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Hurricane Florence

By Del Burns

Chapter 1

Hurricane Florence hit Topsail Beach as a Category 1 storm and stayed for three days. The wind blew steady at hurricane force and gusted over 100 knots for most of that time. Rainfall was heavy, and when it was over, 30 inches of rain had fallen on the area. The local boatyard was unable to haul my Pearson 34 in time, so I tied it in the slip at the end of my pier with 16 lines. Then we left the island. Throughout the first day of the storm I could see the boat riding in the slip on the video camera. Then the power went out. Two days later I received a call from a neighbor who motored by on his boat since access to the island by road was closed. He shared that my boat had broken loose and was sunk. Then he sent pictures. I have owned sailboats for over 50 years and never had one wrecked. The thoughts and feeling that came with seeing the pictures were not good ones. After making calls to the insurance company, they removed the wreck and a check appeared in the mail shortly thereafter. It was such a frustrating experience not being able to have the boat hauled and then it sinking in the slip that I decided I wasn't going to replace the boat and do without. That lasted about a year.

Having owned sailboats as small as a Sunfish and as large as the Pearson with many in between for most of my life, I have day sailed regularly and cruised a good bit. I eventually decided it was time to consider another. But this time, I wanted one that I could put on a trailer and move when the next storm came. On the advice of a friend, I stopped by The Sailboat Company where I met Keith Scott. Unsure of exactly what I wanted, I looked at several boats on Keith's boatyard. When I shared that I like to cruise and daysail and that I generally sailed in the Topsail area, but sometimes went outside to Cape Lookout or to Masonboro Inlet, Keith told me that I needed a Com-Pac 23, not a larger boat based on where I sail and how I sail. He had several CP23s on the yard and I looked at them. One was recently refurbished with a virtually new 8hp Yamaha outboard and the other was a CP23 diesel that had been converted 10 years prior, but had been used very little on an inland lake. Although Keith was persuasive, I was not convinced. I left and thought little over the next few weeks about what I might buy to replace the Pearson. I couldn't see myself on a boat as small as the CP23 again and being able to do any serious cruising. About a month later, I stopped by the boatyard again. After talking with Keith I made and offer on the CP23 with the outboard thinking that if I didn't like the boat I would just sell it and move on. He accepted the offer and we closed the deal.

The boat was in great shape as was the trailer, having been gone through bow to stern and keel to masthead. Happily towing it to Topsail Beach, I contemplated launching it and my first sail in a Com-Pac. Launching the boat on a local ramp was uneventful. The boat slid easily off the trailer and the engine fired on the second pull. Off to my slip I went. Once in the slip and the boat secured, work began to raise the mast. The previous owner had installed a Com-Pac mast raising system and in less than an hour the mast was up, the boom was on and I was bending on the main and genoa. All single-handed. The next day, I was sailing Banks Channel behind Topsail Beach.

Keith was right, the CP23 was one of the best sailing boats that I have been on. With the genoa alone in 10-12 knots of wind it was fast and responsive. With the main as well it pointed fairly high and once heeled to 12-15 degrees, settled in and was rock solid. After day sailing in the sound and the ICW for a few weeks, I decided it was time for a short cruise. A trip north to Swansboro on the ICW was easy and could usually be sailed at least one way. When the weather and wind forecast was favorable for that time in June, off I went on a Friday morning. Most of the morning I was able to sail but shortly after lunch, about the time I passed Swan Point Marina the wind began to die and it was time for the iron genny. The Yamaha was reliable and reasonably quiet, but awkward to lower and raise, and heavy, even with a heavy duty motor mount. It started and for the remainder of the day I motored, arriving at Dudley's Marina about 5pm.

After tying up on the outside of the tee and checking in with the office, a shower was in order. Then it was time for a walk across the bridges to have a meal at the Riverside Steak and Seafood Restaurant. The beer was cold, the fried shrimp and fish were excellent as always and it was cool inside. The walk back to the marina was slow and helped with digestion, but it was getting more and more humid. When I returned to the boat and went below for the evening, the wind completely died and it was uncomfortable to say the least. After a bit I decided that even though it was dusk, I was going to leave the marina and move to an anchorage further north on the east side of the ICW, to be able to swing at anchor which is always cooler than being tied up at a dock. The motor was fired up, the lines cast off and to the anchorage I went. By the time I arrived it was nearly dark, but I followed the chart and anchored in six feet of water with plenty of room to swing and no one else in the anchorage that Friday night. Going below again, with the hatches and ports open there was enough breeze to be comfortable, and soon I was asleep.

In the morning, after some instant coffee and oatmeal, it was time to head south and return home. There being no wind, the trusty Yamaha was fired, the anchor weighed, and the return trip begun. Around 10am the wind freshened from the east. Soon it was blowing 15 knots and gusting to 20. With just the genoa, I was making a good six knots, helped a little by the current. The sun was bright, the temperature comfortable and the sailing was steady and easy with just the genoa. By 2pm I was at the Surf City bridge talking with the bridge tender to request an opening. At 3:30 JaVa was tied in her slip and unloaded. An enjoyable first trip, and uneventful, which is always good. As I reflected on the trip and boat, I was satisfied with everything but the outboard. It weighed right at 90 lbs., quite a bit to raise even with the motor mount springs assisting. And the throttle was difficult to manage in close quarters while also handling the tiller. The boat tended to squat a great deal due to having so much weight hanging off the stern. Other than that, I really liked the boat. I wondered if I should have bought the CP23 diesel instead.

Look for the next Chapter of Hurricane Florence coming soon.