Friday, September 3, 2010

When the Winds Blow

This is our third year with Obsession, and today marks the third time we've prepared her for an oncoming hurricane. The first year was clear, but then we had two storms last year, and now our first (and hopefully only) for this year.

It's Friday, and Hurricane Earl is coming up the American East Coast on its way here. Earl had worked its way up to Category 4 hurricane a couple of days ago, but it's now down to Category 1. It's still expected to be Category 1 when it hits Nova Scotia/New Brunswick tomorrow, and down to a tropical storm before it hits PEI. However, that's still plenty strong to do major damage.

Last year, we had two instances. First, Hurricane Bill came north. At the time, we were in the Bras D'Or lakes at the St Peter's Marina. The hurricane track prediction anticipated it would go right over our heads. Fortunately, it veered off at the last minute, and Cape Breton was just brushed by its edges. However, we stripped and prepared the boat for the worst, and suffered no damage.

But, two weeks later, Hurricane Danny paid a visit. By then, we were back in Montague, and sure enough, the expected track was going right over us again. So for the second time, we prepared for the worst. However, Montague is well protected, being in a small valley up the river, so the winds are not as damaging as more exposed locations.

And to think Americans complain about our sending them Canadian Cold Fronts. Look what they give us in return.

When we prepare for a hurricane, we have two classes of actions. The first is to secure the boat. The second is to eliminate potential wind damage, either to sails or from flying projectiles.

Securing the boat to the mooring means doubling and tripling our dock lines. Essentially, we take all of the lines we have, and tie them between the boat and the dock. Sailboats are designed to handle strong winds, but they assume that the winds are used to move the boat. The situation is a bit different when you're tied to a dock, and don't want to move. Imagine holding up a 30-foot long piece of plywood against 50 knot winds - that's how much force is on a boat if the wind hits it broadside. With plenty of lines, the boat can withstand this force and stay tied to the dock. However, we have to hope that the docks are strong enough to withstand this force on many boats without breaking. Fortunately, this year, we were moved from our normal, outside, docking area, to a more secure dock, so we should be fine in that regard.

When the boat is at dock, the jib is normally furled around the forestay, and the main is tied up on the boom. However, in a strong wind, neither of these methods are fully satisfactory, as the wind can get in and cause the sails to break loose. The resulting winds can easily shred sails that cost thousands of dollars. So, we strip the sails off completely, and put them below decks.

Finally, all of the items on deck have to be taken off and stored belowdeck or removed and taken home. This includes safety items (life ring and man overboard pole), and the variety of other items that are often tied onto a boat for convenience. In tropical force winds, these items can take flight and cause a lot of damage.

Now that we've prepared as much as we can for tomorrow's storm, all we can do is sit and wait. We've taken the best precautions that we can. We only hope that other boats around us have done the same, and that we don't suffer damage as a result of someone else's sloppy preparations.

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