Hurricane Henri has delayed our departure, although we are still on schedule for our Portland, ME port stop on Saturday, August 28th.
Friday afternoon (08/20/2021)
I have just arrived in Boston by car, after making preparations on the boat for Hurricane Henri. They say, “never sail to a schedule”, and this week shows how important this is. Yesterday, Thursday, we had a great event in Newport to kick off our East Coast Expedition. But in the background, I kept thinking about the weather potentially coming our way. As I sailed the boat from Portsmouth to Newport RI for the event, we had the remnants of tropical storm Fred, which made for a bouncy and damp delivery. But paramount in my mind was: how was Henri developing?
I was scheduled to begin the delivery of the boat to Provincetown, and on to Portland, this morning. At this time there is a lot of uncertainty in the forecast with different weather models disagreeing on the path of Henri. The eye of the storm might make landfall anywhere from Cape Cod to Connecticut. Given this unpredictability which could result in sailing during a hurricane, we decided to delay leaving Rhode Island. In our East Coast Expedition schedule we built in the opportunity to change our departure date but still allow enough time to reach the next port stop as planned. One never knows what the weather will deliver. So, after extensive discussions with our team, and looking at weather forecasts, I made the decision to delay departure towards Maine. Lauren and I sailed Cepheus back up Narragansett Bay to Portsmouth, RI where we normally keep the boat, at Safe Harbor New England Boatworks. This is an extremely well protected marina. Lauren, her husband, and I took off sails, anything else that would cause windage, secured loose items below deck, and added extra dock lines.
As we were approaching the marina we saw about 30 boats anchored or circling around. They were waiting for their turn to be taken to the travel lift, get hauled out of the water and stored on land. Why might you ask? Well, several places were implementing mandatory boat evacuations, and this was the only safe place to go. I am sure that there are many, and do know of some, that can’t find a place to wait out this storm and I just hope they will find a safe place for refuge. A concern in addition to strong winds is the storm surge that can occur, causing a rise in sea level by many feet. The boats attached to mooring balls are being asked to leave. A mooring ball is attached by a length of chain to a weight on the sea floor. The sea level could rise so much that it exceeds the length of the excess chain. This then could result in excess stress on the mooring and cause the weakest link to fail, whether it be the attachment point on the deck of the boat, the mooring line, or the chain itself.
Every day I am looking at weather forecasts. I use government sites as well as paid subscriptions for weather forecasting information. In fact, I just stopped writing to check the latest information. It is so important to know what to expect, to then have multiple plans in place for each possible outcome. Fortunately, to sail from Portsmouth RI to Portland ME will take about 36-40 hours. Our next event is not until Saturday, August 28th, allowing for flexibility in our schedule. I will likely head back to the boat Tuesday, check on her and start recommissioning her. Then, begin the voyage to Portland on Wednesday with a scheduled arrival Thursday evening. By going Wednesday, it still gives me flexibility in case another weather system comes through.
Saturday morning (08/21/2021)
The forecast is looking better for Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Maine. It’s always good to remember, forecasts are just that, forecasts. There is no certainty, but one uses them to make educated predictions for safety. The storm is now expected to make landfall over Long island and Connecticut. We will still delay our departure, however, for added safety. Even though our path may not get the brunt of the hurricane winds, there will be significant wind, torrential rain and elevated seas over a wide area.
Sunday morning (08/22/2021)
The path is holding for landfall at the eastern tip of Long island and subsequently Connecticut. As I look at Sailflow (see below for weather information sources) wind speeds south of the tip of Long Island are 30 knots gusting to 40 knots and rising. Where Cepheus is berthed, and to the east of the hurricane projected path, winds are currently 15 knots gusting to 30 knots with a peak projection at 11am of 23 knots gusting to 43 knots. We prepared well and I think we will be fine.
Safety is our priority. Thanks for all the messages of concern that you have sent checking in on us. We hope to report back soon with good news. Stay safe everybody.
Sources for Weather Information
https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/ I use this site to check on tropical storms
https://www.predictwind.com/ A subscription-based weather forecast that I use to plan trips as well as during the trip to get updated weather information
I use SailFlow as a free service for local sites. It is great because it also gives actual and historic wind information from weather monitoring stations in addition to forecasts.