Just North of the Hwy 101 Bridge

And we do have a plan. Seven miles from our marina is what is known as a Hurricane Hole. Here lies a small rectangle harbor carved out of Adams Creek. It is ringed with huge pilings. We’ve made arrangements with the owner to be allowed in a few days prior to the storm to tie up with other boats in an effort to ride out the blow. We dubbed it Kluster Kreek.

Along one side of the harbor is a floating dock. Across the tiny harbor are three pilings driven well into the soil. On the third side, up beyond the marsh grass is another piling – some 200 feet away.

Seven of us. Power boats and sail boats had made arrangements to hide out in Kluster Kreek (KK). Early, the day before the storm was to hit, we headed out single file. It was a new experience for us. We’re trusting that everyone else has their plan and that the the rodeo round up of fiberglass homes will end well. Between swapping crews and hired captains it took a while. At one point we had all the boats tied in. Then Sparky, from our marina noted “That ain’t gonna work. Can’t have two sailboats side by side. Masts will collide.” Ok, all hands on deck, untie all 38 lines and let’s try this again.

It took most of the day. Tying the first row of boats to the pilings on the dock, then spider tie the next two rows together and lastly – running over 100′ of line to shore. Not once or twice, but 4 times to ensure the now knit together group of boats don’t come together, nor surge fore and aft. The last thing we need is 125,000 pounds of boats wanging into each other like a parking lot full of loose shopping carts in a wind storm. Shangri-La is on the outside. I like that. As the lines get wet they will stretch. I can work our end of the shore bound lines and pull the group tighter as needed. Welcome to Kluster Kreek.

As the day wore on, tensions were high. We have a good bluff on the North side where winds are projected to be the worst. East and West winds will be our biggest challenge. Out in front of us on Core Creek boats are hustling by, heading for cover. A Coast Guard buoy tender over 100′ feet long eases by, Coasties on the deck – waving goodbye. We stand still for a bit and stare. The weather is calm and balmy. Very little wind. Back to work, getting everything loose inside packed down. Taping the windows and hatches against what will surely be a fire hose of rain.

Hurricane Prep
Tied In Ready for Dorian – Shangri-La on the right

As the day wears on, each of the other boat owners pack up their things and climb ashore. Jan and I will stay on board. Confident we can control the outcome, we’ll have a busy 24 hours. As the afternoon sun dissolved behind the building clouds we spend the next few hours of daylight double, triple checking for loose items and good knots on the cleats. I go down to take a nap. It will be a busy night with Dorian expected around midnight.

Just 20 minutes into the nap – Jan wakes me. The winds have picked up – “We have a problem.” she says with little emotion. Just a statement. I go up top to see what she’s watching. One of the pilings at the floating dock has snapped off. Three boats are tied to this piling. . .or were. Now this huge log with an 8 inch bolt sticking out of it is rolling around, tangling lines in amongst the fleet. This is bad – she’s right, we have a problem. By now we think we are alone in the harbor. We’ve loaned our dinghy to another crew who were going to anchor out. We have no way to get off the boat.

At that point we spot Richard, the property owner on the dock. He’s spotted the broken piling and is indeed concerned. Lashed to the dock is the dinghy of our neighboring sailboat. Richard frees the dink and rows out to get me. Together we untangle the lines from the broken piling and retie the three boats to cleats on the dock. Not a perfect solution – but the only option available. I’m nervous. The piling had rotted out and broke under minimal strain. What lies below the water for the remaining pilings?

After securing the lines we row our little tow boat between the boats pulling the broken section of piling. Far too heavy to remove from the water, we secure it between two more pilings to keep it from breaking loose in the harbor. Richard insists we keep the dink “If you need to get off, you’ll need this.” he says. I row him to shore and then back to Shangri-La to tie the dink where it will not impact the boats. It’s starting to rain. Winds are building. . .

Loose Piling
Retrieving the Broken Piling – Retying the Boats

Once back on deck I realize the power boat in front of us is not secured from moving aft. There’s a piling on the starboard corner I can tie her off to. Back in the dink. I row out to the power boat with a long line in hopes of getting a good tie to the piling. I won’t be able to return during the storm to make adjustments. It takes another hour to secure this boat and retie the lines to the sailboat. It’s been pouring rain the whole time and now it is nearly dark out. I row back to Shangri-La and again tie up the dink.

As night fell the winds picked up. The howling is evil. Small tree branches begin flying by. Leaves are everywhere. The water in KK historically doesn’t rise or fall too much in big storms. We’re betting on that. As I watch the marsh grass behind us disappear in the beam of our flashlight I wonder; “could this one be the exception?” Thankfully, due to our location we won’t be dealing with heavy wave action. Our enemy is the wind. Ten o’clock. We’re in a Steven King movie.

As a distraction and to keep the rest of the owners informed, we start up KKEBN. Kluster Kreek Emergency Broadcast Network. Using a group texts we keep them informed of the storm’s progress. And the fact that for now – each and every boat is playing nice, testimony to the other captains great work securing their boats.

As the winds clock around to the North, the sailboat masts are catching the full force. Sparky was right. Each of the sailboats are now rocking 20-30 degrees left and right. When the mast loads from the wind the boats tip to the limit, then snap back. It’s violent to watch. I can’t imagine the carnage had we not re-positioned the sailboats. Never are they in unison. I exit the comfort of our cabin and check the shore bound lines. Both have stretched – a lot. The line is one inch nylon. I have to pull with all my might to gain back the stretch and bring the boats tight again. If we can’t keep the separation between them, we’ll surely collide with a horrible result. The winds howl and rain is driven in shear horizontal sheets. I check our deck scuppers only to find them filling with leaves. Once they are blocked, the water cascading onto our deck will pile up until it can find away out – or in. Something else to worry about.

For the rest of the night I make a few forays onto the deck making my checks, pulling on lines. Jan is up and down, unable to sleep soundly -worrying. But she is a Viking – and her worry manifests itself in suggestions and offers to help. The sailboats appear to be possessed. In a crazed dance they lunge back and forth.

Down inside Shangri-La it is eerily quiet. Her sound hull and safety glass on the cabin windows muting the rage outside. With little wave action and not much rocking side to side one might think we were in a summer thunderstorm. Outside is a movie set from a tornado disaster film. Such a violent wind. It’s 3AM. With cell service still intact we keep checking the weather radar to see if the Big Red Blob is moving off. It is, slowly, to the northeast. To Okracoke and Hatteras where the full brunt of winds and surge will wreak havoc unseen in many, many years.

As dawn breaks, the winds have died a bit. Enough to get on deck and not be blown along skidding to the next railing. With the rain still pouring down, I retrieve the dink and head off – my fear of our scuppers plugging is magnified knowing other boats may be suffering the same dilemma. One by one, I board check lines, and clear the scuppers. It appears so far my concerns are misplaced. The rest of the KK fleet is doing just fine. Time for breakfast. I row back to our home.

Day two. Skies are clearing. The crews are returning. Other than a side cabin window blown out on one boat – all appears to be in order. We wait here for the day. Hoping to hear the marina is safe and our home docks will be ready soon. Beaufort Yacht Basin is in good shape we learn. We can return tomorrow. Relieved we begin the cleanup and preparation for our exit from what is indeed – a great Hurricane Hole.

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