Hurricane Irene–August 2011

In all of our experiences sailing, we have never been through a hurricane – until Irene!  We hope that we will never have to go through another one.  We were one of the fortunate ones, no damage, self sufficient for basic power and water, located at the highest point of land in Pamlico County and tied to pilings in a marina with a reputation for being a great hurricane hole.

We arrived back on Pioneer at 0500 Friday, approximately 12 hours before the first effectsIMGP0084 of Irene would be felt. 

Bobbing and weaving with all the other boats


We spent the day moving back aboard and preparing Pioneer for the hurricane – doubling up some of our boat lines, removing the canvas over the cockpit, tying down the sails,IMGP0088 securing the booms . . .



We look like we are anchored, but the docks are 5 feet underwater!

and removing anything topside that could fly off.  In addition we moved some items out of our dock box into the car and IMGP0087moved our bikes and our car to higher ground.

These trees are normally on ground 5 feet above the docks

Irene hit just before dark. With a bull’s eye on us, we were right in its path and got to experience the front, eye and back half of the storm. The first half was the worst for us as the wind hit us on the beam and we were rocking and rolling inIMGP0094 our slip as the water . . .


You can just make out the top of the shrimper that sunk  5 hours into the storm


steadily rose. Unfortunately you can’t capture wind, sound or driving rain with a still picture, so these photos do not come close to doing the IMGP0092storm justice!  Fortunately, our creek is so small and narrow that the water surface was only ripples, while the storm created 7 foot waves out on the river. At one point the tops of the pilings (the pilings rise about 13 feet out of the water), were within a few inches of our toe rail and deck. 


Judy poses for a wet t-shirt photo during the “eye”



Our lines, tied at midpoint to the pilings, just disappeared into the water. This was the worstIMGP0097 problem for us and for almost everyone else – the flooding due to the surge, which in our area was predicted to be 11 feet – they were right!.

The water starts to recede on the back half of the storm – the docks poke their heads up for a look see!


Thankfully our car was on high enough ground to avoid the IMGP0098water.  However our lower dock was about 5 1/2 feet underwater and the upper dock about four.

Friends, Charlie and Shirley come to check on us during the eye

That meant that our dock box was in trouble along with everyone else’s! The second half of Irene hit us on the bow but we had lots of protection so the ride was much lessIMGP0112 bouncy. We have liberal pilings in the marina so everyone just went up with the surge, and on the back half of the storm we went down, way down! Between our highest and lowest point we had about 16 feet.

OOPPS! –the shrimper after the storm!


At our lowest point we could look under our dock standing in the cockpit – the dock boards were five and a half feet up! IMGP0114


Pioneer after the storm with leaves, branches and bark on deck

Our bow was sitting on the muddy bottom so we didn’t move much at all by that point.  Lots of wet clothes piled up as we adjusted lines to allow for the changing water levels.  There was a tremendous amount of flooding in the area and and power outages were still common four to five days after the storm hit. Many large trees were down in our area. Some were blocking roads and others fell in yards, on homes andIMGP0115 on out buildings. 



Neighbour, Zeb, loses a tree to the Neuse River






Erosion in Zeb’s backyard caused by seven-foot waves on the river


By Monday noon, the trees blocking the roads were cut to just allow enough room for a car to pass.  The storm lastedIMGP0121 from about 7 pm Friday evening to about 7 pm Saturday evening, so it was a good 24 hours of battering.

This was one of three trees that blocked the road to the marina






These next two trees were definitely a roadblock to be respected


Only one boat in our marina sank, a shrimp boat docked next to us that came in to seek safe harbour. It was an open boat with a broken bilge pump so the rain filled it up and the wind tipped it overIMGP0130 enough to allow water over the gunnels – the shrimper was on the bottom within 5 hours of the storm hitting. Lower areas such as Oriental, NC – seven miles away were severely flooded. Property, building and vehicle damage there was devastating.

The seagulls finally relax the “day after”



There has been some damage to the docks here, but not as severe as in the other marinas in the area. The water system is broken in a few places but that is an easy fix.  The electrical outlets for the boats  were all under water so it wasn’t until Wednesday morning that our shore power was restored. During the power outage we just relied on our boat battery systems to keep us in light andIMGP0137 refrigeration. Our solar panels provided sufficient power for everything except  the air conditioning and water heater systems.

Collecting the contents of our dock box, strewn along the banks of the Neuse River


Those two systems had to wait for the return of shore power. Our propane stove provided hot meals. Therefore, we had many comforts that others did not have and for that we are very thankful.  Our friends who did not have generators relied on candles and flashlights for light, cold food for meals and had the worry of thawing foods in freezers with no power.  We still had the same cold showers that everyone else had, until the power was restored.  We got so hot and sweaty during our clean-up activities that the cold water was no deterrent to showering! 



The remnants of our dock box washed ashore on the Neuse



Our dock box floated away on Saturday morning just before the eye came over us. It reminded me of the story, Paddle to the Sea, where the little carved canoe makes its way through impossible conditions to the freedom of the ocean. Our dock box did not make the ocean but it did bob and weave around many boats and negotiate tight spacesIMGP0150 until it ran aground in shallow water near the narrow entrance to Wayfarer’s Alligator Gut (during the second half of the storm when the water flushed out of the creek).


Many similar scenes of big trees snapped off in almost every yard



On Saturday night the water level rose back to it’s normal level and our dock box was off again!  It floated out the narrow channel and into the Neuse River and from there was blown onto the north east shore of the river. We had to beachcomb for the contents and found everything that floated (oil containers, plastic crates, fuel funnels, and cleaning supplies in closed plastic containers) including the actual box – floor and lid found separately.  We did lose our dinghy anchor chain and some expensive stainless cleaner that we will need to replace, but we really did get off easy. Just about all the dock boxes at every marina went floatabout so there will be a lot of deadheads out there in the river!



We worked with friends, Carol and Rex, to clean up Rick and Naomi’s yard







On the way in to New Bern for groceries, this sight was not uncommon!

A few boats in Oriental sunk. If the water had gone up another 2 ft. it would have been disastrous as many more boats would have been damaged.  Several hauled-out boats in Morehead City floated off their stands and a lot of the equipment in the boatyards in Oriental was damaged by the flooding. No one expected the water to go up 11 feet – it has never done that before, not even in Isabel.

Food started to become a problem for us after five days so we had to make a “foray” out for supplies on day six. The closest place for groceries that was open was 30 miles away in New Bern.  All the local grocery stores were closed and were hopefully preparing to reopen soon.  Walmart and Food Lion in New Bern supplied us with all our needs!

This was the worst hurricane ever to hit the area and will involve a lot of insurance claims! Hopefully we have paid our dues this season and Mother Nature will leave us alone for the rest of the hurricane season.

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