The storm watchers: How OBX boat owners prepare for dangerous weather

By on September 30, 2023

Judd Beatty at Bayliss Boatworks in front of boat on the lift. (Photo by Mary Ellen Riddle)

It was March 12, 1993, when an unexpected wind blew in. The sound emptied into the basin at Oregon Inlet Fishing Center where the charter boats docked. The storm of no name caused the basin water to rise eight feet along with several charter boats that had been secured in advance with double lines.

The Fishin’ Frenzy, captained by Mike Clarkin was one of them. It rose with the water and smashed down with enough force to be skewered through the hull and the bow deck by a piling. Multiple charter boats were severely damaged. Clarkin calls the event “The day that will not be forgotten. It didn’t have a significant warning,” he said of the storm. “We all got caught with our pants down.”

Today, boat owners seem to have more notice of bad weather. Judd Beatty, the Yard Manager at Bayliss Boatworks in Wanchese, concurs. While their business primarily focuses on boatbuilding and repairs, they offer their clients the opportunity to drydock their vessels at the boatyard during “named” hurricanes.

“So essentially, when a storm comes and we have to haul boats, we stop all work,” said Beatty. Once the storm is forecast, instead of starting the dry-docking process, Beatty waits three days to be sure the storm is heading their way, hence allowing the usual boatworks business to not shut down prematurely.

Weather watching, hauling out boats, securing them and putting them back in the water can take up to two weeks, he says. To save time and optimize space, the process of haul-out is carefully planned out on a large magnetic board. “So, it is a Google representation of the entire Bayliss boatyard,” said Teresa Honeycutt, the Yard Controller at Bayliss. Each boat to be hauled out is identified by a magnet.

Teresa Honeycutt with haul out planning board at Bayliss Boatworks. (Photo by Mary Ellen Riddle)

“So, our scale for these magnets is one inch to every twenty feet,” she says. They can move the magnets to the exact spaces on the board where they will be drydocked therefore maximizing space and saving time, explained Honeycutt. The boats can range in size from 24 feet to 90 feet. They represent those clients who agreed to be on the “hurricane” or haul out list. This year, the list had 35 boats on it and 15 on the waiting list.

It takes a team of 15-20 employees to form the haul-out crew. The work includes using the lift to haul out the boat once it arrives by water to the boatworks, a trailer to move it and stands, blocks and chains to raise and secure it in place. Honeycutt says the haul-out process takes a lot of effort.

“The guys work incredibly hard for three solid days from six in the morning to eight at night,” she said. “And once the storm passes and everything is clear, and we are sure all our employees are good, they are right back at it. And it takes about two days to get everybody back into the water.”

Charter boat captains have prep work to do before their boats are even hauled out or relocated to safer water. “Well, you got to tie your riggers together, so they don’t bend and break and take your curtains off,” said Captain Charles Foreman, who runs the fifteen-foot, 37-ton Country Girl out of Pirate’s Cove Marina. “I’ll take tape and tape up anywhere that I think wind might blow and get water up inside the electronics.”

Country Girl. (Courtesy of Vanessa Foreman)

Since you are going to lose power, says Foreman, you must keep your bait from spoiling. Rather than haul out in a storm, Foreman usually takes a two-and-a-half hour run up the intracoastal waterway to dock at Coinjock Marina where the pilings are high. High pilings help ward off what happened to Clarkin back in 1993. If it’s a hurricane, Foreman will consider doing a haul out.

One time he docked for three days at Coinjock Marina. During that time, he lost power. “I just made sure I had enough fuel in the motor, and we just ran the generator for three days to keep everything running, to keep the bilge batteries charged up so the boat doesn’t sink from the bilge pumps going out and the bait freezer not going out,” Foreman said.

After the storm, says Foreman, on the way back, you must watch out for storm debris in the water and shoals changing around. “You’ll spend a good day getting ready and then after, you got to put it all back together,” he said. “It can be an ordeal.”

Fortunately, Foreman didn’t have to move his boat during the most recent storms. For hurricane Lee and the subsequent tropical storm, Foreman tightened up his lines securing his boat at Pirates Cove and stopped by the boat two or three times a day to make sure everything was all right

He takes a deep breath when hurricane season is over on November 30, adding “It’s nice not to have to worry about that anymore.”



Comments

  • Kit

    What a heavy boat!

    “… said Captain Charles Foreman, who runs the fifteen-foot, 37-ton Country Girl out of Pirate’s Cove Marina.”

    Sunday, Oct 1 @ 9:38 am
  • Liz

    Thanks, Outer Banks Voice, for this very interesting article! It’s fascinating to learn how things work. Who knew?

    Monday, Oct 2 @ 9:24 am