Every boat owner should be prepared for tropical storm and hurricane forecasts. Owners should develop a hurricane plan in advance of possible tropical season weather activity. The plan should include contact information for the owner and any caretaker (in the absence of the owner); alternate caretakers just in case; where the boat keys are stored; what plan for storage has been developed for the vessel; equipment that needs to be removed; and the location of equipment that is needed to prepare the boat for the storm.
The contact information should be stored on the boat as well as with the caretaker, and of course, with the owner. Likewise, the keys to the vessel should be with a designated alternate as well as with the owner. A detailed list of actions to be taken to prepare the boat for storm activity is also an essential part of the hurricane plan.
Equipment needed to prepare the boat includes extra lines, chafe protectors, fenders, anchors, swivels, shackles, duct tape and plugs. All of these items will help you better prepare your boat to withstand the strong winds and weather associated with tropical storms. Equipment that likely should be removed prior to a storm includes electronics, dinghies, outboard motors/fuel, sails, bimini, galley fuel, vessel’s papers and personal effects.
Storage of the vessel depends on the owner’s preference and availability of options. The best place to store the boat is naturally out of the path of the storm. These “out of the water” options include trailering or storage at a marina. Trailering the boat out of the storm path is the best way to protect your investment. Of course, size, time and expense may prevent moving your boat so storage at a marina in a protected building is a good choice. This choice needs pre-planning as space availability becomes quite acute as a storm nears. Another option is to leave it at the dock on a lift or davit. Securing your boat to the pilings will be a good alternative to moving it out of the storm’s path. Having the above list of extra equipment assures an easier job of securing the vessel safely should the tropics heat up. Planning and practicing your boat tie down will make for a better and safer experience and a more positive outcome. Another choice is to move your boat to a “hurricane hole.” Finding a less exposed “hurricane hole” in a safe passage or canal is a possibility but this should not be a last minute project; this requires research and study in advance of any storm forecast. Finally, leaving the boat at a mooring at anchorage is a choice. The vessel will be subject to wind, waves, rainfall and surge so even more preparation is required. Proper anchoring skills are essential.
Should a storm hit our area our boats will be subject to significant rainfall, strong waves, high winds and storm surge. Whatever choice is made to protect the vessel these common preparation activities are necessary: reduce windage, prepare lines and knots, protect against water damage, have chafing protection and gear at the ready. And most important of all, have a hurricane plan.
The Marco Island Sail & Power Squadron (MISPS) is an all-volunteer organization devoted to making boating safe, and offers education courses from beginner basics to advanced navigation skills. MISPS also offer seminars on select topics such as GPS/Charting, Anchoring, and Engine Maintenance. To learn more go to www.marcoislandsailandpowersquadron.org