October 6, 2016
In the last post we mentioned how living on a boat means your life is heavily influenced by weather. Now with just weeks left in the official hurricane season, Hurricane Matthew has proved our point! We were in the Washington, DC area and had planned to depart for a week of R&R in Colorado, but last Saturday, the track of Matthew showed some potential for impacting North Carolina where we had left the boat. So we reluctantly at 5:00 AM canceled our 8:15 flights and by Monday knew we had to return to Shear Madness to make sure she was safe and secure. We departed at 4:30am on Tuesday morning and arrived at the boat by 11am.
The marina where we left the boat is not hurricane safe and has a mandatory evacuation policy in the event of a hurricane forecast. That meant we had to decide how and where to put the boat. Ideally, the safest thing is to haul the boat out of the water, storing it safely on land or move out of the storm track completely. Our primary hurricane plan for Beaufort NC was to run north into the Chesapeake Bay. However, wind speeds were 25 to 30 knots from the north, blowing against the Gulf Streams, so it would be almost as bad as heading out into a hurricane. Plan B was to get lifted out of the water, but the size of our boat means the yard must have a large (200-ton) boat lift, limiting our options to only one place, Jarrett Bay Boatworks. Jarrett Bay was fully committed to customers who hold Hurricane Policies – contracts for which they pay to guarantee space (extra insurance) and time for their boats to be hauled out if a hurricane is coming. When we approached Jarrett bay they indicated it was very unlikely could haul us but would let us know if they could find a way to squeeze us in.
Plan C, which we have done multiple times, was to find a safe, protected anchorage in the area. After talking to several locals who were very knowledgeable boaters, including our good friend, David, we identified an good protected location on the Neuse River. Because Bradley was fighting a very bad Staph infection, from a poison ivy encounter, this past weekend, we wanted to recruit a third person to join us. We recruited Brian, a local friend with knowledge of the river, to help us get there safely and prepare the boat.
After exchanging multiple calls, a welcome call came in. Jarrett Bay would be able to haul us after all. What does that mean? Everything that can be impacted by hurricane strength winds (cushions, covers for kayak and tender, etc) has to be removed from the decks and stored safely inside the boat or in some kind of secure storage. Antennas have to be secured. Selected outside cabinets need to be taped to prevent water intrusion in heavy, pounding rains. The goal is to have as few wind resistant objects outside as possible.
Compounding the challenge, we would not have power once we were hauled out. That means no refrigeration and no charging for our batteries. So even though we have not bought any significant new provisions since March, we still had quite a lot of food in our freezers which would have to be removed and transported elsewhere. Additionally, we needed to turn everything off to conserve our battery power. We were able to get the draw on our batteries down to 2 amps per hour, giving us approximately 21 days before the batteries are down to 50%, the lowest level one should drive their batteries down.
All of Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning was spent preparing the boat. At 8:30am on Wednesday, we headed to Jarrett Bay where thankfully they were on schedule and able to haul us as promised at 10am. An hour later, the boat was safely out of the water and we continued making preparations. By 4pm, we were done. All that remained was to load the heavy coolers containing the contents of our freezers and refrigerators into the car for the 6 hour drive back to DC.
All we can do now is wait to see what Matthew decides to do. Once he passes, we’ll head back and move the boat – either to another spot on land where we can get power, or back into the water.