Last week we had our first significant storm as liveaboards. A Nor’easter hit last Wednesday.
For those who have never had the pleasure of being in one, a Nor’easter is a strong winter storm that gets it’s name from the wind direction. A low pressure area will pass along the coast and the result will be a rotating storm that looks like a hurricane. These storms typically bring high winds and heavy rain or snow.
This one was kind of unexpected. We knew we were going to get a storm but no one was predicting anything like what we got. Typically we would strip all canvas and anything else on the outside of the boat, add extra dock lines and add extra fenders if we know they are coming. The same as we would do for a hurricane.
My Bride started to get an idea that this was going to be bad on Wednesday and asked if I could leave early to do some storm prep. So I left early and got down to the dock around 3PM. It was already blowing 25 kts and some boats were already having problems. Before I could even get down the dock I had to stop and help pull a friends boat off the dock. His Trojan 36 had stretched her lines in the wind and the swim platform was up over the dock and starting to hit a pole. Working together the three of us on the dock were able to slowly move the boat forward 6 inches and off of the dock. Our friend was then able to start up the engines and pull it forward another foot. I then continued up the dock to Smitty while doing a quick survey of other boats on the dock. I already say another half dozen boats that needed immediate help.
I got down to Smitty and it felt like it was blowing about 25 kts steady with gusts up to 35 kts. Too windy to even try pulling canvas. So I tied some lines around the furled headsail and checked to make sure it was cleated off well. I should have wrapped the spinnaker halyard around the sail but I didn’t think of that until later. We were in our slip alone (our boat neighbor had to come out early due to engine troubles) so I was able to have four lines pulling us to windward and off of the dock. I put Summer on the boat and then went to work on the other boats I saw in trouble.
Again working together, the three of us went about adding additional fenders, retying dock lines and taking down some loose pieces of canvas until all of the boats on our dock seemed to be doing well. I then went back to Smitty to get worm and wait for my Bride to get off the commuter ferry on her way home from work.
My Bride called and they had cancelled the 6:30PM boat most likely due to high winds. When she saw that large monohull with a lot of windage try to dock she wasn’t going to get on it anyways. The next boat was at 7PM and was a more modern fast cat style. When she got aboard they started telling people to remain in their seats as much as possible. They repeated this warning throughout the trip. A cruise home that normally takes 30 minutes on this boat took over an hour. It was rough and the boat was blown out of the channel a couple of times and they were lucky they didn’t end up aground.
After picking her up we went back down to the boat. Our intent was to hunker down in the warm cabin for the rest of the night. The wind had picked up significantly and I saw a couple of 45 kts. When we were sitting below watching the news the gusts would heel us so much in our slip that I would slide off the settee. We knew it was going to be a restless night. The boat was bucking in our slip worse than we had ever experienced. We had been through several hurricanes on our boat, Sandy, Arthur and Irene. But due to the wind direction, the lack of warning and the strength of the gusts this was worse. By the time the 10PM news came on it was consistently over 40 kts and gusting into the high 50 kts.
SNAP! A loud crack followed by a deafening thunder-like noise. The jib on the boat two slips down had been blown out. This boat is a planing-hull racer with a carbon fiber stick and synthetic rigging. We have a mixed past with the owner and currently we can’t stand each other. But I would never let my feelings for the person stop me from helping the boat. I immediately called the owner and told him what had happened. I then put on some shoes and a fowlie coat and headed out to see what I could do.
Once I was in my cockpit I knew this could go bad quickly. The jib was being held closed near the bottom by a single sail-tie. The jib sheets where not even rapped around the jib to hold it furled. I don’t even think the continuous line furler was cleated off. The boat was bow in, tied up to its starboard side in the double load slip next to us, while we were stern in tied on the starboard side. This meant we had an empty slip, a finder dock and another empty slip between us. Which was a good thing because standing in my cockpit I could almost touch the top of this mast when it was heeled over during the gusts. Gusts that were now as high as 63 kts. Looking at our inclinometer, we were heeling over to 35 degrees on gusts and that was with 4 dock lines holding us down from heeling.
Our friend Ken was the only other person on the dock. His power boat is on the end of the T-head which happens to be the other side of the finger from this boat. Ken was outside now also and we were trying to come up with a plan. The boat in trouble’s starboard stern line had now snapped and when the boat would heel over it was hitting the dock. A big gust came and I realized how close to a disaster we were, the bulb keel was hitting the finger that it shared with Ken’s boat. That was the only thing stopping this boat from going all the way over and hitting my boat with the mast. But with this boat bucking like it was I couldn’t see how we could get the sail down.
As we were trying to figure out how to get on board, the owner and his 18 year-old son showed up. We got lucky and there was a slight lull in the gusts. We got the owner’s son on board, I gave him my knife (ALWAYS have a knife, I initially forgot it and had to go back) and he was able to cut the halyard. The owner, Ken and I were then able to pull the jib down and sit on it on the dock. Even with 3 grown men it was trying to throw us off. We got it lashed down. I don’t know how much damage that sail took but I can’t imagine it will be cheap to repair as this is one of those expensive racing sails. We put some more lines on the boat and it was back to being secure in it’s slip.
Since I was out, I took another walk to check on the rest of the dock. I adjusted a few dock lines but for the most part everything was good. There was one boat that was going to loose it’s bimini but the boat was bucking wildly and one side was already snapped free so there wasn’t much I could do. I went back down below and tried to get some sleep.
Sleep didn’t come until well after 2AM. The boat kept bucking and heeling. I was awake again at 5:30AM when some more gusting had us moving around again. Soon after that the wind died down but it was supposed to pickup around noon. I got dressed and went to do some work stuff for the morning. We planned to work from the boat for the afternoon just in case it got bad again.
We drove around to check out some of the storm damage.
We stopped by and spoke with the dock master for a while. There was a lot of damage around the marina. Large power boats with their swim platforms ripped off by the waves. A sailboat broke free in the mooring field and ping-ponged off of boats as it bashed through until it eventually got hung-up on another boats anchor. Of course that boat didn’t have its anchor tied off so it paid out all of the rhode before the boat ended up smashing onto another boat repeatedly while being held at the end of the rhode. Many of the boats on the moorings had chaffed through one of the pendants and were being held on by a single, partially chaffed pendant. A lot of the small boats took punishment because their undersized dock lines broke and the boats were smashed against the concrete docks.
Back at the dock we were getting a pretty good storm surge. This was about an hour and a half before high tide.
As predicted the winds kicked back up again. However it was only around 30 kts with gusts into the low 40 kts. For the most part the second night was uneventful. While walking the dog before bed, I came across a 25-foot center counsel that was taking water over the stern. I got a battery pack and bilge pump from a friends boat and pumped out the boat so that it could make it through the night. Probably just too much rain that killed the battery and the bilge pump stopped working.
This weekend I came out of the boat to find a bag in our cockpit.
The owners of one of the boats on the dock left the makings for some Dark n’ Stormies and a nice thank you note for looking out for their boat during the storm. Our dock suffered the least amount of damage out of the all the docks in the marina. Also during the storm I was posting updates on a Facebook page we have for our dock so people didn’t have to wonder how their boats were doing. We are the only liveaboards at our marina. Coincidence? I think not. Just another benefit to being liveaboard friendly.