Saturday, August 27, 2011

But what about Hurricanes?

Particularly over the past couple weeks, one of the most common questions we are asked is something along the lines of, "what will you do about hurricanes?"  I can't adequately portray the emphases and expressions that tend to accompany that question, but I can say that the question really being asked is, "what, are you guys crazy?!"

This week we had our first brush with a hurricane (the outer bands of Hurricane Irene), so I can give a slightly more informed answer now than before.

First, to the primary question, no, we are not crazy.  Hurricanes are highly destructive and must be taken seriously, but they do have one positive attribute: you know when they are coming.  Although the 5-day models are not particularly accurate, and the 3-day models have their weaknesses too, we'll always know there is a possibility of a hurricane strike at least a few days in advance, and we'll have relative certainty at least a day in advance.  The benefit is that we'll always have time to prepare our boat the best we can and, most importantly, get out of town if necessary.  We are absolutely not going to stay on our boat during a full-blown hurricane.  So, no, not crazy.

Second, as to the more specific question, we'll do what we can and hope for the best.  We have insurance, of course, and we have a hurricane-preparedness plan that we follow to maximize the chance of Sea Gem surviving a hurricane without damage.  Even though we were not expecting a direct strike from Irene, we prepared for one nonetheless, and we came through the 50-knot gusts of wind that the outer bands generated just fine.

So, what do we do?  We normally tie down our boat with six very thick ropes. We keep it close to the dock so that it is easy to get on and off the boat.  When we prepare for a hurricane, we add several more ropes (we had ten for Irene, and we'll have at least twelve if there is a chance of a more direct hit), and we tie the boat so that it is in the middle of the slip so that it does not hit the dock (we had some real adventures getting on and off the boat this week--Moishe almost became an aquatic mammal at least once). We also strip everything from the deck (awnings, covers, sails, etc) so that the wind doesn't take anything away.  Finally, we check all of our water pumps to make sure that they are working in case the boat takes on water.  If there is a chance of a direct hit from a really big hurricane, we will also move the boat to a more secure location than our current marina.  Fortunately, in our part of the country, direct hits from the most powerful hurricanes are rare.  So, we do all that, we leave the boat, and we pray for the best.  We'll be safe and sound no matter what, and the boat should be just fine.

Here is a photo of me preparing the boat Tuesday night:


I am in the processing of tying an extra docking line to the mast.  I tied two ropes to the mast and led them back to posts on both sides of the boat to help keep the boat from moving forward (the wind was predicted to come from the north, which would have--and did--tried to push our boat forward into the dock).  Also, note that the sail in the front of the boat has several wraps of rope to keep it from catching the wind and unraveling (if there is going to be a bigger storm, we'll remove the sail entirely).  Finally, note that the deck hatches are exposed.  we normally have canvas covers on them to keep the sun out, but we removed them to ensure that the wind doesn't take them away.

So, that's not too crazy, right?  

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