When we started this adventure I always thought that we might have to deal with a hurricane at some point. I mentally prepared for what we would do if there was the possibility of a storm and Bright Angel coming close to each other.
It began last year when we were getting close to the Gulf and other boaters had to hold up to proceed south due to insurance regulations. With many of the Loopers discussing the latitudes that they were allowed to pass and what coverage they had to have to proceed, I thought of contacting my insurance company, but was afraid of what our insurance company would have to say about where and how we are using our boat. Even though we made it clear to our home office what we are doing. I finally made the call and was told we had wind damage insurance but to use discretion. OK I’m golden.
Throughout the summer I’ve kept a “weather eye” out for storms and until just recently our summer was beautiful and sunny. Now the Fall hurricane season is upon us and wouldn’t you know it, Joaquin had formed and could be headed our way. We made the call to find a marina considered a “hurricane hole” and settle in until the storm passed. Chesapeake Boat Basin in Kilmarnock, on the Northern Neck of Virginia. (What’s the Northern Neck of Virginia? It’s the land between the Potomac River on the north side and the Rappahannock River on the south.)
First order of business was to gather “local knowledge” of what to expect from the storm. I talked to the dock master and asked what the procedure for boats being docked during a storm.
Because the docks are floating, snug up close to the dock—-We put out extra fenders and pulled the boat tight to the dock. Cynthia had the great idea to put out all the fenders. That way we would not have to store them.
Store or stow anything that could blow away—-We moved and stored all sorts of items that were on the fly bridge. I rearranged lazarettes and filled them all our little items that we don’t usually think about. I added extra lines and straps to the dinghy. Pulled the mast , rudder, dagger board, and oars out and was happy that everything but the mast parts would fit into the lazarettes.
If the storm is more than a category 2 pull the canvas—-That means if the winds are over 80mph it’s best to pull the canvas. We would wait and see when and if the storm would reach us and how hard the winds would be blowing. I gave myself a day to pull all the fly bridge canvas and windows. That left another problem, electronics, opening the fly bridge left my chart plotter, radios, and instruments exposed. The major electronics could be disconnected and stowed below. Instrument panels would be covered and screwed down. Same with lazarette hatch covers. Bicycles had been collapsed and stored in the bathtub.
I figured folding chairs would be collapsed and stowed by the captains chairs and then strapped as well.
I strapped our boarding ladder, gang-plank, and spare anchor on the back swim platform. I figured with it below the level of the dock and strapped in three places it would not be in an area to blow around.
If a major storm surge was present power to the docks would be turned off.
We made the decision that if we were going to lose power we would find alternative housing. Checked the local Holiday Inn, it was booked. We found a B&B that was very reasonable and even offered to pick us up if we needed.
We were ready. Now it was wait and see.
Tracking Joaquin became an obsession, then the wi-fi went out. We still had our phones but spotty signal quality at best. I found myself camping out in the boaters lounge watching the Weather Channels.
Friday morning had Joaquin tracking more toward the Northeast, however a pressure system was hanging off the coast of Virginia and the Carolinas dropping record rainfalls. Gale force winds from the Northeast kept the water from flowing out of the Chesapeake Bay causing coastal flooding at high tide. We were experiencing winds of 25-30mph and gusts into the mid 40’s.
Because we were tied to floating docks we were in great shape and the flooding didn’t affect the boat. However, the floating docks were anchored to fixed docks that would be under water during the high tide cycle. At one time the fixed dock was about a foot under water.
When we realized that Joaquin was going to track off shore we relaxed. The same system that brought us high winds and rain forced the hurricane off shore. But many were affected by the storms. The Bahamas and Bermuda were hit hard, a container ship was lost with over 30 crew, and the Carolinas were flooded terribly. We got off easy.
It was a learning experience. We are better prepared if it happens again. But lets hope not real soon.