Cleaning Up After A Mean Nor'easter

Boats off moorings, lobster traps gone, but life along coast goes on - a letter from Marblehead

TWO weeks after "Hurricane No Name," as the violent Nor'easter that hit the coast of New England is called around here, lobster fishermen are still picking up the pieces.John Hayes's beachfront shed where he stored lobster gear was one of four toppled in the Oct. 30 storm. Mr. Hayes is philosophical about the damage. "We'll get a new door and new windows and move it back where it belongs - maybe up a little higher," he says. Another two sheds that had been strewn across a freshly paved road they abutted have been moved back to their rightful locations. They now rest on cinder block foundations twice their earlier height. The bigger problem for the lobstermen was the loss of hundreds of traps. ve got 50 wooden ones there," Hayes says, pointing to salvaged traps stacked next to where his shed used to stand. "And I've got 50 wire ones scattered around the beach." Jack Burns, a lobsterman who was raised here, would have been happy to have 100 traps. "That's pretty good, I'd say," he responds to Hayes's count. After a day checking traps with his father and namesake, the younger Mr. Burns says, "There's nothing," and adds he couldn't even pull up many of the pots he had. "It will be weeks," he says, before he will be back in business. Lobster fishermen use an average of 600 pots, says Bill Adler, executive director of the Massachusetts Lobstermen's Association, and almost all were lost in the ocean. The pots cost $40 to $50 each to replace. In 25 years of fishing, ve never seen it this bad - this total," says Mr. Adler. He estimated a few fishermen may have saved one-quarter of their traps. The infamous storm of 1978, often used for comparison here, hit in February after the end of the lobster season, so far fewer traps were in the ocean, he explains. All along the coast of this five-mile peninsula boats lay aground, torn pieces of rowboats leaned on walls, buildings were washed off their foundations, and basements were flooded a week ago. Many seaside buildings had balconies torn off, and often windows broken, and first-floor rooms soaked. Waves crashed through the first-floor windows of Marblehead's waterfront restaurant, the Barnacle, and soaked a dining room full of guests, said bartender Paul Clark. "Everyone seemed to enjoy it. That's the way Marbleheaders are," the Barnacle's owner, Gwen Sahagian, told the weekly Marblehead Reporter. But the town was hardly mentioned in the regional press. The reason, many here believe, lies in the city's reputation as a waterfront haven for wealthy executives from California or New York who live here and commute to cities like Boston to work. Unlike residents of Gloucester or Manchester, the reasoning went, Marbleheaders have plenty of money to rebuild. Indeed, reconstruction efforts began almost immediately Halloween morning. After serving dinner in its street-side bar for a week, the Barnacle has reopened its dining room with brand new carpet. Cranes and trailers have refloated pleasure boats. Bulldozers have built retaining walls of sand and rock, and cleared blocked roads. The mobs of rubberneckers who jammed the streets the weekend after the storm have all gone home. Almost all of the more than 300 sailboats which had crammed the harbor through the summer had been hauled out into boatyards by the time a second Nor'easter hit this week. In the week between the storms, townsfolk battened down for winter. They sustained almost no damage from the second unnamed gale.

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