Hurricane Florence landed near Wilmington NC in the wee hours of the morning on Friday September 14. The hit was devastating. By the time she made landfall, her winds were about 100 mph or 86 knots. She was not a super storm. The problem was that she was moving so slowly. She just sat there and sat there pounding the coast instead of getting it over with and moving inland. High winds are nothing new or even unusual in coastal North Carolina. The thing is, it usually does not last that long.
I made the trip to Whortonsville on Monday September 10th before the storm and returned home on Tuesday the 11th. I did everything I could to secure S/V Southern Star based on what my good friend Nick Santoro had taught me before when surviving hurricanes Irene and Isabelle. When I left, I took the ship's documentation papers home with me because I was not at all sure we would have a boat when we returned. On Sunday September 16, we received about 10 inches of rain and severe winds at our home in Mt. Pleasant, 200 miles inland as the crow flies. I cannot imagine what the conditions would have been like at Ensign Harbor where S/V Southern Star lives.
Our dear friends Nick and Jeanette Santoro (Ensign Harbor owners) are no longer with us. Both passed away within the last year. This was a devastating loss for us but especially for their only daughter Alyce. We were very apprehensive about what to expect during and after the storm but Alyce and her husband Julian stepped up and took charge of the situation. The Ensign Harbor docks sustained considerable damage and for the first week after the storm, they discouraged boat owners were from even visiting because the docks were not really safe to walk on. The "catwalk" leading from shore out to the main dock was in really bad shape. There was no electricity and the bath house was not functional. We stayed away as they requested but several of the dockmates, who were closer, made the trip and used kayaks to survey the damage. Tammy called me a day or two after the storm and told me that Southern Star was intact and had sustained no visible damage. Several folks took pictures and even a drone video and sent them via email. This was a great relief, thanks Tammy!
Alyce and Julian were very proactive about arranging dock repairs and within a week of the storm repair experts were on site and working to get the docks back into shape. There was still a lot to be done because there was still no electricity or water service at the boater's building.
On Thursday September 27 the dockmates received an email from Alyce telling us that electricity had been restored to the individual boats and that the boater's building (bath house) was fully operational. This was a great surprise. Still no water at the individual slips but they are working on that. I would not have expected this kind of recovery for several more weeks. I am not sure how Alyce and Julian got it done, but kudos to them!
Here are some links to the pictures of the damage and a video, all taken shortly after the storm passed.
"Click here for Pictures of Dock Damage"
As retirees, we are busy all the time. Our plan before the storm was to take a sailing trip to Ocracoke. Ms. Florence obviously changed that. When we heard the good news from Alyce we changed course and headed for Whortonsville as soon as we could get away.
Sunday September 30, 2018
We left home early on Sunday. And after a false start (I forgot my phone) we met Jonas and parents at the IHOP in Cary for a late breakfast. Heading for the boat is a good excuse to see Jonas and we appreciate Amber and Matthew's patience when we stop by and interrupt their day. It was almost 5 pm when we reached Ensign Harbor. We saw evidence of high water as far from the coast as Kinston. The country roads on the way out to the boat were littered with HVAC duct work, insulation, tree limbs and ruined furniture. Not complete devastation but really bad. Most of the restoration had been done to the docks. There were a lot of shiny new boards on the catwalk and other repairs that weren't as obvious. A catamaran on the smaller dock had landed with her rudders on the dock. The owner is working with a salvage company to correct the situation. One of the boats suffered a tattered jib when it unfurled in the wind. There was minor damage where some boats contacted pilings and other boats but the damage was no nearly as much as we expected.
Conventional wisdom among sailors is... buy a good boat and take care of her, and she will take care of you. That was certainly true in this case. A close inspection revealed no structural damage. Some of the canvas covers need some repair but they needed repair before the storm. The only damage I could detect is the VHF antenna at the top of the mast appears to have broken off. In past months I have noticed some sort of lichen growing on it and was obviously not able to clean it off. The growth probably added more windage than the stiff wire could handle. I will certainly not make an insurance claim for that. We have a handheld VHF for close work and I can probably round up a VHF antenna from existing stock at home for now. Next time we have the boat hauled I will have the yard unstep the mast so I can replace the antenna myself. We dodged the bullet this time.
This trip, we did not intend to do anything but inspect the boat for damage. A casual observer might ask why we would not simply head for Ocracoke since the storm had passed and we sustained no damage. The short answer to that query is "because I don't know what's in the water". After the storm landed she proceeded inland very very slowly. She dumped record breaking rains all the way to the Carolina foothills. That water will return to the coast. The question is, what will it bring with it? We heard on the news that some coal ash ponds were breached. We also know that many hog farm waste lagoons would have been breached. This has been known to happen with a hard rain not associated with a hurricane. We also heard horror stories about microscopic organisms in the area waters. That covers most of the stuff you can't see because it is so small but what about the stuff that could be UNDER the water that you can't see? Ensign Harbor lost several dock carts and a couple of dock boxes not to mention a big trash can. Where are they? My guess is, in the water. There could be lots of things in the water that would be a hazard to navigation. With the waters in the area completely churned I would also be concerned about what the boat's engine cooling system might ingest. Too much trash can clog the heat exchanger intake and make the cooling system fail. Further, we are not sure that all the floating (state) day marks are still on station nor are we sure that the fixed (federal) daymarks are even still there. Since nearly all the channels we regularly use are natural as opposed to manmade (dredged) channels we can be fairly sure they did not change much, but how much is much? Ocracoke must have sustained some damage although I don't know how much. We will let the area heal a little longer before we venture out. We have a camping trip planned just so we can take advantage of a lovely weather window.
Monday October 1, 2018
Since we had neglected to bring coffee this trip, we decided to get up and out quickly. We had coffee and a snack at McDonald's in Grantsboro and lunch at the "Rockin' Comet Diner" in Clayton. The weather for the whole trip was absolutely grand. One thing that I expected after this kind of drenching was mosquitoes but I noticed none at all.
We still have time before cold weather to make a short cruise. When and if we do, I will write about it here.