Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Hollow Men Battle the End of the World

2010 09 05 - The Day After
Halifax, NS

The sound and fury are past and all is well on Meredith and almost all the other boats on the east coast.  One man decided to swim after his boat when it slipped its mooring.  He drowned.

The Safety Idiots at the Power Squadron and the Coast Guard will be very impressed.  He was wearing his lifejacket.

Before it hit land Earl changed course and rather than track up the Bay of Fundy it tracked the East Coast of Nova Scotia - exactly where we had sought refuge.

Winds hit a maximum of 56 knots on deck and apparently hit 65 knots at the masthead.  We were able to leave the companionway hatch open as the rain was literally horizontal.  Nothing came in the open hatch.  Here  is a stream of consciousness recording as the day unfolded aboard Meredith. 

7:00 a.m. ADT

To bed last night the Canadian Hurricane Centre informed us the track of Hurricane Earl was locked in and that the storm centre would glance off Yarmouth and proceed up the Bay of Fundy. 
Sitting as we were on a mooring in Halifax this was good news.  Less storm for us but of course more for others.  Overnight the fickle bastard named Earl changed its mind and we woke to fresh reports on CBC of the storm hitting land at Lunenburg, only a few miles south of us.  Public radio can be a real drag.

Yesterday had been spent tearing Meredith down, removing anything that would give us a bigger profile in the wind, anything that might blow off.  Tying down the bits we could not remove.

The genoa was taken down and bagged.  The dodger and bimini, solar panels, all steel superstructure were dismantled and stored below.  The man overboard pole, lifering, lifesling, and BBQ were taken off the pushpit.  Fenders were stowed out of the wind.  Anything that could catch wind disappeared from the deck.

Articles that could not be stored or removed were tied down: the mainsail was wrapped in line, the halyard for the main boom was doubled up, the staysail boom was dropped to the deck and tied securely. Jerry jugs with diesel and gasoline were tied to the fender boards which were themselves securely wedged in the rigging.  Dinghy was tied to handholds with multiple lines.

A longer bridle was secured to our mooring ball.  In hurricanes a real risk is that water will be blown into an inlet such as the Northwest Arm where we are moored.  The result is water that piles up and that  can be 10 or 20 feet deeper than normal.  If you have only a normal bridle in place you could find your bow 20 feet under water when the surge hits.  We rigged longer lines around the existing lines.  If circumstances required we could simply cut the existing bridles and our new longer bridles would allow the bow to float freely.

It was our decision to remain on Meredith through the storm.  This can be argued but when made it appeared a sure bet that Earl would pass well to the west of us and wind effects would be well within manageable limits. 

Friends had written during the day yesterday to suggest extra precautions and put forward ideas based on their experiences.  Every idea has been discussed in detail and adapted to our boat and state of preparedness.

8 a.m. ADT

CBC, source of all our bad news, was interviewing PEI potato farmers worried about damage to their crops.  Excuse me, don,t potatoes live underground.  They are already in their bunkers.

9:30 a.m. ADT

Rain has started.  Wind is gusty running off a 40 knot base.  Hurricane is not expected to land until noon now.  Conditions are tolerable and mirror our past experience.

Point of landing for Earl has changed from south of Lunenburg to somewhere between Lunenburg and Halifax.

We just heard on radio from a guy out of Goderich on a motor sailor named Annandale.  He is holed up somewhere on 200 feet of chain and cannot possibly be as calm as his email attempts to portray.
The CBC radio interviewees are growing increasingly strident.  Tension is mounting amongst the land dwellers.

A lobster boat just motored by from checking his traps.

10:00 a.m. ADT

Wind is growing and shifting direction. Rain is steady and not quite horizontal yet.  That will come.

Dartmouth Farmer’s Market, right beside Halifax, calls the CBC to complain that they are open and no one is coming. 

Some chicken farmer called in to say his chickens are not trying to get out of their coop this morning.  Usually he tells us his chickens are very eager to get free.  Somehow this guy thinks the actions of his chickens portends a storm on its way.  Perceptive chickens.  The chicken farmer not so much.

10:15 a.m. ADT

Wind unpleasant.  Boat motion unpleasant.  Crew at Defcon 3.  Boat heeling unexpectedly.  We are on a mooring and should be swinging to face the wind not presenting beam to.  Not bad enough for me to check yet.  I am thinking those chickens didn't have to be that smart not to want to go outside.

10:20 a.m. ADT

We have turned the radio off. 

Boats talk to you, if you listen.  Each creak, each thump, each critch, each tremor tells you something about your boat’s health.  The tense voices of the suburbanites calling in to CBC are drowning out that of Meredith.

Meredith wins and we shut out the voices of bored suburbia. 

There is an immediate calming effect.

10:40 a.m. ADT

Incessant and irregular pounding on deck.  A sound not heard before.  On deck the rain as now pretty much horizontal.  Thank goodness for the large lens on my eyewear.  The pounding is the furling swivel which we have neglected to tie down.  The swivel is sliding up and down the forestay foil with all the force of a pile driver. 

The Budget Committee had prepared a kit of small stuff, short lengths of line, at the ready for just such situations.  She got a line and turtled out the companionway to hand it to me.  The swivel was easily secured.

On my last excursion on deck I thought we had been out in conditions similar to those I found.  I am not so sure anymore.

The Budget Committee was wearing a white T Shirt when she emerged briefly from the companionway to hand me line.  She was soaked to the skin.  I noticed appreciatively.

11:00 a.m. ADT

Visibility is down, rain is horizontal.

Despite the boat being buffeted mightily we are adapting to the ebb and flow of the wind and waves.  We are quite a bit more at comfort than an hour ago despite intensifying conditions.  Not having the radio on helps.

At this point not knowing is helping. Our survival plan stands on a tripod of preparedness, state of readiness and willingness to act.  Of the three only the final leg has not been tested.  We will see. 

Here we sit, hollow men on a ship of fools, contemplating the arrival of the worst of Earl.

11:15 a.m. ADT

Sending text messages to the kids so they can stay informed and will know at least that our thumbs still work.  One child is in Cuba and the other two are likely sleeping. 

The Wind is beginning to hold my full time attention.  Rain has stopped.   Barometer has fallen from 1010 mb last night at bedtime to 980 - 981 at 11 a.m. Make that a 30 mb drop in 12 hours. We have never witnessed that before.

The Budget Committee and I agree that it is unnerving to have other small boats moored nearby. Lacking Meredith’s inertia these light vessels are being thrown around quite dramatically and as their masts whip by the portholes they seem parlously close.

12:30 p.m. ADT

It is done.  We are in the eye and must but exit the storm in conditions less demanding than encountered at the entrance.

The mighty hurricane has been naught but a bunch of wind and at that not terribly uncomfortable and never terrifying.  

We will dine ashore tonight at the yacht club.  If someone prints a t shirt we will not likely buy one.  Earl has been a fraud. 


Is That All There is?  Is That ALL There is?
 If that's all there is 
Then Let's Keep Dancing                                                                                          
Let's Break Out the Booze and Have a Ball

 Peggy Lee

This is the way the world ends        
This is the way the world ends    
This is the way the world ends     
Not with a bang but a whimper. 

TS Elliot, The Hollow Men                                                                                                                                                                                                             

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