Chip Ford's 1974 Catalina 22 Restoration Project
Sail #3282  l  Marblehead, Massachusetts

The never-ending project to fill my hole in the ocean while bailing it out

Sailing Season 2011 is on!

Hurricane Irene

Click thumbnails for a larger picture
Thursday, August 25, 2011

I went out this morning with a plan to strip the sails off, remove the boom, and off-load anything of value. My regular haul-out 'crew' were taking care of their own boats. I was going to be stuck on the mooring for the approaching monster storm. Do what I can then, worst case scenario, depend on the insurance.

I lucked out. Brendan -- owner of the Mid-Harbor Launch company -- was bringing his mooring barge into the dock as I arrived. He asked what my plan was. He recommended that I pull Chip Ahoy out, that's what he's doing with all his equipment: launches, mooring barge, even the 'office' house out on its float. I told him Marblehead Trading Company's going flat-out -- no way they'll get to me. He suggested Dion's Yacht Yard, where I had Chip Ahoy hauled out last November, line of sight away. They couldn't handle me either -- have over 120 boats to pull, their winter storage clients, and won't even be able to complete that in time.

Brendan had offered, if that failed, to put a couple of his crew onto trailering Chip Ahoy out over at Winter Island, help drop the mast so I could trailer home.  But he called back to tell me Dion's couldn't pull his equipment out either -- so he wouldn't be able to assist me. I kept plugging along with my initial plan, would need to hope for the best and count on my insurance policy if the worst happened.

While below, stuffing the main sail into its sail bag, I looked out and saw a house approaching Chip Ahoy! It is part of the defunct floating restaurant being pushed into the cove! That condemned floating mass is everyone's concern if it breaks loose out there at the mouth of the harbor, as it has in the past, the harbor becomes a virtual bowling alley. Though it came close to Chip Ahoy, it squeezed through between my boat and the next one on a mooring.  I called Brendan to inform him it was his equipment that was destroyed the last time the abandoned floating restaurant broke free.

By mid-afternoon the weather felt threatening, though it had nothing to do with Hurricane Irene. Afternoon thunderstorms were in the forecast, and the wind had been blowing strong all morning.

Brendan called, had a deal with the Salem harbormaster to pull Chip Ahoy out on Winter Island (photo from Dec. 2008), park it for the duration with its mast up, but we'd have to move fast. He was ready to pick up Chip Ahoy's trailer, bring it over to Winter Island, so I closed up the boat and took the launch in. Back home on the top of the hill, I hooked up the trailer to my Blazer and pulled it out of the weeds just as Brendan arrived. He hooked it up to his truck, I returned to Chip Ahoy.

Since the batteries were dead, I pull-started the outboard again, dropped the mooring, and met Brendan at the ramp across the harbor. After circling until he could back my trailer in (lots of haul-out traffic), I hit the trailer perfectly the first time and he pulled Chip Ahoy out.

The Salem harbormaster, Bill McHugh, provided Brendan and me a space up behind the abandoned old Coast Guard station barracks, so we were soon secured. I'll come back tomorrow and finalize preparations, but didn't want to tie up Brendan any longer than was essential.

Thank you Brendan for extending this above-and-beyond assistance. You are truly a friend!  (Aug. 25, 2011)

Friday, August 26, 1011

This morning I returned to Chip Ahoy's 'hurricane refuge' location on Winter Island to make final preparations. I brought out the jack stands and trailer strap, removed the dead batteries and spare but empty gas tank, and battened down the boat as best I could.

When I got out to the boat yesterday I eventually discovered that both batteries were utterly dead. This proves the old adage that on a boat, when one thing goes bad more follows! Apparently the last time aboard when leaving I must have kicked the rocker switch (top one) on Chip Ahoy's electrical panel. Also, I failed to shut off the 12v master switch. Ordinarily, that would have been caught the next time I was aboard, before critical mass, but since then I caught a nasty cold, that evolved into an upper-respiratory infection, that turned into a mild case of pneumonia: I hadn't been out to the boat in three weeks. Both batteries were completely, utterly drained.

I've taken both batteries home, along with the battery charger. They're charging now. I also took this 'opportunity' to take the backup gas tank out and refill it. When I return, Chip Ahoy should be good to go for the remainder of the season.

The harbormasters all around are dropping rules and regs in this potential crisis, letting all sorts of them slip by. This accommodation is one of them, for me and other small sailboats. Access to this emergency storage area, though a short distance from the launch ramp and parking lot, is powerlines-free, a clear drive with the mast up for a short but winding distance.

Bill McHugh, the Salem harbormaster, and his office have been fantastic. Last night Asst. Harbormaster "Patrick" called. Chip Ahoy had to be moved to make room for a couple other boats that were coming out permanently for the winter. I had locked my trailer hitch. I told Pat I'd be right over.  He asked if I'd rather have him pick up the key to the lock. I told him I didn't want to impose. He offered to pick it up at the dock. I drove down the street and handed it to him aboard one of the harbormaster's boats. Wow. I've never seen anything like this.

