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The odds of a major storm hitting any particular spot between Wilmington, NC, and Myrtle Beach, SC are between 2% and 3% per year. As I write this, both areas are at risk from Hurricane Florence. Some thoughts.
Cape Fear National Golf Club, Leland, NC (near Wilmington)
I write this as Hurricane Florence bears down on the area of the coast where North Carolina and South Carolina meet. A slight shift southward and the surge of ocean water could move across the marshland that separates our vacation home from the ocean. That has not happened in the 20 years we have owned the condo in Pawleys Island, SC.
The chances of a major storm hitting Myrtle Beach, less than a half hour north of Pawleys Island, is 2.6% per year, according to an appendix in the book Hurricane Watch: Forecasting the Deadliest Storms on Earth. If I do the math correctly, that works out to about one major storm every 38 years. But with Hurricane Hugo in 1989, which devastated Charleston, one hour to the south, and caused significant damage in Pawleys Island; Floyd in 1999; and Matthew in 2016, something is going on. (The same experts say the probability of any hurricane, major or not, hitting Myrtle Beach is once every 10 years. In the last couple of decades, it has been more like once every 4 years.)
I will skirt the climate change debate here since I am not an expert, although I do believe the science on the ozone layer and some basic assumptions about the effects on climate. The question for this forum is whether the threat of hurricanes should cause a couple otherwise interested in a coastal home to consider one elsewhere.
The answer to that question is purely personal choice. My wife and I understood there was a threat of hurricanes in Pawleys Island when we put a deposit on the condo in 2000. And we have been emboldened, somewhat, by how well our home has survived the storms since then (although Pawleys Plantation suffered a lot of tree damage and road flooding during Hurricane Matthew in 2016.) Unless Hurricane Florence totally wipes away our vacation home, my wife Connie and I will stay. As she said in a lemonade-from-lemons moment yesterday, “This might be our chance to redecorate.” If that sounds glib, understand that insurance we have through FEMA covers all flood damage and the homeowner’s insurance through our condo’s property owner’s association covers HVAC, appliances and our household possessions. To be honest, I am more worried about long-lasting damage to the Pawleys Plantation golf course; floods go away but 100 year old live oak trees cannot be replaced.
I am most worried, though, about my neighbors who live there full-time. One couple in our string of condos has decided to stay and ride out the storm, despite the “mandatory” evacuation called for by the Governor and local officials. Because the condo units have two floors each, our friends will probably be able to escape the expected 10 feet of storm surge—barely. (The condos are about ¾ mile from the ocean.)
Others of our neighbors have gone to stay with relatives just a couple of miles inland, which doesn’t sound far enough given the forecasts for both storm surge and persistent rainfall. Another couple picked their boat out from its ocean-side dock and drove it to their home in Columbia, two hours away. Columbia is expected to get up to a foot of rain over the weekend.
It seems trite to say it, but I will anyway: You can replace your household possessions but not your lives. My message to those in the path of this storm: Take every precaution possible. Be safe.
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Trade Bait: How to Use Your Vacation Home to Go on Vacation
This month, I am heading to Scotland for 10 days of golf and relaxation. After three days in Edinburgh, including rounds of golf at the famed North Berwick Links and Dunbar Links, I head to the Kingdom of Fife and the quaint fishing village of Crail, located on the North Sea and home to 36 holes of splendid golf. This will be my fourth visit to Crail and, yet, if it weren’t for a vacation home my wife and I own in South Carolina, I might have never heard of Crail and would have missed out not only on wonderful seaside golf but also on a great new friendship.
It all goes back to 2006 when I signed up for a membership in Homelink International, a home exchange program. Homelink works like this: You create a listing on the firm’s website and indicate the details about your home that you are willing to exchange for another, and you specify where in the world you would like to go. People see your listing, and you see theirs, and one of you contacts the other about an exchange. The exchange can be either simultaneous—you stay in their home at the same time they stay in yours—or you arrange with the other party for the most convenient dates. This works especially well when both parties have vacation homes to offer in the exchange, as we and George and Dorothy in Scotland did in 2008.
George contacted me through Homelink inquiring about a swap of their cottage in Crail for our condo in Pawleys Island, SC. My college golfer son and I had talked about a golfing trip to Scotland; and the fact we could stay in a two-bedroom house just a few miles from 36 holes of links golf at the Crail Golfing Society and just nine miles from the Old Course in St. Andrews made the decision to swap homes easy. After a few days in Edinburgh with my wife Connie and daughter Jennie, Tim and I headed to Crail as Connie and Jen took the train to see family in London.
George and Dorothy, whose full-time home is in Glasgow, had spent two weeks at our Pawleys Island condo in April 2008, and Tim and I spent a week in Crail two months later. (George advised that I could return to Crail at any time for the week not spent originally, which I did in 2016 and am doing again next week. George and Dorothy have an open invitation to stay in Pawleys Island any time they want.
We are way past the point of a purely home exchange relationship with George and Dorothy. A few years ago, they stayed with us in Connecticut before embarking on a tour of New England, and returned for another overnight before heading for the airport and their return to Glasgow. They played golf with Tim during a vacation in Florida, where he lives, and they stopped to see my daughter Jen in Vermont during their New England sojourn. They are like family to us.
Such friendships may not be the rule for all home exchanges, but we have gotten far more in value than the modest membership costs to join Homelink. An annual membership for access to international listings, and to post your own listing for the world to see, is just $99; for domestic listings, the cost is $55. When you figure that a home to rent overseas can be in the many hundreds of dollars per week, $99 seems like a fine investment.
Larry Gavrich Founder & Editor Home On The Course, LLC