Boaters are hauling their vessels and waterfront homeowners are boarding up their houses and stockpiling supplies from the Carolinas to New England in preparation for what experts are calling an "epic" storm — Hurricane Irene.
"We've been spared for 20 years from the wrath of hurricane season," says Gail Maddigan, a boat owner who lives on the waterfront in Onset Bay, Mass. "And now we'll take it serious this time around, as we think back to August 19th, 1991, and the damage that [Hurricane] Bob did to our area. Batteries, ice, candles, water and prayers should get us through."
Maddigan planned to haul her 14-foot 1977 Stur-Dee skiff today and will board up the house. Residents started hauling their boats on Thursday, she says.
"It's a very large hurricane and going to be moving parallel to the Eastern Seaboard, so everyone on the Eastern Seaboard needs to keep an eye on this storm and be prepared for the eventual impact," Bill Read, a meteorologist with the national hurricane center, says on a weather.com report.
Click play to watch a WPRI-TV report on the preparations of Rhode Island boaters as the storm nears.
Click here to view a live webcam of Newport Harbor.
Click here to track the storm’s progress up the East Coast.
The crew of Brewer Dauntless Shipyard & Marina in Essex, Conn., hauled a Rosborough RF-246 on Thursday morning, one of "30-plus and counting" requests for quick haulouts as Hurricane Irene approaches New England. "I've never seen it like this," Doug Domenie, general manager of the yard, says of the rush by his customers to get their vessels to safer ground.
In Wrightsville Beach, N.C., TowBoatUS franchise co-owner Matt Wild describes the scramble by boaters to haul their boats or have them hauled as "organized chaos."
"Owners of all kinds and sizes of boats are trying to get [their boats] out of the water," he says. "The [boat] ramps are inundated with people, boats and trailers, pretty much all day and all night."
Owners of larger boats are calling haulout companies, and chatter on the VHF radio is non-stop, Wild says. His TowBoatUS captains and divers also are getting ready.
"We have to be available at the tail end of the storm - literally as it passes over," says Wild, whose fleet includes three towboats. "We try to save boats that are about to sink to prevent them from being a total loss."
Irene forced officials to cancel the three-day Herreshoff Classic Regatta in Bristol, R.I. “Even if the storm passes east or west of us we’ll have enough wind where it will be unlikely we can sail, let alone hold a race,” Dyer Jones, chief executive officer of the Herreshoff Marine Museum, says in a story published at www.eastbayri.com.
Seventy-five yachts participated in last year's regatta, a three-day event. "It's a great, fun regatta with great people and great boats, but this is the right thing to do," he says.
In Connecticut, Doug Logan was assembling a to-do list to prepare for Irene. "It looks like we're in for at least a glancing blow, if not more," Logan says. "If my boat were in an unprotected area, I would pull it."
But his 2001 26-foot pilothouse inboard boat, Pup, is tucked away in a slip far up the Branford River in a protected location. Pup might be staying put, but Logan plans to remove the windshield to reduce wind pressure on the house structure and take off the bimini, all loose objects and his electronics. He'll double up the dock lines, use chafing gear where the dock lines travel through chocks, and add fenders all around.
"I'll be checking the boats in the neighboring slips, too," he says. "You can prepare your own boat fine, but what if the guy next to you breaks loose?" Logan is also a longtime sailor. In the last few days he has seen some sailors in the Branford River putting extra lines around their mainsail covers and around their roller-furled jibs. His advice: Just take the sails off the boat. "You really want to reduce windage and pressure on the boat and rigging to an absolute minimum," he says. "You're going to present a lot more area for the wind to grab with a furled sail on a boom than with no sail at all. If the sail gets loose, you're not only going to create a lot of stress on the boat, but you're going to lose your sails."
If you can haul your boat, do it, says Jonathan Klopman, a marine surveyor in Marblehead, Mass., who is also a member of the BoatUS Marine Insurance Catastrophe Field Team, which recovers and assesses hurricane-damaged boats. "But if you're stuck in the slip and have to have your boat tied up, remember it's not the number of lines, it's how you tie them up," says Klopman, who has worked 11 hurricanes. "I've seen boats with 10 lines on them that have gotten the crap beaten out of them."
Braided dock lines are much better than three-strand, and avoid using cheap imported line, Klopman says. "The domestic-made lines really are better and are worth the money,” he says.
And swap out your current lines for thicker ones, he says.
"It's better to have one three-quarter-inch line than two half-inch lines," he says. "If one half-inch line snaps because it stretches too much, then the other one will quickly follow."