Cleanup continues at Maine harbor smashed by windstorm

Nick McCrea | BDN
Nick McCrea | BDN
Debris and seaweed washed up on the shore at Belfast's town landing in the wake of a severe windstorm on Monday, Oct. 30, 2017. At least six boats were destroyed or ran aground in the storm.
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Five boats broke loose, ending up scattered across the harbor. At least two were destroyed.
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Belfast’s harbormaster called last week’s pre-Halloween storm the worst she’s seen in 20 years, and while the damage was substantial, it could easily have been much worse.

The wind came out of the southeast, sweeping straight up the harbor channel, with gusts approaching 80 miles per hour. The force of the wind and waves strained moorings.

Five boats broke loose, ending up scattered across the harbor. At least two were destroyed.

Some harbor facilities also were damaged.

“We had two of our gangways get damaged, one had some broken welds and the other had its deck pushed off the pilings by the swells that were coming in,” Belfast harbormaster Katherine Pickering said Thursday.

The breakwater also sustained damage — some large granite blocks shifted or fell after being pummeled by waves. They need to be put back in place.

“Our insurance adjuster has come down and looked around at things,” Pickering said.

A cost estimate on the damage has yet to be calculated, and the total likely will get lumped in with the rest of the assessed damage in the city. The city manager’s office said some municipal departments are still waiting for adjusters to be freed up from other storm-related claims across the state so they can come survey damage in Belfast.

Pickering said the harbor’s moorings held up well in the storm. The boats that were swept away broke free when the cleats securing them to the mooring lines snapped due to the strain. Three boats were damaged by waves and wind but stayed secured to their moorings.

The Nomad, a recreational yacht belonging to the owner of Belfast’s indoor farmers market, was smashed to pieces against the rocks on the breakwater.

The other vessel destroyed, a large blue sailboat, had a gaping hole punched through its hull when it hit the rocks on Belfast’s East Side near the footbridge. That’s the only boat that hasn’t been scrapped or floated away for repairs. It still rested on the shore, tilted at a 45-degree angle, as of Thursday. Pickering said the owner didn’t have insurance.

[Storm that wrecked boats along Maine coast called ‘worse than Sandy’]

The Hobbit Hole, another small pleasure boat, ran aground up the Passagassawakeag River, beyond the Route 1 bridge. On its way upriver, the boat became wedged under the low footbridge, shearing off part of its top.. Another sailboat ran aground near Young’s Lobster Pound. Both have since been floated away for repairs.

Things would have been substantially worse had the storm hit a week later, Pickering said. While tides were high during the Oct. 30 storm, they were even higher at the beginning of this week. With 4-and- 5-foot swells, some buildings close to shore could have been flooded or swept into the sea.

After the storm subsided, a few dozen locals volunteered to help pick up debris from the Nomad ranging from chairs and bent sheets of metal to tiny pieces of fiberglass. A crane lifted the engines out of the shattered hull, and biggest remaining pieces of the Nomad were hauled off the beach by a semi-truck winch.

Seaweed, large logs and other debris that washed ashore also had to be swept up and trucked away. During the past week, harbor employees worked to clear debris fields and leftover wreckage floating in the harbor.

The severity of this storm took a lot of boat owners by surprise, Pickering said. In past storms, people had more advanced warning and made plans to get their boats out of the water in advance.

“Everyone just got complacent and didn’t want to haul their boats yet,” Pickering said. “We heard some predictions of high gusts, but not to this extent.”

The town also dodged a bullet by hauling all its floating docks out of the harbor the week before the storm. Had those been in the water, the waves likely would have tore them apart and swept the debris into any boats near the shore.

“It would have been a mess,” Pickering said.

Follow Nick McCrea on Twitter at @nmccrea213.

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