A Wonderful and Watery Goodbye; Realistic Hurricane Preparedness for Our Coast

(Photo by Jack Reynolds) “Patrick’s passing has brought all of us great sadness. But take…

(Photo by Jack Reynolds)

“Patrick’s passing has brought all of us great sadness. But take comfort, each of you here and all who knew him, that your friendship made Pat’s short life full beyond measure and gave him great happiness. He absolutely loved being part of the lineup.”

These were the bravest words I have heard in some time, the words that Denise Harrington spoke to a crowd of hundreds who had gathered on the Ship Bottom beach to give her son the proper sendoff for a member of the Island surf community.

“Just as there are no guarantees in life … the forecasted big swell doesn’t always come through. But the anticipation and hope remain, and when conditions align, the results are wonderful. This was Pat’s life – a great ride created by a loving family and friends converging on a beautiful island location.

“As they must, the big waves always dissipate. When they return, we hope you will feel Patrick’s spirit in that clean left, pushing us all forward. We will be forever grateful for the circle of support Pat’s tribe gave him, and us, from the news of his diagnosis and forward through today. Thank you.”

Patrick Harrington was a surfer and member of the Ship Bottom Beach Patrol. He passed at the age of 31 last winter after a two-year battle with cancer. His family waited until last Saturday to hold his memorial paddle-out, a long-honored tradition for watermen. The event was nothing short of inspiring with so many amazing families coming out to celebrate his life. First Denise spoke; then everyone paddled out with flowers into the most beautiful circle – surfers, friends, beach patrol and family.

His brother Dennis recited a traditional Irish blessing, and friends gave their thoughts on Patrick. It was an incredible show of community for a kid who showed up to support every single event, every single time.

The Harrington family continues to be amazing, community-oriented people, and the hope is that this showed them what their son meant to the Island. It may sound cheesy, but the ocean is a special place to celebrate someone’s life. It certainly doesn’t cancel our loss, but it sure does help the healing.

THE SUMMER OF WAVES: This last week was supposed to be something of a down week for the surf. After the Tropical Storm Elsa swell two weeks ago and a fun weekend of lighter winds and continued small swell, we were mostly expecting minimal to no waves. But this summer continues to exceed our expectations.

Of course, the water temperature and sandbars have helped. After the Memorial Day weekend storm washed out the sandbars, it was hard to get into that real feel of “summer surf.” But now the bars are in excellent condition to take advantage of smaller waves.

The ocean warming has been a help, too. It’s much more inviting to take advantage of small waves when you don’t have to pull on a full suit. June probably sees our most drastic day-to-day water temp swings of the year; the start of July was rocky as well. Last week we actually hit 74 degrees, and even with some hard south winds, we’re still in the high 60s at the coldest.

So both of those factors certainly help enhance the surf experience, but the sandbar actually enhances the surf. Even in a week when the waves were junk, we had enough swell to move a longboard and even a small wave shortboard. Being able to catch the smallest waves on a fish or groveler is a huge plus during the summer, the difference between warm-water fun and intolerable heat and flat spells.

Another thing that has helped was the timing of the tides. When low tide occurs early and late rather than in the middle of the day, you increase your chances of getting clean waves. For those motivated to get up early, the morning low means light or offshore winds before the summer sea breeze kicks in.

The middle of last week actually gave us a break from the wind, and we had some smallish, glassy conditions.

Saturday actually had a healthy bump when we paddled out for Patrick with light onshore winds. The breeze eventually did pick up, making for challenging conditions on the bay for the LBI Paddle Classic on Saturday. The wind was still howling Sunday morning, but there were some chest-high sets if you could pick your way around that chop.

summer surfing LBI

The surf has been mostly small but oh, so clean lately. (Photo by Paul Boardman)

Sunday afternoon was one of the nicest treats of the summer as the wind went west-southwest and eventually fully offshore by evening. Though the swell dropped off, there were some ideal offshore conditions for the small-wave gear that night. Monday and Tuesday morning were again clean and crisp, though you might have had trouble catching a wave on anything less than a log.

Unfortunately, the surf doesn’t look all that bangin’ for the rest of the week. On the bright side, winds look light with some periods of offshore Thursday, Friday and Saturday, so you might manage some tiny clean lines. Look for some south wind swell to build with the winds later in the weekend.

Overall, it could be a good period for beginners if you can find those windows of lower tide in the middle of the day. Groms love little baby waves when it’s shallow. Take advantage of the warm water, too.

REALISTIC HURRICANE PREPAREDNESS: There are no tropical systems being monitored in the Atlantic right now. It’s not odd to have a storm in mid-July, but August tends to be when things heat up.

