The “what ifs”: Preparing for Hurricane Sandy

in Intracoastal Waterway / Life at Sea / Sailing the World
sunset in chesapeake

The universe must be worried that I won’t have enough to write about if we just sail smoothly from port to port, all the way down to the Bahamas. So she whipped up Hurricane Sandy to throw at us to see if we learned anything from last year’s fiasco with Hurricane Irene.

This time we knew Hurricane Sandy was coming and we’d been watching the weather forecasts carefully to judge which side of the Chesapeake Bay we should be on when she hits, which by all accounts is the west side.

In hindsight, we probably shouldn’t have left Annapolis Friday morning, but we were antsy to get going since we’d already been there two days longer than planned, and we knew we had another 24-30 hours to get south before we would be forced to wait out the storm. So, foolhardy or not, we made the decision to sail overnight to Norfolk, VA, then changed our plan at dusk when fog appeared on the forecast, and instead pulled into Solomons Island, Maryland and anchored. (Our new Rocna 20 worked a treat!)

Our ZyGrib weather charts showed that winds were going to start kicking up Saturday night and worsen until Tuesday night, so we made the decision to check out Solomons’ marinas in the morning to see if they were suitable for docking in a hurricane.

Last year, during Irene, we had no idea what to do, except we knew we needed a good, protected river to go up. So we made a dash from Block Island to the Connecticut River, and got lucky enough to meet a well-worn sailor named Glenn in Old Saybrook, at the mouth of the river, where we tied up after dark, soaking wet and nauseous. Glenn came out to help us tie up and gave us some valuable advice about where to go to upriver, what he does in North Carolina during a hurricane, and gave us phone numbers of people who could help us decide what to do with Hideaway, since he’d already done the research himself.

Back then, we made the decision to haul Hideaway and leave her in Essex, Connecticut for a week, since this was cheaper than keeping her on a slip (and because our boat insurance offered to pay for half the cost of the haul).

But this year is different – we live on our boat, and we don’t want to haul her if we don’t have to. And looking at the wind patterns for Monday and Tuesday coming through Solomons Island, the forecasts show a maximum of 30-35 knot winds where we are, though they’re showing 60-65 knot winds out on the Atlantic. We’re pretty sure we can withstand 30-35 knot winds on a mooring and we’re definitely not going out to the Atlantic.

But the debate over what to do to prepare for Hurricane Sandy seemed to have us flipping back and forth between the “what ifs” similarly to last year:

  • If insurance pays for half of the cost of hauling because statistics show that boats fare better out of water, then shouldn’t we just haul?
  • If the wind is going to get up to 30-35 knots in the creek, then a mooring with a 500 lb. mushroom anchor (like the ones at Zahniser’s Yacht Club) should hold us just fine. Right?
  • But what if we get swells up to 10 feet? Will the moorings hold?
  • Other cruisers are here on moorings and they’re a similar size to us. They must know what they’re doing.
  • Oh wait, some people are leaving. Why? Where are they going?
  • What are those people on anchor doing? Should we anchor? No, this is a terrible time to test our anchor.
  • Maybe we should get a slip – that might be safer than being on a mooring. Plus, the moorings are near shallow water; if we break loose, we’ll run aground.
  • But if we’re tied down to the docks, we’ll get bashed around and risk worse damage than on a mooring.
  • What about all the boats docked near the moorings? If the swells are bad, will the docks hold all those boats? What happens if those docks float away? The pilings are short, and we’re only a few feet away.
  • Why won’t the dockmaster give us any advice? He just keeps saying he isn’t responsible for whatever happens.

In the end, we decided to take a mooring and once the decision was made, we spent the entire day taking down our sails, removing our dodger, running back-up lines to our mooring, taking our bikes to shore, siliconing our leaky portholes and covering them with plastic and duct tape (maybe not the best time for this job, but we did it), and after we heard another cruiser’s story about his dinghy flipping over in a storm and nearly losing his outboard, we decided to remove our outboard, put it in the cockpit and tie up the dinghy behind Hideaway. We also decided, though other cruisers were removing their anchors, to keep our anchor on the bow in case we broke loose from our mooring and needed to drop it. Then, once we were all set and done, we hit the local Tiki Bar for their Halloween Bash because, well, there was no point in worrying now!

Whatever happens, we’re committed to our decision. And the decision we made was one of many possible choices, none of which anyone can be sure is the best decision in this port, in this hurricane, in this situation.

So, with gusts of up to 38 knots blowing outside, we’re on board with a good many episodes of Homeland downloaded to our iPad and we’ve set up an hourly watch where Ryan and I rotate going up to check if our dinghy needs bailing out, that our lines aren’t chafing on our anchor and to log the wind speeds.

There are a good many unanswered “what ifs” at the moment, but this is an unavoidable part of any long journey. Sometimes you just have to wait out the storm and know you did everything you could do.

Hideaway no windage

Hideaway, stripped down and clear of windage.

duct tape plastic portholes

Plastic and peace sign duct tape to protect our new silicone job.

zahnisers yacht club docks

Zahniser’s Yacht Club docks – not far enough away, for my liking.

Mighty Mouse, hopefully safe behind Hideaway.


Outboard engine tied down in cockpit

Outboard engine tied securely down in cockpit.

0 Comments... Be the first to comment
  • J&A Dent October 28, 2012, 11:13 pm

    Sounds like you’ve done everything you could to prepare yourselves. Talk about extreme adventuring!? We’ll be thinking about you and look forward to your next status report. All the best.

    • Tasha October 28, 2012, 11:15 pm

      All’s good here! I hope you’re ok in D.C.!

  • Paul Geppert October 29, 2012, 9:40 am

    Hold on tight we moved into a slip and are secure hope to be moving by Thursday

    • Tasha October 29, 2012, 1:03 pm

      Good luck to you! We’re hoping Sandy’s bark is bigger than her bite!

  • Mid-Life Cruising! October 29, 2012, 9:48 am

    Oh, the anxiety a hurricane can cause! Sounds like ya’ll are well prepared, and we’re wishing ya’ll the best!

    • Tasha October 29, 2012, 1:02 pm

      Thank you!

  • Brittany October 29, 2012, 1:15 pm

    Thinking of you guys and sending vibes of safety for your, your kitties and your boat.

  • Brittany October 29, 2012, 1:16 pm

    Thinking of you guys and sending vibes of safety for you, your kitties and your boat.

    • Tasha October 29, 2012, 1:18 pm

      Thanks, Brittany! She’s blowin out there, but we’re still holding!

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