Storms can be so disrespectful. Hurricane Sandy is not only scary and dangerous, it is also extremely inconvenient. We were so happy to reach Hampton 2 days ahead of schedule, so we could get some of the major issues fixed and do a lot of preparation for our offshore leg to the Bahamas with the Caribbean 1500. Instead we have been focusing much of our effort on hunkering down for the hurricane.
When a storm like this threatens, boat-owners generally have three options to consider: hauling the boat, finding a hurricane hole and putting out several anchors, or staying on a dock (hopefully a sturdy, floating dock rather than a fixed one) with extra lines. We did not have too much choice – hauling out or moving is not really an option for us, and the dock here in Hampton, while poorly designed, is fairly sheltered, sturdy, and floating. So here we stay.
Hampton is just at the convergence of the James, Hampton and Elizabeth Rivers where they flow into the great Chesapeake Bay. We are right on the edge of the storm’s currently predicted path, but within the expected ‘wide swath of damaging conditions’. The storm is expected to make landfall exactly where we were before we arrived here, sailing up the Delmarva coast (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia) from New Jersey. We are currently expecting lots of rain and high winds here, but perhaps the biggest issue will be flooding caused by the storm surge exacerbated by higher-than-usual ‘full moon’ tide.
- Wrapped our sheets (i.e. ropes for the foresails to non-boaters, not bedding) around our genoa and staysail, and wrapped the halyard from the top around as well, so that they don’t unfurl in the gales, which could endanger the boat as well as ripping the sails.
- Doubled up all our docklines – using our ‘hurricane lines’ and snubbers, and have also tied off to our neighbour’s boat
- Taken down our mainsail – and strapped it down on the deck
- Put out all our fenders on the badly designed short-dock and piling.
- Deflated our dinghy and stored it on the boat
- Stopped and secured our wind generator, and turned it off at the charge controller.
- Charged up everything (phone computer’s etc.) in case we lose power
For all our friends and family who are worried, here is the good part. We are in a boat i.e. we float. And we are well set up for periods without shore power (as when sailing on the ocean). We cook with propane, and can heat the boat, if necessary, with diesel. Our lights work even if we don’t have shore power. And we are well equipped with foul weather gear – boots, coats etc.
We are in good company. Although there are about 6 Caribbean 1500 rally boats who have not made it yet to Hampton due to the storm, most are here. We are all on our boats, meeting at the marina and chatting to each other. We have registered, enjoyed two evening sundowner drinks parties, and the City of Hampton is hosting a reception for us tonight. The social function last night looked like a yard-sale of high quality foul-weather gear! There is a radio net each morning. Unfortunately the seminars today were postponed to Wednesday and the harbour-side ballroom where they were to be held has been closed by the hotel for safety reasons (flooding concerns). Of course the concern for us is that it is right next to, and six feet ABOVE our docks.
You are probably wondering how things are now. It has been raining incessantly since Saturday – a little harder today, and it is windy. It is now just past high-tide on Monday. Our floating docks are still a few inches below the electrical junction boxes which jut out from the pier and will impede the upward lift. If the water levels get much higher, they may get broken off, and power will go out. The pilings themselves are tall enough to go several feet more.
The ramp ‘down’ to our floating dock is now lifted up about three feet, which makes it awkward getting to the marina building for showers etc, and to the Caribbean 1500 office and social events. But not impossible.
We are better off than the boats on the fixed docks, which are underwater now at high tide. And the boats at the marina opposite us on fixed docks are ‘floating’ on the pilings as those docks are flooded.
Our dockmaster Jake has been fantastic – everyone at Hampton Public Piers is very helpful and friendly. Although some bridges are closed, schools cancelled, and public transit disrupted, West Marine, the local chandlery, is still running free shuttles so we can spend more boat units there! Sadly, our fridge mechanic who was supposed to start installing our new Sea Frost fridge has postponed till tomorrow. That sets us ‘back’ again on our provisioning, packing away and reorganizing plans, since the contents of our entire storage locker has engulfed the aft cabin in order for the work on the fridge/freezer installation to progress. So disruption will, sadly, be prolonged.
Bottom line, we are fine so far. We are all closely following weather and news forecasts. It will probably get worse before it gets better. We look forward to being rid of Sandy so we can start putting things back together to get ready for our offshore leg once everything has calmed down again.