Hurricane Sandy packed a powerful punch — especially with its tremendous storm surge — that lifted recreational boats from their slips and destroyed docks in the Northeast, according to several marinas, boat dealers and TowBoatUS franchises.
“Things are pretty devastated here,” said Jim Reynolds, owner of TowBoatUS Bayshore on Long Island’s south shore. “There are boats washed off cradles that were hauled for the winter or hauled for the storm. Docks have been lifted and moved. I heard reports of at least seven houses washed away on Fire Island.”
Boaters did a good job of preparing, but “this has been a catastrophic event,” said Reynolds, who runs 10 towboats out of the Maple Street Marina in Bayshore. “I’ve been in waders for three days. My office had four feet of water in it.”
The tide and the wind pushed the water quickly up the shore, causing a surge of about 6 feet, Reynolds said. “The tide is usually less than 2 feet,” he said. “I have seen a lot of boats high and dry, but others that have broken loose. One of my captains has four boats sitting in his yard.”
Reynolds’ operation towed or secured about 30 boats before Sandy struck, but he said conditions were too severe for him to work during the storm.
Click play to view scenes from the storm.
In Rhode Island, marina and boat damage was less severe, reported senior staff captain and marketing director Phil LeBlanc of Safe/Sea (www.safesea.com), also a TowBoatUS contractor.
"Luckily there was a lot of advance warning for this storm,” he said. “We did pretty well. The boatyards were full. The mooring fields were bare. We were able to save one boat during the storm, and after that storm we are finding many boats were left very far up the beach due to the tidal surge, so the challenge is finding a way to get to them.”
Some marinas have been damaged and Narragansett took a substantial hit, LeBlanc said. “The Narragansett sea wall lost 75 feet and the Coast Guard House Restaurant was completely tossed,” he said.
LeBlanc said boat owners did a better job of securing or pulling their boats for Sandy, compared with other storms. “People don’t pull their boats when someone says, ‘nor’easter,’ but as soon as they hear the word ‘hurricane’ they go nuts,” he said.
The boat Safe/Sea did save was a 1936 custom Concordia sailboat that had broken from its mooring in Wickford Harbor. “It’s a gorgeous wooden classic,” he said. “We got her 40 feet before she reached the shoreline.”
Click play to see the Safe/Sea towboat en route to save this sailboat.
Tidal surge was the main concern at Brewer Yacht Haven Marina in Stamford, Conn., too. “I’ve never seen tides this high, but we lucked out,” said Todd Breden, general manager of the Brewer yard. “We had only a foot or two to spare with some docks and an inch or two with others. I only had one pier with no boats on it pop off the pilings. Winds were in excess of 85 mph. All of the boats fared well, but Stamford Yacht Club lost its pier. That’s the most significant [hurricane] damage I’ve seen in Stamford Harbor.”
Regulator Marine president Joan Maxwell has dealers up and down the East Coast. At leave five of those dealerships in New York and New England suffered damage from high water, she said. “They’re on their way to their dealerships to assess the damage,” she said.
Damage assessment is just beginning.
“We don’t have a lot of information right now,” said Scott Croft, BoatUS assistant vice president of public relations. “We know Staten Island has taken the brunt of it, but we are seeing significant damage up and down the Jersey coast, as well.”
— Chris Landry