Day Twenty-Nine: Retreat To The Tower

13 February 2014 (Thursday)

Wake up at 0700. I try to make coffee without anything else on but the batteries cannot handle it. I check the seals to see if any are close to the house. They are not so I start the big generator.

This day is stressful. There is a very large low pressure system making it’s way across southern New England. I know that we likely need to spend the night in the tower, but the general feeling from the crew is no thanks. The forecast here is for 16 ft seas, but the direction of the wind is East, then Northeast and North. We rode out the southerly winds and sea OK. But the island is short on the north side and last February MDR suffered significant damage from a northerly blow. That was the winter storm Nemo, and the seas took shingles off the north side of the house. As a reference I spend some time downloading the data from the Nemo storm to compare from the National Data Buoy Center (NDBC) website. That day the winds were sustained in the 50 kt range and it gusted to nearly 80 kts at the Rock. The seas at the I01 buoy, Eastern Maine Shelf, topped out at 27 ft. We are not forecast for that today. But any sane person can not rely solely on the forecast this time of year. We need to be precautionary.

Hard to leave a cozy house for a damp dark tower

Hard to leave a cozy house for a damp dark tower

I slowly make my way around the island shoring things up for weather. At some point I ask everyone if they are really averse to the idea of sleeping in the tower. Kerry is fine with it, Kathy says she would rather sleep in the house, or wait in the house until the last moment. Becca and Tanya are up for whatever and just want to be safe. At some point I need to just make the call. The lighthouse is in pretty dismal shape inside, but it is the only place to be in a big storm.

We were going to curl today at 10 am but forgo the plan due to storm prep and weather. Somehow Tanya takes the time to make bagels, which is not simple. They turn out really well.

We make final preparations. Tanya and I get the solar panels down and into house. As we do it starts to rain and snow. The VHF antenna that is mounted temporarily on the east side of the south porch is pulled down and stowed. The aluminum gorilla ladder is placed up on the porch.

When Kathy and Kerry return from setting up their GoPro and downloading data from their small weather station, and Becca finishes her seal watch, the crew brings Delphus into the house. It is a large boat and quite heavy, but deflated it slides through the house and into the southwest hallway. What a strange life we have.

All propanes are now on the porch. Weather is picking up.

All propanes are now on the porch. Weather is picking up.

As the sun is setting in the late afternoon the weather is quickly deteriorating. The large wooden dolly for the boat ramp is still set on the rocks to the south of the house. I want to get it uphigher. Tanya and I lift it up and slide it through the open window of the generator shed.

Finishing up our outside work I shut down the freezer propane and the small heater propane and move them onto the porch.

I ask the crew to be ready with personal gear for the tower stay by 2100. This includes warm clothes and something to sleep in or on, as well as any computers, etc. they might need. I am planning on bring the generator, a small battery bank, and mu 1000w inverter.

For dinner Tanya makes a huge batch of cajun pasta with chicken and veggies on the side. Cooking for the crew has been interesting as Becca does not eat meat and Kerry does not eat veggies. So often we have multiple dishes set out.

After dinner we get final gear in order. Tanya and I have been watching the sea state closely and it is getting closer and closer to the house from the east. The upstairs rooms give the best view, so we run up from time to time.

Becca makes strawberry cobbler. Just as people are finishing up I ask for us all to go to the tower. We begin piling into the lighthouse with all kinds of gear. Tanya, Becca, and I set up shop in the third level of the lighthouse. Ask Kathy if she wants one and she shakes her head. I get the feeling she is not thrilled with our plan.

Feeling quite stormy...

Feeling quite stormy…

Kathy and Kerry are going to work through the night, setting out multi-cylinders on the lighthouse railing and the foghorn platform. This is what they came here for, although I think it would be easier if they had the house to come back to. Tanya, Becca, and I set out sleeping gear. They have thermarests and I have an inflatable mattress. It does not take long for us to be stowed away. It was a long day.

At some point I hear Kathy and Kerry inflating their own mattresses, resigned to the fact that the lighthouse is home for the next day. In between data collection they are watching shows on their laptops. Kathy ends up only sleeping one hour, but watching five episodes of Friday Night Lights.

I think briefly of what an old lighthouse keeper from the 1800’s would think peeking in on this scene. I am in a mummy bag, browsing my iPad, sleeping next to a grill and fish tote of food, while laptops play TV shows downstairs among digital balance scales and strange sea spray collection devices. It is an odd life we are living here.

Setting up a home in the tower

Setting up a home in the tower

Weather conditions continue to deteriorate. I am happy we are in the tower. My mattress deflates to the floor and it is cold. But it is better than being swept to sea.

Bed by 2230.

-Chris

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