Boaters along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts should be aware that hurricane season starts June 1 and runs through November. The end of Summer and Fall are especially busy times for storms and hurricanes that threaten the US coastline. It's never too early to take the necessary steps to protect your boat from the next storm. Here are just a few tips to help you and your boat be better prepared for what can always be a busy and costly hurricane season.
Considering the cost of fixing or replacing your vessel, an insurance policy can be worth the premiums. If your boat is insured, you should know what is required by your provider in the event of a hurricane. Many policies require the boat owner to relocate their vessel out of the hurricane zone. Others require details be followed on how and where your boat is secured during a storm. Know the specifics and comply with your insurance provider.
Most marinas will evaluate the storm threat and let boat owners know if their boat can remain there or if it needs to be moved. Follow your marina's policies for moving or securing your boat. It's a good idea to make plans for hauling your boat out before hurricane season begins. Make a decision on where to have it hauled and check with local operators to see if there are pre-storm haul-out services available.
Before The Storm Approaches
Make a list or take a video inventory of all the valuable fixed items on your boat, especially any marine electronics. Remove any important documents, including your insurance policy, registration, and licenses, from your boat and store them in a safe place. Check your boat's hatches, ports, windows, and doors to make sure they are watertight. Use duct tape on the seals as an extra precaution. Remove all detachable items from your boat, including covers, canvas tops, biminis, t-tops, cushions, riggings, radios, antennas, and anything else that can be removed. Tie down everything that can't be removed, such as booms, tillers, steering wheels, etc. Disconnect your boat's battery. If it's connected to shore power, make sure all power is off and any cords are securely stored.
If your boat is easily trailerable, store it far away from the rising storm surge, preferably in a garage or warehouse. Otherwise, place your trailer where there is some protection from wind, falling branches, and flying debris. Add weight to your boat by filling fish boxes and livewells with water. Deflate trailer tires and place wooden blocks beneath the trailer's frame to support the extra weight. Secure your trailer and boat to the ground with augers or anchors. Because hurricane winds can quickly change directions, tie down your boat from all four corners.
If your boat is too large to trailer, you can either secure it at a dock, moor the boat in a safe cove or harbor often called a "hurricane hole," or have the boat hauled and placed in dry storage. If you decide to leave your boat at the dock, center it in the slip, double all lines, and set up crossing spring lines fore and aft. Use long lines and attach them high on pilings to allow for rising tides and storm surges. Use lines with chafing devices to protect critical points. Mooring compensators or snubbers can also reduce stress to your dock lines. Cooperate with neighbors or marina personnel to make use of nearby or adjacent pilings.
Hurricanes place extraordinary stress on anchors and rodes. If you must anchor out, inspect all rodes and anchor chains and replace any worn gear. Choose a location with as little fetch as possible to reduce the size of the waves. Set out extra anchors. Because changing wind directions can disrupt your anchor set, helix anchors that screw into the seabed and hold much better than deadweight anchors are recommended.
Never stay with your boat or try to ride out the storm during a hurricane! The risk of losing your life is not worth it.
The best time to prepare is when the skies are clear and the sun is shining. Be a smart boater. Know the requirements of your insurance company and marina. Keep your equipment up to date. Watch the weather. And above all, have a plan! Then when the storm clouds form you can confidently provide your boat with the best protection possible.