Don’t panic, but keep an eye on the weather

Posted 9/21/23

“Time to return the milk and bread,” said “Arizona Pete” as he and his wife Wendy walked the dock at Pleasure Marina in Oakland Beach Friday afternoon. They were headed to the …

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Don’t panic, but keep an eye on the weather


“Time to return the milk and bread,” said “Arizona Pete” as he and his wife Wendy walked the dock at Pleasure Marina in Oakland Beach Friday afternoon. They were headed to the market from their 40-foor liveaboard Jersey, a solid craft that Pete affectionately calls the” tank.”

This was not the waterfront scene I expected with reports of a massive Hurricane Lee spinning toward us, albeit still more than 400 miles offshore. By Friday the impact of the storm on Rhode Island had been downgraded from the near week-long string of forecasts for a storm rivaling the Hurricane of 1938 to storm surges of three to four feet with steady winds of 30 MPH and gusts of 45 and more.

But boaters know storms can wreak havoc. Boaters usually don’t play the odds and err on the side of caution. I’ve lost two boats to storms. The first gained TV notoriety as I and friends tried to salvage what we could from a 30-foot sailboat as she was pounded to bits on a seawall in the Perfect Storm that following the wake of Hurricane Bob. The second met a similar fate in an unnamed five-day nor’easter some six years ago. Storms command respect.

I expected to find Warwick boatyards bustling with mariners removing gear and adding lines and fenders to their vessels. There would be crews hauling boats and hustling to meet the demand from anxious owners unwilling to risk riding out the storm.

My first stop was at Fair Winds Marina. There were a couple of cars in the lot. I didn’t see a soul on the docks. It looked to be just a summery afternoon on Warwick Cove accompanied by a brisk, cool northeaster. Pleasure Marina, where Joe DiCenzo has hauled and launched my boat for years, is just around the corner. Maybe I would find Joe and his brother operating the travel lift and hauling boats in a rush to beat Lee to the punch.

Slings to the lift swung in the wind. Boats weren’t lined up to be lifted on “the hard,” as they put it. In fact, neither Joe nor any of the marina crew was to be seen.

Then I met Pete Palazzo and Wendy and a few other folks who all looked at me curiously when I asked they were ready for Lee. They must have heard of the storm.

Arizona Pete is from Warwick. Until 2000 he was a journeyman who incidentally at one point worked on the presses at Beacon Press on Meadow Street run by my former partner Tony Ritacco. After all, this is Rhode Island and it wasn’t long before we had named several mutual printing and newspaper acquaintances. Pete saw the handwriting on the wall before the printing presses across the region started folding. He moved to Arizona for the winter.

Boats became his Rhode Island home away from home. Neither he nor Wendy regret the move.

“It’s so nice, you don’t need air conditioning,” he said gesturing to the transom of the cruiser where the couple greet the morning with a cup of coffee and watch osprey circling and then dive bombing to snatch a fish. They agreed it’s peaceful. For some time they flew between their place in Arizona and Warwick, no different than those with properties in Florida. Now they take their time and drive it. As for living on A to Z, the name of the boat? “It’s like camping, just better,” he said.

Pete showed me around his home, pointing out all the work he did to transform it into a functional, solid yet homey “tank.” A guitar rests against a chair. Pete plays with a group from time to time. I failed to ask if he plays Jimmy Buffett tunes.

It must be a relaxed and care free life style until a hurricane comes along.

Storms are stressful and living by the water makes one all the more attentive to the forecasts. As far away as Lee was, at one point it was clocking winds of 160 MPH and one of the tracking models had it coming this way.

“I don’t panic. I watch what’s going on,” Pete said casually. Sure, he put out some extra lines and as he walked the dock he checked on the lines of neighboring boats.

That’s what you do when a hurricane is out there, take precautions and check on friends.

Only this time from what I could see by the lack of activity at Warwick Cove the boating community was taking it in stride.

A bit of Arizona Pete had rubbed off.

I left my boat on the mooring.

Side Up, weather, boating


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