Last night, just before dinner, I wrote the following:
"I suspect we are in for a busy hurricane season. The season just started yesterday, however, we experienced the first named storm of the year (sub-tropical storm Andrea) just under a month ago. Andrea came with sustained winds of 35 mph, gusting to 45, in the harbor. She lasted for five days, sitting stagnant off the Georgia coast and temporarily stopping the busy port of Charleston.
Tonight, actually early tomorrow morning, tropical depression Barry is due to pass over, with slightly less fanfare than Andrea.
If two of two named storms are connecting with Charleston, does that mean we're getting ours out of the way early? Or, should we be preparing ourselves for the Carolina's first big storm of the millennium? I guess with is being a question about weather, we'll just have to wait and see...
For tonight though, we'll listen to the waves crash back and forth between the hull and the seawall under the pier. We'll strain our ears trying to make sure it is the fenders we hear rubbing and not the taff rail. And, we'll sleep in toasty, humid, unventilated cabins, dry until the next time we dash on deck without our foulies to protect us. And I, as I often do on rainy evenings, will yearn for a steaming mug of milo or hot chocolate and the perfect couch in my old Pendalouan house."
If only I had known that a few hours later, the three of us on board would be fighting to prevent true and last damage to the pier and, more importantly, the ship. The little fanfare that accompanied Barry was not nearly enough to prepare us for the reality. On Friday night, I listened to the NOAA weather report tell us that we could expect Barry to arrive by Monday with harbor winds ranging 25-35 mph. After Andrea, this would be pretty much par for the course.
Instead, we experience rain and thunderstorms throughout the day yesterday as the outskirts of Barry arrived. After dinner, I went on deck to help Ben-2nd Mate/Engineer who had the duty for the day-back up our fendering system. Normally we fend off the pilings with three sets of three "sausage" fenders and a fenderboard across each set of three fenders. We were being blown pretty hard against the dock and pilings though, so we added the other seven fenders we had on board-the big round kind- to protect the rail from the dock at high tide.
After this we went below to make some tea. After I poured my cup of tea, we decided to just check and see how things were riding and tied down the rescue boat so it wouldn't blow on us. Pouring that cup of tea and knitting a few rounds on a sock was the last peace of the evening. While we were up on deck, we heard our first loud crack of the night as our amidships fenderboard cracked in half. Shortly later, while we were still trying to rig something up amidships, the aft sitting fenderboard cracked as well. Our 25 mph winds were doubled and pushing all 150 tons of ship right onto the dock.
Every now and then it seemed like we were actually going to break the piling amidships in half, we were crashing against it so hard. We popped a few fenders and snapped five fendersboards/fenderboard replacements including a 4x6 in the span about about half an hour. The frustrating part is that no matter what we did, we couldn't get ahead. Every great solution we tried broke within seconds. Every time we hit the pilings and dock, you could feel it strain the wood under your feet. A few times you could feel it do slightly more than strain. Our best simply wasn't good enough to protect our ship.
Thankfully after a few hours it calmed down to manageable winds in the 20s and 30s and we were able to go to bed, each assigned a dock watch sometime during what was left of the night. On a positive note, I did get that mug of hot chocolate and even some toasty oatmeal before hitting the bunk.