Hurricane Holing

Friday October 26, 2012

We interrupt the next scheduled post to bring you preparations on Hurricane Sandy.

 This morning we had to leave our sweet little spot in Jackson Creek to find a hurricane hole to settle in to for the next few days. Already having gone over it countless times with Rode Trip the guys had found ‘the perfect secluded spot’ that we hoped no one else would know about although I was never shown the map on the touchpad and had no idea the name of the location we were headed to except for it was off the Piankatank River. Making a quick stop at the marina we filled our disel and topped off the water tanks which were getting low enough to worry us should we be stuck for longer than expected. After we had upped anchor to get to the marina another boat had just come in the channel and into the creek. Passing us by they asked if we were on the way to the marina to be pulled out or if we were on the move. We quickly replied as they passed by that we were on the move and the answered they were in line to pull out and wished us a safe journey. Then speaking to a few fellow boaters at the docks while self serving the fuel Matt got into a conversation with the other boats around and all of them were being pulled out as well. So far it seemed we were the only souls brave enough to stay in the water. This of course to Matt meant that we surely were crazy and everyone else must know something if everyone else was being pulled out. We knew our insurance we cover a good portion of it and we shortly debated if we should follow the pack. Going to the office to pay for the fuel I made some small talk with the clerk on the situation since he looked like he had been around long enough to see a few of these roll in before. Knowing their schedule was jam packed already I asked if he thought it was wise for us to pull out at any of the marinas in the area, trying not to have his decision made by if they had time to squeeze in one more boat, and he asked where we were planning to go. “Up a river, up a Creek” was all I could tell him since that’s all I really knew, “Hopefully someplace no one else knows about and it won’t be crowded”. I didn’t even give him a remote location and he replied with “The locals know. There isn’t a hurricane hole around here they don’t know about. And we’re telling anyone who asks to go to Wilton Creek, about a mile up the river here. You’ll be fine though.” Hmmm, his broadcasted location sounded eerily similar to what the guys described to me and if there was one thing I didn’t want it was a hurricane hole full of other boats.

Pushing ourselves out of the slip we saw Rode Trip lifting their anchor and we all made our way back out the narrow and winding channel and toward Fishing Bay where we’d enter the Piankatank. Even though yesterday was sunny and warm and beautiful the temperature had taken a big plummet and the wind whipped through cloudy skies. As soon as we were in open water again the wind jumped up to twenty-five knots and the bay became choppy. A light fog rolled off the tree tops and chilled the air even more than it already was. Although I knew better it looked as if the hurricane was only a day behind us and all of a sudden didn’t feel so silly or over prepared for staking our location three days before the storm was predicted to come. Making our way further up the river the protection of trees on each side calmed the wind down five to ten knots but it was still blustery and cold. Just using Rode Trip as our leader since I was still in the dark of where we were actually going I scanned ahead on the chartplotter to survey each creek coming up. Most of them appeared to be pretty shallow, about five to six feet even at the entrance, so I assumed they were not the ones we’d be staying in. As we passed the last bend in the river before a low clearance bridge we would not be able to go under there was only one creek left on the map. It was long and started out deep going down to five feet near it’s head. I scrolled further in on the chart. Name: Wilton Creek. Now knowing for sure that this is where the marina was trying to send everyone and their mother I just hoped we had gotten there early enough to find a spot far up the river so if anyone else came in the creek they’d have to be behind us. After Kim & Scott’s stories the night before my worst fear was some unbenounced cruiser who’s anchor was dragging and they came careening right at us with not much we could do to stop them. Rounding the corner into the creek we saw no one. Moving further up the creek we began to see boats on docks but so far no one was anchored in the middle. Going up to the point where the charts showed a six foot depth our sounder was still showing nine feet and we figured we’d keep going until it showed seven.

Spacing ourselves widely apart, Rode Trip dropped their anchor just north of us and we dropped close to an inlet in the creek we thought would give us better wind protection. After backing down on the chain at a six to one scope though we realized that we were alarmingly close to shore and when more chain needed to be let out for higher winds there was a good chance we might swing in to shore. We though about moving to a few different locations but because of a dock on one side and and piece of land jutting out on the other we couldn’t see a good spot that would give us 360 degrees of swing with 100 feet of chain out and not bash into something somewhere. To get a little perspective we dropped the dinghy and went to visit Rode Trip to see how their spot was and also check some weather forecast since they usually have internet on their touchpad. Sitting on their deck and assessing the situation we found we were much further from them than we had originally thought and if we came a little closer there may be a spot in the middle of the creek that gave us the swing room we needed. Working the windlass the anchor came up covered in a thick heavy mud that seemed to have suctioned it down. Even though it smelled like crap I was happy to see the creek should be giving us good holding. Making sure to mark on the charplotter where we dropped anchor this time we backed down once more but still weren’t sure of our decision, based on the predicted wind directions for the next few days and where we may swing. Now we seemed too close for comfort to the jutting land but as I mentioned to Matt, we still had a few days before the storm to get a better prediction of winds and could still change location if necessary.

With that taken care of for the moment we started hurricane preparations with the assumption we could get up to sixty mile per hour winds in hour hole. The first thing to go was the headsail which we rolled up and stored below. Then jerrycans were moved from the deck into the cockpit. All lines were tightened and wrapped. The dodger and bimini would be coming down as well but we wanted to leave them up for another day just to get their protection as long as we could. In just over an hour we had done everything we felt we could do that day and moved on to other projects like sanding the toe rails at the foredeck. While Matt sanded and I sat reading we had a visitor stop by, someone who lived in one of the houses on the creek who was out kayaking and came by to talk to us about the storm. He eased our fears when he said that usually not more than ten boats would ever be in the creek and not more than two or three ever came up as far as we were. That helped out tremendously as we were worried that there was too much space between us and Rode Trip and that some eager last minute sailor would try and squeeze in. As we talked to the guy a little longer he showed us where his house and dock were and said we’d be more than welcome to tie our dinghy up there if we wanted to get out and stretch our legs and if we needed a ride into town to the grocery store, ect., he’d be more than happy to take us. Then we found out he also had a Sabre 34 and the two guys went on about hull designs and specs while I smiled and nodded.

In the late afternoon Rode trip came over for quick use of our internet and we all went over weather reports and what’s predicted in the area. It sounds like the rain will start tomorrow, wind will begin to pick up on Sunday, and the storm will hit or come close to us on Monday. We looked at grib files for the next few days and also checked out information on NOAA about storm surges in our area for past storms. I think if it’s four feet or less we’ll be fine. All that was left to do was plan a time to get together and drink hurricanes (a combination of rums and fruity mixers) that Stephanie had stocked up on in town. We decided that Saturday would probably be the latest any of us would feel safe leaving our boats unattended and made plans to get together the next night. Stephanie and I like to joke though that we’ll end up doing a girl boat and a boy boat so us girls can hang out and play games while the guys talk boats and weather. I’m not sure if either of the guys feel good about leaving us alone on a boat during a storm. I think I’d have to second that motion.

Nice thick mud to drop our anchor in.

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  1. Pingback: Throwback Thursday: Hurricane Holing | Matt & Jessica's Sailing Page

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