What Hurricane Sandy Means to Sailors

Ten days after Superstorm Sandy raged up the East Coast, residents are still surveying the damage and beginning to rebuild. Staggering images of railcars on highways and rollercoasters in the ocean complement staggering numbers...
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Ten days after Superstorm Sandy raged up the East Coast, residents are still surveying the damage and beginning to rebuild. Staggering images of railcars on highways and rollercoasters in the ocean complement staggering numbers: 8 million without power, $15 million in damage to onshore properties and an estimated 59 Americans dead. The category one hurricane Sandy ranked 5.8 on a scale of 6 in its destructive potential of storm surge, which reached nearly 9.5 feet in New Jersey while 90 mph winds battered the coastline.

So what does all this all mean to the thousands of boaters who keep their vessels in the affected areas—especially to the 475,700 boats registered in New York or the 169,750 registered in New Jersey?

It’s too early to say for certain, especially since the majority of coastal yacht clubs and marinas remain closed and in reasonably bad shape, but reports are beginning to trickle in. In New Jersey, at least two new inlets have been created, potentially altering the hydrology of the Jersey Shore. In Brooklyn, a popular marina pub broke free from its foundation and floated two miles before landing at a residential block in Gerritsen Beach, New York. Stranded there for days with no power or means of escape, the locals wrote “Sandy’s Bar” in red marker on the pub’s gray façade and threw themselves a party.

Meanwhile, SAIL reader Chris Derret of South Amboy, New Jersey, provided a harrowing snapshot of his home marina. Derrett stores his Rival 34, Hound, in Morgan Marina in South Amboy and races on a J/30, Belle Faster, which is stored at Raritan Bay Yacht Club in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. According to Derrett, boats in Morgan Marina are “experiencing unaccustomed intimacy.” When it fell against the boat next to it, Hound suffered damage to the cap rail and stress on the shrouds and guardrail, but Derrett considers himself lucky the boat is even repairable.

“When I talked to a shipwright at the yard for an estimate, he just laughed. I think it may be tough getting work done next season,” Derrett says.

Over in Perth Amboy, tidal surges floated all 30 boats stored at Raritan and tossed them up against the surrounding buildings. Belle Faster was thrown from her stands and torn into two pieces, which were found strewn yards apart. And Raritan wasn’t even the worst hit.

As damage reports continue to trickle in, The Boat Owners Association of the United States (BoatUS) has mobilized its Catastrophe Response Team to assist with the damage to marinas, boatyards and yacht clubs across the Northeast. Leading up to Sandy, marinas worked furiously to get boats out of the water and up onto the highest land they had available. Despite the marinas’ best efforts, BoatUS predicts hundreds of boats, like Derrett’s J/30, have suffered extensive or total destruction.

BoatUS has a hefty task before them, and they’ve issued some tips for sailors with damaged boats, including:

-Remove as much equipment as possible from boats washed ashore to prevent theft.

-Conspicuously label your boat with personal contact information and a “No Trespassing” sign.

-Refrain from attempting to salvage boats stuck in large pile-ups or boats in dock pilings; leave that to the experts.

-To prevent further water damage, cover boats with tarps, board up broken windows and hatches and dry out the boat as soon as possible. Engines and other boat machinery that have been submerged should be slushed with fresh water and filled with diesel fuel or kerosene.

-Do not sign a contract with any salvage or wreck removal companies without first speaking with your insurance company. For more information and tips from BoatUS visit: boatus.com.

To report missing or derelict boats, sailors should contact the Coast Guard Sector New York at 718-354-4120. The Coast Guard will not salvage vessels, but they will work with boat owners to locate them and find commercial salvage.

In the months to come, coastal towns and marinas will rebuild and sailors will salvage their boats. But the waters themselves may be forever changed. According to the Waterway Guide Cruising Authority, aids to navigation in all mid- Atlantic waters and coastal areas should be considered unreliable for now; there will also be shoaling, obstructed waterways, floating and submerged debris and abnormal currents.

The U.S. Coast Guard says their current focus is maintaining safety, restoring the marine transportation system and restoring the New York and New Jersey ports. The Coast Guard assures us they will not stop until the job is done and ports are open for business. For more information on the U.S. Coast Guard visit: coastguard.dodlive.mil.

Photos by Chris Derrett

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