Two weeks from today, I’ll be in the middle of a Caribbean island-hopping cruise.
Before you get too jealous, let’s be sure there is still an island left in the Caribbean. The way things are going, that is not a given.
Hurricanes and tropical storms have decimated these erstwhile tropical paradises. And going back to 1976, hurricanes and tropical storms have wreaked havoc with my life. The link is uncanny but it’s there.
We’ll start with our honeymoon in November of 1977 (if you’ve done the math now, you’ll see that was 40 years ago, hence the cruise).
This one was benign. It didn’t even have a name, unless “Tropical Depression 9” counts. When you’re on Paradise Island in the Bahamas, where all the TVs are locked up somewhere so guests are forced to go to the casinos to gamble, you don’t get to see a daily weather report.
So, on Nov. 13, we woke up to howling wind and rain. It was the first day of our honeymoon that wasn’t postcard-perfect.
We were warned not to go on the beach because of a possible storm surge and heavy winds. Of course, we walked the beach. Somewhere in our photo albums, there are pictures of me with my hair (I had more back then) flying around and with a decided list in the direction of the wind.
This whole phenomenon actually started in 1976 with Hurricane Belle. As a first-year reporter for the late-great United Press International, my bureau manager sent me down to Hyannis on about 15 minutes notice to cover the storm. It was supposed to clobber the Cape.
I got down there, reserved — I think — a 5-by-5 room that had been converted from a closet, and found all the rest of the media contingent that had gathered at the civil defense station.
I didn’t know what to expect, but for a 22-year-old kid on what was, essentially, his first major non-sports assignment, it was exciting. So exciting, in fact, that I’ve had a special fascination for following storms ever since. Just like Jim Cantore.
The only problem was there was no storm. As they say, it zigged when everyone expected it to zag, took a pretty destructive path through central Massachusetts, and bypassed the Cape entirely.
All I got out of the deal was a gorgeous night on a beach that gave me a clear view across the water of the Kennedy compound.
In both 1978 and 1979, storms (including the famous blizzard) gave me my first-ever ride on an MDC amphibious rescue boat, and Hurricane Gloria in 1985 found me working at The Item, and going up on the roof with Ralph Nelson to make sure the satellite dish was secure.
In 1991, there was Bob, which really hit the Cape with a wallop, but had enough left to do some significant damage along the eastern coast of Massachusetts, including Lynn.
We were to host a family reunion the following weekend, and I’d spent the previous week cleaning up my yard. The storm undid everything I’d done. It dumped copious amounts of acorns from trees — more than I’d cleaned up the previous week.
The heck with it, I said. Not doing this twice. So I did no more than I had to so that the yard would look presentable and hoped for the best.
The cookout turned into a non-event. Most of my family stayed home. Guess what they were all doing? If you guessed “cleaning up after Bob” you’d be correct.
I didn’t have another brush with a storm for 19 years. This time, it was supposed to be a cruise to Bermuda. We never got there because Bermuda had to contend with Hurricane Igor, a monster of a storm that forced the Norwegian Cruise Line to redirect our trip to Cocoa Beach, Fla., and then Nassau.
I fell in love with Cocoa Beach and “I Dream of Jeannie Way” (the most stolen street sign in America, according to the guy who drove our tour bus) and would have gladly stayed there and taken up residence in Ron Jon’s Surf Shop if I’d been able to.
Nassau was a giant letdown, especially when we found out the hotel, and the entire landscape where we’d spent our honeymoon, was gone — with that Atlantis monstrosity built in its place.
And for a guy who loves the ocean, there wasn’t a public beach to be found anywhere in Nassau.
A year later, we were at it again. We were at Gettysburg this time, having spent a powerfully moving week touring battlefields and gravesites connected with that historic Civil War battle. We even survived a small earthquake.
We’d just left, to finish our vacation in Philadelphia, looking forward to spending two days drinking in all the history there.
We made it through one. Hurricane Irene was knocking at our doorstep, and we had to beat a hasty retreat to drive home. And the storm followed us all the way. In fact, it rained so hard on I-91 in Connecticut I literally couldn’t see out the window.
All of which brings us to today and our 40th anniversary cruise, which we booked in June. And we watched from afar as Hurricanes Jose and Maria tore through two of the islands — St. Maartin and St. Thomas — on our itinerary. Needless to say, the cruise will be redirected to two other islands.
Now, I realize that being marginally affected by this string of hurricanes in no way compares to having your life turned upside down — or worse — by them. Compared to anyone severely affected by Harvey, Jose and Maria, these are petty inconveniences.
But it amazes me to think of how much of my life has revolved around storms, whether it’s the Blizzard of ’78, Hurricane Gloria or the no-name storm of 1991.
Perhaps my theme song should simply be “Stormy Weather.”