Hurricane Irene September 2011
06 September 2011 | Wayfarer's Cove / Whortonsville NC
Last weekend, using the Internet and broadcast TV, we watched hurricane Irene slam into coastal North Carolina from the comfort of our home 250 miles away. The eye passed directly over the boat in Wayfarer’s Cove marina and our homeport in Whortonsville. It was not fun but the best place to be during a hurricane is far away. News from our coast was sketchy at best. It seemed that the national media was focused on New York City and points north with their main concern being whether Wall Street would open on Monday as usual.
Thanks to the gallant efforts of the staff of the Town Dock website www.towndock.net we were able to keep tabs on the town of Oriental and surrounding area. Town Dock posted timely updates about the conditions before and even during the storm from within the storm. At one point they went on generator power. When they lost telephone and Internet service they resorted to cell phone service to send updates. They only went off the air when cell service failed in the area. As soon as they were back on line, storm damage reports were posted. They even initiated a free “hurricane lost & found” service to help folks recover items that “went sailing” during the storm. My hat is off to these folks for this service and for an otherwise brilliantly executed website.
With Southern Star high and dry in the boatyard, there was little we could (or should) do during the storm except to stay out of the way. The day we were to bring her home from the yard was the same day that Irene came to visit. We did not get official word from Tom at the boatyard until Tuesday after the storm landed on Saturday. This kind of waiting made me a bit antsy but our problems were an almost non-existent inconvenience compared to the residents of the area. When Tom did call, he reported that the boat weathered the storm without a scratch. We also spoke about a new launch plan but he was hesitant to launch because of the new storm, Katia, brewing in the eastern Atlantic. We left the decision until later in the week.
Friday, September 2, 2011
We had been watching Katia all week and her track was still far from certain. We wanted to bring the boat home on Saturday (9/3) but leaving her in the yard would be the best solution if another storm were about strike. Tom called at about noon and made the decision for us. It seems that with all the activity in the yard, there was a minor rudder repair that had been missed. He would not be able to complete the repair in time to splash the boat on Friday. It was almost a relief that the decision had been made for us. The boat would remain on the hard and out of harm’s way for another week.
Earlier in the week we had gotten email updates from Ensign Harbor and we knew that there was damage in the area but only minor damage at our dock. I was anxious to be there. I knew many of our dock mates would come down to check on their boats. Tom had wanted me to inspect the paint job before the boat was splashed anyway, so we planned to drive down on Saturday morning and return either late in the day or stay in Kinston for the night and return home on Sunday.
Saturday September 3, 2011
We left at 6am and stopped only for a fast food breakfast and a few groceries. We were at the boatyard before noon to inspect the paint job, which was perfectly acceptable, as I knew it would be.
Almost as an afterthought, I decided to check the bilge pump. Keelboat stuffing boxes are designed to leak. The stuffing box is the shaft bearing located at the point where the propeller shaft passes through the hull. The area surrounding the shaft inside the stuffing box is literally “stuffed” with a jute like fiber. When the shaft turns the stuffing box slowly drips into the bilge. The water passing through the box serves to lubricate the shaft. Without this dripping, the shaft would soon be ruined. Knowing the nature of the stuffing material it is reasonable to assume that after the boat has been out of the water for some time, the stuffing would dry out and most likely leak at least for a while after the boat is returned to the water. Even if it didn’t, a smart captain would make sure his bilge pump is operational at all times. I went aboard to perform the test. I made sure the proper circuits were engaged on the electrical panel took the bilge cover off and lifted the float switch expecting to hear the bilge pump come to life. It did not. Repeated checks of switches and float switch activations proved that the pump was not operational. Bummer. I went back down the ladder to inform the mate of our status and to let her know that it would be more than a few minutes before we were ready to go.
I was without my usual complement of electrical tools that I sometimes transport when planning electrical work. Since nothing had changed in the entire electrical system and bilge pumps in general are fairly reliable, my troubleshooting took me directly to the float switch. I must confess that I suspected the float switch because I have replaced it at least twice already. I proved that the pump was working by eliminating the float switch from the circuit. When I turned on the main panel switch, the pump fired up as expected. Due to the general unreliable nature of the aforementioned float switch, I had a spare stowed in the navigation locker. It was exactly the same as the old switch with the same hole pattern. This brand is something I will re-think when ordering the next replacement switch. For now, I installed the new float switch and satisfied myself that the bilge pump system would indeed automatically eject unwanted bilge water. The installation is not pretty but it will work until I have the proper tools to connect and seal the electrical connections.
Discovering and repairing the faulty float switch made the entire trip more than worthwhile. I shudder to think what could have happened when the boat was re-launched with a leaking stuffing box and a faulty bilge pump. Maintaining an old boat is a bit like playing chess. You have to anticipate things that can go wrong if at all possible. Unfortunately you are bound to miss something important and it will always fail at the worse possible time. This very important repair did not take very in the greater scheme of things so we continued on to Whortonsville and Ensign Harbor.
On the trip to Ensign Harbor we saw a lot of hurricane damage. It was not what a newscaster would call catastrophic damage but to the folks who live there it was. There were many homes with piles of insulation, duct work and bedding on the shoulder of the road. The road was washed out on our usual route so we had to take a detour. When we arrived we found a good crowd at the docks. In fact it was the biggest turnout we have seen in a long time. Nick, John and Brent were working to repair the damage to the wooden sidewalk between the docks. I didn’t have an agenda, or even a boat at the dock, so I assisted until the sidewalk was back in place and ready for another storm. When finished Nick served refreshments in the cockpit and we had a very nice visit with the group. It was nearly 7pm when they broke up and since we had no boat to sleep on, we decided to head home and either drive all the way or find a place to spend the night. We stopped in Bayboro for very bad fast food and decided to find a hotel in Kinston to stay the night. That was not as simple as we had hoped. The first two roadside national chain hotels were full. We found lodging at the West Park Inn outside Kinston. It was actually 30 dollars cheaper then the national chain and was quite nice.
Sunday September 4, 2011
We left the hotel at about 9am. The trip home was uneventful. We stopped at the Trader Joe’s in Cary and visited with Judy’s parents before we actually went home. Jonas and family were busy so we didn’t stop to see them.