Hurricane Joaquin

When we made the decision last Sunday to take refuge in Great Kills Harbour, the weather was looking nasty, I mean real nasty, for the coming weekend. Several weather forecasts had winds blowing steady at 30 knots and gusting to 40 kts (74 km/hr). We were both nervous about riding out those kind of winds at anchor in a harbour we were unfamiliar with. We had bought a new Rocna 20kg anchor before leaving TO and even though we’ve read tons about how great it is, we’d not had the chance to test it out ourselves. With the forecast before us, I was wishing we’d picked up one size larger…

Early Wednesday morning, around 3:30am, the winds picked up in the harbour and the movement of the boat prompted us to get up and have a look around. The 23 knot winds had us swinging this way and that – we’d never been at anchor in this much wind before – it was unsettling to say the least. We’d always felt really secure tied to the dock back in Toronto and to be moving THIS much, in the dark was tad scary. So much so that Tim decided to stay on deck and make sure the anchor held and we didn’t move any closer to the other boats moored around us. I tried to go back to sleep and when I couldn’t, I decided to obsessively google the weather and see how the forecast for the coming weekend was shaping up. What on Monday had been called Tropical Depression 11 and been upgraded to Tropical Storm Joaquin on Tuesday was now on course to become Hurricane Joaquin with a potential path up the US east coast as high as New York and New England. I went to sleep more nervous and wondering Why did we want to do this cruising thing anyways?

By 7am, it had quieted down and Tim crawled back into bed to grab some shut eye. I once again got up to obsess over the weather. When I saw a prediction for the coming Sunday of 40 knots steady wind and gusting to SIXTY knots. I flipped out. We’ve planned this trip with what we thought was a good amount of caution. That is, we were not rushing south and into the so-called Hurricane Zone while it was still hurricane season. Why was a Hurricane coming this far north? Of course we remember Hurricane Sandy – and so does everyone around us. Here in New York and New Jersey there are still remnants of the destruction and people still talk about it. A lot.   I woke Tim up, we needed to discuss what the options were and what we felt most comfortable with. It was pretty calm in the anchorage as the wind had dropped to almost nothing and so we started with taking sails and all canvas down. At the very least, we wanted to make sure that the foresail would not come unfurled, shred or worse take us sailing in a storm. Once this was completed, we called one of the marinas in the harbour to enquire what it would cost to haul the boat and put it on the hard for the storm. The answer was $600. Hmmmm. Our choices were…

  • Stay at anchor and set a second anchor for safety and reduce swing in a crowded mooring field. Cons of this plan (aside from fear) was how would we get the dog ashore each day for bathroom breaks. It could be too dangerous to have the dinghy in the water and travel back and forth. Never mind trying to lift the dog on and off the boat.
  • Alternatively we could grab a mooring ball – some mooring balls in the anchorage are reported to have 500 pound mushroom anchors. Much heavier than our 45 lb anchor. However we still have the same concerns about getting the dog to shore.
  • Book a slip at one of the marinas. This was a better option for getting the dog on and off the boat, but we worried about being tied to docks and the rise and fall of the tides, never mind the forecasted surge that the east coast was expecting with or without a hurricane.
  • Haul the boat, live on the hard and wait out the storm. If the weather gets really nasty, book into the only hotel on Staten Island that takes dogs.  (Or call our friends in Connecticut and have them come get us!)

We asked the manager at Mansion Marina about how long we could wait to pull the trigger on hauling out. He said it was no problem for him to wait on our decision, but if the storm became a real threat, his annual customers would come first and we might not be able to get out.

We decided to haul out. The costs for hauling out would be comparable to renting a slip at the dock for the next week which was our second choice. We decided to play it safe and haul out now.

It’s now been three nights living on the hard and Hurricane Joaquin has decided to head out to sea instead of making landfall in the US.  This is after devastating several islands in the Bahamas – our intended winter destination.  While we are grateful our haul-out seemed to be unnecessary, we can’t stop thinking about those living and sailing in the Bahamas who have been affected by this terrible storm.


The view from land.

We hope to be relaunched on Monday and maybe make another attempt at the Jersey coast Tuesday or Wednesday.  We’ll see.

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