Black-clad char

This ia an email to my family after the recent hurricane:

By the time you read this (our internet is down) it will all be past, but that was quite a night. I don’t think we’ve had such a decisive wind since the hurricane of ’56. The waves were washing over the floats, which were rocking like a carnival ride. Flotsam – none of it so large as to create a problem – scudded across the cove. Crests ran under the Glory Hole, splashing up to the undercarriage. From east through south to west, the wind tattered cloth, darkened the water in a strangely tropical light, and threw the rain sideways at everyone who tromped the pier to look to the condition of their boats. Not that you would want to venture forth in a dinghy to reach it if there was a problem. Aside from one dinghy swamped and lot of chafing and wracking, everything seems to have survived basically intact.

I hope Flye Point and Pemaquid Lake and all of you and yourn are fine.

Love Tom


That was the cart before the horse, the eggs all in one basket, or some such proverb:

I wrote that email this noon, having been out to my boat this early morning, presided over by a large bald eagle that was clearly afloat in the breeze, unable to land, being slowly pushed upriver from its home on Hodgson’s Island, two down from Peters. Aboard, I saw my lines were not chafing, and I presumed it would die down this afternoon as predicted. I bailed Marisco – I’d hauled everything else onto the dock – looked around, and judged that we’d come through alright as I wrote above.

I had put up the computer, and was starting a fire in the sauna (it had been a long day and night) when Tim Green peeled around the drive: “Tammie Norie’s broken loose from her mooring and heading for shore. Better come quick”. I leapt into the back of his pickup and we sprinted for the shore. In the westerly, with the luck of the Irish, she had fetched up between the fishermen’s float and the pier. She was about broadside to the wind, and pounding against the end of the float. As we looked it over, the runway started to crack and wrack under the pressure. We got a strong docking line, and Tim got it tied around the bowsprit. Tim got his arm and ribs hurt in the process – the hospital says it’s a crushed forearm, something about the median nerve, but he was back down on the dock by seven, so I guess we’ll see tomorrow how serious it is.

Neighbor Dirk and his son Carl showed up at this time, and we got the bowline around some of the pilings at the end of the pier, and begin to cinch it up an inch at a time, trying to bring the bow into the wind. I had the idea to get it along the front of the pier, but we couldn’t possibly do that with the wind rising to 40-50 at all times, with gusts to 60 and 70 – never seen it like that – you could barely stand.

The runway continued to wrack as the Tammie Norrie exerted pressure on the windward moorings of the dock. Frantic calls to her owners Joel and Mike were finally answered, and the secret of starting her up revealed, and I scampered back and forth along the high side of the runway – the phone wouldn’t work on the boat, but I kept needing new information. Spume was rising off the water in the gusts, and the pier, with the addition of Tammie Norie, still largely broad to the wind, slamming against the dock and pulling on the pier, rocked with each set of waves or new blast that hit us. It was so tenuous and moving so far eastward that I thought for a time I was going to have to decide between saving the pier or saving Tammie Norie, and I sent everyone not necessary to the task off the pier incase she went.

As the sun set, Dirk went to get work lights, while Carl and I set the anchor – a nearly hopeless gesture to try to stop Tammie from going aground if we should have to let her go, or if she just went. The gusts were so fierce, you just gritted your teeth and held on to something until they were done.

Tim Brewer had arrived, Quan showed up with welcome hot soup, which we could eat peacefully in the pumphouse watching the carnage outside. Mike and Joel (and as it turned out, Bill) were racing down from Wilton, and made it just after dark – the tide had turned and the sun had set, so there was some abatement to the wind, but it was still 40 gusting to 50, it was hard to stand on the end of the pier without one hand for the ship – but I was so glad that things had basically held steady until Mike got there – I didn’t want to make what seemed like crazy decisions about his boat.

Mike’s plan was the same as mine: ease it off the pier, backing it down the fishermen’s dock until it was on its turning point, pulling in the stern and gunning her out of there dead to wind. With a series of hand signals – yelling upwind was ludicrous – we did exactly that – let her drop back, foot by foot, pulled her stern in, and gunned her free as we cast off the sprit line and Joel hauled like hell on it to keep it from fouling the propellor – everything was carried so fast in the wind.

And then it was over. Carter Newell and I ran a dinghy out to them for the morning, and the wind was down to 30 by this time, so I am praying they on their anchor and Tycha on her mooring will be ok for the night, or so says the eagle. Now I am back here and it’s only 7 o’clock new time – so it was only 4 hours, though it felt like 8.

This time we escaped with little damage – a bit of minor gouging in the starboard flank of Tammy Norrie, and we will have to charge Mike to reconstitute the runway and whatever damage to the pier and Timmy’s arm, but it could have been so much worse – gusts and a fierce chop on that lee shore of boulders would have made short work of her. I must say on days like today I feel the weight of being responsible for all this gear – houses, pier, boats – especially given how ant-like we all felt in the face of this massive show of natural force.

But this time we were lucky. Lucky Tim was there when it happened, lucky I could reach Mike, lucky we had neighborly help.

Love T

The title for the email comes from a poem – even though it is still October, this one took all the leaves it could:


Where I live – there’s heresy in trees,

An orange apostasy amid the green denominations.

At first it’s just a single branch

In some dank corner of the lowlands –

A nickering doubt in the clicking of crickets

That gets a nod from the goldenrod,

A pang of white-haired dread in a dark night’s frost –

And suddenly a failure of the faith in the eternal power of Summer

Bursts forth among the congregation of the Leaves.

Is this cold October wind the Grand Inquisitor,

Keening his charges? – ” Renegade, recant ” he gusts, and

With ” Blasphemy “, shushes voices of dissent

And bears down upon the forests from thin ascetic clouds.

And the trees – they are divided.

The pious pines keep their green habits

Telling nervous rosaries on the round brown cones,

Looking down demurely, shaking their cowled heads

In shame and fear and secret horrified delight,

While the others lift their hands to heaven –

Half the woods afire with licks of flame,

Orange, yellow, red – copper purple, even –

Beseeching beeches, moaning oaks,

Begging birches bilious with fear,

Bark like flagellated skin,

The quiet sumac in a sudden glory of Transfiguration

Martyred maples – all rooted to the stake

All given to the Holy Fire.

At last and all too soon the flames die out,

And with a healing cry of rain

The black-clad char, November storm

Tears the tatters from the ashen trees

And leave a world of winter silence.

Only the pines risk a whispered rush of prayer

As they await – with perfect faith

But no proof – the rekindling miracle of spring.

And do you stand with those

Who keep their color green, who stay the course,

Who stand and wait the winter out?

Or will you join the ones who flame,

So brief, so bright, so unexpected

And confounding – but who must die,

Numb and having left the world unchanged

But for a carpet of brown husks

Pressed into the soil of another year?


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