Captain's Blog

Hurricane Hugo Reconsidered

In the early part of this week, one could see the impact of Hurricane Hugo, which had a direct hit on Charleston. However, sailors know the worst winds in the Northern hemisphere whirl in a counterclockwise direction. The winds to the north of the eye come off the water, the winds in the south are somewhat slowed by passage over land. So, as I passed through the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, it was still clear that what was lucky for people was unlucky for wildlife. McClellanville, a fishing and shrimping port, faced an 18′ storm surge compared with Charleston’s 10′.

A crusty old salty fisherman was at anchor just out of the waterway and I came up below him and threw out my anchor, as I wanted to check the oil level on my engine (it’s just been rebuilt). All was fine, and as I came up he shouted “Nice boat”—an invitation for a little gam. After a bit, I pulled anchor and, as I came by, I shouted out, “Where were you when Hugo hit?” He said he was in a shelter, but his brother decided to ride the storm out in his boat. When the storm surge came, he said their boat was driven right over the roof of a house. OMG. His brother lived to tell the tale.

One encounters old growth cypress trees along this part of the waterway, and so many had large branches snapped off, which got me wondering where the bird nesting cycles were at at that point, like the osprey and bald eagles. Where they away, only to return to all their nests being lost?