Hurricane Irene: Lessons Learned

Hurricane Irene damage

This boat broke away from its mooring in New Bedford and dismasted under the bridge during Hurricane Irene

When your boat is shown on the nightly news, it isn’t good! Even though I couldn’t see the news on my own TV because of the widespread power outages after Hurricane Irene rolled through, I heard about the newsfeed of my friend Wendy’s boat being destroyed. She had moved it behind the hurricane barrier in New Bedford, Mass. only to have another boat break loose from its mooring and smash into hers. Thirty–four boats in New Bedford were reported to have sustained similar damage. Here are some lessons learned by boaters in my area.

With over a thousand boats moored here in Marion, Massachusetts, people were everywhere, scrambling to secure their boats.  A good 40 percent planned to haul and the two local boatyards already had a queue for boats trying to escape the water. The boats staying in the water doubled mooring pennants, added chafe gear, and removed canvas—some even added wire storm pennants. After 1991 when Hurricane Bob brought extensive damage from boats dragging moorings and crashing into their neighbors—like a bad dream bowling alley—Marion mandated Helix moorings, those corkscrew devices that won’t drag.

The talk on the docks was all about the storm’s expected track and anticipated 4 to-8 foot storm surge—we would be in the dangerous semi-circle to the right of the eye, and in the windiest area, at astronomical high-tide, as it churned northward.

storm pendant

The blue wire storm pendant was attached to many boats as a precaution. Notice the chafe gear at the chocks

The club cut power to the docks and shut down all operations on the afternoon before the anticipated arrival. Then it began to rain. I went home to stow my patio furniture so it wouldn’t turn into flying projectiles, and then hunkered down for the duration. It didn’t seem that bad, as the storm lost potency over land and became a tropical storm. The power went out and giant pines came crashing down in my backyard.

The morning after Irene brought clear blue cloudless skies with a clean fall chill to the air. The waterfront director at the club called to see if I was available to run the launch that afternoon. When I arrived, yacht club personnel were busy re-installing ramps to the floats, getting the launches refloated, while busy chainsaws removed downed trees. And owners started to arrive to check for damage…

furler

This negligent boater did not remove his canvas or sails and paid for it with a shredded headsail.

Several boats had broken loose and run aground. Fortunately, they missed crashing into other boats in the mooring field. One boat lost its mast and several docks with ramps still attached were smashed into pieces. A few boat owners who did not remove their headsails on roller-furlers saw them in tatters. Not too bad considering the number of boats in this densely packed harbor.

sunny day

For owners who took precaution, the day after the storm proved glorious.

Here’s a list of lessons learned, based on my observation of the damage and discussion with other boaters. Most are repeats from my earlier blog on Storm Prep.

  1. The mooring you know may be better than a strange one in a more protected location (see New Bedford).
  2. Consider hauling. Boats hauled reported no damage in this particular storm.
  3. Reduce windage by removing all sails, canvas, dodgers, and enclosures.
  4. Double up lines and mooring pennants, and add chafe gear.
    Most boaters in Marion acted early. And fortunately it was only a tropical storm. I’m sure the few folks who did see damage, including the boats damaged behind the hurricane barrier in nearby New Bedford, can share more insights in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.
    Now, to get those shattered trees out of my yard.

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