On Hurricanes

Sometimes, life on shore and afloat aren't all that different.

Calm Before the Storm

Green Brett

Well, the Irene brouhaha has come and mostly gone here in Rhode Island, and we're none too worse for the wear and tear, for which we are very thankful. Being liveaboards who've had some experience with hurricanes, we take them seriously. Days before the storm, we moved Lyra from her mooring and staked out our claim at our chosen hurricane hole. We took down all the sails and canvas and put out four anchors, and then the girls and I jumped ship. (I'll also be writing a future story on hurricane preparations for an upcoming issue of CW.)

One of the worst aspects of a hurricane (besides the aftermath), I have always felt, is the waiting. For days you watch the forecasted track and the radar images of the swirling beast coming at you. Is it going to hit? You prepare, stress out, and then wait. Maybe stress out a little bit more. Then the weather starts to deteriorate and the air feels heavy and close. Like impending doom. And then there's not much to do other than wait it out and hope for the best.

We stayed on shore at a friend's house, which was great, and once the power went out, I had plenty of time to reflect on how oddly nice it was to not have power. Without our electronic doodads distracting all of us—no TV, computers, and very limited battery left on the iPhone—we actually talked. And in the evening, after the wind had subsided mostly, we cooked dinner on the grill and camp stove and chatted with neighbors. As the sun went down, we lit candles and a fire in the fireplace (the air temp had cooled down considerably) and played Scrabble. It was a lot like evenings while cruising, really (except for the fireplace!).

In the morning, friends and neighbors were out helping one another clean up, and everyone was desperate for coffee and looking for news of when the power might return. (Want to hit New Englanders where it really hurts? Board up all the Dunkin Donuts!) It was a bit of camaraderie that isn't seen too often in neighborhoods these days, but is normal for cruising sailors. Living off of the grid aboard a boat definitely has a benefit in this area.

I have always found it to be a little funny how people can live next door to each other for years and never speak, and it takes something big, like a natural disaster, to bring people out of their houses. It's also a little funny that during these times the "old" ways of getting news trump the "new" ways. With no service on the smartphones, no computers, and no TV, things like friends dropping by with news, the radio, and, gasp, the newspaper were the sources of info. Again, oddly similar to cruising.

So as life, both on shore and afloat, starts to return to normal here, we are all thankful that we weathered the storm without much damage (and our thoughts are with those in Vermont, who are dealing with catastrophic flooding, and the extremely storm-battered Bahamas), hopeful that the next storm churning out over the Atlantic will stay away, and appreciative for the perspective that can be gained when the winds howl and the lights go out.

  • In the photo- The calm before the storm—literally—in Lyra's hurricane hole.