Charlotte resident abandons sailing trip, bracing for Hurricane Dorian’s impact on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Charlotte man returns home after Hurricane Dorian ends vacation to Virgin Islands

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - One Charlotte native has been sailing around the Caribbean Sea for more than three weeks on a 49-foot catamaran sailboat.

Chris Heck, a new retiree of Duke Energy, had big plans for his much-needed vacation. Paired with his friend Terry Knotts, who owned a boat docked in Tortola (British Virgin Islands), the two sailed to St. Martin, Anguilla and St. Kitts before getting word that Hurricane Dorian was headed their way.

Thankfully, they had over a day to get the boat back to shore and docked at Tortola. With time on their side, Heck said, not only were they not stressed, but they didn’t think Dorian would be a big deal.

“We really thought it was going to be a minor event,” Heck said.

A look into Hurricane Dorian on St. Thomas

After successfully docking and strapping down their boat for hurricane season, the Heck and Knotts hopped one island over to St. John to wait out the storm.

“The attitude on St. John was that this was going to be a minor detail,” Heck said. “It was pretty nonchalant.”

Nonchalant until Wednesday morning when they saw the report that Hurricane Dorian was moving towards the east end of Puerto Rico. With the hurricane’s new trajectory, St. John started to prepare for a hit. The eye of the storm was due to hit right next door on St. Thomas.

“Dangerous winds will continue in the Virgin Islands, Culebra, Vieques, and portions of Puerto Rico during the next few hours. Heavy rainfall over portions of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands could produce flash flooding through Thursday morning.”
National Hurricane Center

Heck said a noon curfew was issued and lines began to form outside the markets as the island’s residents stocked up on water, food and other necessities.

After stocking up on their own food, Heck said he and Knotts checked in at the St. John Inn where they had the opportunity to watch the storm pass under a covered area. Even under a covering, Heck said he got knocked down twice trying to get footage.

Hurricane Dorian on St. John

Even though the bulk of the storm has passed, Heck says there are still some pretty strong gusts. Residents are advised to remain indoors and the curfew remains intact until 6 a.m. Thursday. All businesses, markets and ports remain closed.

“It’s still very shut down here on St. John,” Heck said.

Much of Puerto Rico missed the brunt of Dorian as it passed slightly to the east, directly over St. Croix and St. Thomas - only 14 miles to the left of where Heck was posted on St. John.

The power remains out on the island and Heck says that it’s not expected to come back on until Thursday. But while they may be in the dark, the sense of community is strong as people share resources, food and whatever else they can.

Charlotte resident abandons sailing trip, bracing for Hurricane Dorian’s impact on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands

“Everybody in the hotel here has just come together,” Heck said.

Heck said, if all goes to plan, he and Knotts hope to be on the 4:40 flight out of St. Thomas Thursday. While their sea adventure may have been cut short, Charlotte will be happy to see these two men home safe and sound.

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