The storm formerly known as Hurricane Bonnie swerved south and east of the Vineyard this weekend, passing some 120 miles away and bringing little more than a breeze and a bit of rain while the surf on South Beach roared.
The distant passage of the storm was good news to a waterfront community that had been preparing all week. As late as Friday afternoon, tired crews continued to remove boats from the water at both Edgartown Marine Associates and Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard.
Not until late in the evening did weather forecasters know that the storm was headed east and therefore farther away from the Islands.
“One computer model had the storm going right up the Cape Cod Canal,” said Rod Ferguson, a meteorologist with the Weather Services Corporation of Lexington. “That was a reliable computer model. That model forecasted that the storm would stall in the Carolinas.”
There are just too many variables, Mr. Ferguson said, for meteorology to be an exact science. The fact that the storm passed 120 miles south of the Vineyard instead of 60 miles away may not have meant much in the big scheme of hurricane forecasting, but for the Vineyard it was the difference between a calm, drizzly night and tropical storm winds.
“It was a good drill,” said Vineyard Haven harbor master Jay Wilbur. “The next time a storm threatens us on one of the last weeks of summer, we will be ready.”
By Friday afternoon, the Vineyard Haven waterfront was prepared. There were no boats on moorings in the outer harbor. As many as 30 boats were in Lagoon Pond, and there were boats hiding out in Lake Tashmoo, Menemsha Pond and Quitsa Pond.
“It is interesting to note that with all the technology, all the awareness, all the Internet information online, that when it comes to forecasting hurricanes, meteorologists haven’t got a clue,” said Philip Hale, president of Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard.
On Thursday, when the storm stalled in the Carolinas, the hauling of boats at the shipyard slowed considerably, Mr. Hale said. Then on Friday came more bad news. “We were substantially done by Thursday. On Friday, when the storm was upgraded back to a hurricane, we got telephone calls from several customers who were now saying ‘Yes, pull my boat,’“ Mr. Hale said.
“What is really important is that the remnants of a Category 3 hurricane came within 120 miles of Martha’s Vineyard from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. on Saturday. Granted, there was no storm, but that is close.”
South Beach in Edgartown lost a lot of beach to erosion. Wasque Point on Chappaquiddick gained 20 feet of beach, according to Chris Kennedy, Islands regional supervisor for The Trustees of Reservations. Mr. Kennedy said that in two years, Wasque has lost 310 feet of beach, but thanks to Bonnie they gained 20 feet back. “I am not complaining,” he said.
The Trustees’ other property, Long Point, did well through the close passage. The beach was closed to ocean swimming Friday, Saturday and most of Sunday because of heavy surf.
South Beach in Edgartown was closed to swimming from part of Wednesday well into Sunday. Nathan Durawa of the park and recreation department said that they lost 20 feet of beach.
At the National Weather Service cooperative station in Edgartown, the rainfall was insignificant. A total of .44 inches of rain fell. Bill Wilcox of West Tisbury recorded .58 inches of rain and Kevin Johnson of Oak Bluffs recorded .7 inches of rainfall.
While the surf was rough along the south shore, the biggest impact of the “no show” storm was in the boating community. Mr. Hale said his shipyard crew of 30 people hauled out more than 80 boats.
Tony Chianese, the co-owner of Edgartown Marine Associates, said his staff were hauling boats right through Friday afternoon. “If the storm came and you got everyone’s boat out of the water,” he said, “you are a hero. If the storm doesn’t come, you are not a hero. No one yells at you, but some people look at it as an unnecessary expense. The storm cuts the season short.
“I tell my customers to look at it as an inexpensive insurance policy. Most customers do look at it like that - better safe than sorry,” Mr. Chianese said.
This week both boatyards began putting boats back into the water. Mr. Chianese said that of the 100 boats that were hauled this week, they are putting 25 boats back.
Mr. Hale said that he is putting 40 boats back into the water. “Boaters who are here for the fall want their boats back,” Mr. Chianese said. There is the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby still to come. “I think the people who planned to have their boats hauled after the Labor Day weekend won’t put them back into the water. But those who know that the fall boating season is a very good time will put their boats back in.
“I know of a lot of cases where there are people who had to leave anyway because their children are going back to school today,” Mr. Chianese said.
Kathy Logue of the Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard is a co-organizer of the George Moffett Sailboat Race, scheduled for Sept. 12. She said she expects a strong turnout for the race, despite the storm. “Most of the boats that were hauled would have come out by Labor Day. I think the storm will have a minimal impact on the race,” she said. As many as 50 boats compete in the annual race.