Almost Back to Normal

Wow, what a crazy month it’s been since Hurricane Florence.  Kestrel incurred absolutely no damage, but the same couldn’t be said for the boat yard where we are keeping her.  Pretty much every piece of debris in Oriental—and there was a mountain of it—seemed to end up at Deaton’s.


This is just one of many piles of debris that greeted us when we got back to the yard–full of pieces of docks, random lumber, pieces of houses, deflated dinghies, shredded up unidentifiable stuff, and trees.

The crew spent days shoveling, scraping, raking, chainsawing, and piling debris for removal.  Some of the buildings sustained damage, and it took a couple of weeks for internet and phone service to be reinstated.  The amount of work they did to get the yard back up and running, and the care they took of the boats during such a traumatic time, was amazing.


How high were Florence’s winds at Deaton’s? This high.  The American flag had shredded and twisted into braids, and the NC state flag, which is the one on the far right, only had about four inches left.

Once we got back from evacuation #1 to Charlotte and evacuation #2 to Greensboro and confirmed that Kestrel was snug and watertight, we stayed at M&N’s house to help them with their cleanup.  Fortunately they had no damage to their buildings, but there were scads of trees down.  We spent two weeks at their house cutting down trees and hauling the debris to the road for pickup, interspersed with trips to Oriental to check on Kestrel. Oriental was still reeling from flooding and wind damage, and every street was lined with huge walls of sodden trash from houses, soaked insulation and air conditioning ducts, and green waste (trees, bushes, reeds, etc.).


Thanks to the Salvation Army Disaster Relief volunteers from Tennessee, the residents of Oriental had free, hot meals at both lunch and dinner.  From what we saw, the faith-based charities like Salvation Army and Baptist Men/Baptists on Mission were first on the scene and stayed the longest, living in the decimated towns and shelters where the displaced were found. 

It was suffocatingly hot and humid, but after tree work each day we got to luxuriate in air conditioning and all the showers we could ever want; in addition, N cooked us gourmet dinners when I was too tired to even make us toast.  And most importantly, she didn’t laugh at us when our arms were so spent that we flapped them around like the robot from Lost In Space.  We ended up taking down about 25 trees plus innumerable branches, some of them huge.  I hope it’s a cold winter, because they certainly have plenty of firewood now!

DSCF8254.JPGThe Captain handled the chainsaw, and I loaded branches on a trailer and piled them at the road.  M dragged smaller trees to the road with his tractor and then chainsawed them into smaller pieces for pickup.  N picked up branches, mowed the lawn, and kept us fed and functioning.  Between us, we cleared the yard in a surprisingly short (if intense) time.DSCF8266.JPGLife always finds a way.  Even though flooding probably killed tons of animals, the water also gave life to thousands upon thousands of these baby toads (frogs?) that hatched from a neighbor’s pond.  M&N’s driveway and yard were carpeted with them for days, and I looked pretty funny mincing around trying not to step on them.

Just when we were starting to prepare to move back aboard Kestrel, Hurricane Michael started tracking towards coastal North Carolina.  Fricking of course.  We hadn’t reversed many of our hurricane preps from Florence, so we didn’t have to do much to prepare for Michael other than take down the dodger and bimini we had put back up.  Michael delayed us coming back home for a couple of days, but on October 13, we officially moved back aboard.  Two months, four cities, and thousands of driving miles later, we were home.


The roads outside of Oriental are full of jarring sights like this one:  a sailboat in the middle of a multi-acre cornfield.  It’s mind-blowing to think how high the water was to float this boat this far inland.

We are still on the hard; our insurance company paid for our haul since it was in preparation for a hurricane, so while we’re out, we decided to do some bottom work.  We’ve painted the bottom, painted all underwater metals, and repainted the boot stripe.  Next is wax the hull and put a coat of Cetol on the caprail, and we’ll go back in the water on Monday.  That will get us the things we don’t have now and make life much smoother:  refrigeration, air conditioning/heat, and power other than from extension cords draped down the companionway.

We are still without water tanks and a fuel tank.  The fuel tank is being fabricated now, and the plans for the water tank have been sent to the manufacturer.  Things are going slower than we planned—yes, Florence, we’re looking at you—so we’ve changed next season’s cruising plans.

Rather than heading to the Western Caribbean, we are spending this winter at the dock in Oriental.  Then in mid- to late spring next year, we’ll head north, hopefully to Maine and possibly Nova Scotia.  We haven’t done any cold weather cruising, and while we’ll be up there during the warmest part of the year, it’ll still be a big change from what we’ve done before.  It’ll give us a chance to decide whether we prefer warm weather or cold weather cruising and will get us in position to go to the Western Caribbean in 2020.

And to any further hurricanes and tropical storms that may want to visit coastal North Carolina this season, I have only this to say: