At 6 AM, Cutter Loose is underway from its mooring at Orient Harbor. Our destination for today is Port Jefferson, some 50 miles to the southwest of Orient Harbor. We pass through the tidal rips at Plum Gut to enter Long Island Sound. Our southwesterly progress is resisted by 15 knot headwinds and 2 knots of adverse current. When an occasional wave crashes on the foredeck, our speed over the ground is reduced to 3 knots. If we continue on this course, we will make Port Jeff at midnight. Clearly, Port Jeff is not an achievable destination for today.
With our tails between our legs, we reverse direction and return to Plum Gut, making 9 knots of speed over ground with the benefit of the current now in our favor. For better or worse, we are destined to ride out Irene at Shelter Island.
Cutter Loose is bobbing on a mooring in Dering Harbor. This harbor is well-protected from the east, south and southwest. But it is exposed to the north and west. We are sitting in the cockpit trying to imagine this picturesque harbor under the influence of 50 MPH winds and 5 feet of storm surge. Not a pleasant thought. The National Weather Service is predicting a 10 to 20 percent likelihood of winds up to 39 MPH. NWS is forecasting a 5 percent likelihood of winds between 40 MPH and 74 MPH. We take little comfort in the knowledge that NWS is predicting a zero percent chance of hurricane force winds in excess of 74 MPH.
There are two marinas in the adjacent community of Greenport that have the ability to haul boats out of the water with a travelift. The boat would then be stored on jackstands in the boatyard. One marina informs us that they simply cannot accommodate our request. The other marina agrees to place us at the bottom of their waiting list. They will call us if time and space permits.
Hauling the boat is perhaps the safest strategy in light of the strength of Irene. But placing the boat “on the hard” is not without its complications. In order to haul Cutter Loose, the yard insists on stepping or removing her 62 foot mast and standing rigging. Our refrigeration system relies on seawater, so all of the food in the freezer and fridge would presumably be lost. Once the storm passes, it will take days to prep Cutter Loose for departure.
We are still waiting to hear about our status on the waiting list. In the meantime, we continue to check Irene updates from NWS, pondering our next moves should the storage option fail to materialize. We can remain on this mooring or move Cutter Loose to a more protected anchorage. The downside of moving her to an anchorage is that we will not know until the very last minute whether the center of the storm will pass to the east or west of Shelter Island. This will determine the direction of Irene’s maximum winds, and the anchorage must be selected accordingly. Once that information is known, there is the risk that anchorages in the Shelter Island area will already be filled with boats seeking similar protection. In a hurricane, there are no good alternatives.