Preparing for Florence

It’s hurricane season, so the National Hurricane Center’s website is tops on the “to check” list every morning. Between that, the National Weather Service, and Windy, we’ve got a pretty decent handle on what might be coming our way.

Once we head off cruising, the weather checking and preparations will be more important than ever; right now, we’re “just” dealing with the conditions at our home dock.

Still, when Florence reared her head 10 days ago, we started watching. Windy is great because you can click on the different weather models to see how they’re agreeing or not; there are also a number of incredible weather forecasters you can follow on Facebook or via paid subscriptions to really fine tune the long-range ideas. Still, weather forecasting is a science and a bit of an art; it’s best to follow people who know your area well, though the relevance and reliable indications of past weather patterns is shifting quickly with climate change.

Monday looked okay. Tuesday morning looked a little more worrisome. By Tuesday noon, when parts of the state very near us were about to go under emergency evacuation, we’d decided we needed to head down to prep the boat and be there in case the house flooded. So we threw gas, water, food, and a lot of lines into the van, made sure our second child was set for support if needed (can you say we had a THRILLED teenager when given the opportunity to be alone at home? Adulting hard, and loving every second of it!), and hit the highway, driving through horrific rain and on-top-of-us thunderstorms to get to the house.

The next morning, we drove to the club. We keep Calypso at Fishing Bay Yacht Club, a wonderful volunteer club with frontage on both Fishing Bay and Jackson Creek, just south of the Rappahannock River off of the Chesapeake Bay. The road leading to the club often floods with super high tides, and that day was no exception.

  Road to the club, which is behind us in this shot.

Road to the club, which is behind us in this shot.

Our first order of business was to try to dry the sails, which we do by hoisting them and letting them be in the open. There was almost no breeze, making it possible to do this; the humidity made it less effective than it could have been. Oh well. By the time we’d run lines, the sails were notably drier than they had been before we started.

Then we looked at the docks, the expected tide range, and the expected direction of the winds.

(If the storm looked like it was going to be a more direct hit, it is likely we’d have either chosen to take the boat to a small creek nearby to tie her in/anchor her down OR tried to get her hauled out at a nearby boatyard. Often the danger comes from other boats that get loose, and studies have shown that being hauled out helps boats fare better during a storm. Our insurance company believes in this so strongly that they pay half of the cost of a haul for a named storm, and if you choose to stay in the water, the deductible doubles for any damage.)

  Calypso up a creek, prepped for a hurricane in 2011.

Calypso up a creek, prepped for a hurricane in 2011.

Lines came out, were snaked to other docks and to trees. We moved the boat in her slip to make sure she wouldn’t smash the bowsprit on the dock and repositioned fenders. The danger in this storm, as with many, is the tide range. We’re on a fixed dock that isn’t really wide enough for out boat, so the angle on lines is problematic unless we tie to points further away, which allows for the boat to ride up when needed.

And then we took down the sails, folding them as best we could on deck and tucking them below.

After checking and rechecking, we headed back to the house, knowing we’d check on her a few more times before this storm was past.

And in the morning, the storm had tracked further south, taking us further away from major affects. Whew.

If this storm had been forecast to be stronger, we’d have done a few things differently, starting with the decision to stay in that slip. We’d definitely have taken off the dodger.

For now, though? The sails are staying off until it’s time to go sailing again!