Boaters mostly unfazed as storm approaches, harbormaster recommends caution

Sep 14, 2023

Hurricane Lee approaches New England, but the South Coast is expected to avoid the full brunt of the storm. The National Weather Service projects as of Thursday afternoon that the region will see below tropical storm force winds, around 20 to 30 miles per hour with gusts of up to 50 miles per hour.  

Still, Harbormaster Steve Melo said he encourages boat owners to take their vessels home “storm or no storm,” as the end of the season approaches anyway. 

“Please remember that it is never too early to prepare for a weather event, but at some point it will become too late,” Melo said in a statement. 

While some boaters were hauling their vessels out of the water Thursday, others just made sure to tie things down, pick up loose items and add some chafe protection. 

Dartmouth resident Scott McNeil removed his boat via Dias Landing Thursday, both because the season was over and out of an abundance of caution. McNeil’s friend Chris Reid, on the other hand, left his boat in the water, as he feels the harbor is “pretty safe,” especially with wind projected to come from the north. 

John Sheehan, who removed his boat with help from Davis and Tripp in Padanaram, said he did so both because the season is over, and because “there’s a difference in blood pressure” when the boat is unquestionably safe on land rather than out on the water. 

The South Wharf Yacht Yard and Marina is not pulling out any boats, said dockmaster Jilani Brooks, except for owners who requested it. 

“A lot of people are planning on weathering it, it doesn’t look too bad,” Brooks said. 

It’s a good sign that the wind is projected to come from the north, Brooks said, which will push boats off the docks rather than into them.

“It doesn’t mean that nothing can happen, but it has less of a chance of us needing to haul all of these boats off,” Brooks said. 

The forecast would need to change pretty drastically to start to really worry boaters, she said

Still, South Wharf is making sure to secure loose items and tie down boats and dinghies securely. 

The Harbormaster’s Office advises boat owners to check mooring lines, add chafe protection near wear points and remove all sails, canvas and items stored on deck. Anything that cannot be easily removed should be lashed down and secured. 

John Rice and Kevin Horst headed out to their boats Thursday to do just that. They took the New Bedford Yacht Club’s launch boat out to their vessels to secure everything just in case. The latest forecast at the time, though, had Horst and Rice “feeling really really great,” as the maximum predicted wind gusts had just been lowered. 

Rice said his only worry is that other boat owners may not take the same precautions, and those boats could come loose in the event of a serious storm.