We were very relieved to learn that All In had survived the hurricane with no visible exterior damage. I spent a fair amount of time on Saturday and Sunday checking online and watching the Weather Channel for updates on the storm’s effect on Southport, but couldn’t really get a very good idea of localized damage. Some places nearby were being hurt by storm surge, rain, and wind while other areas seemed to be just fine. I couldn’t tell for sure what was happening specifically near All In. We left the boat at the St. James Plantation Marina, located in a town tucked in behind Oak Island as a nice storm barrier. The marina itself is protected all the way around from rough water and tall houses surround the docks to create a decent wind barrier as well. A family friend who lives in the area was kind enough to send us some pictures from the dock after the storm passed and everything looked as we left it. Later in the day I was able to make contact with the dock master as well, and he confirmed for me that the marina had done very well during the storm and no boats had been damaged.
We spent the weekend riding out the storm in Sumter, SC with my parents and some great friends of ours from Bluffton, SC who called us when the evacuation was ordered. We decided to make the best of the situation and use the time to catch up, experiment with some new drink recipes, and let the kids all play together.
Unfortunately, much of our old hometown did not fare as well as the St. James Marina did. In fact, the dock where we kept All In during the months leading up to our departure from Beaufort was all but destroyed. It’s a privately-owned dock belonging to very nice retired couple and you may have seen it before…just go watch the shrimp boat scenes in Forest Gump again. They were all filmed there. It made me so sad to see the dockhouse falling into the water as we have so many wonderful memories on and around that dock with the people of the Coosaw Island community.
And destroyed docks were a big part of the story of Hurricane Matthew in Beaufort, SC. Very few private docks survived the storm and many marinas suffered significant damage. In fact, the Dataw Marina was completely destroyed and the boats that were moored there were littered across the marshland, some of them even ending up on the runway of the local airport just upriver from Dataw. The rest of the town experienced massive flooding, downed trees which caused damage to homes and vehicles, and power outages that are still an issue at the time of this writing.
On Monday, when the Andersons were cleared to head back home, we drove north to Charlotte to visit my sister Cori and her family. Cori and Jeff’s youngest son, Grant, has been recovering in the hospital since early September after a brain surgery and we needed to go see all of them. Their Caring Bridge site tells more of their story. It was a short visit, but something we’ve wanted to be able to do for weeks now. Grant’s got a long road of recovery ahead of him, and his family is exhausted and uprooted, but my take-away from the visit is that they are all incredibly strong, optimistic and loving people who deserve a big time vacation when this is all over with.
On Tuesday morning at 9am, we left Fort Mill, expecting a 4 hour drive to Southport. In hindsight, we feel ridiculous that we didn’t check road conditions for closures from flooding or for areas that were still without power. That’s just not the Merrick Way! Nope, we just packed up the car and took off. Eight hours later, we arrived in Southport with two tired, whiny little girls. We had encountered detour after detour, gas stations with no gas or no power, abandoned vehicles by the roadside, and massive flooding that, in person, was downright frightening. In some areas, even though the skies were clear and the sun was out, the flooding was only getting worse. Nearby rivers were overflowing with water making its way toward the coast. It was obvious that water levels were rising very quickly as people from the homes in peril were just standing along the roads, looks of desperation and surprise and sadness on their faces. Every minute that passed, roads and bridges were becoming almost impassable. We scooted across a few bridges that we would not have attempted half an hour later. Homes were underwater up to their windows or more. Something as abundant and common as liquid water was now the source of abject terror. Strange, strange experience for me. My heart goes out to all those affected by this storm. One could really understand the notion that we are completely and utterly helpless against the power of mother nature.
The whole experience that day struck some kind of philosophical chord within me. I simultaneously felt really sad for my fellow Americans and also kind of embarrassed. We have become so dependent on and take for granted our incredible power grid and our seemingly endless supply of clean, fresh water. We expect those services to be provided constantly and to be accessible from everywhere. We have access to food and water and power so cheaply and easily in this country, that we’ve honestly become a little lazy and careless in our decision making. You don’t have to plan ahead to feed yourself, you can just whip into a fast-food restaurant the very moment you feel hunger and have something to eat within seconds. At any hour of the day or night! Fill up the car with gas before it gets halfway empty? No need! There will be a gas station every mile or so in any direction! And then suddenly we’re hit with a natural disaster, we lose access to this convenience and we start to look kind of pitiful. Cars were abandoned everywhere by people who literally drove until it ran out of gas. Mad scrambles for bottles of water and packages of bread. Long lines at restaurants that happen to be open. People huddled around outlets with splitters trying to get a charge on their smartphone. And I’m not judging here. I’m sadly a part of this debacle. I guess I’m just a little troubled that we’ve become so dependent on modern conveniences. Dependence inhibits people from being strong, self-sufficient planners and problem-solvers.
Perhaps this might be another lesson for my family to learn during our cruising experience. Self-reliance and the ability to adapt. Creativity and problem solving. Toughness. Grit. Independence. I can’t think of a better list of qualities I would love to see my daughters possess.
So now we are faced with continuing south toward Beaufort, where we will ride out the rest of hurricane season. There is much to consider about a post-Hurricane Matthew ICW. Navigational aids destroyed or off-station, shoaling, debris, bridge closures, access to water, fuel, and pumpouts, and determining which marinas are operational and which are closed for repairs or destroyed altogether. When we do finally arrive in Beaufort, Laura will go and complete some consulting work she was hired to do, both of us will take on boat projects that need to be completed, the girls will get to visit with friends and family. Beyond that, we look forward to Florida, the Keys, and hopefully the Bahamas to round out year #1!