Down But Not Out

April 12, 2013
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By Art Petrosemolo

Member tells how boat club recovered for Sunday’s 134th-season opening


It wasn’t that the Monmouth Boat Club (MBC) hadn’t experienced and survived powerful storms in its 134-year history. Small indicator arrows showed water levels from previous hurricanes and winter storms and the worst was 32-inches high on the club’s first level.

The Navesink River overtakes the Monmouth Boat Club at the start of Super Storm Sandy.

The Navesink River overtakes the Monmouth Boat Club at the start of Super Storm Sandy.

Heck, the old timers drilled holes in the first deck so that when water came in or up, (the club sits right over the edge of the Navesink River), it drained away quickly. Usually, even after Hurricane Irene, a few hours with a hose and a mop and everything was back to normal.

But Super Storm Sandy wasn’t a normal storm as everyone found out. As the club webmaster and photographer, I spent part of several days in and around MBC and the Navesink River before, during and after Super Storm Sandy. When I arrived the day the storm started, the river was angry and well up toward Union Street in our parking lot. But hey, we’ve been there before. Our docks and boats were secured up close to the Union Street fence and the water was usually less than a foot deep when it – rarely – got that far.

However, the morning after the storm, the scene was something different. I was the first to work my way down to Union Street and, even though the club looked normal from a distance, some things were not right. Many of our docks – huge, heavy, stacked four high – were gone. One was lodged behind the Shrewsbury Ice Boat Club (how did that happen?), one was askew on the marina docks to the west and others could just be made out on the river’s north shore.

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But if the heavy docks askew gave a hint of the force of the storm, it only was a small hint. MBC’s incoming commodore Skip Bugbee was next to arrive and we waded to the north side of the clubhouse through waist-deep water along the Red Bank tennis court fence. The club’s river-facing doors had been removed prior to the storm to let water flow in and out quickly as there was no question we knew we’d see some water, but what we were greeted with was hard to describe and still hard to believe.

MBC’s first floor – even though all the furniture had been moved to the upper level – showed the results of a massive river surge. We measured immediately and came up with 73 inches (6-feet, 1-inch) above the floor. Add to that the fact that the club is about 45 feet above mean high water and you can visualize the wave of Navesink River that rolled through MBC and up to the electrical panel and outside box that shorted and sparked but fortunately did not burn. The surge destroyed the furnace, hot water heater, commercial ice machine and ruined both the men’s and ladies’ restrooms.

Added to that, all the pine walls were soaked along with insulation and although we didn’t realize it then, all had to be removed and scrapped.

Surprisingly, a structural engineer who ventured under the club said we were still firm on our foundation; it was a pleasant surprise because the opposite would have been the kiss of death.

In the months since Sandy, the club has begun to come back, slowly to say the least but on a steady pace toward the April 14 opening. A volunteer organization, MBC members have spent countless weekend hours working with the flag officers and Sandy Recovery Team to remove debris, tear out soaked paneling, remove bathroom fixtures, remove ceiling board to allow electrical contractors to rewire and build a back deck to permit the electric company to relocate the meter about 10 feet above the ground.

Monmouth Boat Club members strip walls and ceilings from first floor bathrooms in preparation for a rebuild.

Monmouth Boat Club members strip walls and ceilings from first floor bathrooms in preparation for a rebuild.

Plans to move all the big stuff (furnace, hot water heater, ice machine, etc.) to the second and third levels was formulated. Interviewing contractors for what the members could not do and working with our insurance company for help all takes time. And, besides looking after the house, it took several weekends of scouring the west end of the Navesink River to find wayward docks and boats, a task made even harder as all the club’s workboats had been severely damaged during the storm.

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But as winter turns to spring, hope always springs eternal and opening day for MBC’s 134th season is here. We may not be 100 percent back but we will be close. Our women members may not be happy with the bathroom arrangements – expected to be in that condition until May – and thanks to our colleagues at the North Shrews­bury Ice Boat Club, we have been using their facilities and as clubhouse for meetings.

As incoming vice commodore Pat Corr said recently, hammer in hand, “I have been a member of this club for decades. It has been here for more than a century. It is important to put this club back together the right way so our children and grandchildren can enjoy it as we have – we’re doing it right!”


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