At sea for Hurricane Sandy, sort of

Miles Gerety was more embarrassed than scared when he ended up spending two nights stranded aboard his 35-foot sailboat during Hurricane Sandy.

I first heard about Gerety's adventure when he wrote to The Day to suggest people might like to know the Amtrak telephone number posted for mariners on the railroad bridge over the Mystic River is wrong.

Gerety found out the hard way, as he was en route up the river the Sunday before Hurricane Sandy's Monday arrival in Connecticut.

His plan was to anchor and leave the boat way up the river, beyond Mystic Seaport, where it would be protected from high winds and surrounded by shallow, muddy water.

Gerety, a public defender in the Danbury Judicial District, was late moving the boat to a hurricane refuge, from its usual mooring in unprotected waters off Noank, because he had been attending a public defenders' convention in New Orleans Saturday.

He was surprised how much the wind had piped up Sunday when he arrived at the railroad bridge on the river.

He had earlier checked with the state Department of Transportation to learn that the Mystic River car bridge would open.

But when he called the Amtrak number posted on the railroad bridge, to ask about an opening, he got connected to some marketing company that he figures got reassigned the number when it was evidently dropped by the railroad.

He decided to wait to see if the bridge might open, which it didn't, and found a mooring nearby that appeared to be strong. He moored his boat to it, stern out - the back of the boat facing the wind - because he knows that's the best storm technique.

Gerety quickly abandoned the idea of using his dinghy to go ashore, since it was already quite windy and he knew he would be safer on the big boat.

And so began his hunkering down on the Mystic River for the hurricane of 2012.

It was never frightening, but it was unpleasant at times, when the choppy waves were slapping the hull of the boat, sounding like the "boom boom" of a car accident. He was never scared, but he was concerned during some of the high tides, when water was washing over the stern of the boat.

He had plenty of the proper storm equipment on board, because he is planning a solo ocean voyage next spring, when he hopes to sail to the Azores, the first leg of a trip to the Mediterranean.

For Sandy, he was wearing an immersion weather suit and an offshore life vest. He constantly checked the line holding the boat to the mooring, to make sure it didn't chafe and break.

His alcohol cook stove worked, and he ate a lot of Dinty Moore canned stew over the two days. He also has a wood stove on the boat, so he stayed warm. And since the diesel engine worked, to charge the batteries, he ended up being in the small minority of people in Mystic who had lights for the storm.

He stayed in touch with his wife by cellphone, so she didn't worry.

When the storm was finally over, Gerety took the boat back to its usual mooring in Noank, where he saw at least one boat that didn't make out so well, foundering in the harbor.

So, in the end, it wasn't the storm plan Gerety had in mind for Sandy. But he and his boat survived, with a story to tell.

He is also quick to tell anyone who asks that the telephone number listed on the Mystic railroad bridge is wrong.

This is the opinion of David Collins.


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