Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Now that we've had a few days to ponder weathering a hurricane on the boat, it's time to evaluate how it went.

On the face of it, I realize that riding out a hurricane onboard a boat seems careless, cavalier, stupid. Yeah, but ours was calculated stupidity.

We've been riding out Outer Banks hurricanes on land, and securing our boats at dock, for 15 years. We are in familiar waters and have a good feel for how things will play out. Had we been far afield, our decisions would have been different.

First, let me throw out a retroactive blanket of forgiveness to everyone who didn't call ahead and offer us a place to stay. We stayed on the boat by choice, because a) we wanted to do everything we could to keep the boat safe, and b) we wanted to experience that level of storm, to hear 40-knot wind in the rigging, to see how the boat responded.

We get an A+ for predicting Earl's antics. He stayed offshore and blasted us with steady 40-50 knot winds with gusts up near 70 (we think). No water issues -- no water blowing out or flooding in.

The only thing that caught us unawares was the actual size, and therefore length, of the storm. In a closed-off cabin being tossed around in the clamor of pounding rain, yowling wind and groaning lines, it seemed interminable.

Were our lives in danger? No. Had the hurricane made a sudden change in course, we probably would have stayed ashore and kept watch.

Was the boat in danger? We were on the opposite side of the dock from the heavy wind, protected from derelict boats. The only boat next to us was a power boat, so there was no rigging to worry about. Nothing went wrong, but the wee hour scenarios went something like this:
--What if the pilings give way? That was a clear possibility. In that case, we would have had some serious banging around and likely a lot of damage. Everyone here was worried about the pilings. A large powerboat took one out a few months ago in a minor blow.
--What if the cleat on the dock gives way? Same as above.
--What if the staysail starts unfurling?

--Doubled up all our dock lines
--Removed the jib
--Removed the bimini

--If we tie up to a cleat on the dock, check its integrity. Otherwise, we'll fret about it all damn night.
--Remove the dinghy and put it ashore. We didn't have any trouble, just another precaution that seems prudent.
--Remove the staysail. We had no issue other than worrying about it. The time/effort in removing it would have been much less.
--Decide based on the storm if we should remove the main. Several dock walkers thought we were negligent in leaving it on. I noticed they did not come back by to say, "You were right." The main was safe because the prevailing wind direction came right on our nose (which is why we left it).

--Dropped two 5-gallon buckets on each side to arrest rocking motion. Jeez, it's impossible to know. We were definitely rolling around.  I now feel a certain kinship with ice cubes in a cocktail shaker.
--Staying on the boat. I wouldn't want to stay onboard in anything above 50 knots.

Finally, we offer a sincere apology to Cara Mia. We should not have been in the Outer Banks during hurricane season. Please forgive us for putting you through that.

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