Hurricanes of ‘54 and ‘85

Our club house has withstood two major hurricanes, unlike the Rhode Island Yacht Club, which lost two club houses to the state’s worst hurricanes – in 1938 and 1954.

August 31, 1954 a storm the National Weather Service called “Carol” roared up the eastern seaboard at a speed of 50 miles per hour hitting the State of Rhode Island in the morning of a full moon tide. The storm’s center followed the Rhode Island-Connecticut border north, putting us on the deadly outside arc of its counter clockwise winds. The storm was devastating because of its speed, winds and tide.Our harbor feels the full brunt of the storm, with the Barrington Bridge playing a major role in the destruction. Once again boats were torn from their moorings, some are washed up and over the bridge, others are crushed and some are washed under only to be wrecked along the railroad trestle.

The Clubhouse is flooded again, as high as the mantel of the fireplace. The Club’s main dock and dingy floats end up in the backyard of the house that John MacIntyre was raised in, 78 County Road, now the home of new members Steven and Lynn Cleary.

John’s father’s 1953 Buick RoadMaster floats in the garage, ending up side ways. The house has 18 inches of water in the first floor. An S Boat ends up in the front hedge, causing a minor traffic problem on County Road.

Several boats end up on both ends of the Barrington Bridge, while others end up on Mathewson Road. Bud Humphrey’s 40 foot yawl “Bounty IV” and Ernie McVay’s 37 foot Auxiliary Cutter “Tango” drag their moorings into the salt marsh at the end of Barton Avenue. Tango actually takes out a corner of the Ship’s Store (Tyler Point Grill), with its bow ending up on Dave Atwater’s desk.Houses are lost at the end of Anniwamscutt Road, Barrington Beach was strewn with debris that was washed across the Bay, including a sign from Rocky Point. Tree damage is major all over town with many tall elm trees lost.Yacht Club members rally to help clean up and put things back to order.

Within the next ten days, two other hurricanes roar past Rhode Island, Edna (September 11, 1954) causing the most scar with it’s 135 mile an hour winds. At this point, hurricanes are no longer viewed as freak, once in a century storms, but the weather service now realizes because of the hurricanes of 1815, 1938 and August 31, 1954, to have the storm pass on the westward side of the state with a full tide and strong winds, we are in trouble.

In more recent times, September, 1985, Hurricane Gloria gives us a scare, but again we are spared by the ebb tide. Bob Norton’s “Orion”, a Pearson 35 drags its mooring and ends up backing into a slip at our marina, where it is secured to ride out the storm. Steve and Maxime Richman’s “Aphakia”, a Catalina 30 ends up against the bridge where passers by hold her off with minor damage.

Again in 1991, August 19, Hurricane Bob gives us a close call, with the eye of the storm coming up Narragansett Bay, into Mt. Hope Bay and passing over Fall River. Our fellow yachtsmen in nearby Southeastern Massachusetts, in Padnariam, get hit very hard taking the brunt of the storm. Twelve boats are totally lost; others end up on their bridge. We again get lucky by being on the west side of the eye of the storm and a low tide.

During Hurricane Bob, the howling winds out of the northeast blew right across the river, sending Bob Almedia’s T35 sloop “Banshee” almost into Bob’s yard at the end of Chapin and Mathewson Road. Luckily, he was able to get on board and take her back to a new mooring to ride out the rest of the storm.Living on the east coast, with sophisticated weather forecasting, does not diminish the effect these powerful storms can have. The Club maintains a Hurricane Readiness Plan that our Club Manager, Nelson Hawkins, can put into action if needed.

We are always looking for pictures, especially Hurricane Carol prints. If you can help, let us know.

John and Jean MacIntyre, Club Historians