The 56 feet of the Amour V bobbed gently, as always, in the still-unroiled waters of Annapolis harbor. But rainwater fell in curtains off the canvas roof shielding part of its deck, a forerunner of things to come. The wind was up enough to hear, faintly. Jens Mathiesen moved about, checking the rope lines that bound the lovely sailboat in its slip.
Deep inside his red foul-weather slicker, a cellular phone sang. Mathiesen fumbled, fished it out: a customer, wondering about his boat, wondering whether Mathiesen had gotten to it. Since early morning, he had visited eight craft serviced by Pristine Yachts Inc. to make sure they were snug. That left six more to prepare for a date with Floyd.
"I'm going to be over there just shortly," Mathiesen promised the phone caller.
Tie them down. Clear their decks. Take in their sails. On the waters of the region yesterday, owners and marinas battened down boats big and small, power and sail, amid a steady rain arriving in advance of Floyd, the tropical visitor expected to arc through Virginia and Maryland today.
"As we speak," Ulric Dahlgren said, "my deputies are passing out a notice to boaters of what we think is coming."
Dahlgren, the Annapolis harbor master, sat in a chair in his glass-enclosed, waterside perch, two stories above the docks. Seventy-five minutes earlier, he had ordered boaters to abandon the outer moorings, the 40 free-standing anchorages in the middle of the harbor. Wouldn't want a boat to snap free in the seas and winds and pinball around the waterfront. Go elsewhere, sailors.
"The standard thing people do," Dahlgren said, "is find a hurricane hole." A cove up the nearby Severn River, for example. Or any other secluded, sheltered spot of water.
Through the windows, dollops of yellow could be seen around the harbor, moving on a boat here, another one there, a third over there: people in slickers, tending to their craft. Also through the windows, just below Dahlgren's office, La Paloma rocked at a dock. It's his, a 32-foot sailboat. He hadn't prepared it yet. Hadn't had time. Hoped to.
"I'm going to secure it 11 ways from Sunday and hope the water doesn't go up too high," Dahlgren said, who added that his anxiety level about this storm is "pretty high."
At the Washington Sailing Marina near Reagan National Airport, Fred Raza called owner after boat owner to urge them to visit their craft, make sure they could handle Floyd. Scott Petersen needed no such reminder. He came on his own, driving from Reston to ready his 27-foot Watkins sailboat. Seven lines secured it. Beyond that, not much you can do.
"That's why you pay for insurance," Petersen said.
Miles away, at Solomons Island on the southernmost tip of Calvert County, manager Julie Rose fetched the furniture from the deck of Solomons Pier Restaurant, yanking it inside, away from the waters that are a blessing at any time but this.
"Being out on the water, you're at the mercy of whatever comes," Rose said. "I'm worried about water damage to the deck from the waves. In other storms, I've seen some of the smaller piers just floating by."
In Annapolis, the Riptide came in.
Florence and David Martin, retired Long Islanders on the big adventure of their lives--a leisurely sail down the East Coast to Florida--pulled their 31-footer into a slip at the Yacht Basin Co. Yesterday was to have been a day out on the Chesapeake Bay, but the Martins, listening to the radio, opted to see Annapolis a day earlier than planned, to be safe and secure, meaning tied to something that might not move.
Ray Maness, the dock master for Yacht Basin, helped them. The Riptide would be the last boat he'd accept, he said. Let other refugees find a hurricane hole. He had 100 boats to look after as it was.
"That look all right in your estimation?" an owner asked Maness.
Maness slowly looked at the boat's bow and stern lines.
No, it didn't.
"Can you get your line from the center piling back [to] here?" Maness said, pointing to another piling.
It's a delicate dance. A boat must be tied securely, but not so securely it cannot rise as the water does, which the water will in big storms. It's tidal surge, more than wind, that threatens a tethered boat.
Still, storm or no, the Grayling was put into the water yesterday. It had been out, getting its hull done. It's a J-35, an Annapolis sailboat whose owners plan to race it this weekend in a regatta. It'll be fine, crew member Jon Hilbert said, better than if it had stayed ashore, fully exposed to the blasts.
What worries him far more, he said, is that Floyd might kill the weekend race.
Staff writers Hannah Allam, Jessie Mangaliman and Ann O'Hanlon contributed to this report.
CAPTION: Jim Weaver prepares to haul his sport fisher out at Herrington Harbor North Marina, in Anne Arundel, ahead of the storm surge.