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September15, 1999

Salem Harbor, Salem, MA

After a beautiful sunset and absolutely clear night, we left Jewell Island at 6:15 AM slightly before sunrise. There were stars still visible. I wanted to leave as soon as there was enough light, just enough so we could see the buoys and exit safely. We had a long ocean leg before us, about 45 miles into the wind. Seas were light, however, and we made about 7.2 k. I like to arrive at the destination harbor around 1 or 2 PM so we can get a mooring or properly anchor and get settled down before preparing for dinner. We arrived at about 1:30 PM and obtained a mooring from the Portsmouth Yacht Club, NH. The current ran swiftly here. I noted the speed indicator reading 2 knots while we were secured to a very large mooring. These truly generous people offered the use of the club, the club bar and all facilities including their showers. One member even drove us to the grocery store where there was a laundromat nearby. We got showered, we shopped for food and we did our laundry. Ah, the good life. These basic pursuits are not easily achieved when cruising aboard a sailboat. What a pleasure!

After leaving Portsmouth, again at 6:15 AM and heading down the coast, we rounded Cape Ann under overcast skies and seas building to 4 to 6 feet. Despite some rolling and a few seas over the bow, "Silver Heels" covered this leg perfectly. A long gray day for sure, but the approach to Salem Harbor was uneventful. We picked up a mooring in a very crowded harbor. Frank, aboard the launch, collected $30 for the mooring and warned of approaching hurricane "Floyd". "No worry," he said, "you have an 8000 pound mooring sunk in the mud here and double mooring lines buoy to boat. We left the boat and went ashore to look around Salem. After a launch ride back, we settled down for dinner. I noticed several boaters "battening the hatches". They were taking sails off, dodgers were being taken down and they were folding up their inflatable dinghies. The next morning Frank came out to the boat in his launch. Hailing us, he advised that I go ashore NOW and request a sheltered mooring from the National Park Service. "The sheltered spaces are being taken up." he said. I took the advice of this local, and once ashore, I consulted with the National Park Service - they have rights to a good portion of the waterfront. Considering the approaching hurricane, they agreed that "Silver Heels" was perhaps too heavy for a mooring. They've had 85 MPH winds in the harbor and seas then build up to 6 feet - in the harbor! "Salem Harbor is a harbor of refuge and we'll give you space." the rangers said. At least certain parts are hurricane holes. The downtown harbor in Salem has a surrounding and irregularly shaped sea wall. The irregular shape allows for slots and cuddies that provide perfect "hurricane holes." The tide drops 8 to 9 feet so that when you're at low tide and behind a sea wall, you have perfect protection from heavy winds. The water depth at low tide is 6.5 feet. What does "Silver Heels" draw? 6.5 feet! We barely slipped in around a dog leg slot in the sea wall. In the far end of this sheltered space were some local lobster boats. They knew something was coming! At the outer end was a 65 foot motor sailor and a 70 foot racing sloop. We slipped in just ahead of the sloop. With the help of the Park Service Rangers we passed lines around pilings and secured "Silver Heels" behind a 12 foot high - at low tide - sea wall. The rangers said that at high tide during this hurricane, however, the water may be over the top of the pilings. The surge from the hurricane will add maybe 4 feet to the normal tidal height of nine feet. We were secure now and hidden behind the sea wall. We still may float level with the tops of the pilings at "hurricane high tide!" That is a dangerous circumstance. We'll see. The rangers are curious and want to see "Silver Heels". I invited them aboard. I was told by a shipwright at Center Harbor that you'll "... not have any trouble getting a mooring or berthing with that boat. Everyone wants to see her." Maybe that's part of the reason we're now in this 'secure' hurricane hole. Thank god.

I wrote the above paragraph just after securing the boat in the morning. All day boats entered, with and without Park Service permission, and rafted rail to rail in this little slot. Behind us is a large, radical racing sloop with a wide flaring hull. He tried to fend off newcomers. I felt this was unjust. Access to this area was a "gift" of the Park Service. All that could be accommodated, should be accommodated. We have a 35 foot cat boat on our port side. A lobsterman is moored outside of him. Lines are strung everywhere. I do hope they don't push "Silver Heels" into the pilings at the height of the storm.

Hurricane Floyd maybe the first category five hurricane to hit the United States. A category five hurricane, the worst, has sustained winds over 155 MPH. Floyd is expected to head west near the Chesapeake. Because hurricanes rotate counter-clockwise, that would put us in the advancing side of the hurricane and into higher velocity winds. Frank said the 85 MPH winds that occurred before almost knocked his pickup truck over. We started preparations. We lowered the roller furled jib. I lashed the mainsail, foresail and jib covers with extra lines. We took down the dodger and bimini top. We have bow and stern lines and bow and stern spring lines. I plan to row across to some pilings and secure a couple of lines to hold "Silver Heels" away from the sea wall. (Interestingly, the owner of the pilings said "If you attach anything to these pilings, you have to pay a fee for it!") The dinghy? It is light and has a lot of windage. If you've read any of my past comments on this dinghy, you very well know what a problem it has been trying to float it. Now, I plan to sink it! All summer I've tried to get it to float high and dry - with moderate success. Now, when a light dinghy floats in front of very high winds, it will likely blow away, or flip flop, or end up on top of someone else's boat - or do something unusual. So the consensus in the harbor is to sink the dinghy so the wind can't get at it.

If you've read this far, you may have some interest in the photo page. I'll try to upload some "before the hurricane pictures." Don't count on any during, and there may be some after depending on how we endure this feature of the East Coast. Right now I'd settle for a plane old California earthquake, if I had the choice.

Best regards, Terry and Ellen

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