Bob vs. the Wind Snob

Bob vs. the Wind Snob

Post by Rolland Wate » Fri, 23 Aug 1991 01:16:03

Another Monday, and I hadn't slept well the night before.  It was almost
8:30 before I dragged myself out of bed and into the shower.  I couldn't
understand why sleeping was sometimes so tough; normally Sunday was
a prime sleeping night; recovery from a long weekend.  Oh well; no biggee;
first meeting isn't until three, and even I could make it into work before

Stumbling around the apartment, barely awake even after the shower, I
listen to the phone ring.  Not for me; nobody calls me in the morning.  I
answer it anyway.  It's Steve, and it all comes rushing back.  I have a date
with Death today, and Death's name is Bob.  What a name for a hurricane,
but I promise myself I won't laugh if it'll blow.  And blow hard.  The
last two New England hurricanes have been real busts, unless you surf,
which I do, but only barely.

The eye is heading right for us, and suddenly my morning has gone from
lazy indifference to controlled panic.  It's 9 now; the eye will be on
Buzzards Bay by 4 or 5; it'll be a two hour drive and I have to pack.
Breakfast will, of course, be almost three cups of Nature's Finest,
Quaker Oats.  The box says this is 6 servings, but Americans are wimps.
I throw in raisins; they keep me from thinking about wallpaper paste.

Sails, boom, board, contacts; mast foot and wetsuit.  We're out of here!
Steve will have masts; I throw in two helmets, a few gallons of water,
and a bottle of Laphroig for good measure.  If we're going to die, we're
not going to die thirsty.

Traffic's not bad, but moving slowly.  Volvo claims their wagon is what
Ferrari would make, but they lie.  2.2 liters of German engineering driving
four wheels all at once get me to Wareham in near-record time.  It helps
to have the board in the car; when the fear first hits I can reach out
and knock not on wood, but 4 layers of S-glass on foam.

11:00 at the top of Buzzards Bay.  Beach, wind, but no Steve.  Find a pay
phone.  Two calls later, I reach Steve at home.  I give him the news; it's
cranking, but the wind line is well offshore.  As we talk, police cruisers
are evacuating the neighborhood.  Later this afternoon the phone booth will
be well under water.  Now, none of this matters, except the windline.

Steve knows of a another beach; the wind will be directly onshore.  We cruise.
15 minutes later, I'm experiencing the hell that only windsnobs truely know:
it's time to sail, and your booms won't come apart.  In the next 20 minutes,
I take a year off the life expectancy of my booms.  This too shall not matter.
Meanwhile, Steve rigs his 3.4.  He tries stands it up in the sand to see if
it's enough sail.  He can't.  I tell him to rig down.  His reply - "It's my
smallest sail; I rig down by driving home".  Not a good plan; he may want
to take his extra mast with him.  I toss my 3.5 back in the car and rig my

Then it happens.  The cops show up to kick everybody out; plainly he wants
to see us leave.  We get a break, though, from Bob, no less.  A thunderous
downpour, and the cops want to leave themselves.  I console them by saying
I can't afford car payments and have to be off the beach before it goes
under water.  I try not to think about whether or not the way back to high
ground will be under water when we decide enough's enough.

Rigging done, Steve and I say are last goodbyes.  Is that a tear in his eye,
or is it merely ooze from the sand abrasions?  I pause for a moment, and then
toss him a helmet.  I buckle mine on.  Helmets are ugly, bulky, and dorky,
but why give Bob an edge?  As I bend over to pick up my gear I get an intense
sinusful of wet sand.  It's too windy to stay on the beach.  We go for the
water.  There's spray, but nothing I haven't seen before.  The chop is
relatively small, as this is at the top of Buzzards Bay; the water is shallow
and the fetch is short.  3, maybe 4 feet, but close together and steep.
One last look out (and back at the car, to make sure I know which way home
is).  By my car, the local officials have returned.  They have me on videotape.
I pretend not to notice as I beach start and hang on.

I'm not sure what prompted me to even think about rigging a 3.5 earlier.
There's plainly wind, and lots of it.  Hooked in, feet in the straps, I
scratch the back of my mind for memories of earlier survival jibes.  It
turns out not to matter anyway, as I blow a jump and the rig rips out of
my hands.  I turn everything around and head back to the beach.  On the
way back, things settle down to a dull roar.  I take one last stop at
the beach, well upwind of the locals so as not to hear the comments.

I double check all my knots; the one at the back end has slipped.  I retie
it and add in a few extra bowlines.  This is, after all, a hurricane, even
if named Bob.  I look over at Steve.  He smiles.  I laugh.  We shred.
The wind at its weakest is a mere 25 or 30 knots.  I can plane, but just
barely.  At its strongest, it's lifting the surface of the water off and
distributing it downwind, a phenomena I've only seen once before.  I start
longing for big swells to hide between, but they aren't to be found.  I
shred anyway.

An hour later, the wind has continued to pick up.  I contemplate the
difference between this and the Gorge, where you only have to make it back
to the beach and you are safe.  I don't know how may people are going to
die today, but I don't want to be one of them.  Steve's stopped sailing.
I go for one last run and hit my third jibe of the day heading back to the
beach.  It's a good day for wind, but not a good day for jibing.

Back at the car, the officials pull up, still videotaping.  He mutters
something unintelligible.  He mutters louder, still unintelligible.
He yells, and I still can't hear him.  I'm leaning on his car and I can't
hear a word he's saying.  He opens his window, and gets a face-full of wet
sand for his efforts.  I stick my head in his car so I can hear him.  
His boss in the back seat says "He said he wants you to leave!".  I say,
"Sure, no problem".  What, am I stupid?  There's a hurricane on, even if
it's name is Bob.

We de-rig and head back to Steve's.  The eye will be here in less than two
hours, and the water's coming up already.  His wife's family's house is
on high ground, but the chicken coops and drive-in ba***t are in trouble.
I can't go home anyway; the state closed the highways hours ago.  I hate
chickens, but I spend the next hours filling sandbags, nailing plywood and
rescuing chickens.  Dumb chickens, smart chickens, big chickens, little
chickens, turkeys, pheasants, did I say dumb chickens?  The ducks and geese
laugh at our efforts.

Nonetheless, the barricades work, and while the water got to almost two
feet on the house, the only losses were chickens.  Mostly little ones,
but the family is sad even so.  The radio claims steady 95 knot gusts in
our area; I suppose they know what they're talking about.  I contemplate
life in Bangladesh, where a broken bone or bad cut would have been a death
sentence in their storm; we've lost power and trees, but little else; the
phones stay working through most of the hurricane.

Nice try Bob!