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VOL. 11 NO. 9
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Hurricane prep for your boat

Safeguard your boat during an active hurricane season

Hurricane preparation

Sooner or later, anyone with a boat in a hurricane zone will have to deal with the threat of a major storm. Well before a hurricane threatens, you should have a plan in place. If you have to act, act decisively, and give yourself time to help your neighbors on the water.

While there are always exceptions to the rule, you should haul your boat if you have time if only to reduce the number of wild cards and possible sources of damage.

If a haul-out isn’t possible or advisable, the next decision will be whether to leave your boat where it is or try to get it to a better harbor or hurricane hole.

Whether you stay put or head for a safer harbor, you can make some important moves to help prevent damage and loss to yourself and to others.

Essential storm tactics

  • Strip off all canvas to reduce windage. This means Biminis, dodgers, awnings, mainsails, roller-furled jibs—anything made of fabric. It’s amazing how many people think they’ve done their prep work simply by folding down their Bimini or taking a few wraps of line around a furled sail. When the wind gets up above 60 knots, it seeks out and exploits even the smallest weakness in canvas, and it can destroy the whole cloth structure and any metal framework holding it together, putting enormous stress on the entire boat.
  • Remove flags, ensigns, pennants, fishing rods, grills, life-rings, cushions—anything not screwed down that could present a surface to the wind.
  • If your boat is riding out the storm on a mooring or at anchor, double or triple your attachment points, spreading the loads between two or more cleats, using a bridle if necessary, and making attachments to through-bolted fittings, around masts at their partners, and through bow-eyes. Whenever possible, tie to heavy fixed objects on land—bollards, pilings, trees—and remember to allow enough slack for the maximum expected storm surge.
  • Use chafing gear where a mooring line or anchor rode runs through a chock or fairlead or over a roller. Traditional leather or heavy cloth chafing gear, as opposed to hard rubber or reinforced water hose, is probably better in storm conditions. In a pinch, any type of natural cloth, like material from a cotton T-shirt, taped or sewn onto a mooring line, can work.
  • Dacron/polyester line resists chafe better than nylon and has a higher breaking strength. Nylon is stretchier. Use polyester for bow and stern lines, nylon for spring lines and anchor rode.
  • In slips, allow for storm surge in bow, stern and spring lines. Use spring lines to pull your boat away from the dock, and work with the yard management and your neighbors to set up grids of lines to help keep boats away from surging finger piers and neighbors.
  • Secure your hatches, ports, cockpit lockers, bow and stern lockers, and anchor locker. Tape over any openings that could take in water if the boat is laid over, including engine vents, companionway doors or slats, and engine space hatches.
  • Hang fenders everywhere you can.
  • Make sure your batteries are topped up so they can keep up with your bilge pumps.

You can read more about hurricane preparation here.

This article originally appeared on and was republished with permission.

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