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In New Bedford, Boaters Brace For Hurricane Henri

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Boat owners from the Cape and Islands up the Massachusetts coastline are monitoring the track of Hurricane Henri as it moves toward the Northeast region of the country. The last hurricane to hit the area was devastating to many vessels.

Many eyes monitor the news of Henri in New Bedford - the most lucrative fishing port in the country. It's home to a fleet of giant boats like Avenger, a 79-foot sea scalloper.

On Friday, owner Raymond Starvish worked on Avenger in anticipation of the coming weather — he said the boat's main line of defense is New Bedford's hurricane barrier — a massive stone structure dividing the port from the open ocean.

After the hurricane barrier, the boats rely on the the strength of the lines tying them to the docks.

Raymond Starvish of Fairhaven owns the scalloping boat Avenger. (Simón Rios/WBUR)
Raymond Starvish of Fairhaven owns the scalloping boat Avenger. (Simón Rios/WBUR)

"We may get more wind in the port of New Bedford, Fairhaven, than we've seen in a long time. So that might put some of some of the lines to the test," said Starvish.

Because of New Bedford’s hurricane barrier, Starvish said boats were pouring in from all around. There isn’t enough dock space, so the boats have to be tied to each other side by side, with just one tethered to the dock.

"So everybody's counting on the boat inside of them to have adequate lines and so on and so on and so on," Starvish said. "So hopefully the guide to the dock has at least two, hopefully three lines."

The owners of New Bedford's fishing fleet weren't the only ones preparing for Henri. At the New Bedford Yacht Club in South Dartmouth, Peter Hughes loaded a small boat onto his trailer.

"All these piers need to be vacated. Otherwise...with all the surge, the boats will just take the piers right out," said Hughes. "Then the boats are lost. Piers are lost."

As a former commodore of the yacht club, Hughes remembers Hurricane Bob 30 years ago. He’s watching the weather forecasts closely to see if Henri poses a similar threat.

Peter Hughes of South Dartmouth steers his small boat toward a ramp.  (Simón Rios/WBUR)
Peter Hughes of South Dartmouth steers his small boat toward a ramp.  (Simón Rios/WBUR)

"This is the first hurricane we've seen that's anywhere near direct hit around here since then," he said. "We've had some tropical storms and, you know, some threats that have dissipated. But this is the first one that actually looks like it's going to come to fruition."

Next door at the South Wharf Yacht Yard, dockmaster Dave Nolan spent yesterday dealing with nervous owners deciding whether to pull their boats out of the water.

Nolan said owners can keep their boats in the water, unless there’s a Category 2 hurricane or worse.

“If it gets to a point where the weather gets so bad, it is a point where we will say we've got to pull everything," he said. "We're crossing fingers that it's not going to happen. But as with all things, if we say it's not going to happen, it will. And if we say it won't, then it absolutely will."

Meanwhile, officials in the area are concerned about the danger to residents.
New Bedford’s mayor is planning for the possible evacuation of one waterfront neighborhood — hoping for the best and planning for the worst.

This segment aired on August 21, 2021.

Related:

Simón Rios Twitter Reporter
Simón Ríos is an award-winning bilingual reporter in WBUR's newsroom.

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