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Hamburg Cove as a Hurricane Hole – By Bob Fulton

October 1, 2011

Hamburg Cove as a Hurricane Hole

By Bob Fulton

Aboard S/V Voyageur

Editor’s Note: We thank Bob Fulton for sharing his experience of using Hamburg Cove, Conn. as a “hurricane hole”. While a mooring may not be our first choice during a storm, Bob points out that a protected, inland mooring, well up river, can provide adequate protection.

Dear NFTB:

The Storm Approaches - Photo by Bob Fulton

As I pear out the companionway, it occurs to me that the New England cruising season is drawing to a close like the last dusky remains of today’s sunset.  A month or so ago, our summer aboard Voyageur was going according to plan. Then we were reminded yet again that planning and cruising don’t always coincide.

Our intention this year was to spend a few late summer weeks in Maine’s Penobscot Bay before beginning the return trip to Florida and the Bahamas.  After leaving St. Augustine on the 18th of April, the day after Jane’s birthday, we arrived in Norfolk the afternoon of May 1st and decided to continue on through the night to Solomons, MD, one-hundred miles further north. We arrived at dawn the next morning after an “interesting” night navigation exercise that involved a very large ship.

For the next seven weeks, Voyageur crisscrossed Chesapeake Bay.  We visited family in Severna Park, took two weeks off the boat to visit friends in Dallas, cruised the Chester, Corsica, Wye and Sassafras Rivers on the Bay’s Eastern Shore and visited quaint towns like St. Michaels, Georgetown and Chestertown.  Then, two hours before dawn on Saturday, June 25th, we won our anchor from the muddy bottom of the Sassafras and headed out the dark channel for the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal, beginning the thirty-two hour trip through the canal, down Delaware Bay and up the Jersey coast to Staten Island’s Great Kill Harbor, the link between our southern and northern cruising grounds.

From Great Kill, we motor sailed through Upper New York Harbor and the East River to Long Island Sound. Then, after stops in Port Washington, Oyster Bay (for 4th of July fireworks), Huntington Harbor and Port Jefferson, Voyageur eased into a berth in Deep River Marina on the Connecticut River, eight miles upstream from the Sound. There she would stay while we took day trips to visit friends and family in Litchfield and replaced the weathered varnish on her teak.

After six weeks of visiting and varnishing, grilling chicken, bratwurst and steaks, making new marina friends, going to movies and spending quiet nights at a dock, we noticed that a mid-Atlantic tropical depression was threatening to become a hurricane.  As we stripped, sanded and varnished, Irene strengthened and passed over the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas as a Category 2-3 hurricane. When her track was projected to cross the Outer Banks, we began to pay more attention to weather forecasts and to look for an alternative spot to wait out the storm should she eventually come our way. Hamburg Cove, about two miles downriver, was a likely candidate . . . a good hurricane hole sheltered from wind by surrounding hills and trees, and opened by a narrow channel off the Connecticut River.

Thursday, two days before Irene arrived, we were still in Deep River Marina and still varnishing, hoping that Epiphanes fumes might somehow deflect the huge storm from its projected path. Friday, the day before she arrived, it was sunny and warm and, as we unbent our genoa and staysail and laid them below, we finally decided to move Voyageur to Hamburg Cove. I had Voyageur off the dock in fifteen minutes and headed downriver while Jane drove our old Honda to an elevated parking area at the north end of the cove.  After picking up a mooring, I rowed our dingy (our Yamaha outboard had died yet again) about a mile to gather Jane and row back to the boat to continue preparing for the storm. We doubled Voyageur’s mooring bridle, put chafe protection in place, made halyards and other lines fast, wrapped a sturdy line around the mainsail cover, and pulled the drain plug on the dingy so it couldn’t fill up with rain water. Then . . . finally . . . we celebrated our twenty-eighth anniversary as the first rain pelted down and the wind began to rise.  That night, Voyageur’s barometer showed 29.2 inches or 992 millibars as we swung back and forth on our mooring in gusts that reached 45 kts.

By late afternoon the next day, the worst was over.  The center of the storm had passed over New York City, almost 90 miles west of us . . . probably straight up 5th avenue.  In Hamburg Cove the rain had stopped and the wind, occasionally gusting to 20 knots, would diminish through the evening.  In a couple of days, Hurricane Irene would be well to the north and east of us and only a fading memory.

Memories of Maine, however, would have to wait ’til next year.

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