The day begins with an early morning check of the weather forecast. There are so many variables and alternative sources of information relative to the track and forecasted intensity of the storm that it is difficult to decide on an appropriate defense. Our morning chores involve preparing Cutter Loose for a middle-of-the-road wind and tidal surge prediction. Based on information currently available, we expect to experience sustained winds of 35 to 40 knots with higher gusts along with storm surge of 2 to 4 feet. Given the forecast and our protected location, we decide against the defensive measure of removing headsails and the canvas bimini and dodger. Here in Hampton, we will be impacted by tropical storm force winds, not hurricane conditions. Besides, there is an enormous amount of work involved in removing and reinstalling canvas. Time will tell whether this strategy is sound.
Since the Caribbean 1500 is sponsored by a UK-based organization, the event is well-organized and highly structured. The staff of the World Cruising Club has established an office presence in our marina. This morning, we stop at the office to schedule a 1 PM appointment to officially check in at this event. At the check-in, Mia provides us with a schedule of events leading up to departure. We also take this opportunity to schedule a safety inspection aboard Cutter Loose for Sunday afternoon at 2 PM. Seminars are planned each day and social events are scheduled every evening. All of the events are provided at no cost to participating yachts, but reservations and tickets for each event are required. In adapting to this process, we are getting to know WCC staff on a first name basis.
There are a few early morning arrivals at the marina. These boats and their bleary-eyed crews have sailed all night in order to make Hampton before the onset of Sandy. Only 20 of the 41 boats bound for Tortola have checked in to date. No other boats are expected to arrive during the next three or four days given the weather forecast. It is unclear whether these boats and their crews will arrive in Hampton in time for the November 4th departure. But with or without them, the show will go on.
Today is homecoming at Hampton University. For most of the morning, the marching band has been parading along Main Street with the homecoming queen and her court. Directly across the river from our marina is the attractive campus of the University. We can see the lights of the stadium and we can hear the antics of the play-by-play announcers from our vantage point. Today, the Pirates of Hampton University (2-5) defeated the Tigers of Savannah State (1-7) by a score of 21-13.
Although the center of Sandy is now located near the border of Florida and Georgia, her influence is already being felt in Hampton. By 3 PM, a steady rain is falling but wind speeds remain generally less than 20 knots. These initial signs of Sandy have put an end to informal gatherings on the dock. Everyone has retreated below decks to escape the inclement weather and tackle preparatory projects. We use this opportunity to take a stroll around the waterfront district, including a stop at the historic carousel next to the Air and Space Museum.
At 6 PM, we participate in well-attended cocktail and hors d’oeuvres welcoming party in the hotel ballroom. We use this opportunity to chat with WCC staff and compare notes with crew from other Caribbean 1500 boats. Everyone seems friendly and genuinely interested and at ease in conversing with other participants.
It is now 10 PM and we are experiencing rain and northeasterly wind gusts in excess of 20 knots. Sandy will continue to make northerly progress along the coast over the next few days. On Tuesday at noon, the center of Sandy is expected to be due east of Hampton. We will continue to feel the effects of this storm until Wednesday of next week. One can only wonder whether we will feel the residual effects of Sandy in terms of wave heights when we finally depart for Tortola.