Last night was a blur. Around 9 pm, just as I crawled into bed to watch the second half of the Ravens-Steelers game, two men came bursting through my door. “It’s happening NOW!” they shouted. I didn’t have to ask. Without hesitation, I jumped to my feet and got prepared. It was happening — and we were stoked.
Minutes later the three of us were outfit with full dry suits, hundreds of feet of rope, dry bags, and a climbing harness. We knew the approaching hurricane could mean disaster recovery mode, but we had no idea the northeaster was already wreaking havoc. Our team hopped in a truck and set off for the beach.
Living at Oakcliff brings with it a unique set of challenges. One of those is being ready and able to respond at a moments notice to anything that drifts, or blows, your way. On this blustery night, someone’s 35 foot power boat slipped its mooring and rapidly crashed its way to our doorstep. As the tide was rising, so too was the risk that this shipwrecked boat would crush itself on the rocks, or worse, on our fleet of 24 Olympic class skiffs and multihulls.
We sprinted, and then waded, into the waist high water of Oyster Bay and boarded the vessel in distress. The sky was dark and cloudy, the wind was ripping more than 30 knots, and the forecast promised stronger winds by morning. We tossed an anchor off the bow and returned to land to formulate a plan.
It wasn’t long before Nassau County Police arrived, followed shortly by the local Fire Department. After describing the situation to them and speaking to their marine unit, it became clear they were looking to us for answers. So we suited up and set off into the night.
Austin “AC” Colepart donned his wetsuit and lifejacket while Hobie Ponting and Ethan Johnson retrieved a rib and set out to approach the vessel from sea. Meanwhile, Evan Sjostedt worked feverishly to secure hundreds of feet of line to the vessel in distress. With spotlights from the police vehicles trained on AC, he returned to the beach and eagerly dove in head first.
With help from our swimmer, we transferred a line from the beached vessel to our motorboat and somehow found a way to secure the boat to a floating dock moored a couple hundred feet way. It was difficult to gauge whether the authorities were impressed with our emergency response or merely grateful they weren’t the ones making the frigid, midnight plunge.
This morning our eyelids are heavy and arms are sore, but we have the satisfaction of having avoided a likely disaster. Yet as the wind continues to build, and morning reveals the massive craft has no intentions of moving, I have a sneaking suspicion that our work is far from over.