The flight is postponed of course to give Maria a chance to roll through leaving a trail of destructive madness in her wake. It leaves me the time to think about our planet and our mission.

Three destructive hurricanes: Harvey, Irma and now Maria, and the season’s not over yet… This year has been particularly rife with hurricane activity on the Atlantic seaboard and a storm is also taking shape on the Pacific coast towards Mexico. The hurricanes in question have again managed to set the records tumbling in terms of wind strength, stirred-up seas and rain with the obvious consequences and the damage inflicted.

And this sad crop of records is the same right around the planet, with dangerous weather phenomena increasing in frequency and in strength globally and in worrying fashion. How is it possible that some still doubt that climate change exists?

Our planet is so beautiful, it seems so obvious to me that we need to protect it, that we need to take action… Obviously, you have to question what one little person, a little human being, can do against 3 hurricanes, against the climatic imbalance.

It’s easy to let yourself get overwhelmed, let it get on top of you. That’s not how I see it though. I want to fight, I want to participate, I want to do my bit. I don’t know what state Guadeloupe will be in on our arrival, but I’m sure we’ll be able to take action. Assisting the locals all we can if need be and presenting our mission of course.

We’re spreading our message of hope, sharing the energy transition solutions, which we’re trialling day after day on the boat. Indeed, these renewable energies are enabling us to make headway calmly but surely, which enables us to move the Race For Water platform around for hosting guests and exchanging with them.

We’re showing that it’s possible, that we have to believe in it, that solutions exist, and of course, as if we needed a reminder, that there’s an emergency… I hope that Guadeloupe will be in a state to listen to our message, and if this isn’t case, I hope that those who are not affected by these climatic disasters will.

Annabelle

 

New hurricane alert from MARIA resulting in a delayed arrival in Guadeloupe!

The summer season in the Antilles arc is often punctuated by a string of tropical storms. Though this is a familiar phenomenon, it is no less impressive and this year appears to be particularly intense and unusual. Indeed, the specialists agree that the frequency of these meteorological events and their violence are nothing short of exceptional.

Officially starting on 1 June, the 2017 hurricane season in the North Atlantic Ocean is set to extend through until 30 November 2017 according to the World Meteorological Organisation.

In the meantime, the various weather forecasting centres are continuing to send out alerts about the formation of these low pressure centres and their evolution.

In this way, on Sunday 17 September, the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) confirmed that storm MARIA has moved up to the status of a hurricane.

This latest hurricane is due to pass the Antilles arc and more especially Guadeloupe this Monday evening. The red alert has been triggered in Guadeloupe. As a result, on Friday Pascal Morizot and the crew of Race for Water took the wise decision to adopt a course a long way to the south of the zone in question. This longer and safer detour will enable them to circumnavigate this tropical low, which will generate heavy seas and winds bordering on 150-180 km/hr as it rolls through.

Aboard the boat, all is well and you can track Race for Water’s course on the cartography, which is accessible here: http://tracker-odyssey.addviso.org/fr/

The latest ETA is scheduled for the afternoon on Thursday 21 September in the Marina du Fort in Pointe à Pitre.

Hurricane Irma: the decisions taken for safety reasons

On 7 September, hurricane Irma struck the Dominican Republic. A week prior to this date, whilst we were moored in the military port of Santo Domingo, busying ourselves with boat maintenance and checks for wear and tear, that day’s weather report alerted us to the fact that a potentially dangerous weather system was forming. Given the forecasts, we abandoned our plan to sail to Samana, to the north of the island. Indeed, the grib files clearly showed a vortex forming, which was set to grow over the coming days. The ensuing period only served to confirm the approach of hurricane Irma. On the weather charts we were watching the fierce winds sweeping across the heavenly islands as they turned into a hellish situation, severely impacting on the local populations. The first consequence of this in the port of Santo Domingo was that the entire military fleet moved to a more sheltered zone.

Grib file indicating the strength and direction of the winds from hurricane Irma

 

We ended up on our own on what had turned into a long, deserted dock. We studied and checked the various options possible, but nothing seemed to us to be suitable for such a special boat. Indeed, the floats on the Race For Water are ‘wave-piercing’ and sit very low to the water, the deck barely 70cm above the surface. This unique feature meant that we couldn’t keep our fenders in position in the event of heavy seas. As such, we couldn’t tie the boat alongside with such little protection. One of the possibilities was to leave port and sail due east in order to distance ourselves from Irma, but that didn’t seem necessary in our view.

SIT AND WAIT

As a result, we took the option to remain in the military port. We positioned the vessel at anchor, stern facing towards the dock, which was a good distance away, tripling up on the mooring warps for added safety. The harbour authorities were quite concerned by the fact that we were staying in the military port. However, the forecasts were not a worry for the south coast of the Dominican Republic where we were located. Irma’s trajectory was due to take her to the north of the island. 20 knots of southerly wind were announced, whereas we had 35 knots of established wind in reality. When the wind picks up like that, well beyond the forecasts, it’s a little worrying. However, the weather isn’t an exact science. It does make you wonder how far it’s going to increase to. At that point, we decided to add our towing warp to the mix so as to bolster up our mooring system. “Too strong never failed” as any sailor will tell you. Shortly after that, the wind eased and dropped back down to the forecast 20-knot southerly wind.

The stormy skies of the hurricane have rolled through now. Aboard the boat we were all too aware of how lucky we were to be on the right side of the island. The port of “Sans Soucis” or ‘No Worries” is aptly named….

Jean- Marc

 

Plastic: vast amount of work in Dominican Republic

A fortnight on from her arrival in the Dominican Republic, the Race for Water vessel is still dockside in the military port of Sans-Souci in Santo Domingo and the team is right in the thick of things, working with the young generations, the general public and the institutions to raise awareness about the struggle against plastic pollution.

Amidst the enthusiasm encountered by our odyssey and the reality on the ground, the crew is very much aware of the vast amount of work that sadly still remains to be done in terms of plastic waste, as shown in the video below (©Peter Charaf/Race for Water).