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.
“Want me to drive us off the dock?” our son, Kaeo, asked me, after he and his sister Kailani had already secured the kayak and the dinghy and readied the rest of the deck for travel. For Kaeo, who started this cruising journey as an 11-year-old prone to seasickness and fearful of any seas much bigger than six feet, this was just another delicious adventure that gave him a chance to shine. Prepping also meant checking the engine oil and making sure all the valves were in their proper positions for travel. Though his dad coached him through some of the process over the phone, the reality is that he’d stepped into First Officer shoes some time ago and was already completely dialed in to most of Osprey’s systems.
“Absolutely,” I said. “Get her out of the creek, and I’ll take her from there.” It was an easy trip up the bay, and it was made easier by the hot spiced cider that Kailani brewed up on the stove and the pleasant chat I had with a southbound tugboat beneath the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. By the time we got to Oak Harbor Marina, on Rock Creek, I was ready to hand the wheel over to J.B., the marina’s yard manager. I’d been trusting that he’d hop aboard and drive us in, but as I idled Osprey nearby, J.B. stood at the end of the finger pier with Ken, the marina’s owner.
“Come on!” he shouted. “Stick your nose in here! We’ll catch ya!” In for a penny, in for a pound, I thought; don’t go all girlie now. Taking a quick assessment of the little cross breeze and how it would set me into the pier, I ever so gently nosed Osprey into the slip while the kids perfectly managed the lines and fenders. And just like that, we were in, our first solo flight a success.
|Kaeo Clarke tying down a wind turbine.|
For the rest of the afternoon and the next day, we watched the weather and stripped the boat, lowering and bricking the headsails, wrapping the main, tying off the wind generators, and taking anything that could fly off the deck and storing it ashore. The kids launched the dinghy, attached and fired up the engine, and ensconced it safely inside the marina along the bulkhead. With the help of our friends Mike and Roberta from Celilo, who’d moved to the marina with us, we set a storm anchor off Osprey’s beam, where I thought the worst of the winds would hit. We doubled the lines, filled the water tanks, and topped off the gas cans.
My efforts to get the kids to go visit friends for the duration fell on deaf ears. We were a team, a family, and a crew. Besides, they weren’t about to let me have all the fun. And so I stood and watched the moon and waited, feeling a most unlikely emotion at that moment: pride in a small accomplishment, contentment at an unexpected silver lining.
The Clarke family is currently aboard Osprey on the Chesapeake.