Solo Flight: Preparing our Sailboat for Hurricane Sandy
The night before Sandy hit, I stood on Osprey’s deck looking up at the nearly full moon. Its pallid light leaked into the sky as if it were being strained through cheesecloth. Scudding clouds—outliers of the coming storm—now and then threw the deck into an uneasy darkness. We’d been frantically preparing for two days. Now we waited, always the hardest part.
“Keep an eye on this one.” Those had been the words of my husband, Johnny, just before he headed offshore from the Chesapeake en route to Florida aboard a catamaran he was delivering with our friend Kim. On a schedule, they were jumping a window to get around Cape Hatteras and as far south as possible well before the depression that would become Sandy started its turn north.
“I’m on it. Don’t worry.” Those were my words as I blithely reassured him that the weather brewing in the Caribbean was already on my radar and that all would be well. Three days later, that weather had become Hurricane Sandy, Johnny and Kim were holed up in Charleston babysitting their charge, and my personal radar was set at DEFCON One. While most of the models were showing the storm going north of Annapolis, where Osprey was, I was listening carefully to our weather guru, Chris Parker; the words he was choosing tapped into some gut feeling to which I couldn’t put a name. The dock where Osprey nestled was entirely exposed to the northeast; Sandy would eat her for lunch if the winds got much above 30 knots, not to mention if the storm delivered a surge. Our friends who own a marina in a protected creek off the Patapsco River had a slip ready and waiting for us. There was just one thing: The kids and I had never moved Osprey on our own before.
So began a graduation of sorts, the culmination of four years of full-time sailing that had, over time, honed our family of four (and one dog) into a team that truly has become far more than the sum of its parts. Until now, of course, we’d always worked together, with Johnny at the lead. But now the lead was stuck in Charleston. No big deal, I told myself. All I had to do was safely move Osprey about 25 miles up the Chesapeake, drive her into a slip for the first time ever by myself, then prep her and get us through what would become the worst storm to hit the U.S. East Coast since 1938. No pressure.