Tuesday, September 6, 2011

We Interrupt this Program: Hurricane Irene

Anchor lines off the starbord side

August 27, 2011, White Stone, VA.  We had tied up almost two weeks earlier at Jim's dock in the peaceful Northern Neck of Virginia.  The first week he had an earthquake, the first in forever in these parts, then in the second week we have to face Hurricane Irene. Now just the thought of facing Irene's fury had me worried; you see Irene is my now deceased sweet mother's name, and I knew I didn't want to mess with Irene. However I did hope that I might have some connection, and that Irene might spare us and the boat.  She did.  But not without a scare.  OneEighty was tied up across the "T" on Jim's dock, so she had lines on the port side, but there were no poles on the starbard side on which to tie her off the dock.  With the help of Jim, Carl and neighbors and friends, we were able to set three anchors on the starbord side that worked very well in keeping OneEighty off the dock when the strong winds came.  Since I had driven back up to Virginia late Friday (763 miles), we were forced to work on the boat's lines in 20-35 knott winds on Saturday morning, just hours before the storm hit.  We used Jim's seadoo to take the anchors out as far as we had line, and then pulled the lines in with the winches on the boat to set the anchors.  Having strong winds at that point actually helped us in setting the anchors. 

We put every fender we could beg borrow or steal on the dock side of the boat so that if she did get into the pier, we might minimize the damage.  Fortunatelly since we had just come through the Erie Canal just weeks earlier, we had a plethora of fenders, however we had left the fender boards on the dock in Catskill NY when we put the masts up.  Jim's neighbors provided fender boards that played a big part in keeping the pier piling out of the boat. At the same time you have to adjust the lines so that they are still working with a tidal surge of 4-6 feet when the storm is raging at it's peak.  That's all we expected for the location we were in, and fortunately, it came in less than that, just a foot and a half over the dock at high tide. In 50 to 70 kt. winds during the height of the storm the anchors held the boat off the dock.  We were as prepared as we could be, and of course we were lucky.  If the Hurricane had nailed us with 100+ kts of wind and huge tidal surges, it probably wouldn't matter much what you did. Once the winds get up over 35kts, there isn't much you can do to adjust the lines on a 22,000 lb boat.  So the question remains, for a hurricane what do you do with the boat?  Do you tie it up with special hurricane care as we did?, do you double anchor the boat out in a protected harbor? or do you do as the insurance company suggests, haul the boat out of the water?.  All of these are good methods, but none of them are perfect.  They are all better than doing nothing, though.  Leaving a boat tied up with shoestring guarantees damage.  We have used our hurricane tie-up methodology successfully for the last 25 years for all of the Hurricanes that came to Gulf Shores in the Gulf of Mexico and have had little or no damage on our old boat, Briar Patch. 

A neighbors boat anchored in the creek.

One of the good things about a hurricane is the day after.  Some of the prettiest sailing weather comes after a hurricane, and it is great to sail in the cleansed air.....if you still have a boat.

Day after the storm.  We had a very low tide
since Irene had  pushed the water out of the bay.

To see more pictues go to:   https://picasaweb.google.com/101211161196102038779/HurricaneIrene?authkey=Gv1sRgCNSyhK-9oOq6TQ#5649281445030122226

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