The Atlantic hurricane season officially begins on 1 June, and Colorado State University’s annual hurricane forecast predicts above-average storm activity for the 2010 season.
This year’s forecast calls for eight hurricanes, four of Category 3 or stronger.
Start preparing now
Boaters should develop a well-thought-out hurricane plan before the season begins. Know where you will keep your boat during a hurricane and whether it can be hauled before a storm.
Bring home trailer boats early, as heavy evacuation traffic could prevent you from reaching your marina.
Find out what your marina’s hurricane plan is before the season starts—does your dock contract call for you to take certain steps?
Make sure you have extra rope, chafe guards, anchors and fenders. Once a storm is forecast, the local marine store will sell out of these items quickly.
Stay ahead of the storm
Take action during a hurricane watch. If you wait until a warning is issued, you may not have time to move your boat, and your preparation will be hindered by evacuation congestion and the storm’s outer bands of rain and wind.
Once a hurricane warning has been issued, remove anything that could catch the wind, and tie your boat with extra lines.
Follow these steps to prepare your moored boat to weather the storm:
Remove your boat from the water if possible.
Smaller, open boats and high-performance powerboats with low freeboard will almost always be overcome by waves, spray and rain. All trailerable boats should be moved inland.
If your boat isn’t trailerable, have it hauled out and secured on shore if possible. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology study completed after Hurricane Gloria found that boats stored ashore were much more likely to be saved than boats stored in the water.
If a haul out isn’t feasible, follow these suggestions to give your boat the best chance of weathering the storm.
Charge batteries and disconnect the electricity.
Make sure to charge your batteries so bilge pumps will work. Disconnect the electric, water and other dock connections; shut off fuel lines; close through-hull fittings; and cap or plug unvalved through-hull fittings, such as sink drains.
Protect your engines.
Water will find a way into every opening, so cover engine room vents, and plug the exhaust pipes at the stern.
Remove loose deck items.
Remove deck items, Bimini tops, plastic, canvas and Plexiglas from the boat entirely. Take down antennas and remove outriggers. Remove as many items as you can from the boat, and lash down anything remaining on deck.
Prepare the boat’s interior.
If your boat has a cabin, remove all loose items. Clean out the refrigerator, cabinets and drawers, which may open with the boat’s violent motion. If possible, remove drapes, cushions, mattresses and other cloth items that could become soaked from leaks.
Remove electronics and cover instrument gauges.
Remove electronics from the boat, and cover both the holes and instrument gauges with plastic and duct tape.
Seal windows, hatches and doorways.
Because wind-driven rain will enter the boat through any crack or crevice, use duct tape to make all openings and seams as watertight as possible.
Secure the boat in its moorings.
Any boat in the water should be secured in a snug harbor. (Don’t even think about riding out the storm at sea unless you’re the skipper of an aircraft carrier.) The trick is deciding which harbors will be snug and which will be vulnerable in a hurricane.
Storm surge should be a major consideration when mooring a boat. Hurricanes commonly cause surges of 10 feet or more, so a seawall or sandy spit that normally protects a harbor may not offer any protection in a hurricane. A boat moored facing into the wind will best weather the storm, so if possible, turn the boat with its bow to the wind.
Follow these steps to secure the boat in the mooring:
- Use mooring lines a quarter-inch larger to double the diameter of your current lines, and double all the mooring lines on your boat, including spring lines.
- Distribute the load evenly using several cleats. Your boat should look like it’s inside a spider web.
- Allow as much line as possible for the tide and storm surge. Rig by crossing spring lines fore and aft, and attach them high on pilings to allow for the tidal surge. Spring lines are best if they are at least as long as the boat. If possible, attach longer lines to pilings outside your normal berthing area.
- Protect your line by using chafing gear at each point where the line meets the boat. Use several feet of garden hose or leather, and consider that your lines will be angled downward as the water rises.