We spent Saturday prepping the boat for the hurricane. In actuality there wasn’t much to do. We sausage wrapped the jib. We have a boom furling main so we didn’t need to remove it, but we wrapped the little bit of canvas that covers the mast end of the boom. We rigged a Fortress anchor on the bow and measured out an appropriate amount of scope ready to go in case the mooring failed us. We doubled up the lines to the mooring ball. We tied an extra line from the end of the camber spar to the mast to limit the movement there. We took in the flag and the cockpit cushions and secured the dinghy as tightly as we could. We went back and forth about whether to take down the vinyl cockpit enclosure. We’ve experienced some leaks at the instrument panel and we wanted to protect them–and us, if we wanted to go out in the cockpit to check on things during the storm–so we made the decision to leave it up. The boats around us mostly left up their canvas, and ours is heavy vinyl, not canvas. We felt confident.
Late in the morning a beautiful Hallberg Rassey sloop took the last mooring in our little group. We were concerned that it might be too close to us, but when we spoke to the skipper we learned he is the same person who had emailed us a few days ago recommending the city moorings and he told us this will be his third hurricane on that very mooring. Good to know. We were feeling better by the minute.
Sunday morning we watched the parade of panicky owners getting their boats to safer digs. A crew from the boatyard adjacent to us maneuvered a large sloop around the near dock. We thought they were just going to pass through the mooring field but as they got a little past our position they reversed and aimed back toward another dock. Just then a gust hit them and they lost control. Suddenly tons of very nice boat were aiming right at our starboard hull. From down below Jack yelled “Marce!!” as if I could do something about it. The crew got control in the nick of time and motored against the floating dock behind us. Whew!
After we recovered from that we enjoyed our morning coffee in our mobile voting booth. We were so glad to be able to vote absentee thanks to the combined efforts of our friends Jeff and Marylyn and Nancy and Dave. After we filled out our ballots we read that they have to arrive in Pittsburgh no later than 5pm Friday. Oops. That may be a problem as we’re stuck on a boat waiting for a hurricane.
All day Sunday we had pretty consistent wind out of the NNW at 15-20 knots with flat seas. We kept thinking of our time in the Hudson River where the three mile fetch kicked up a nasty chop in any breeze at all, and being on board during a storm felt like the wash cycle in a Maytag. This is better.
I spent the afternoon making two loaves of whole wheat bread and a pot of minestrone. Alan joined us for a last meal off his boat before the storm hit. Overnight we had periods of higher winds but the calm water made us feel secure.
Monday was tense and cold. Jack and Izzy napped and watched TV whenever we had the generator turned on to warm things up and charge the batteries. We got intermittent weather news and watched for Sandy to decide where to make landfall. We fielded texts, emails and phone calls from friends and family asking if we were ok and offering prayers and good thoughts. It’s so nice to know you’re all thinking of us, but as time went on we realized many of you were also in harm’s way because of Sandy’s sheer size.
All morning the wind stayed at about 10-15 knts, even though we had 20-25 predicted. We monitored the path of the storm and the buoy data out in the bay through our various apps. Just before 1pm the wind jumped to 25-30 knts with gusts in the mid thirties, then died down again to the teens a half hour later. This pattern repeated itself all day, bands of higher winds then periods of relative calm. We knew that the highest wind would start to reach us about 4pm and it did, right on time. It was still up and down, but higher up and higher down, ranging from 20-25 to 25-35 with gusts in the upper 30s to low 40s.
A little after 6:30 Jack said “Holy Cow!” and pointed at the barometer. We’d never seen it that low — 984!
Sometime around then we lost our Internet access and couldn’t get a fix on where the storm was and if it had made landfall. Between 6:00 and 9:00 we had frequent gusts in the 41-44 range but then the wind would drop back down to 25-35 knts. The wind whined in the rigging, the mooring bridle made a deep creaking sound as it stretched with the gusts, the chafe guard on the mooring lines squeaked against the fiberglass hull, and we heard an occasional unidentifiable clank when something metallic would bang on the deck, accompanied by the constant ever-changing rhythm of the rain. It was an appropriate Halloween soundtrack. Jack ducked out of the cockpit to check on things and the rain stung his eyes.
At about 8:30 we topped out at 49 knts accompanied by a funny thud. Jack ran out into the cockpit and reported that one of the corner panels in our enclosure had blown out.
It was more that the old stitching gave up than anything, and we know that it’s been stitched and restitched through the years so we still feel good about our decision to leave it up. The rest of the enclosure is fine and we were happy for the protection it gave us. If the winds had been predicted over 50 knts we definitely would have taken it down.
We had a long break from about 9:30 until 1am when we were once again in the 25-35 range with higher gusts but by 4am things had died down considerably. Jack went to bed at 9:30. I stayed in the saloon snuggled in blankets watching the instruments and recording the wind speeds before I dropped off to sleep at 4:30.
I awoke about 6:30 to a cabin at about 42 degrees and damp with condensation dripping from the aluminum frames of the hatches.
It was time to fire up the generator again and get us warm and dry. I put the kettle on for coffee and — damn! — the propane ran out. Are you kidding me? Oh wait, the generator’s on. I heated water in the microwave to make coffee in our Melitta drip thermos, completely forgetting there is an electric coffee pot right next to the microwave. Doh! It’s been so long since we’ve used it that I didn’t even think of it.
Jack went out in the rain to unearth the spare propane tank from the forward sail locker and we were back in business in time to make an omelet and home fries for breakfast. Alan and Dave from Auspicious joined us and we had a cozy morning aboard. Dave had errands to run and graciously took our empty propane tank, had it refilled and returned it to us an hour later. What service!
During the height of the storm when we could check in on Facebook we learned of power outages all along the eastern seaboard and one by one we lost connection with family. This morning we can’t reach some people; others we know to be without power. I think of them in cold houses, no heat, food in the freezer to mind. We’re lucky we can turn on a generator and keep our food cold, run a heater, charge the batteries and our cell phones and iPad and check the news on TV if we want to. In some ways, life aboard Escape Velocity is so civilized. Except for the occasional Halloween soundtrack.