Mother Nature Hits the Pause Button -or- Flo Says No

When we arrived in Oriental in July, we went straight to work on our (hopefully) last major project:  replacing the aluminum fuel and water tanks.  We hadn’t noticed any problems, but tank failure is a common problem in Island Packets of our vintage.  We’d rather address it now, under controlled circumstances, than gamble and scramble later.  And it turned out to be prescient, because when we did open up the water tank, merely touching some spots caused them to crumble into dust and open into holes.

Replacing the tanks is yet another huge job.  The yard cut out our cabin sole, and the Captain got to work with a saws-all to cut up the water tank and remove it.

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We’re getting awfully good at removing everything from the boat and hanging up plastic.  Here is the Captain hard at work, wielding his trusty saws-all and cutting out the water tank.  First he had to cut out the tank’s top between the baffles, then cut out the baffles, and then get the sides and bottom.


I was batting clean-up–literally.  My job was to try to vacuum up fiberglass dust and aluminum shards as they were being spit out.  Once the Captain removed the water tank, I went down in the bilge and cleaned it out.

The yard removed the fuel tank and then made measurements to draft plans for new tanks.  With no floor, the boat was no longer livable, and we drove out of state to the Admiral’s house (the First Mate’s mom) to stay until the new tanks arrived.

We spent three fun weeks at the Admiral’s house before it became abundantly clear that Hurricane Florence had the North Carolina coast square in her sights.  We loaded up the car and raced back to the boat, working on contingency plans as we went.  We spent two hot and tense days preparing the boat, and she was hauled and put on the hard along with all of the other boats in the yard.


Kestrel as we left her, bare of canvas and on the hard.

Having gone through a number of tropical storms and hurricanes, we know the proper steps to take for storm prep; the details of how we prepare for hurricanes and tropical storms will be in a separate post.

We bade an emotional goodbye to Kestrel on September 12; at that point, we didn’t honestly think we’d see her (at least whole) again.  We went to our friends M&N’s house; they too had been preparing their home and boats for days.  Florence was forecast to make landfall nearby as a Category 4 hurricane with a massive storm surge and staggering inland flooding.


This is what pretty much every water aisle in every grocery store looked like.

We had all been hoping to hunker down and ride out the storm at their house, but by that point it had become clear that given the projected winds and flooding, the responsible choice was to go.  On September 13, the four of us (plus the dog in charge) all piled into three cars and reluctantly evacuated to a hotel in Charlotte, NC.


By the time we evacuated, gas was getting very hard to find.  Fortunately we had all filled up, both cars and cans, in anticipation of fuel shortages.

We spent five nights at a Marriott Residence Inn; it had a full fridge and a cooktop, so we were able to cook our own meals to defray the cost.  It was hugely luxurious and allowed us to concentrate on watching the storm and gathering information; the Captain put the NSA to shame with the amount of information he was able to glean online.  The hotel was also pet-friendly and filled with other evacuees from both North and South Carolina, so we got both camaraderie and dog kisses.


This was the Captain’s Control Room.  He didn’t move from this spot for days.

But while staying in a hotel is nice, it sure isn’t cheap.  Fortunately another friend offered us the use of his home outside of Greensboro, so we made evacuation #2 on September 17.  We went from city hustle and bustle to peaceful countryside, and it was a welcome change.

IMG_1972.jpgWith a view like this, it’s hard to believe that the eastern half of the state is suffering with massive flooding.

As forecast, Oriental took a pounding from wind and rain and eventually saw a 9 ½ foot floodwater surge that paralyzed the town.  Power was just restored today, and floodwaters have receded enough to get in and out of town.  Some services such as water have been fully restored, but others such as internet and cell service are still intermittent.  Some businesses are open, mostly importantly the Piglet for groceries and, occasionally, fuel.  Anyone interested in Hurricane Florence’s impact on Oriental should look at the photos on at


This is not my photo; it’s from at  I think this is the most vivid example of how high the storm surge in Oriental was. 

M&N’s town saw huge winds that knocked down giant trees and 35 inches of rain that resulted in massive flooding, power loss, and water main breaches.  The rainfall they suffered set an all-time state record.

The yard owner tells us that Kestrel is still upright in her jack stands and that the hull and standing rigging look undamaged, at least from the ground.  Tomorrow we head to M&N’s house to help them with the cleanup process and to check on Kestrel.

On a personal note, we want to thank all of our friends who have reached out to check on us or offered to bring us supplies as they came through Oriental.  In a time of great uncertainty, knowing that there’s people who care makes things feel more bearable, and for that we’ll always be grateful.


At the end of the day, you just have to laugh.  And I can always count on the goofs making internet memes for that.