We’ve already had a busy early season with our first four tropical storms and first hurricane all forming earlier than usual (and all giving us waves). Right now, trade winds and dust blowing off the Sahara are preventing any action down by the Equator, but everything points to a super-warm ocean and a changing pattern. By August, surfers will be sniffing out storms, and we can all be expecting a little more drama down by the Equator.

That’s why this is a good time to get your hurricane s–t together, in the most literal of terms. You don’t buy a snowblower while you’re 1 foot of accumulation into a 2-foot blizzard. Last week’s column addressed certain visitors who come to the Island without consideration for others. Having a good hurricane kit in your house isn’t just about safety; it’s about being considerate, because those who aren’t prepared wind up gumming up the works for everyone else. Everyone has a friendly neighbor named Bob or whatever who can help out. But we can’t all rely on him.

So this isn’t so much about your hurricane survival. We’re not talking about having an inflatable lifeboat and flares in your attic. If there’s a serious storm on the way, you will know it. And unless you understand the mechanics of tropical weather, are well prepared to live without power for an extended period and are prepared to swim to the mainland in giant chop, just get off the Island and out of the way of first responders. This advice is more about being comfortable and taking care of your neighbors after a less-serious storm than it is saving your life during a powerful hurricane, although some of these tips would be useful for that, too.

What we’re talking here is more of an inconvenient storm, sort of like Hurricane Isaias last year or Hurricane Irene back in 2011, not so much a life-threatening bang-up. The difference between the two was that Isaias gave us an unexpected right hook and caused more problems than anyone expected. Irene, some 10 years earlier, was a headache for other parts of the Northeast, but mostly spared us, even though the Island was evacuated. A basic survival kit is a good place to start, but that can easily be tweaked for our local needs.

Assuming you’re not in any immediate danger, it’s mostly about keeping comfortable when the power goes out. That’s our biggest challenge with most summer storms. If you’re on vacation, having a few key items could be the difference between a comical but bearable day of indoor camping as opposed to ruining your week. Waveriders love a good storm, but they can be fun and exciting for anyone – if you’re prepared.

I might also suggest to anyone who rents out their home to have this stashed somewhere for renters. If you have folks in your investment property and you’re two hours away, it’s pretty irresponsible not to have some basics for them should things go awry.

First, let’s go through the things you need. First and foremost, you will want to stock up on flashlights and batteries. A waterproof flashlight is good. A headlamp is awesome. Batteries and back-up batteries are crucial. You should also have candles and matches.

Some folks have generators, which is huge. If that’s the case, have some fuel to run it. Gas is a touchy subject when it comes to hurricane aftermath. In the last five years, more Americans have died from post-storm mishaps (most commonly generator-related carbon monoxide poisoning) than drowning in hurricane storm surge. So be smart. If you run a generator, keep it far from living spaces.

If you are storing gasoline, you need to think about that as well. Keep in mind the gas station may be closed. Obviously, a lot of households already store some gas for lawnmowers, power washers, boats and other machinery. Most fire codes limit a household to 25 gallons of gas, which would run a single-family generator for a while. Store gas in the shed or garage, always out of the sun. Don’t store in containers more than 5 gallons, and leave some room in the can for fuel to expand. Keep some stabilizer on hand as gas can go bad.

If you don’t have a generator, fill the gas tanks of your vehicle. If you do have a gas can, consider filling that before the storm. A neighbor might have a generator that you wind up using to power your own gear, and you won’t be mooching off Bob, next door. If gas doesn’t get used after a season or two, put it into your vehicle instead of keeping it around through next year.

A lot of gas appliances won’t work without electricity as well, so the stove might not be of much use. Have propane on hand for the grill and be ready to cook outside.

A much safer and less costly alternative to a generator is a solar kit. If your house has solar panels, those will be useless unless your home is fully off the grid. The simple but effective kits from brands such as Goal Zero and Jackery start at about $500 (solar panel and power station). And these can be used for any camping, boating or other off-the-grid fun, so you’re not just sinking the money on an item solely for a once-every-five-years hurricane party. The basic ones will power your phone or tablet to keep in contact with everyone, track the storm and post photos of Bob next door mixing up the famous hurricane party punch he learned to make from when he lived on the Panhandle during Hurricane Hortense back in ’84.

The bigger units (2,000 watts or more) will be able to keep your computer running and the lights on, and power some appliances. July, August and September hurricanes can bring masses of tropical air. A fan can save your sleep and sanity in the aftermath. These are more of an investment, but you can also use them in everyday life to cut down on your power bills or carbon footprint.

Speaking of appliances, your fridge won’t work without power. Any time I see a formidable storm headed our way, I fill a bunch of plastic jugs and Tupperware with water and freeze them. Not only will you have ice for Bob’s hurricane punch, but it will keep your freezer and fridge cool, possibly saving food from spoiling until the power comes back.

