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Old 28-08-2011, 12:23   #1
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Lessons Learned Hurricane Irene- Hurricane Hole Preparation

Last week on Thursday I chose to move my boat from a marina on the lower Chesapeake to a Hurricane hole near the Dismal swamp and stay aboard. Staying aboard was a tough decision. Was it rationale or emotional? Probably a little of both. The following are some key take aways for the next one:

1. Haul out whenever possible. I will not choose staying aboard in the future if at all possible.

2. If Haul out is not possible choose a Hurricane Hole with nearly 360 degree wind shadow protection from trees. The smaller the better to a degree (tree height relative to your position) otherwise you will get severe wind at some point during the storm. I saw the greatest winds (westerly) after eyewall passage on the backside of the hurricane passage.

3. 360 degree tether to shore is preferred. I used three 3/4" three strand and had three anchors out (CQR, Delta and Fortress) and three lines to shore secured to trees with chafing gear on trees and boat hardware friction points. The more the better as long as your cleats are numerous and beefy.

4. Mud is the poorest holding material. If your hurricane hole is filled with mud your anchors are useless. If your lucky (me) you will snag someones old car on the bottom.

5. Anticipate wind from all quadrants based on your position relative to the eyewall passage track. My main winds were from East to North and transitioned to NW and finally West. I was on the west side of the eyewall about 50 miles from center. The west wind was the greatest strain on my gear based on my position in the NE corner of my chosen hurricane hole

Boat and Captain came out without any dents. I motored against the west wind which in my mind was the rationale part of staying aboard. In this case it may have saved the boat from dragging anchors in poor bottom holding.

I learned alot about ground tackle, storm passages, bottom material, and my boat. It may have been a foolish decision in hindsight but this fool gained some wisdom in the process.

Many people locally stayed aboard their boats some at marinas and others at other hurricane holes. Fortunately most fair well but not all:

2 rescued from sailboat off Ocean View | WVEC.com Norfolk - Hampton Roads

At least they made it out with their lives.
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Old 28-08-2011, 14:02   #2
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Re: Lessons Learned Hurricane Irene- Hurricane Hole Preparation

Quote:
Originally Posted by jacob30 View Post
If your lucky (me) you will snag someones old car on the bottom.

.
They say the USA is the land of the automobile....
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Old 28-08-2011, 14:19   #3
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Re: Lessons Learned Hurricane Irene- Hurricane Hole Preparation

This is my first storm w/a big boat. I think what I learned was- if it is a direct hit coming, move the boat out of the bullseye. In your case you tried to evade to the swamp but you still got hit. This storm did the grande tour of the east coast so it was hard to get out of the way unless your were prepared to go Bermuda. I decided I would do more like you- move the boat out of the way (as best as you could). You had the good ground and tree tackle. You definitely saved your boat. I just tied up well here at the dock, we really weren't hit hard.
So, I think generally, the forecast will give very accurate 2 day predictions of land fall. That should be plenty of lee time to move a boat to safer harbor.
I know, easier said then done!
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Old 29-08-2011, 05:48   #4
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Re: Lessons Learned Hurricane Irene- Hurricane Hole Preparation

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Originally Posted by jacob30 View Post

2. If Haul out is not possible choose a Hurricane Hole with nearly 360 degree wind shadow protection from trees. The smaller the better to a degree (tree height relative to your position) otherwise you will get severe wind at some point during the storm...
Flying branches might be a concern.
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Old 29-08-2011, 06:11   #5
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Re: Lessons Learned Hurricane Irene- Hurricane Hole Preparation

I was pretty relaxed about the whole thing. Got up Saturday morning and drove down to boat. Got there about 10 and gave roller furling a few more twists and wrapped main and mizzen with line. Soon the rain started and by 5 PM storm hit. I am in a pretty good shelter about 10 miles up from Chesapeake near Galena. I was mainly concerned with storm surge but since wind was from north it was not a problem.

In hind site I would not do it again. Next time I will put it on a mooring and go home. If things had gone terribly wrong there was nothing I could do about it. Some hauled out but most did not.
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Old 29-08-2011, 06:52   #6
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Re: Lessons Learned Hurricane Irene- Hurricane Hole Preparation

Thank you for the insight, i was wondering if you can give more detail, you are probably tired from all this but when you have the time, can you give a little more detail.
Like:
How did the lines fair that were tied to the trees?
You motored to take the strain off of the ground tackle? Were you actively dragging at this point?
I have many questions but it will keep till you get some more rest, just glad you are ok.

Mrs Rain Dog


Ps
I have yet to meet someone who rode out a hurricane say they'd do it again. I rode out one aboard my vessel, never again.
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Old 21-01-2012, 05:37   #7
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Re: Lessons Learned Hurricane Irene- Hurricane Hole Preparation

Sorry I did not get back to your questions before Ocean Girl.

The lines did great wrapped around the trees. I used 1" braided nylon tubing as chaff protection on all lines that made contact with the boat and the trees.

The motoring was just a pre-emptive measure. I was not dragging but did not want to be caught by surprise if they let go. The motoring was done to the point to just put a strain on the lines tied to shore and lessen the strain form the winds on the anchor lines.

Again in hindsight I would only stay aboard in a storm if I could not haul out and it was a CAT I or II and I could retreat to a safe shoreside location if things got too hairy.
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Old 21-01-2012, 07:51   #8
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Re: Lessons Learned Hurricane Irene- Hurricane Hole Preparation

There are many good points above and many of these are part of my strategy too. I must say that "mud" comes in a variety from the poor holding type like potato soup to that which approaches clay and can be one of the best substrates for holding. We have prepared for many hurricanes having been live aboard Florida cruisers since 1972 and the majority of our preparations end in a miss or a milder tropical storm, but that doesn't diminish our resolve to prepare. Hauling out can be an excellent plan and tying deep in the mangrove can do well, but we've never done these. We have spent one category 3 storm and a cat-1 at docks, but these were very well protected locations. We have anchored out for two category 1's and many that reached us as tropical storms. Anytime a hurricane is within three days of our cruising location with any potential for a strike, we are looking for these eight features of a good "hurricane hole".
1- Inland- damage potential greatly decreases with distance from the shore
2- Little Fetch- Ideally less than a quarter mile in all directions
3- Holding- we prefer clay, firm mud or sand
4- Shallow- we deploy 200+ feet of chain an prefer 6' before a surge
5- High Banks- topography to block wind or even buildings or trees
6- Forgiving Shore- mud or sand banks without rocks or cement bulkheads
7- No Debris- loose boat houses, docks, logs, sheet metal dock roofs
8- No Neighbors- I typically don't advertise my favorite spots

I rarely find a place with all these features, but I can always get to one that offers the first four within the three day window which modern forecasts allow. There are many strategies to manage risk and the best vary by boat and crew!
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