I spent the day biding my time, making sure that nothing would go wrong. A few things did go wrong: two little boarding ladders got blown into the water, and a bit of parachute chord holding down the corner of a dodger failed and the dodger started flapping around in the stiff hurricane breeze. Luckily, the boarding ladders were secured by lanyards; I recovered one, and a neighbor recovered the other. Then I replaced the failed bit of parachute chord with some temporary clothesline, and all was well again.
Aboard, it felt like a day at sea, except that we weren't going anywhere. There was a lot of wind-induced rocking, making it hard to concentrate on anything for very long. Periodically I suited up and went out on the docks, making the rounds, checking the dock lines for chafe and adjusting them (they tend to stretch). It's amazing, but it's quite possible to get a multi-ton vessel to come closer to the dock, even when a hurricane is trying to push it away from the dock, by taking a turn of dock line around a cleat and then alternately kicking it with your heel, then quickly taking out the slack. Since dock lines do stretch and fail, redundancy is key, and so each boat had to have four bow lines, two stern lines, and three or four spring lines. Some people also rigged additional spring lines from the side of the stern facing away from the finger pier to the main floating dock, to try to keep the boats from grinding against the finger piers.
Come to think of it, the motion of a docked boat in a hurricane is quite a lot more annoying than the motion of a boat at sea. The normal motion of a sailboat on water is pleasant, even soothing. (Yes, it depends on the boat; some of the sportier models try to toss you about the cabin and break your ribs.) On the other hand, at the dock, when the wind is howling and the chop is kicking up, there is a lot of snubbing going on. That is when multiple dock lines go from slack to taut and back in rapid alternation, producing sub-audial base notes and jerking the boat around in multiple directions at once. “Doing-doing... doing-doing-doing...” Add to that the pained squeaking and squelching of the vinyl fenders and the clanging of the halyards against masts, and the drumbeat of wind-driven rain against the deck, and it all ends up rather a lot for the senses to deal with all at once. I think I would prefer to ride out hurricanes at anchor (in a suitable hurricane hole) rather than at the dock. At anchor, the boat always points with the sharp end toward the weather, as is intended, and although the combination of chop and high winds tend to make it charlie-horse and hunt around at the same time, that motion is a lot more pleasant than the jerkiness induced by the snubbing and the grinding against the dock.
In all, Sandy turned out to be windier but less rainy than Irene. This time, the wind was from the northeast, blowing at around 35 knots steady, with many gusts over 50 knots, but the direction was such that the fetch (the distance over which waves can build up) was less than 200 yards. And so, it was blowing 50 knots but the seas were 3 inches or less. Eventually the wind started clocking around to the southeast, and there was an hour or so, while it was blowing from the east, that chop built up in the harbor and added steady rocking to the swaying induced by wind gusts and the snubbing and the grinding. That rocking was the normal thing with Irene, which blew in straight from the ocean. At the height of Irene, a two-foot swell was running straight through the marina. Now, two feet is not big, but imagine having to walk around on a floating dock that's doing that sort of dance! Also, the rocking was strong enough for us to wonder whether any of the sailboats were going to clack masts (they never did, but kept looking like they were going to at any moment).
Once again, none of the worst case scenarios came to pass. We had AC power and wireless internet the entire time. At some point a transformer blew out somewhere on shore (we saw the flash, and the shore lights flickered for a moment) but there was no outage. Had there been an outage, our battery banks were fully charged, so we would have had power for a few days. No boats came loose (one derelict-looking trawler lost a stern line, but we spotted it and gave it one). The storm surge was insignificant (under 2 feet) and the floating docks did not float off the tops of the pilings (they are also anchored, so they wouldn't have floated too far, but horsing them back onto the pilings would have been a crazy amount of work). In short, the hurricane was, once again, a complete waste of time.
A lot of people wrote to me wondering how I was doing out on the water in a hurricane. I hope that this answers all of your questions; if not, feel free to ask more. A boat is a reasonably safe place to be during a hurricane; it's all the stuff around it that's dangerous. Boats are designed to float on floodwaters and they are low to the water and streamlined, with low windage, allowing them to deal with high winds. Houses are not designed for any of the above: they don't float, and they have high windage causing them to capsize.
This is my third hurricane aboard. During the first one (Bertha) we were at sea, and the problem was that we were too close to land. Unless there is something specifically wrong with them (bad design, for instance) boats can deal with wind and waves; it's land that kill them. Usually the weakest link is not the boat but the crew. During the other two hurricanes (Irene and Sandy) we were docked. Both were unpleasant and tedious events that required some level of competence, but there was nothing that approached life-threatening. Nevertheless, thank you to all of you who wrote and called, and offered your couches (as if I'd ever abandon ship for no good reason).
And today the skies are blue, there is a warm southerly breeze, and the sun is shining, so I think I will wander ashore and take some pictures of the wreckage there. Based on what is currently in the chattersphere, some of it ought to look impressive.