It had been a day of checking online weather forecasts and email and chatting with friends about how to prepare our boats for the predicted arrival of Hurricane Irene – taking down canvas and doubling up docklines and looking after the boats of friends who were out of town.
I wish I could give you a unique firsthand boaters-eye-view of what it felt like to be aboard when the ground shook, but I wasn’t aboard. I was at Fitness Forum doing my regular Tuesday afternoon physical therapy session with awesome physical therapist and trainer Jen when the building started swaying. At first I assumed it was a heavy truck driving past in the elevated part of the parking lot, but as the shaking continued and got worse, we all clustered in doorframes and room corners until we were told to evacuate (I did get out of doing the last 10 minutes of my workout, though) And, all being the products of 21st century technology, we then all stood around checking our smartphones and telling each other the news: my cousin Cheryl in New York reported an earthquake, as did friends Margo in Massachusetts and Penny in North Carolina – this thing must have been HUGE! It was actually a relief to learn from USGS that it was “only” 5.8 with an epicenter near Richmond. There was a bit of confusion as our car was in the basement garage, but in a short time we were back home aboard the boat at the marina, where all looked just as it had before.
What was it like to be aboard in the marina during the earthquake? I asked Dave German, who lives aboard his CSY 37 “Equinox” a few slips away from us. “I was in the boat, at the nav station when I felt a sharp bump,” he said. “I thought someone may have run into me so I went to the cockpit, looked around and didn't see anything. Boatswain [the dog who lives aboard a neighboring boat along with his owner Ed Menegaux] barked a few times but stopped when he saw me. I waited maybe another minute and saw masts further up back creek rocking back and forth followed by masts closer to Port Annapolis. Next the pilings began to shake maybe 2-3 feet at the top and a series of waves came towards me. It lasted for about 30-40 seconds and then all was quiet again. Except for Boatswain.”
I kinda wish I could have seen that, docks and pilings swaying like palm trees … or then again, maybe not. If I’d seen it I’d probably never again be able to trust my boat to those docks and pilings in a storm – like the one coming, for example. After all the excitement, we topped up our water tanks and took the boat over to fuel up in anticipation of the hurricane, and went to a previously-planned anchor-out overnight in Whitehall Creek. Late in the evening we were rocked by a series of waves like a boat wake, but that had no discernible source, that may have been the aftershock. An invigorating sail back home this morning, and now, back to our regularly-scheduled hurricane prep.