Harbormaster Bill pulled up while I was completing Chip Ahoy's hurricane preparations this afternoon. He's impressed with my decision and efforts; expects a lot of damage from those who aren't taking this threat seriously enough. He's in the process of pulling their boats and floats, can't understand why so many boats are still out there. Me too.

Coming home, one of my favorite views is cutting down Orange Street in Salem to Derby Street, seeing Friendship sitting on Derby Wharf. I can almost step back in history, the old federalist buildings framing the scene. I hope Friendship fares well in the threatening storm too.

"Better to have and not need, than need and not have." (Aug. 25, 2011)


The Salem News
Friday, August 26, 2011

North Shore readies for Irene
Hurricane poses first serious threat to the region in 20 years

By Michael Phillis

As dark clouds hung over the horizon near the Eastern Yacht Club in Marblehead yesterday, a steady stream of utility vehicles backed down the dock to remove boats from the water and harm's way.

"Don't take any chances," Marblehead resident Rob Gorman said as he secured his boats to his trailer. Gorman was taking action because of the imposing threat of Hurricane Irene, now a Category 3 storm moving up the Atlantic coast.

It's been more than 20 years since New England has faced a serious hurricane threat. The last such event, Hurricane Bob, hit New England on Aug. 20, 1991, and local meteorologist Arthur Francis said Hurricane Irene could be a comparable event.

"What we have to look for is where the exact center is going to go," Francis said. Bob had the largest impact near Cape Cod, where sustained wind speeds pounded the shore at 80 to 110 mph. Gusts topped 125 mph. Salem, however, wasn't hit as hard. Locally, according to Francis, the eye of the storm was never close enough to have an acutely damaging impact.

"Our peak gusts were 66 mph. We had thunderstorms during the hurricane when the wind was blowing. Our rainfall was 3.18 inches," Francis said. "Mostly what we had is rain." The comparably light effect of the hurricane locally was a result of its trajectory.

Where the eye hits, and how close, is paramount. According to the National Weather Service, Irene will hit the North Shore either late Sunday night or early Monday morning. If the eye passes to the east, expect heavier rain and softer winds. If it passes to the west, residents can expect opposite extremes. Also, because of the orientation of Salem and Marblehead's harbors, storm surge will be worse if the eye passes to the east because wind will flood down into the harbors.

"This will be ... like Bob but I think a little stronger," Francis said.

Local officials want residents to be prepared.

"Timing is everything," Salem Harbormaster Bill McHugh said. "What we are recommending, if you have some recreational (craft) that are trailerable, people (should) pull them out of the water temporarily."

McHugh said if boaters do decide to keep their boats attached to their moorings, they should make sure their craft are extra secure. Poorly secured boats are a danger to the entire harbor because if waves rip even a small craft from a mooring, it could collide with a number of other nearby boats and cause considerable damage.

McHugh said his department has prepared for a potentially large storm surge by removing such vessels as the Salem Willows float from the water. As the storm nears, they may do the same for other boats, as well.

Marblehead Harbormaster Charles J. Dalferro also stressed preparedness and planning ahead. "As far as people getting in and out of their boat, go early and take precautions now. Don't wait till the storms are here."

"Do it now," he said.

In Peabody, where flooding has been an issue, Mayor Michael Bonfanti said the town is doing what it can to prepare, which includes coordinating with the Red Cross to set up emergency shelters, if they are needed.

Flooding, however, is a possibility. "If (the storm) is to our west, like it looks like its going to be, maybe (we'll get) 4 inches of rain," he said. "It could cause some temporary flooding."

Towns are in contact with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. "We are finalizing our plans," said Peter Judge, the agency's public information officer.

Judge said the agency has been working with local and federal officials and holding conference calls with local leaders to help with planning and possible localized evacuations.

"We aren't talking about widespread evacuations,"

Still, the storm is far away.

"Once it gets closer, we are going to have a better feel for what potential damage their is going to be in (our) communities," Judge said.

Judge and other emergency officials said much was still unknown.

"We're praying like hell it misses," said Steve Karger, general manager of the Marblehead Yacht Club. "There is always somebody that shows up 10 minutes before you are closing down and says, 'I didn't hear about this storm.'"

"When that happens, we don't take them out to their boat. We explain it's a safety issue," Karger said.

"Do everything early," he advised.

Edgartown Harbormaster Charlie Blair looked out at the water yesterday and didn’t like what he saw — dozens of boats whose owners still haven’t heeded warnings.