Know what else won’t work? Your cool espresso maker … or any other coffee machine, for that matter. After the gridlock caused up and down the whole Island by folks making drastic attempts to get to Dunkin’ Donuts (apparently the only place with a generator) last year after Isaias, make sure to have coffee filters on hand. You can heat water on the grill and carefully pour it through your ground beans. In a pinch, you can use Bob’s old “A Pirate Looks at 40” tour T-shirt as a filter. (He hasn’t fit into an XL since ’95 anyway.) The moral of the story is don’t be part of the Island’s problems because you need your latte.

You’ll want to have a good supply of first aid stuff, some cash and, should anyone in the family require medication, a back-up supply. Most hurricane checklists also include a multi-tool, which, of course, will be handy. In this respect, most sheds and garages in our very do-it-yourselfy Southern Ocean County are well prepared. But I suspect there are a growing number of new homes on the Island built for maximum return on investment that don’t have one Phillips head to be found.

Food is a big one. By now, we’re all well versed in the milk and bread routine. (If you’re not hip to this yet, almond and soy milk have a far better shelf life than cow’s milk.) Most storms allow ample time to load up the cupboards. But should the situation last more than a day, keep some non-perishable items around in case. Admit it, opening a can of baked beans with your Swiss Army knife and cooking it on your backyard fire pit sounds pretty cool.

What don’t you need? Most homes in our area work off city water. It would be only in the most dire situations that water would be shut off. Still, you can last longer without food than without water. Not a bad idea to keep a 5-gallon jug stashed in the attic.

Also, most lists will include a radio, or weather radio. While I have a nostalgic fondness for the robotic rhythm of the old weather radio and the “Coastal waters from Manasquan Inlet to Little Egg Inlet, out 20 nautical miles …,” today’s wireless networks and smartphones are far more effective for information. And terrestrial radio is mostly useless.

As with most things, the more you’re ready to be self-sufficient, the less likely you will need to be. And maybe Bob will be impressed.

Allie Panetta, formerly of Ship Bottom, competing in a Jetty Coquina Jam past. The 13th annual event is this Saturday at 8 a.m. on 68th Street in Brant Beach. (Photo by Kyle Gronostajski)

GET READY FOR SOME FUN: In race news this week, paddlers took to the bay in hard south winds on Saturday night for the South-End Surf N’ Paddle LBI Paddle Classic. Being as there were some beach patrol conflicts, it was mostly out-of-towners finishing in the top slots. The big result for locals was young Hugh Shields of Barnegat Light winning the Prone division. Todd Stone of Marlton took second place.

Among the SUP, Toms Rivers’ Michael Jacobus won the SUP Men’s Long Course followed by Eddie O’Kinsky of Pine Beach. Carly Scallon of Toms River aced the Women’s Long Course followed by Josie Lata of Pine Beach. Don Finn of Wall won the Men’s Short Course, and Dawn Jacobus of Toms River took first in the Women’s Short Course. This year, Ken Gallant of South-End, who sponsors the race, threw out a $1,000 cash purse to the long-course winners. This event benefited Alliance for a Living Ocean. The next local race will likely be in August.

Competitors at the South-End Surf N’ Paddle LBI Paddle Classic last Saturday at Bayview Park. (Photo courtesy of South-End Surf N’ Paddle)

This weekend starts a run of fun that we can all appreciate after the fun lost to the pandemic. Make your plans now because it’s a long winter.

This Sunday is the 13th annual Jetty Coquina Jam, which has become about the second biggest, if not the biggest, surf event in New Jersey. Recent years have seen massive turnouts, but also massive money raised for the Jetty Rock Foundation and David’s Dream and Believe Cancer Foundation. Read the full preview in this issue. The event starts at 8 a.m. on Sunday at the 68th Street beach in Brant Beach.

In the realm of original music coming our way, New England’s new generation of folk pioneers, Parsonfield, will be coming through Folk Across the Street in West Creek on Aug. 1. For those not familiar, this is a killer venue in a barn with an amazing vibe and people. Tickets are required ($20 per person, includes potluck dinner), but you have to call to order, 609-296-9150. Also, Bird & Betty’s has more reggae on the way with Mystic Bowie’s Talking Dreads on Aug. 10, Philly’s Ear Me Now on Aug. 24 and Passafire from Georgia on Aug. 8.

It looks like there are just a few spots left for the Alliance for a Living Ocean LBI Longboard Classic on Aug.7. This event will possibly be full by the time you’re reading this. It has been growing every year, and it’s a chance to watch the Island’s best waveriders slide around on boards from the 1960s.

Summer is halfway over. Now, I know the best is yet to come, but these warm sunrises and afternoons on the bay with friends are finite. Get on that.

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