How to ready your boat for a major storm
If you live in a hurricane susceptible area, you need to create a hurricane plan for your boat. Ask your marina management about their hurricane plan and what procedures they have in place to handle major storms. This will help you formulate your own plan.
Given the severity and unpredictability of hurricanes, it’s best to act early, even before a hurricane watch is issued. The best hurricane plan is useless if you don’t have enough time to implement it. Remember, other boat owners will be securing their boats, too. Your hurricane hole may be full, your marina jammed, and access roads and bridges may be closed if you wait too long.
Regardless of where you decide to store your boat, you should take part in a few common preparation activities.
High winds can hurl objects that normally appear secure. Strip all gear that wind can catch: canvas covers, sails, Bimini tops, outriggers, antennas, anchors, running rigging, booms, life rings and dinghies. Anything on deck that can’t be taken off should be lashed securely. If you can, point your boat into the wind. If possible, remove sailboat masts. Run halyards to the masthead and secure them with a single line led away from the mast to the rail.
Nylon line’s ability to stretch and absorb shock is important for in-water hurricane tie-up. However, this spring action will cause the nylon to abrade and heat up where it comes in contact with cleats, pilings, chocks and dock edges. As nylon strands heat up they break, causing line failure. You can achieve chafe protection by some combination of increasing line diameter, covering lines or using polyester tails on lines at tie points. Don’t seal the chafing protection. Let the rain or sea water cool the line.
Many boats have cleats and chocks that are inadequate and possibly unusable when additional and larger diameter storm lines are used. Add adequate cleats and chocks ahead of time. Make sure all cleats are backed with stainless steel or aluminum plates so they can handle the load. Under most circumstances two lines per cleat is the maximum. Cleats are most reliable when lines are led parallel to the horn, distributing the force across the length of the cleat backing.
If on land, remove drain plugs so that any water that gets in will drain out. For boats in the water, seal all possible water entry points. Remove cowl ventilators and seal all vent openings. Use duct tape to cover instrument gauges, and around hatches, ports and lockers to prevent water entering. Close all but the cockpit drain seacocks and plug the engine’s exhaust ports, usually one of the lowest openings on a boat. Check that your battery is in good condition and top it off. Test the bilge pump and check the wiring to make sure it’s functioning properly.
To learn more about how to prepare your boat for a hurricane, take our Hurricane Preparation for Boaters seminar.