Counting down the hours until Earl

Seventy years ago I’d be oblivious to what was coming. Now I know too much and what I know sucks. Starting Sunday I started keeping an eye on Hurricane Earl, a category 4 storm that is now forecasted to pass extremely close offshore of Cape Cod. Very close.

The last forecast from the National Weather Service put Cape Cod on a hurricane watch — meteorological speak that it’s time to consider the options and possibilities. With a 33′ sloop sitting on a 500 pound mooring less than half a mile away, I am definitely considering the options and none of them, with 48 hours to go, are great. So this morning I went to the firehouse and asked the chief for some old firehose, grateful when he cut me off a couple sections of 2″ hose so I could split them and wrap them around the mooring pennants where they rub in the boat’s chocks. My son and I brought the boat into the town down and took down the sails and the bimini awning, anything to reduce the windage and prevent the wind from picking open the sails and causing definite mayhem. I’ll return tomorrow to lash things down and fret some more.

My options now are:

  1. Stay on the mooring, hope the forecast holds, go to bed and pray the mooring holds for eight hours of 50 knot winds and some gusts over 60 miles per hour.  The tackle is only two years old, I’m on the outside edge of the mooring field, and right now the wind direction is out of the north, over land, so I will get some protection in the lee, but not a lot. The worst direction, if we were in the northeastern quadrant of the cyclone, would be south or southeast, then the entire length or fetch of the harbor would kick up some very big waves.  The other fear is the storm surge, but thankfully low tide is at 2 am, so the peak of the winds will come as the water is falling, not rising.
  2. Stay on the mooring but also stay on the boat. This means actually sitting out the storm with a lifeline wrapped around me, tied to the helm, with a pair of swim goggles to keep the driving rain from blinding me, and then using the diesel and the throttle to keep the boat into the wind and the pressure off of the mooring. This is the crazy man option.
  3. Try to get it pulled tomorrow morning, but that is not a sure thing — the hauler has to be in the mood and he is sure to have an extremely hectic day. That entails a trip to the dock, a visit by the crane truck to pull the mast, then a trip up into Prince’s Cove to be hauled and then parked in the back yard by the trees on four jackstands. Hurricane Bob in 1991 did some massive tree damage and who knows if the jackstands would keep the boat upright anyway. Hauling means no fall sailing – once out, then the boat is out and the season is over.
  4. If it comes ashore — well, it comes ashore and the damage will be bad. Nothing to do but shrug and hope it doesn’t.

I’ve got a 18′ motorboat to pull — that will come out right at the last minute on Friday afternoon. A friend needs to borrow it to get his catboat tucked away into a hurricane hole inside of Shoestring Bay on the west side of town in the next series of bays. To make things more interesting I just became president of the association of the Cotuit Mosquito Yacht Club, and tomorrow is going to be spent making sure the yacht club’s launches are taken care, of the dock is pulled, the kid’s boats are stowed, and then 50 Cotuit skiffs hauled and stored in the Ropes Field to ride things out.  Hurricane boat pulls are the Cotuit version of an old fashioned barn raising. Several cars with trailers, a couple crews on the beach to de-rig and pull masts, another team on the water in motorboats hauling in the boats, then another crew with 4″ x 4″s to lift the boats on the trailers and another in the field to lift them off. Tomorrow ought to be busy, especially if this heavy heat persists.

The phone has been ringing all day, and everywhere you go the question is the same: “Do you think it will hit?” Smart money says it goes east off of Chatham, putting us in the northwest quadrant where the counter-clockwise spin means the winds will come in from the landside.  Forecast has it 30 miles southeast of Nantucket . That’s 50 miles from where I sit. Way too close. Way, way too close. Let’s hope it stays out there. A short jog to the west and complete devasation is a sure thing if it comes ashore. Bob was barely a hurricane and we were without lights for nearly a week, the tree damage was incredible, every pissed off homeless yellow jacket on the Cape was out for revenge …. and nearly every boat in the harbor was trashed and thrown onto the beach. If Earl does the same it will not be a very good September. All the food will spoil. People will snarl at each other in the gas lines at the gas station. I guess i need to go buy a chainsaw and a new power washer. The first lesson learned from Bob is wash the house as soon as possible given that every green leaf in the neighborhood gets shredded to confetti and pasted to the paint with salt spray. Lawn furniture to stow away … badminton nets, hummingbird feeders ….. tomorrow is going to be a long, long day.

Here’s the wind profile: The little flags point in the direction the wind will come from and the small bars indicate the wind velocity. Sustained winds over 70 mph make for a hurricane. The forecast has us gusting with peaks around 65 mph. Sunset to 3 am … it’s going to be a long nasty night. And if the power goes — well, no blogging for a long time to say the least.

Think I’m over-reacting? Napatree Point – 1938

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

11 thoughts on “Counting down the hours until Earl”

  1. PS. Recall we no longer pull masts to get the boats to Ropes field. We are fortunate to have no power lines in between and some careful slaloming allows us to avoid the trees. This (and carrying them up the beach thus avoiding a backlog at Hoopers) has been a substantial productivity boost and makes throwing them back in for a race on Saturday much more feasible.
    Let me know if you want some help checking the rig Friday morning.

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  2. I’m in Wellfleet. Am Clashing “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” As of 2pm EST 9/1 NHC puts the probability of sustained (1-minute average) surface wind speeds equal to or exceeding 50 kt…58 mph at 30% and 60% for 34 kt…39 mph for Cape Cod.

    Good luck!

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  3. Dude
    My boat swayed gently in the last earthquake. unfortunately, the burn mark on it glass hull near the gas tank is proof of the dangers of wildfires.
    If you decide to ride it out on board– take some food for the long drift to Portugal, bubbi.
    be safe and stay dry, Dave.
    jimF

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  4. Against my recommendation, my mother has decided to ride out the storm in Cotuit rather than heading back to Western Mass. I thought seniors were supposed to grow in wisdom as the years passed.

    I get the sense that some folks on the Cape got used to dodging the bullet in recent years and are a bit cavalier about what might happen if Earl hits as a Cat 2 or 3. Let’s hope the cold front pushes this storm more to the east.

    The good people of Cotuit will be in our prayers this weekend.

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  5. I remember standing on the front porch during Bob with Eliot and B watching the tree fall down on my VW Fox. Wish I were there for all the excitement! Stay dry, you’d be crazy to weather the storm on your boat, too dangerous. The Sea can get quite angry!

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