We’re Ready, Irene

The full force of Hurricane Irene has not yet hit the Chesapeake Bay area but already I see the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow: Fellow sailors.

Irene is our first hurricane as boat owners. We experienced one or two tropical storms but nothing of consequence; nothing that caused us to put Halcyon on the hard before the end of the season. Irene’s path changed overnight so that the intended track is farther west than originally forecast. “Plan for the worst, hope for the best” is all one can do when trying to deal with a moving target such as a hurricane. We take it day by day, listen to the experts and shake in a bit of our own common sense, then we hope that we made the right decisions.

The marina hauled Halcyon Thursday morning. I wrapped extra line around the outside of the mainsail cover and removed the dodger. As the yard staff motored her over to the lift, I was still on board packing up small stuff that I didn’t feel like replacing should she float away to the Azores: sailing gloves, paper charts, GPS puck, various power cords, hand held VHF radios, an unopened bag of Cheetos. I decided that the Blue Coat gin had to fend for itself. Sorry. I put the bottle in the galley sink to give it a fighting chance. There was only enough left for half a cocktail anyway.

After I jumped off the deck and onto the floating dock I stood by as she rolled past me in the travel lift to her temporary spot until after the storm. Barnacles clung to her rudder and belly and stringy muck wept brownish goo onto the gravel below. I must have looked sad because one of the men stood by me as she passed and said “I’d rather my boat was on land than in the slip.” I felt better.

As soon as forecasters predicted that Isabel would have a major impact on the east coast, John and I spent some time deciding whether to have Halcyon hauled or keep her in the slip and add lines and fenders. We waited until a few days before the storm was expected to finalize a Plan A and Plan B, but we did not wait until then to come up with a plan. We take a chance on damage with either decision but we did have to wait to see how the storm would track to implement one or the other. Too many people wait until a day or two before a major storm to start figuring out their options and then waste precious time that should be used to prepare their boat. Often it is too late. In the case of a major storm, with a large number of boats to haul out, marinas may not have time to get to someone who waits until the last minute. Our marina mailed a request to slip holders months ago and asked for instructions. Haul out was done in the order the instructions were received in their office.

But, for all those who asked for advice seeking reassurance what I saw was a gratifying amount of help generously offered by more experienced sailors. It started Monday in the Sailnet chat room and forums and emails amongst my sail club members. First we began monitoring the weather and the discussions were truly enlightening. By late Tuesday the favored weather sites had been identified and narrowed down to two or three. Those three sites remained open on my browser for the rest of the week. Then the discussions turned to hauling out, adding extra lines and keeping the boats in the slip, or taking the boats to a hurricane hole. Pros and cons of each choice were thrown out for debate. Many variables influenced individual decisions including: Location in relation to the storm, type and condition of docks, type of boat, experience of the boat owner.

By Wednesday things started to ramp up. Hurricane parties were planned amongst dock neighbors who helped each other remove sails and canvas and even boats in preparation for hauling out or moving to an anchorage. Help was offered to strangers and new friendships began to grow. We checked on each other via email, the chat room and in person.

Now, for those of us who planned ahead, we wait. We did all we can do and there is nothing left but to keep our fingers crossed, take care of our family and homes or maintain lines through the night and hope that our boats survive to sail another day. Whatever happens, a few more gold pieces were added to our pot.

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