Hurricane Irene: Preparations

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Hurricane Irene was looming below the Carolinas and the panic level was pretty high.  We had get the boat to somewhere safe. The forecast was something like:

  • Friday: Sunny and beautiful
  • Saturday: Rain all day, building to obnoxious rain and possible tornadoes
  • Sunday: Category 1 or 2 hurricane making landfall directly on New Jersey

…so it was to our advantage to take care of business of Friday. I had to work, but asked to work a half day from home to cut down on travel time to the shore. Jen also took a half day, but her half is over much sooner than mine, so she went down to the marina without me. By the time I arrived around 4:00, she already had the sails and boom off and the bilge preemptively drained.
Trixie’s was buzzing. There was a steady stream of boats being pulled out and the marina had a lot of extra people on hand to keep the noobs and part-timers from having to jockey four thousand times to get their trailers down the ramp. Not sure if it was the spectacle of it all or what, but there was actually a news crew on the scene from some channel called “News 12” which I only found out later is from Long Island. Jen was hoping to avoid making the news because she was wearing “taking down the mast” clothes and I was hoping avoid being filmed taking down the mast, fearing a headline of “Local Sailor Invents Two New Profanities.” As it turned out, only the bow of our boat made the final cut, in a scene where the focus was a powerboat being pulled up the ramp.

It took us a little longer than expected to get the mast down. Jen was nervous to work the line to help it down—we’ve historically brought along a friend to do that operation—but it went smoothly. The time-consuming part was preparing the rigging for travel, securing the mast, and figuring out what to do with the furler foil. Although we keep the boat on the trailer and launch and land it every time we sail, we don’t trailer it on the road much at all, and never since adding the furler. In fact, I’d previously towed her exactly once: on the day that we moved her to Trixie’s, which was the sum total of my towing experience.

Once we got her rigged, we had a couple additional problems to deal with. Our swivel jack, which is not a full season old, seized a few weeks ago. We’ve been working around it because with the tongue extension out, I get enough leverage to easily lift the trailer, and we always have the extension out when using the ramp. Of course, we can’t go down the road with the extension out, so I had to replace it in the middle of hurricane preparation. Jen helped and it wasn’t too bad. We also got a proper strap for the stern, since it scared the hell out of me when when we brought it back from Baltimore with only a scrap of ½” rope and what I think amounted to a seven half-hitches knot holding it on the trailer. Without any sort of instructions, getting the strap threaded through the ratcheting mechanism correctly was like one of those bent nail puzzles in the waiting area in a Cracker Barrel, except that instead of screaming kids hepped up on rock candy and the threat of red eye gravy, my task was complicated by near complete darkness and the mental image of my boat bouncing merrily off of the trailer. Then, of course, there was the corroded rat’s nest of wire, electrical tape, and cracked plastic that is supposed to be my trailer lights. I attempted to “fix” them using even more electrical tape and a pretty sketchy knowledge of where electrons go. Two lights eventually started working, although they happened to be the useless ones on the front of the trailer, but we had to go.

Once again, Val was a huge help. He had offered to let us keep Fortuitous at his house, which cut about 55 miles of no-tail-light travel off of our trip. A cop followed us almost 10 miles and I expected to be pulled over the entire time, but with evacuations all over the place and people scrambling to secure their property, I think he knew the deal. He may have just been keeping an eye on us, protecting us from less observant drivers. The drive was mercifully uneventful, and we got the boat safely on high ground pretty late in the evening. After hanging out with Val and Martina for a bit, we made our way back to Trixie’s to get Jen’s car and head home.

The shore was in a weird state, which I only got to fully appreciate when I wasn’t focused on the boat. There were police blockades on roads heading to the islands, evacuations all over the place, and gas lines at the few stations that still had any fuel. We weren’t sure if the places we were passing would have been closed at that hour anyway or if they’d closed because of the storm, but the only businesses that seemed open were bars, and business was good. We picked up Jen’s car and took one last look around the marina. The red sailboat that the drunk people couldn’t get out of the water was sitting with its transom on the ground and the tongue way up in the air, and the parking lot was now full of boats on trailers. Bob’s yard was also covered in boats, but it’s never very high above sea level.  All we could do was hope for the best.

“Prepare to fend off the bridge abutment.”


1 thought on “Hurricane Irene: Preparations

  1. Chip: I thought you were a trailer truck driver the way you backed that boat up and on to the grass! Shur had me fooled!

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