Preparing for Irene

Cape Cod fell under the National Hurricane Center’s hurricane watch last night, so with 48 hours to go before the first effects are felt on Sunday, it’s time to make preparations. Between my own property, boats, and the local yacht club, things are going to get hectic. I’ve been through the drill a few times before, so everything is manageable, just complicated.

The wind profile shows an earlier arrival than expected. Earlier in the week I had been assuming a night storm peaking around 1 am on Monday. Now it looks like Irene will hit during the middle of Sunday — right at the peak of the extreme new moon high tide at noon. With a southeasterly approach in the high 50-60 knot range, with gusts into the 70s, the damage could be considerable. Irene is a very massive storm in terms of its footprint. While the track of the eye of the storm has it now making landfall just east of New York City, the most powerful and dangerous quadrant of the cyclone is to the north and east — from noon to 3 o’clock on the virtual clock face. Meaning eastern Long Island through Cape Cod will take a hard beating and an extreme storm surge.

I’m not too concerned with flooding — the ancestors picked a high point to live on, but the shoreline is going to be innudated along with the coastal roads and piers. One key thing to remember in hurricane tracking is not to focus on the “dot” or the center of the storm, but the cone of influence preceding and surrounding it. Nasty conditions will hit hours before the eye, making preparations impossible up to six hour before landfall.

So, today, I have to:

  • Remove the sails and dodger from my 33′ sloop, pump the bilges, turn off the electrical system, duct tape down the halyards and fret about the chafing gear where the mooring lines come through the bow chocks. I’m riding on the outer edge of the mooring field on a 500 pound mushroom and hope that any boats upwind that break free won’t be driven down and foul. If the boat can swing free it has a chance, but what generally happens in the gusts is moored boats begin “sailing” at their moorings and oscillate in a wide arc while plunging in the four to six foot harbor swells. Combine that with an extreme high tide and the mooring chain and tackle lifts out of the mud and eventually works the mooring out. Enough time will chafe through the lines and then it’s a fast drift onto the beach. My top concern is the sailboat — but there’s no chance to haul it at this point in time and no haven safer than the one she’s in now.
  • Get the dinghy off the beach.
  • Get my motorboat fueled and on anchor at the beach to provide tender service for the yacht club.
  • Get the yacht club’s 420 fleet off of the property and hauled out of town to the local boat yard.
  • Haul the yacht club’s motorboats and get them to the boat yard.
  • Confer with the commodore and make a decision about pulling the Cotuit Skiff fleet tomorrow
  • Clean up the yacht club’s grounds and secure any loose gear
  • Clear my gutters and downspouts
  • Take in the garden furniture, bird feeders, racing scull, etc. etc. etc.
  • Do a flashlight/lantern check
That’s today. Tomorrow, Saturday, will be the last day for final prep. That will mean hauling 50 Cotuit Skiffs and storing them in a local field, taking down the yacht club pier, hauling my own motorboat, moving the cars out of the garages and  away from any trees, conducting the annual meeting of the yacht club’s association, and making sure all radios, cell phones, laptops, etc. are fully charged and powered off before going to bed.
Sunday morning it will be on us. Here’s the wind profile that shows the hourly build and peak. High tide is at 12:24 pm on Sunday, right when the worst of it happens.

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

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