“I have people that don’t want to move their boats, because they didn’t plan ahead. I have people that haven’t even been to their boats. That’s really a scary scenario,” he said. “Those are the troublemakers. They’re the ones who drag and break loose and wreck the prudent yachtsman who’s taken precautions.”

The Boston Herald
Saturday, August 27, 2011

State ready for ‘scary scenario’
By John Zaremba, Chris Cassidy and Colneth Smiley Jr.

The governor has 2,000 National Guard troops at the ready while an army of shoppers cleaned out stores across the state yesterday as Hurricane Irene barrels toward the Bay State with wind gusts of 100 mph — enough punch to knock out power across the region.

From the beaches to the Berkshires, residents scrambled to be ready to ride out the storm.

“People are freaking out,” said Sarah Young, one of the owners of the Surfside Motel in Oak Bluffs. “They think the island is going to be wiped away. Literally, someone asked me if the island was going to be here after the storm.  . . . We’ve basically just been trying to calm people down.”

Flashlights, bottled water and other emergency staples were in short supply in stores across the state as shoppers heeded warnings that the storm’s mighty winds will topple trees and tear down power lines, potentially disrupting service for days.

“It’s complete mayhem in there,” said Lauren Downey, 30, of Boston outside the Stop & Shop at the South Bay plaza. “There’s nowhere to walk. There’s a run on water and people are just pushing their way through.”

Gov. Deval Patrick declared a state of emergency yesterday and said Guardsmen will be ready to help with storm damage. He said state police and utility companies have emergency teams already in place, and urged residents to help simply by staying home.

“Have supplies on hand: food, water, flashlights, batteries. I’d ask people to check in an the elderly or the infirm or the vulnerable neighbors,” he said.

The storm stands to bring a treacherous trifecta of nature’s forces: punishing winds, torrential rains and pounding waves along the coast. Winds are expected to blow heaviest in the eastern part of the state, while rains will be at their worst out west — up to 10 inches.

“We’re hoping for the best but planning for the worst,” Patrick said.

Edgartown Harbormaster Charlie Blair looked out at the water yesterday and didn’t like what he saw — dozens of boats whose owners still haven’t heeded warnings.

“I have people that don’t want to move their boats, because they didn’t plan ahead. I have people that haven’t even been to their boats. That’s really a scary scenario,” he said. “Those are the troublemakers. They’re the ones who drag and break loose and wreck the prudent yachtsman who’s taken precautions.”

A Massport spokesman said airlines plan to start canceling flights today and even more tomorrow, with full schedules to resume Monday.

Boston’s public transportation system took a far calmer tack toward storm preparation than did New York, which plans to shut down mass transit today. T spokesman Joe Pesaturo said the rails haven’t seen major storm flooding since 1996.

Richard Weir contributed to this report.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Irene arrived here on the Northshore of Massachusetts gradually, this morning there was a startling nearby lightning strike but the rain and wind built steadily. The hurricane was supposed to reach its peak at between 2-4 pm this afternoon, so at 2:30 I took off in the Blazer to take some photos and check Chip Ahoy over on Winter Island.

If you look across Salem Harbor from the dock down the end of my street Winter Island is just behind and beyond the Salem power plant.

Among others I called, this morning I spoke with John Graichen, skipper of Malacass, promised to drive down West Shore Drive to the town cemetery that overlooks his boat and check it out for him.  It was faring well, very protected from the easterly offshore wind. At that time, the wind was blowing at about 50 mph, gusting higher.  (Aug. 28)

When I reached the entrance road to Winter Island it was closed off.  Not one bound by signs, I drove around and discovered the reason:  A large tree had been felled, but cut up and moved aside.  The road to the guardhouse was clear beyond, but the steel gate was closed.  I parked and walked beneath it.

When I got up the road to where Chip Ahoy was parked I found the lot full, but all was well.  The wind was blowing strong but the boats were unaffected.

The many boats out in Salem Harbor still on their moorings were faring well too, though dancing through constant swings.  The wind was blowing still at about 50-60 mph, not as bad as was expected but still enough where I was glad Chip Ahoy was out.

Video of Salem Harbor from
the harbormaster's office on Winter Island; 2:51 pm

All in all, not as bad as expected but still quite a storm with strong wind gusts hitting 70 mph or so. I'm gratified that I pulled Chip Ahoy and didn't have to awaken this morning to anxiety, or dread. There doesn't seem to be any damage in the harbor but down on the South Coast, in Marion and other ports, boats lost their moorings (See Marion sailboat disaster here) resulting in major loss.

Those who didn't haul-out lucked out, this time.  Those who did slept well last night, at least better.  It's still gusting over 50 mph but Irene is done with us. Tomorrow I plan to relaunch Chip Ahoy at noon, bring it home to its mooring.  (Aug. 28, 2011)

It's never-ending ... but Sailing Season 2011 is on err, for better or worse!