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Hurricane Bob | The Hurricane Nobody Took Seriously

Hurricane Bob | The Hurricane Nobody Took Seriously
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Demers ran back up on deck to tell Cope he couldn’t restart the engine. Get the anchor overboard, Cope told his crew. He knew it weighed 60 pounds and ought to hold, even in this chaos. What he didn’t know was that the metal pipe designed to hold the chain and feed it off the bow had broken, binding the line in place. The anchor was jammed.Cope stood at the wheel, feeling a helplessness he’d never felt on duty before. He suddenly realized that he and his crew could die in Provincetown Harbor.

“Prepare to ground!” Cope yelled. “Strap in! We’ll try to make a controlled landing on the beach!” Now Cope found himself in the position of the boats he had been trying to help — except, of course, there was no Coast Guard to call.

Demers had run back below, trying to feed out the anchor chain, a futile effort with the anchor pipe busted. The open door to the engine compartment was slamming open and shut. He went back to the port engine one last time before following his coxswain’s orders and tried the mechanic’s last resort: He kicked the starter. “It popped back,” he remembers, “and the engine started. Believe me, that made my day.”

Back in control, muscling the 44 toward the inner harbor, Cope spoke to O’Malley. “I’ve found my limitations,” he said. “It’s a hurricane.”

The fog lifted long enough for them to look around. Finger piers were breaking apart, debris was smashing hulls. Shingles from the roof of the fish-packing house filled the air like shrapnel. Demers watched in fascination as the three tall masts of a big sailing boat toppled like trees.

The wind veered from south to southwest without diminishing. The breakwater, now end-on to the wind, no longer caught the biggest waves, which had a mile of open water to build on. Even in the small spaces between piers, the chop was at ten feet. This was no place to rest. Cope headed back out.

Dozens of boats, large and small, had ripped off their moorings. Sailboats careened across the harbor at eight knots or better under bare poles, with no one on board. The Miss Sandy, a well-known Provincetown fishing boat, had parted a line at the wharf and was swinging, not yet loose. Cope positioned the 44 against the Miss Sandy, trying to muscle her back into position, relying on locals who had braved the winds and were standing on the pier ready to tie her down again. Suddenly, they screamed for the Coast Guardsmen to turn around: The Golden Dawn, the same boat that had called for help before Bob truly arrived, was running free behind them, a 65-foot domino about to knock down a score of boats that lay in its path.

Once again Demers had to heave a line, and on the second try he got it to the rampaging fishing boat. Cope pulled her in tight behind the 44.

“Where do you want to go?” Cope screamed to the Golden Dawn’s crew. “Which beach do you want to land on?” The shrieking wind drowned their answer. “Finally, I figured to hell with it,” he remembers. “We moved west and put him on our mooring. We figured there was no way we were getting back to see it.”

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