It’s batten, haul and dismantle as local businesses prepare for Lee

Thu, 09/14/2023 - 5:00pm

On Saturday, Sept. 9, Jen Mitchell Plummer sat with her computer open on the bar at Brady’s. She was frowning at the screen. Her restaurant had opened minutes before and Jen was tracking a hurricane developing in the Caribbean.

With the Midcoast’s largest one-piece canvas canopy covering Brady’s deck, Plummer was anticipating the go/no go decisions that would need to be made in the coming days. It was a careful juggling act: When it might hit, how powerful it would be and how much time to allow before dismantling 800 square feet of canvas and securing the deck which serves as an outdoor dining area in fair weather.

Other area businesses were wrestling with decisions, too. While our peninsula’s geography makes it a beautiful vacation spot, that same geography can work against businesses when a major storm threatens.  

By Tuesday morning, Blake’s Boatyard was hectic. In an email update, Amy Goodwin described the situation there as “all hands on deck” as boat owners vied for help.

“We've had hundreds of requests to haul boats and floats ... and my store is full of customers pleading for us to get their boats and/or floats out, and the phone is ringing off the hook. I'm trying to return dozens and dozens of phone calls and emails,” she said. 

“We're getting just as many as we can before the weekend. We've hauled around 20 floats from people's houses on the two tides since yesterday morning, and dozens of boats. Only 150 or so to go!”

While not on the water, Conley’s was facing other issues. Its outdoor spaces are filled with trees, plants and other landscaping materials. Owner Ben Stover reported they were getting ready to move 200-300 potted mums into the greenhouse.  

He said although Maine does not usually see hurricanes – the last one to make landfall here was Gerda in 1969 – we do have a lot of wind. “So we’ve gotten good at it,” he said. “We are putting stakes in pots for trees that could be blown over. The greenhouses have been through more than 20 years and have sustained high winds.”

Stover added they are readying bucket trucks and tree equipment for fallen trees. “In the past, I’ve put guys on call so we can respond,” he explained.

Evan Hepburn, dock master at Carousel Marina, was reached by phone on Wednesday morning. He and Nick Morley were at sea, bringing a 70-foot boat from the marina to Portland in advance of the storm.

Asked about preparations at the Carousel, he told the Register they were moving everyone out of the marina. There were new chains on the moorings and at that time, 10 boats had been hauled out and six remained in the marina.

“We have moved boats off the floats and onto moorings,” he said. “We’ve double-chained the floats. A couple of owners have elected to stay aboard their boats and ride out the storm on the moorings.”

Hepburn also reported that all patio furniture would be moved upstairs and inside the restaurant. He and owner Jax van der Veen plan to stay at the marina to keep an eye on it. “We’re making all the preparations we can to make everything safe,” he added.

Power outages from the storm are the main concern at Boothbay Region Sewer District. Superintendents Chris Higgins and Nick DeGemmis explained that the district has four stationary generators and three portables along with an onsite generator at the district headquarters.

If there are any pumping issues, they have portable pumps ready.

Higgins said it was fortunate we are having astronomical low tide now, which should help reduce the risk of flooding. During a “king tide” last October, the water levels rose and flooded the area by the footbridge and the parking lot. He pointed out that manholes in these areas are sealed.

Flooding issues mean the chlorine tank could overflow, a problem Higgins said he has only seen three to five times during his service since 1995. Flooding also makes it hard for their equipment to navigate the streets.

“If there are power outages,” he cautioned, “residents need to limit the water they are using so the system isn’t overloaded.” Both Higgins and DeGemmis were confident the sewer system and its 30 miles of pipe would be fine. “It was designed to take power outages and flooding into account,” Higgins said.

Local boat broker and caretaker Bruce Burnham reported that as of Wednesday afternoon, he had hauled 12 boats in anticipation of the hurricane, with at least six more scheduled.

At Hodgdon Yachts on Wednesday, President Tim Hodgdon said the mooring field and slips were full. “We’ve been working on this for the past couple of days, hauling some boats and moving others around. We’re preparing for northerly wind and wind direction determines the preparation,” he said.

Explaining that the conditions were varying, Hodgdon said: “We can’t haul all boats in a short period of time. We get power boats out of the water and it’s a delicate balance between sailboats with rigs hauled or in the water. We have to consider the windage on the mast.”

Hodgdon’s business stores between 250 and 300 boats annually and this time of year some will be put away for the season. “There are a lot of moving parts,” he said. “But our crew is making sure that everything is as safe as can be.”

By Thursday at noon, the 40 by 20-foot canopy at Brady’s was down, a wise call since Plummer said it would cost $50,000 to replace the one-piece awning.  “We’ve emptied everything out, including the computer,” Plummer said in a followup call. Chairs and tables were being stacked and she has revised the menu.

Worried about losing power with lots of food on hand, “I’ve adjusted everything to a limited menu,” she said. “The sad part of this is the lost weekend wages and income. The canopy would usually stay up until fall foliage in October. “  

So are they ready for what comes? “We will be open Saturday as conditions allow for first responders and anyone else crazy enough to venture out.”